The NFC West was owned by the San Francisco 49ers. I mean almost, literally owned by the Niners for 22 seasons. San Francisco won the division an astounding 15 times between 1981 and 2002. Then, suddenly, the west’s powerhouse went silent for the remainder of the 2000’s. Now in 2011, the Niners are poised to take back the division they once dominated.
Barring a collapse of biblical proportions, the 49ers will win the NFC West in 2011 (knock on wood). With a win on Sunday vs. the St Louis Rams or a Seattle Seahawks loss, the Niners will win the division for the first time since 2002. If neither of those events occur on Sunday, it’s logical to assume they will occur in the coming weeks (more knocking). Winning the west used to be a forgone conclusion, most definitely something to be taken for granted. This year, however, after a decade of painful football, a western title would be something to savor. Although the 3 other teams in the division are somewhere between god awful and just normal awful, the Niners cannot control them. They have done what any great team would do in an inferior division and have raced out to a (seemingly) insurmountable lead. So much so that San Francisco has the heavyweights of the NFC on their radar and can think big picture (bye’s and home field advantages and such) as opposed to say, fretting over a road game in Seattle on a Saturday after playing the Steelers on Monday night.
If you are too young to remember the happy times, it was kind of like this every year. By about Thanksgiving 49er fans had assumed we would win the west and were on to working on their furious hatred for the Cowboys or Packers or some other arch nemesis we would undoubtedly meet in the NFC Championship game. The west was small potatoes and we were after the big prize. It was just the first leg of a championship journey and that’s exactly how it should be viewed this year. But after 9 years of going from Dennis Erickson (did he get fired by ASU yesterday? Shocking!) to Mike Singletary (4th Google suggestion? Worst coach Ever) the NFC West Champion San Francisco 49ers sounds pretty sweet. Lets take back what’s ours.