After back-to-back Super Bowl victories, the San Francisco 49ers can do no wrong. Their top-three defense has played consistently stellar football, and the Niners’ offense has been humming largely thanks to the record-breaking play of quarterback Peyton Manning. One of the NFL‘s most storied franchises, the 49ers are embarking on yet another dynasty.
Would this opening paragraph be a reality had Manning chosen the Niners over the Denver Broncos prior to the 2012 season?
We’ll never know for sure, but while the Broncos boast a multitude of offensive weapons, the 49ers are a better overall team with the quarterbacks removed from the equation. In addition, Manning has successfully elevated the play of every offensive player surrounding him. Is there any reason to believe he wouldn’t have done the same for the likes of Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree? Wouldn’t he have benefited from the support of the 49ers defense, which ranked 14 spots higher in total yards allowed than the Broncos?
Listen, it’s not my intention to bash the play of Colin Kaepernick. While he had his struggles in 2013, he did finish the regular season ranked seventh in the NFL in QBR. This is more about the greatness of Manning than the mediocrity of Kaepernick, who is still developing as a quarterback. Unfortunately, his growing pains are coming at a time when the rest of the team is collectively peaking.
Manning was in a league of his own as far as quarterback play was concerned in 2013, and the fact that he fell short of adding a second championship to his Hall of Fame career is a travesty. Can anyone say with certainty that the 49ers would have even won one Super Bowl over the last two years with Manning as their starting quarterback? Absolutely not. But this scenario wasn’t far from coming to fruition, as head coach Jim Harbaugh held a private workout with Manning prior to his commitment to the Broncos.
It’s fun to think about, but the reality is that the Niners have fallen just short of glory in both of the last two seasons. It’s up to Kaepernick to elevate his play in the coming seasons so the 49ers’ window of opportunity doesn’t pass them by.