The San Francisco 49ers made a big trade on Monday, dealing tight end Vernon Davis to the Denver Broncos for draft picks. As an impact player, Davis is on the back side of his career. He has something left, and can help the Broncos, but this is not prime Vernon Davis.
That being said, I call this a big trade because the 49ers are dealing a big name in recent franchise history. Davis spent a little over nine seasons with the 49ers, and has one slightly notable catch on the franchise's short list of great catches.
The Catch III was the high point of the San Francisco 49ers 2011-12 campaign. They would go to the Super Bowl a year later, but there was something so special about that 2011 season. The 49ers had been in a funk dating back to 2003, and this Saints game was an amazing cap to a 2011 season that was so much fun.
Mike Singletary deserves a lot of credit for getting Vernon Davis properly focused for football. In the first three seasons of the Jim Harbaugh era, we saw a tight end who could be an incredibly dynamic weapon. He had a solid enough 2011 regular season, but the playoffs is when we saw Vernon take his game to a new level.
Against the Saints, Vernon had seven receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns, and was critical to that victory. A week later against the Giants, he had three receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. A year later, Vernon had a single 44-yard reception against the Packers in the divisional round, and then had 105 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, and finally 104 yards against the Ravens in the Super Bowl. He added two more touchdowns a year later against the Packers and Panthers.
Vernon Davis finished his 49ers career as the franchise tight end leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. However, it was his playoff work where Davis truly excelled. He finished his 49ers career with seven playoff touchdowns, which is tied for the most by any NFL tight end. In eight playoff games, he also caught 27 receptions for 600 yards.
Davis could be an incredibly frustrating player. He had stretches where he had hands of stone. He would continue catching the ball with his body instead of his hands. There was the holdout and building his "brand". There was Captain Torpedo (some might call that a positive!). There was plenty that could frustrate us, and it did so frequently.
And yet, I look back at the seam routes for touchdowns, the dominance in the playoffs, and his ridiculous size/speed combination. There are times I think he could have put up even greater numbers. And yet, with the 49ers franchise stumbling along, I prefer to think about those great times. And maybe we'll see him shine one more time in January with the Broncos.