Kaepernick: The birth of a legend
Normally you see these types of posts after the results are in from a big game like we have taking place this Sunday afternoon. But I feel compelled to talk about it now while in the moment itself; when my thoughts and feelings are fresh and bubbling up onto the surface of my consciousness. Lets make no mistake Colin Kaepernick is the leader of this 49er team, and the Alex Smith debate is now a mere footnote in the annuals of history. This 49er team is on the verge of doing something very special, so much in fact I'm not sure many fans fully comprehend it. They are being led by a QB in only his first full year as a starter, after coming off of a half season of starting, in which he led his team to the Super Bowl. No team that has lost in the prior year's Super Bowl, has made it back to the Super Bowl, and won it since the Miami Dolphins returned to defeat the Washington Redskins in 1973.
I really want you to think on that for a second; he is in his first year as a "starter", in which at one point we were 6-4, has led the 49er's on a 8 game winning streak, has won two consecutive road playoff games, and his 3 road playoff game victories are already the most of any 49er QB. As someone who grew up as an adolescent with Montana, and a teenager with Young, I'm here to tell you, you are about to witness the rise of a legend. Montana captured my imagination as an 11 year old kid born in San Francisco, living on Navy Rd. And even though I was just a young boy, I can still remember the city being electric with anticipation, and collectively we were caught up in something that was bigger than all of us.
So as Kaepernick leads the 49er's to face the Seahawks in the NFC title game at the CLink; I can only imagine how all the youth of the Bay area will view him if (when) he leads us to a Super Bowl victory this year. I actually really envy them right now, because if they feel anything like I felt in 1981, its a feeling that will last a lifetime, and one that cannot be duplicated or manufactured. I know there will be those that scoff at my comparison as being premature, but I'm not here trying to claim Kaepernick is as good or will be as good as Montana or Young. But I am saying if (when) he does lead us to a Super Bowl victory this year, he will reach legendary heights instantly and will forever hold a place in the hearts and minds of so many 49er fans, especially the young ones.
49er's legacy at a crossroads?
I would argue that it is. This will be our 3rd NFC title game under Harbaugh. We have lost one NFC title game, and have lost one Super Bowl. The question that is hanging over this team as it is currently constructed, is what will it's legacy be? To really put this into perspective for many of you; what do you think your impression of Steve Young and the early to mid 90's 49er's would be, if Young had never led them to victory over Dallas, and ultimately a Super Bowl victory? In my opinion most of you would be indifferent to Young and those teams, and you wouldn't have much if any real impression of them. Take for example the 1970 & 1971 49er's who were led by John Brodie and lost to the Dallas Cowboys in consecutive NFC title games; what are your impressions of those teams? Yes I know most of you have never seen Brodie play, or those teams, but the same can really be said for Young and his teams (minus espn highlights).
Think how different Montana's victory would be viewed, if the Brodie led 49er's just made it to a Super Bowl, even if they lost. That is why I truly believe this current team's legacy is on the line in this NFC title game. The difference in narrative with regard to this team swings dramatically in one direction depending on whether we win (when we win) or lose (we ain't losing). A victory has the potential to solidify HOF credentials for players like Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis. Its true that because of Kaepernick's age, that he could very well lead another very different 49er team to a Super Bowl victory, if we didn't win the Super Bowl this year. But that would be a very different team and would not reflect on this 49er team and it's legacy. I've been convinced since we defeated the Cardinals in Arizona, that this team was focused to make a run at a Super Bowl victory. I truly believe we will defeat the Seahawks in their house, and go on to win the Super Bowl. I also see this team winning 2 Super Bowls over a 3 year span. If that prediction comes to fruition, take a moment to think about what the legacy of this 49er team would be then. That would be at minimum 4 NFC title games in 5 years, 3 Super bowl appearances in 5 years, and 2 victories in 3 Super Bowl appearances in 5 years.
Yes, the legacy of this team is definitely on the line.
The 100 years war:
I've always been of the opinion that the Seahawks, were not really a true rival of ours. I've been a 49er fan for about 30 years, and have always viewed our rivals as the Rams, Cowboys, Giants, and the Packers. The Rams dominated us in the 60's, the Cowboys in the 70's and early 90's, and the Packers in the mid to late 90's. But this game this Sunday really does change that. We are facing a division opponent, in a game that decides who battles it out for the Super Bowl. The only game bigger is the Super Bowl, and the game has the feeling of being much bigger than even that, because it potentially determines which of the two teams will be the face of the NFC West as well as the NFL itself.
Think of how different Montana and Marino who have been viewed if it had been Marino that had come away with the victory in the Super Bowl. And what would have been the future fortunes of not only the QB's, but the organizations if this would have happened. For these organizations and teams, this Sunday will be the first major battle in the war between these two franchises. And victory is most likely going to send one of these teams in one direction, and the loser in another. I won't claim to know exactly where that will be, but history has shown me, its better to be the victor and not the loser. So I will end by simply saying, Go Niners! Go Niners! Go Niners! Go Niners!