Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo was among 17 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time earlier this season. He was not inducted into the Hall of Fame, but a strong argument for his enshrinement is made during "Eddie DeBartolo: A Football Life," which airs Wednesday, 5 p.m., on the NFL Network.During DeBartolo's 23 years in control of the 49ers, the organization won five Super Bowl titles. The one-hour program highlights DeBartolo's gentle touch, as well as his combustible side, including his hot-and-cold relationship with coach Bill Walsh, who was on the sideline for four championships."I think I was ordered by Eddie to fire Bill Walsh approximately seven, maybe eight times," former 49ers executive Carmen Policy said. "And there were times when Bill deserved it."Of course, DeBartolo never went through with it. And their working relationship continued for 10 seasons.The most devastating loss of the late Walsh's career occurred when the 49ers, who had established themselves as the favorite to win the Super Bowl after the 1987 season, lost to the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs.The next season, the 49ers won the Super Bowl, and a burnt-out Walsh stepped down. Walsh was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Walsh died in 2007."I don't think, without Eddie, Bill could've done it," Dwight Clark said.Said Randy Cross, "Bill, he was a giant in the NFL. But it was Eddie behind the scenes that made a lot of those things even possible."Under DeBartolo, the 49ers paid the highest salaries, traveled in luxury and every player had his own hotel room. During a three-year span, the 49ers won an NFL record 18 consecutive road games."All of it was due to him," Ronnie Lott said. "The way we traveled was the way we played."Added Jerry Rice, "It was always first class, and it was because of him.""A Football Life" focuses on DeBartolo's personal touch with the players -- how he cared about them and their families during and even after their playing days were over."There wasn't anybody in the NFL who didn't want to be one of his guys," Joe Montana said.The program opens in February at a church in Tampa, Fla., with DeBartolo speaking at the memorial service of former 49ers receiver Freddie Solomon, who died of colon cancer."I'm grateful Freddie had Eddie through this whole ordeal," said Dee Solomon, Freddie's wife.DeBartolo built a family atmosphere around the 49ers, so it was devastating to him when then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue suspended him in 1999 after pleading guilty to the felony offense of failure to report an extortion attempt involving former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards.In a messy family squabble, DeBartolo and his sister, Denise York, separated their assets. York took control of the 49ers. And DeBartolo was out of the NFL."I think it's hurt more than anything that's happened in his life, other than losing his parents," Montana said. "That was his pride and joy. So I'm sure it hurt deeply."Today, DeBartolo speaks regularly with his sister and his nephew, 49ers CEO Jed York. He was an inaugural enshrinee into the the Edwards J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame in 2009."We have a big legacy to up up to," Jed York said of his uncle.
Mark Helfrich had a strong indication he would be fired as Oregon’s head coach. And he said he told Chip Kelly recently he would have no hard feelings if Kelly left the 49ers to return to coach the Ducks.
Kelly this week said he is not interested in abandoning his job with the 49ers to coach in the college ranks. Helfrich suggested during a radio interview on Friday that Kelly told him the same thing privately.
When it was suggested that Kelly hated to recruit, Helfrich did not disagree.
"That's a fact," Helfrich said in an interview on ESPN Radio's Russillo and Kanell. "I don't know hated recruiting. . . a dislike. A strong dislike. But I think Chip has that challenge in his mind right now to make it right in the NFL.
"I had some of those conversations with him a couple weeks ago when it looked like this was going south. That was a very awkward converation, but (I) just wanted to let him know that to take our personal relationship out of it in every way, shape or form if he wanted to consider this.
"But, me, reading between the lines, I think he wants to make it right in the NFL. I think he wants to win at that level. He's had a rough go of it this year, but he'll get it right."
Kelly compiled a 46-7 record in four seasons in Eugene, Ore. He left after the 2012 season to accept the head-coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly was fired late last season and took the 49ers job two weeks later.
In Kelly’s first season with the 49ers, the club is 1-10. The 49ers are on a franchise-long 10-game losing streak entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
Helfrich was 37-16 in his four seasons at Oregon after his promotion from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Kelly said he spoke with Helfrich the morning after he was fired.
“I just felt bad for Mark. I love him like a brother,” Kelly said. “He’s a tremendous person. He’s a hell of a football coach, but he’s an even better person. Just felt for him and the rest of the guys on that staff. It’s an unfortunate thing that goes on in this profession. We all know about it when we sign up, but when it happens you’re still taken aback by it.”
Kelly said he hoped his denial of any interest in the Oregon job would end all speculation about his future. When asked if intends to remain with the 49ers, Kelly said on Wednesday, “Yep. So we're all done with that, I hope."
Defensive lineman Quinton Dial, who sat out last week’s game with knee and neck issues, will return to action Sunday for the 49ers at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears.
Dial was not listed on the team’s injury report after going through two limited practices this week. The 49ers had only a walk-through Friday in Orlando, Fla., but Dial was cleared to return to full activity, the team announced.
Wide receiver Quinton Patton (concussion) and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (ankle) were both listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
Patton appears to be on pace to be cleared in the NFL’s return-to-play concussion protocol. He has returned to non-contact football activity after sustaining a head injury last week against the Miami Dolphins.
Lynch has already missed four consecutive games with a high-ankle sprain. Lynch has appeared in only three games this season. He sat out the first four games of the year while serving a four-game suspension for violating the leageu’s policy of substances of abuse.
The Bears listed six players as questionable for the game, including outside linebackers Willie Young and rookie Leonard Floyd. Young leads Chicago with 6.5 sacks, while Floyd is second with five sacks.
Quarterback Jay Cutler has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. Matt Barkley will make his second career start.
LB Aaron Lynch (ankle)
WR Quinton Patton (concussion)
QB Jay Cutler (right shoulder)
LB Willie Young (knee)
S Adrian Amos (foot)
WR Eddie Royal (toe)
LB Leonard Floyd (concussion)
CB Deiondre' Hall (ankle)
G Josh Sitton (ankle)