The San Francisco 49ers are a professional American football team based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The 49ers compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) West division, and play their home games at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, located 38 miles (61 km) southeast of San Francisco. The team is named after the prospectors who arrived in Northern California in the 1849 Gold Rush. The San Francisco 49ers were charter members of the All-America Football Conference, which began play in 1946. Had it not been for the Browns, who won four championships and lost only four games in the league's four years of operation, the 49ers would have been the AAFC's dominant team. Their cumulative record was an excellent 39-15-2. They handed the Browns two of their four defeats but finished second each year. Even in attendance, the 49ers were second best in the AAFC next to Cleveland.
When the 49ers moved to the NFL in 1950 following the collapse of the AAFC, their original management team -- co-owners Anthony J. Morabito and Victor P. Morabito and general manager Louis Spadia -- remained intact. The 49ers in the 1950s boasted of some of the game's great individual stars: quarterbacks Frankie Albert and Y. A. Tittle, running backs Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson, tackle Bob St. Clair and defensive tackle Leo Nomellini. But the closest they came to a championship in their first two decades of NFL play was in 1957 when they tied Detroit for the NFL Western division crown but lost in a playoff.
San Francisco flirted with success in 1970, 1971 and 1972, when the 49ers won three straight NFC Western division titles. Every year, they were eliminated by the Dallas Cowboys, in the NFC championship games 1970 and 1971 and in the first playoff round in 1972. In 1971, the 49ers moved their home games from antiquated Kezar Stadium to 68,491-seat Candlestick Park.
A bright new era dawned for the 49ers on March 31, 1977, when Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. became the new team owner. He dedicated himself to transforming a team that never won a league championship into a pro football power. In 1979, DeBartolo selected Bill Walsh, renowned as an offensive specialist, as the 49ers head coach. It took Walsh just three seasons to bring San Francisco its first-ever league championship with a 26-21 win over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI.
San Francisco also won the NFC West in 1983 and did even better in 1984 with 18 wins in 19 games and a 38-16 Super Bowl XIX victory over the Miami Dolphins. Walsh concluded his pro coaching career after a last-second 20-16 victory over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII. In 10 years, Walsh compiled a 102-62-1 record and won six NFC West titles and three Super Bowls.
The 49ers of the 1980s were loaded with a group of young superstars including quarterback Joe Montana, receivers Dwight Clark and Jerry Rice, running back Roger Craig and defensive back Ronnie Lott. George Seifert, who replaced Walsh, continued to take full advantage of the existing talent. Careful personnel planning paid off as capable new players were on hand when veteran stars retired. A perfect example is the quarterback position where Steve Young was on hand to replace Montana, who battled a series of injuries before leaving the 49ers.
Seifert's record as the 49ers headman was awesome, with two Super Bowl wins -- a 55-10 win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV and a 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.
On December 29, 2019, the 49ers defeated the Seahawks 26–21 in the Week 17 regular-season finale thereby clinching the NFC West in addition to the number one seed for the first time since 1997. In their first playoff game since 2013, against the Minnesota Vikings, they dominated the Vikings, defeating them 27–10. This victory ensured them a spot in the NFC Championship game, in Levi's Stadium, where they played the Green Bay Packers. On January 19, 2020, they beat the Packers 37–20, advancing to their first Super Bowl since 2012. The 49ers also became the first team ever to reach the Super Bowl following four straight seasons with 10+ losses. In Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers led the Kansas City Chiefs 20–10 with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but lost the game by the final score of 31–20, resulting in the Chiefs' first championship victory since 1969.
The 49ers have won five Super Bowls, their first three under Bill Walsh. Walsh retired after winning his third in 1988, but first-year head coach George Seifert did not miss a beat, winning the Super Bowl in his first year in 1989. He would also win one more in 1994.