The 2009 season might as well have been centuries ago.
The Seattle Seahawks were on the wrong side of a championship window with a lame-duck head coach. The San Francisco 49ers were flying head-on into the Mike Singletary era with money tied up in a first-round quarterback named Alex Smith, perceived to be a complete bust. To boot, both teams hailed from the NFC West, or the national punchline division.
Fast-forward to the past two days, as I’ve been opining on the best and worst drafting NFL franchise for each year dating back to 2009 — which you can check out by clicking my byline up top to hit my article archive or the specific links at the bottom of this page. To no incredible surprise, the two fastest-rising teams in the NFL just so happen to be the two franchises that drafted better than anyone else over the past few years.
The Seahawks landed on the top-4 list from 2010-12 — or the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era — while the 49ers made the grade in 2010 and 2011.
What I think makes the Niners’ feats under Coach Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke worthy of crowning them co-kings is not only them having one fewer year to work with, or that they’re coming off an NFC championship, but how well they hit the top of that first draft in 2011 — Defensive Player of the Year candidate Aldon Smith (seventh overall) and Super Bowl MVP candidate Colin Kaepernick (36th overall). Baalke also played a major role in the great 2010 draft haul before Harbaugh came into the picture, which is also factored in.
For those reasons and four years of mostly stellar drafting, these are the teams to beat in the NFC. The West will be brutal this year.