49ers missed golden opportunity to keep Packers coach in San Francisco 

Enough already about this Aaron Rodgers-Alex Smith-oh-what-could’ve been debate.

There’s just as good a chance the 49ers would’ve ruined Rodgers just like they’ve damaged Smith. Six years of offensive coordinator musical chairs. The pressure to win games the 49ers had no chance to win.

Who’s to say how it would have unfolded for Rodgers?

What I want to know is how did the 49ers completely miss what the Packers obviously saw in Mike McCarthy?
He was one seat away from the coach’s office in Santa Clara when he served under the mercurial Mike Nolan as offensive coordinator. There were enough signs early on that Nolan was an edgy character. Odd sideline decisions. Strange time management.

The 49ers had McCarthy in the building, and let him get away. Sure, it would’ve taken some creative thinking to keep McCarthy in the fold. But at one time, the 49ers were known for creative thinking.

McCarthy as the 49ers’ coach is really not out of the question (had the Yorks had the foresight to consider him), as the Saints had ranked in the top half of the league offensively under McCarthy, twice finishing in the top 10, and ranking third in 2002.

Nolan’s dad had coached the 49ers. Looking back, it was a quaint connection.

I remember talking to McCarthy soon after he arrived. There was no pretense, no divide between coach and media. He managed to make it feel — no matter how he really felt — like we were on equal footing. 

I’ll bet Packers general manager Ted Thompson felt the same thing during his interview with McCarthy. No attitude, no expectations. Thompson says the Packers hired McCarthy the man, not McCarthy the coach.

I’ll bet McCarthy talks to the last man on the Packers’ roster the same way.

Thompson figured it out in a day-long interview. The 49ers had an entire season to see it, but didn’t.

The 49ers have so many connections to this Super Bowl, any Super Bowl.

Bill Walsh was an untested NFL coaching prospect when he joined the 49ers in 1979. Both Mike Tomlin and McCarthy were untested coaching prospects when they took over their respective teams.

Walsh won his first Super Bowl in his third season, and two Super Bowls in his first six years as the 49ers’ coach. Tomlin is seeking his second Super Bowl in his fourth season. McCarthy is seeking his first Super Bowl title in five years as the Packers’ coach.

Ben Roethlisberger is trying to win his third Super Bowl in seven seasons with the Steelers. It took Joe Montana 11 seasons to win three with the 49ers.

The 49ers had such a rich Super Bowl tradition for a generation of their fans. When Jed York went looking for a general manager and a coach last month he said he would consult his uncle, Eddie DeBartolo.

Hopefully, Eddie passed along a few of his secrets for building a relationship with the Super Bowl.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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