When the Green Bay Packers take the field next Sunday for Super Bowl XLV, they will be the 10th different NFC team to play in the last 10 Super Bowls. The 49ers are not on that list.
In fact, for the franchise that owned football’s biggest game for a decade and a half a generation ago, it’s been 16 seasons since the 49ers last played on football’s grandest stage.
Ending that drought is obviously the focus of the 49ers’ newest regime. The big names are in place — GM Trent Baalke, coach Jim Harbaugh and coordinators Greg Roman and Vic Fangio — but perhaps the most important name is missing: The starting quarterback.
And until that group knows who their starting quarterback will be, reserve any judgment regarding the 49ers’ future.
Take the Niners’ history to heart. It’s all about the quarterback.
The 49ers established themselves as Super Bowl favorites in the ’80s and ’90s under Bill Walsh and George Seifert. Is it no surprise that Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young served as their quarterbacks?
The Niners remained contenders under Steve Mariucci, only to fall out of the Super Bowl picture under Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary.
Remember, everybody, optimism abounded at the hiring of each of the last three guys, and it’s possible one of them could have been successful had they had the right starting quarterback. But they didn’t.
In the 10 years that 10 different NFC teams have reached the Super Bowl, the 49ers have had 10 different starting quarterbacks — Jeff Garcia, Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Cody Picket, Trent Dilfer, Chris Weinke, Shaun Hill, J.T. O’Sullivan, Alex Smith and Troy Smith. Only Garcia and Dilfer (a Super Bowl winner with Baltimore earlier in his career) even rate as successful as a starting quarterback.
If you don’t see how far the 49ers truly have been, in terms of quarterbacks, from being a Super Bowl contender, examine this item: There are only five active NFL quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings: Tom Brady (3), Ben Roethlisberger (2), Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Drew Brees.
Another way to describe this list is the four best quarterbacks in the league and Eli Manning.
So, as Baalke and Harbaugh settle in at their new desks at the Niners’ facility, drawing up their game plan for future and glory for the Niners, don’t listen to anybody’s opinion whether or not they are going to be successful until they identify their starting quarterback.
The Green Bay Packers did that six years ago. It’s the biggest decision the 49ers have to make if they intend to get back to where the Niners nation believes the franchise belongs.
Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at email@example.com.