The San Francisco 49ers rolled to victory this afternoon, improving to 10-2 and clinching the NFC West for the first time since 2002. Although the 49ers struggled in the red zone, the St. Louis Rams never really got anything going and this game was never really close. I'd argue that 9-0 halftime lead was one of the biggest three field goal leads you'll ever see.
The 49ers still have work to do, but officially clinching a spot in the postseason removes a certain amount of stress. I did not expect any sort of epic collapse, but until the playoff berth was in hand, I was not ready to pop any champagne. Thankfully the 49ers locked it up and we can start to ponder bigger and better things. They need to avoid any sort of letdown or oversight this coming Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, but they are in a very solid position heading into the final quarter of the season.
Naturally that means it is time for a little Jim Mora "Playoffs?!?!?!" After the jump, check out 49ers President and CEO Jed York discussing the playoffs and what's ahead.
President and Chief Executive Officer Jed York
Press Conference - December 4, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams
"You have to keep on-the-field separate from what we're doing with building the stadium. I don't want to put that pressure on the team. That's not their responsibility. Their responsibility is to get better each and every day. I think we have done that for the most part this season and it culminated in winning the division and there's still a long way for us to go."
What does it feel like to say you're a division winner?
"It feels great. I don't know that it sunk in for everybody yet, but I asked the guys today, ‘You know this isn't the last hat and t-shirt that I want.' There's a long way for us to go and there's a lot of work that we need to do if we want to get there."
You don't want to see it stop? You want to see them keep going?
"No, we can't let up. Arizona next week, you have to be prepared. Sometimes celebrating this early isn't always a good thing, and we need to make sure that we keep our heads down, we keep focus and we keep moving forward."
Jed, when you hired Jim Harbaugh to be your coach, did he give you a timeline on when you guys might be a playoff contender?
"When you start setting timelines and things like that, I don't believe that's a healthy relationship and a healthy forum for success. What we wanted to do was to make sure that our general manager and our head coach were on the same page and make sure that trickles down. I think that's where we are right now. But, again there's a long way for us to go."
With a 10-2 record do you feel like you have accomplished a great deal thus far?
"We've hit our first milestone by winning the division, but again there's a long way for us to go. Even at 10-2, there are things that we can do a lot better on-the-field and off-the-field. That's what we are going to be working on starting on tomorrow."
Jed, were you in college that last time the Niners won the division?
What year were you?
"I was a junior."
Do you remember where you were when they won the division or anything like that?
"I was watching the game on TV in South Bend."
Any message from your uncle today about the division title?
"The cell coverage's isn't perfect right here in Candlestick. I'm sure I have some emails and text messages from people."
Jed, the last time you talked to us in the locker room was after the last St. Louis game in St. Louis and then you fired your coach. Are you surprised yet, that it hasn't been that long since this then and this team has come a long way from that time?
"I had the flu that day, so that wasn't a real fun day for me. This time is a little bit better. I knew that we had talent on this team, and I've said that a lot. It's great to see it all come together."
How do you feel for somebody like Frank, that had a big day, that got a career record?
"To me this is such a great day for Frank. He's one of those guys that deserves to be up on that wall as one of the best players that has put on a 49ers uniform and unfortunately we haven't had the success on the field to make him really noticeable in that light. It's a great thing to have the first division in such a long time and show Frank to the world that he's gained the most yards out of any back in the history of the San Francisco 49ers. It's a great day for Frank."
Talk about Alex Smith Jed, and were you a believer when coach Harbaugh was looking to bring this guy back?
"I believe in coach and (Trent) and them being able to assess talent. That's what they're here to do. They're here to coach and assess talent. I know Alex. I know how hard he works. I know what a tough guy he is and I know what he can do. If coach believes in him, then I believe in coach and that's what we're doing."
Are you happy for Alex?
"I'm happy for everybody, not individually. I'm happy for the entire team. When you have coach Harbaugh here and somebody believes in your quarterback, I support our coach and he's been working with Alex like a coach should. Supporting his player and making sure he has every opportunity to be successful."
How does the organization go about making sure that people don't think this is the end?
"It's not the end and we're going to work tomorrow. We won (with) a nice score today. There's still a lot of plays that we missed out there. There's still a lot of things that we need to do to get better and that's what we have to instill in our guys. We haven't won anything yet. We're two games behind the conference leader right now. There's a long way to go if you want to be the number one seed. There's a lot of great teams in the NFC and you have to keep your head down and keep working everyday or else this doesn't mean anything."
What would it mean to you if you actually did go to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl?
"All we're worried about right now is Arizona. That's all we can do right now. We have to get better each week. We're just worried about Arizona."
Jed where did you watch the game? Were down on the field for most of it or were you up in a suite?
"I was back and forth, we had a check presentation to a charity board I am on, Tipping Point. Jimmy Johnson got his red 49ers Hall of Fame blazer today. It was a weird day for me. I'm usually in one spot, but I was going up and down a little bit today which was a little unnerving."