In the glory decades when the San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowl rings there was always one thing consistent with the team, its identity. The teams of the 80’s led by Joe Montana and the great late Bill Walsh were defined as a West-Coast offense using short, horizontal passing attack to help stretch the defense out which opened up running lanes. The teams of the 90’s were more of the same however with Steve Young’s running ability the opposing defenses had to respect the run more as Jerry Rice and John Taylor separated the secondary. Any 49er Faithfull would be able to tell you the best players on each of Super Bowl winning teams and the players who where the greatest to play at their positions. As the 49ers continue year five of what seems like a 20 year rebuilding process, I wonder which players currently on the roster will emerge in the future as the leaders of this team and become synonymous as the best players at their respected positions. Looking at the 49ers historic glory years of the past, idenity is the one thing they need to find to bring home ring number six. Here are my picks for offense:
Glory Years: Joe Montana/Steve Young
Future: Alex Smith. If Mike Martz cannot turn Smith into at the very least a QB who can complete passes with accuracy and consistently make smart decisions, than no coach can help him. Smith does not need to be a franchise QB like Montana or Young. Yes, a Super Bowl team does need a franchise QB but Smith has not shown anything of the sort in his four years at the helm, so I am shooting low not high. Like it or not he is the face of this franchise and our QB of the future.
Glory Years: Roger Craig
Future: Frank Gore. Without a doubt this 49er has been all the offense the team has had in recent seasons. Gore has already proven he can be a 1,000 yard rusher and an adequate receiver out of the backfield. With his bowling bowl like running style let’s hope he stays healthy enough to be around when the 49ers start contending again.
Glory Years: Jerry Rice
Future: No one, I repeat no one, either on the 49ers or any other team will ever have the talent, athletic ability or the numbers Rice has put up in his career. Rice is what Babe Ruth was to homer run hitting, changing how to approach the game and how raw talent can make an ordinary player turn into a legend. Enough about Rice, I would currently place Isaac Bruce as the future for this team if this was five years ago but he has at the most two more years left in his career. Which leaves Arnaz Battle, no…Bryant Johnson, no…Jason Hill, hell no…you get the point. Unless recently drafted rookie Josh Morgan has some hidden qualities and abilities then the 49ers are a long way from finding the next great WR to lead the receiving corps.
Glory Years: Dwight Clark/Brent Jones
Future: Vernon Davis. At least that is what the 49ers top brass wants us to think that Davis can develop into the likes of a Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates. If only he looked as good on the football field as he does in the weight room, Davis would be superstar. As goes Alex Smith, so goes Davis.
Glory Years: Jesse Sapolu/Harris Barton
Future: Joe Staley. Staley was one of three rookies in 2007 to play every down on offense and has shown his versatility filling in and starting effectively at both left and right tackle. He is the anchor on the o-line and is already starting to emerge as a leader.
On Thursday I will post the future of the 49ers Defense and who needs to emerge as leaders.