The last time the San Francisco 49ers were considered one of the NFL‘s best teams, they won a handful of Super Bowl championships and were a model of efficiency for which the league could sit and marvel. After nearly a couple of decades in the bottom tier of the league, the 49ers have seemingly returned to glory with head coach Jim Harbaugh being lifted up as their savior.
But is everything as it seems? Do these 49ers have a chance to rival the great San Francisco teams from the 1980s, or is the tape going to fall off the quick fix job that Harbaugh has miraculously done?
In the past, a solid long-term winning franchise was built on two things–defense, and the ability to run the ball. Things haven’t changed all that much, but it would seem that those two attributes alone aren’t enough to win a it all anymore, and probably won’t sustain a team for a long run of championships.
It’s clear that Jim Harbaugh recognizes this fact, which is precisely why he benched former staring QB Alex Smith in favor of the formerly unknown prodigy named Colin Kaepernick, who took the league by storm and nearly led the 49ers to a Super Bowl win.
The mobile quarterback, coupled with a read-option package in the offense, have become all the rage. But for this combination to work, you also have to have a speedy tight end, and at least one burner of a deep threat at wide receiver (for the record, the 49ers have both in Vernon Davis and Ted Ginn Jr.)
When you look at it on paper, the 49ers look like they can only get better–a scary thought for the rest of the league. But there is one wild card in this whole stacked deck, and that’s Jim Harbaugh.
If there is one thing that can run the smooth sailing San Francisco tall ship aground, it’s the eccentricity of Harbaugh. Some of his antics seem amusing, almost entertaining at first. But how long will some of the more stubborn and egotistical players buy into his rah-rah ways and his oddities before giving Harbaugh amatz?
Right now I’d bank on San Fran being near the top of the league for at least a few more years, but all it will take is one act of dissension by a key member of the team against Harbaugh’s perceived nuttiness, and things could fall apart in a big hurry.