Not many people can remember the last time they mentioned 49ers and youthful in one sentence, without the mention of a negative word. Now however they may seem to have that opportunity. The 49ers are becoming youthful; and itís about time. Replacing Chris Doleman (36), Brent Jones (35) and Garry Plummer (38) with the new acquisitions of Gabe Wilkins (26), Irv Smith (26)*, and Winfred Tubbs (27) respectively; the 49ers are on their way to a young team. They are also hoping to sign Antonio Langham (25) to replace the already released Rod Woodson (32). Junior Bryant, will most likely be replacing Dana Stubblefield, the difference in age is minor, but still apparent. Even though the signing of young players is a new thing, one would still need to look back a whole year to discover when this all happened. That of course was the signing of Head Coach Steve Mariucci Naturally this does not go without risk, but it had to be done, and there are probably more positives to it then negatives.
The first two issues are that of experience, and how it is counter acted. Giving up veterans always means that the team will be less mature, and might not be able to handle big games. The 49ers front office and older player personnel have learned from the best and know how to get young players up for every game. Once the young players have adjusted to the 49ers play book and "Winning with Class" style, you can be sure they will play with the same 49ers Pride as the veterans did.
There are no more large negative issues after that. Sure it can be argued that the team will need time to jell, but your base offense and defense are still there, and are still among many of the same players as last season. From here on in, itís full speed a head, with maybe a few minor speed bumps. Speaking of speed, that was a main concern, the older players were losing steps and constantly getting beat to the punch on both sides of the ball. With a younger, faster, and also bigger unit, this would not be the case. Provided that the coaching remains at a high intense level.
Size is something overlooked a little. Many people are willing to give up size or talent for speed. However the 49ers want big fast people for most of there positions. All of the newly signed players are on the large scale, and are still fast. Just like a bully in the school yard using size to their advantage, the 49ers need to get big. They will probably also go bigger on the offensive line, and in the defensive backfield, where they were pushed around all to often during the past season.
With the 90ís coming to a close, and only 1** Super Bowl to their credit, there is not better time to replenish the youth of the team. Adding the speed and filling a couple holes could result in a Super Bowl victory now, or maybe in the year 2000. Either or would be phenomenal. It would be incredible if the 49ers reach a point where they win 3 Super Bowls consecutively because they have a youthful team. If that were to happen, one of the Super Bowls maybe at home, in the new stadium.
Most importantly is that the front office not stop now. They should not let good players in there prime go, but there are a number of veterans, that we will all miss shortly, and there is nothing we can do about it. It is best for the team. We know that in our heads, but maybe not our hearts. Steve Young, Jerry Rice (dare I say it), Ken Norton, Ray Brown, the list continues on and on. However if the 49ers plan right, the transition should be seemless.