There is always a theme.
The poor kid makes it big. The rich man goes broke. The worshiped falls from grace. The laughing stock laughs last.
The dynasty crumbles; the fallen rise.
These San Francisco 49ers had been deep under the ground for almost a decade. Then, vroom, a sparkling new head coach digs 'em up and immediately leads the franchise deep into the postseason. So, here we are. It's a nice view from here. But as NFL fans, what are the possibilities for this team in year two? Have we all seen something like this before? Could this 49ers team be akin to the flag-in-the-gound put-the-world-on-notice 1981 49ers... or maybe the four years of one-game-short prat-fall-agony of the current Baltimore Ravens?
Here is some of what we do know about these 49ers. They have a college coach, very successful in his rookie year, who is heading into his second of many years to come. In an act totally out of character, they steamed into the NFCC game and within an over-time field goal of the Super Bowl. Their schmuck of a quarterback is suddenly not so schmucky. They have a rush defense among the best in the NFL. Possibly historic. Their special teams is also expected to again be among the best in the NFL. The team plays with heart, brains, grit, toughness, discipline, great chemistry and class... except for vigorous handshakes. We also know they are leaving their city soon.
To get us started, let's explore what theme we know they are not...
This is not Joe Montana and Bill Walsh. Though, they too had a bunch of rookies starters. They also had a fresh from Stanford rookie head coach who snake-bit long standing NFL powerhouses. They had innovation. They had great chemistry and were cheered by reinvigorated fans. They had red and gold. However, you can watch the 1981 NFCC game at double-speed and still recognize that in that last game, Alex Smith had not been impersonating Joe. Don't jump on that - there is only one Joe. Also, they did not win the Super Bowl. Close - but any similarities may now be mostly in the past.
This is not Tom Brady and Bill Bilichek. If you remember, the theme to that first Super Bowl was akin to Kurt Warner's Arizona Cardinals first Super Bowl. "Quarterback goes down, then back-up takes them to the promise land and beyond". Though extremely, extremely unlikely, the 2012 49ers still have this opportunity. Moving on...
This is not Trent Dilfer. "Great defense and a game manager". Even he says out loud and often, Alex is better than he was. And we all know this defense is better. They never went 14 straight games without allowing a rushing TD. Their offense, however, did go seven straight games without scoring a TD. No, this is not that theme.
Is this the new Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh? No. Firstly, this Ravens team is more like an underachieving Jim Kelly and Buffalo Bills. Secondly, this 49er team has only accomplished one NFCC game, not 4 consecutively... yet. (Please no!).
1985 Bears? Probably not. Differences being, Alex is much better than the Headband. Even if he isn't, Harbs has the upper hand on Ditka. Mike was a hard nosed Bears player turned coach, like a Mike Singletary but with acumen and a belt. No, Harbs is an offensive innovator and a QB soothsayer. Whatever he will be, he won't be a one-year trick, thereafter disconnected from his quarterback.
This is not the "Tuck Rule" Raiders - the 49ers coach is coming back to stay, for a looong time, and their players don't falsely believe personal fouls intimidate NFL gladiators.
This is not the uber-talented, inconsistent and jolting hot mess the likes of Romo or Vick.
This is not the sore-luck creamsicle Buccaneers or the paper-bag-headed Saints, suddenly gleaming and shining as dominant winners. This franchise has been bad, but c'mon.
In order to widen the perspective of common NFL themes, allow me to remind you of some powerful ones, wholly unrelated to this upcoming 2012 San Francisco 49er team.
Dan Marino or Jim Kelly - HOF'er never winning the big one.
Kurt Warner or Steve Young - sudden post shelve-stocking/UFL nobody turned HOF NFL QB. "It's an annuity!"
Maybe, the NFL has not seen this phenomenon before. Maybe, this is an entirely new archetype. Draft bust quarterback turned Super Bowl champion with stellar new coach? NFL dynasty without the best quarterback in the NFL? Well, the Steelers did do that. Anyways, even if they are the 2001 Baltimore Ravens, or the '85 Bears, those teams only won one. What if these 49ers win more than one? What if they never win one?
Hopefully, for fans of this team, this is one last hoorah at the Candlestick. One team, one stadium, one fan base, one more unbelievably exciting Lombardi Trophy, before they leave the building.
Has that been done before?