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Time to hit the reset button: The San Francisco 49ers going forward

Now that we have a new Super Bowl champion, it's only fitting that we shoe-horn the 49ers into the middle of this story. The 49ers and Saints are drastically different teams so generally speaking it's hard to find similarities between them. Nonetheless, the completion of the Super Bowl means we get to hit the reset button on the 49ers 8-8 season.

With everybody back to 0-0, and with free agency and the draft just around the corner, I thought it'd be fun to open up a general discussion about how far people think the 49ers are from once again raising the Lombardi Trophy. I suppose we could make this about getting back to the Super Bowl, but when you're 5-0 in Super Bowls (don't forget that Steelers fans!), you don't get excited going to Super get excited winning them! (ok I'd be excited just to go at this point)

A few weeks ago I was approached by the blog SimonOnSports to answer a few questions related to the 49ers 2009 season, their offseason, and the near future. In that Q&A Simon asked me when the 49ers would next be in the Super Bowl. My response:

I'll go with 2011. This offseason heading into the 2010 season is a big one and hopefully the team will beef up the offensive line. If they can make the playoffs in 2010, I could see them taking that next big step in 2011. Of course, a lot of that is dependent on Alex Smith actually becoming a legit NFL quarterback. If he can do that, I'm gonna go with 2011.

Many may view 2011 as too optimistic. Some probably think the 49ers will be back in the Super Bowl next season. I won't begrudge either side their opinion. After all, teams make huge turnarounds very quickly (see the 1999 Rams), other teams drag along in mediocrity for years, and others turn into playoff teams but can't quite make the leap into the Super Bowl (see the Chargers as long as Norv Turner is head coach).

The question is where will the 49ers be in the next few years, and what kind of team will they become under Coach Singletary? I've posted a poll, although it's probably not all that easy to answer. You might think 2012, but if a few things go right, maybe it happens sooner. Or, a few things go wrong and the team remains in its current drought for the foreseeable future.

So, without going too much into the minutiae we discuss on a day-to-day basis, how far away are the San Francisco 49ers from the mountaintop?