One by one, segments of the 49ers’ roster are being packed with talent. Five years ago, there wasn’t one area that had depth or quality. This team has been rebuilt and will definitely be a contender every year for the foreseeable future. The dog days are over.
Is there a team in the league with a group of young safeties as deep as this year’s 49ers’ group? I doubt it. As good as our linebackers group? I doubt it. As deep as our wide receivers? Not many. As talented as our tight ends? No. In another year or so, the same will likely be true of our offensive line and our running backs. A solid year from Alex Smith, coupled with a year of growth by David Carr and Nate Davis, will make the team 3 deep at quarterback. The defensive line is solid, but needs new blood and the same holds true for the corner backs. But that’s it. Not a hole in the roster anywhere. Even our special teams return game is loading up with young, dynamic talent — not old, last legs talent.
Being a contender, of course, is different from being a winner. But you must first establish yourself as a contender and maintain that status on a yearly basis, to have any chance of becoming a winner. Winning in the NFL is extremely hard and often elusive. The Patriots won three SBs in four years to begin this century, then never got another one even though the talent on their team improved measurably from those first three teams, to the point of dominance in 2007. The Colts could probably have gone to the SB last year undefeated, just as the Patriots did in 2007, and would still have emerged as the loser. Still, the only way to get one of those rings is to be in the playoffs each year and take your shot in the post-season crap shoot. No teams any more are throw down locks like the Packers, Steelers, and 49ers were in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.
Some fans like to belittle other fans for being “content” to make the playoffs, sneering that they should only be aiming at SB victories. This, of course, is a ridiculous sentiment and is made only by dwits who set the bar at the highest level in order to afford themselves the most room to bash the 49ers and the fans who root for them, and still leave themselves plenty of room to complain should the 49ers do anything BUT win the big one.
There are currently only six, maybe seven franchises and their fans that can have that attitude: the Patriots, Colts, Chargers, Eagles, Cowboys, Vikings, and perhaps the Steelers. Why can these teams have that attitude? Because they have all been serious contenders for most of the last decade. Three of them have failed every year to even get to the SB (Chargers, Cowboys, Vikings), and the Eagles, despite four straight NFC Championship playoff games and eight years of appearing in the playoffs, got to the SB but once and barfed the deal.
This year the Eagles are retooling with a new QB, giving up on Donovan McNabb as a guy who can get to and win a SB, so they would probably settle for making the playoffs this year, as validation for the QB change. The Vikings are desperate. This might be their last year to get there. Their window is propped open by an old man who could crap out at any time. Some say he’s crapped out three years in a row, but at least it was a spectacular crap out, even quite enjoyable if you have a loathing for this old fart who has managed to be a thorn in the 49ers hide for the past 15 years.
The Cowboys are similarly desperate, having acquired a playoff choker label over the last five seasons. One more gag effort this year might cause Jerry Jones’ head to explode, which occurrence he would surely have the good business sense to televise live in a sold out stadium. Most certainly another crap out would send HC Wade Phillips to the never-get-an-HC-job-again unemployment window.
As for the Chargers, they have been laying playoff eggs for four straight seasons. One more could let the air out of the team for good. How many faces of anguish does Norv Turner have, anyway? Is one more kerplop the final splat to his HC career? Is there a final anguish face yet to be unveiled?
The 49ers have not been to the playoffs for seven years. It is time they returned. This is the year the 49ers launch their quest to become perennial contenders. They will have at least a five year window to get that elusive 6th ring. And if they draft well, the window could be open for the entire decade.
The team has thoughtfully provided the Outsider with a sneak preview of this year’s promotional video which launches their quest for the Golden Nugget. It is presented below.