You might lately have heard some steam on the 49ers being a team that can compete for a Super Bowl. Jerrick McKinnon mentioned it on Matt Maiocco’s podcast and now it’s becoming a question—or maybe a punchline with opposing teams’ fanbases—are the 49ers a Super Bowl team?
Objectively? No, they’re not. They are a potential playoff team, but with the teams in front of them, the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and of course the Los Angeles Rams, they are not in that gauntlet. Yet.
So are they delusional? Not at all. What should they be saying? “We are getting there, we need another season and just some playoff experience.” How do you play hard with that mentality? Better question, how do you get the habit of playing hard when you are a team competing for the Super Bowl? Those aren’t fans or journalists talking, those are players on the team, paid to compete. Besides, you never know how the NFL shapes out as the season goes on. A backup quarterback won everything in 2017 for starters.
Be concerned if the 49ers aren’t playing to win the Super Bowl. And not just this year, any year. Because every year, they should be, even if they don’t have the talent around them. Obviously between the years of Jim Harbaugh’s departure and Kyle Shanahan’s arrival, the 49ers were rebuilding in some way, shape, or form. The fans knew it, the front office knew it, but you need to hope to God the players didn’t know it or care (and towards the end of those seasons, the play definitely seemed to drop off). Harbaugh was one of the best at getting the most out of his players, whether they liked it or not. In 2011, there was no one in the media talking about the team coming second place in their own division, let alone a playoff appearance, and we know how that ended.
If the 49ers weren’t playing for a Super Bowl, we wouldn’t have seen the energy in the last five games of 2017, which in turn gave them much-needed momentum to enter 2018. It would have been fair to call it a day six or eight games into 2017, but the 49ers didn’t — they kept playing hard and beat playoff teams.
McKinnon saying the team wants to make a Super Bowl run is exactly what you should expect and want to hear. The 49ers don’t care about where they stand on the pecking order in the NFL, they don’t care about what a rebuilding season is or not, they should want to win a championship every year. And the 49ers in particular definitely don’t quit on that goal even when it’s out of sight.