The signing of Fred Dean early in the 1981 season was a major factor in the 49ers’ success. He’d been holding out with the Chargers, and the Niners traded draft choices to get Dean, whose debut game as a 49er was against the Cowboys. When the trade was completed, Bill Walsh said “He’ll make us a winner.”
Dean held out, with the 49ers this time, for much of the 1984 season, and perhaps if he’d been around that entire year the Niners would have gone 19-0 instead of 18-1. In May, 1986, came the news that Dean was going to retire. In 1985 he’d had a sore knee and his productivity declined. He returned to Louisiana and was named to the Hall of Fame this year.