Road To 49ers Recovery Went Through Cleveland
December 8th, 2001
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
In securing their first winning season in three years, the 49ers have accomplished an unprecedented task. Once again they find that they are the blueprint NFL Franchise for those down in the gutter to follow. Such is the way it has been with the 49ers since the first Walsh era, and such is the way it seems it shall forever be. Unfortunately for most teams trying to get out of the gutter, they donít have one advantage that the 49ers had in their retooling - that advantage being a very generous expansion team.
When Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark left the 49ers for Cleveland nobody in San Francisco was sad to see them go. They were abandoning the team in the midst of salary cap purgatory and showed no apparent remorse for what they had done. But as much as the organization, and 49ers fans hate to admit it, these two NFL executives played a large role in getting the 49ers back in playoff shape.
Because of Clevelandís close ties to the 49ers, when the expansion draft came around, Cleveland was willing to help the 49ers out a little bit. The 49ers unloaded many untalented players with high salary cap figures that probably saved the 49ers at least a year from the rebuilding process. It was a great help for the 49ers because without the help of Cleveland, the team would have had to let go of more players, some of whom were solid contributors, and thus the road to recovery would have been prolonged.
And so the 49ers had an advantage that very few teams can expect to have in the future. The NFL does not expand very often, and when it does, itís rare that the executives of a new team would have such close ties (and guilty feelings) to a single organization. Thus even with the Texans and their expansion draft coming up this off-season, itís rather unlikely that any team will be able to fit the exact mold the 49ers used to get back on top of the NFL.
Of course there is still some worry for the 49ers future, and perhaps you are hearing it here first. The starting team as it is, is very strong. They have a solid core of players who should only improve. However the team lacks depth across the board, and has been very fortunate to avoid major injuries this season. It will be hard to replicate the same off-season success the 49ers have had over the past three years - though it will be necessary to replicate this success in order for the 49ers to stay on top for any continuation of time.
The 49ers as we know them today followed the quickest route back to the top of the NFL. So far we have seen the dividends of moves made by ĎThe Geniusí and his staff - however we need to see some evidence that these dividedness will remain in the future. Itís tough getting to the top of the NFL, itís even tougher staying there. The 49ers were fortunate enough to be able to regain supremacy in just three seasons, should they falter again retooling may not be so easy.