The 1981 season for the San Francisco 49ers marked the beginning of a historic run that few franchises have ever enjoyed. From a team that floundered in mediocrity, rose legends that the game will never forget.
Bill Walsh ushered in the next era of Superstars, names like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young - just to name a few. The Niners branded the West Coast Offense and were a sure pick to lead their division into the playoffs with each coming season.
Thirty years later, memories of an era that once was are beginning to fade. The winds of change swept out one of the best owner's in sports, Eddie DeBartolo and his financial wizard Carmen Policy.
Indeed, since Steve Young's retirement and the release of Jerry Rice, there are precious few reminders of the former dynasty in San Francisco.
Candlestick Point, home of the team's stadium is as foreboding as ever. Season after season of futility and the reverence of Monster Park (The Stick), has given way to old age and dilapidation.
The promises of a new stadium are as empty as the assurances of the team's return to greatness.
Since Jeff Garcia's amazing come from behind playoff win against the New York Giants in 2002, the 49ers have posted consecutive losing seasons. Under the control of Denise and John York, the front office collapsed inward.
With head coach Dennis Erickson who appeared to be asleep at the wheel, the Niners hit a low mark in 2004, finishing with a 2-14 record.
The head coaches who followed; Mike Nolan (wore a suit, waffled well) and Mike Singletary (wanted winners, dropped trousers and loved film), failed to restore the team to even a glimmer of its former self.
Midway through the 2010 season, it became blatantly apparent that the state of affairs within the organization desperately needed intervention.
The Head Coach, Mike Singletary was promoted from within. Formerly a linebacker coach.
The GM, Trent Baalke, was also promoted from within, formerly a scout.
The offensive coordinator, Mike Johnson, was also promoted from within (see a theme yet?). Johnson was formerly the quarterbacks coach.
Starting today, benched tomorrow quarterback, Alex Smith, has yet to prove he is capable of being an NFL Quarterback has had five years of rope. Five years. It has taken the team five years to understand what was drastically obvious after two.
It does not take an analyst to see where the team went south. The majority of the problems I have just listed were changes that came this year. Team President/Owner, Jed York, has not had enough fingers and toes to plug the leaking dam.
Jed York may not have wanted to enact major changes on the fly, promoting personnel from within to fill shoes during the 2010 campaign. With each three and out, each punt, the fan base crumbles more and more into cold San Francisco bay.
The "49er Faithful" are looking more like an angry mob or posse. It is time - beyond time - for sweeping changes, from the top on down.
With the recent firing of Coach Mike Singletary, the first stone has been cast. York cannot afford to stop there. He is reportedly consulting with his uncle, Eddie DeBartolo during a process that must land the team a new GM, offensive coordinator and starting quarterback.
For a team that has been rebuilding for eight years, it must look again to start over in 2011. The pressure is definitely high for Jed York to hire the right people, to get things moving in the right direction again.
Unfortunately, what this means for San Francisco fans is all old hat. We will have to wait anxiously to see who is brought in and how they measure up. We must acknowledge that any changes that are made, will be slow to trickle down and translate into wins on the gridiron.
After eight years, what is one more year? It is crucial. It is paramount. I for one will forgo any allusions of seeing the 49ers in the 2011 playoffs,as long as the right pieces are in place.
A message to Mr. Jed York:
Give us the best people you can get, and in return, we will give you 2011 without ire or fire.
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