Editor's note: The above video is from Jan. 4, 2016.
Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo said Thursday he received a call from CEO Jed York, his godson, as the organization was getting set to embark on its second coaching search in a year.
Ultimately, DeBartolo offered no recommendation on which candidate the 49ers should have hired to replace Jim Tomsula, he said.
“I didn’t give him my opinion as to what he should do because it’s really not my place to discuss the current team,” DeBartolo said. “I had my time, and now it’s Jed’s time.”
DeBartolo, a five-time Super Bowl-winning owner during his time with the 49ers, is a finalist as a contributor for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Both nominees in the contributor category, Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, were enshrined last year. The Hall of Fame vote will take place in San Francisco on the eve of Super Bowl 50.
DeBartolo’s time with the 49ers officially ended in March 2000 when he reached an agreement with his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, to split their financial interests. DeBartolo York gained permanent control of the football team, a racetrack in Louisiana and the Edward J. DeBartolo corporate headquarters in Youngstown, Ohio. The former owner of the 49ers received real estate holdings and stock.
One year earlier, then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced a one-year suspension for DeBartolo for his role in a gambling scandal that resulted in DeBartolo pleading guilty to a felony for failure to report an extortion attempt from former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.
During a conference call to discuss his candidacy for the Hall of Fame, DeBartolo tried to set the record straight when asked about the end of his 49ers' tenure.
“Truthfully, the team really wasn’t taken away from me,” DeBartolo said. “This has been a misnomer for many, many years.
“It came down to a decision that had to be made, whether or not I wanted the 49ers or whether or not I wanted to take the other part of the company. And I figured at that time -- and my sister Denise was involved totally, as was her family -- I decided in that meeting in Akron, Ohio, that I thought it would be best if I took the other side and my tenure with the 49ers would end then and end there."
DeBartolo added, “I don’t know if that story has ever been told. But it really was a choice. I just figured there was more to do with my life at that time. I had succeeded and done a lot with the 49ers, and it meant the world to me, but I just figured with my daughters and them getting older and all of us getting older and having grandchildren, at the time, them planning on families, it would be best for me to be a grandfather and be a good husband and dad and do what I wanted to do, maybe travel a little bit and spend more time with my family.”
DeBartolo said he might have regretted his decision for a while. Just a few months later, DeBartolo was riding with Joe Montana in the parade for his induction in Canton, Ohio.
“I said to Joe, ‘Joe, do you miss this? Do you ever really get over this?’ There are times when I’m watching the team, and I’m living and dying with their successes and failures and I really miss it,” DeBartolo said. “What do you do?
“I’ll never forget, he turned to me and said, ‘You know, there’s only one way. You just got to put football in your rear-view mirror and life will take care of itself after that.’ And it did.”
DeBartolo said he and Jed York spoke about a couple of coaching candidates – most likely, Mike Shanahan, the 49ers’ offensive coordinator during the team’s last Super Bowl title. But, ultimately, DeBartolo said he remained out of the picture while York and general manager Trent Baalke conducted the coaching search and the interviews.
“I told him he just had to follow his best instincts,” DeBartolo said.
“But he’s got to make these decisions himself. And obviously, he made this decision with Chip Kelly, and hopefully it’s going to turn out to be a great decision.”