The San Francisco 49ers were a franchise that struggled for much of it's early existence, exploding out of nowhere in the 80's with four Super Bowls, vaulting itself into 'legendary' status within the NFL. They snuck up on the league with something new and a savvy coach, going from the basement to the penthouse is only two seasons. And as Sports Illustrated's Ann Killion points out, could be somewhat like what the current 49ers are doing right now.
This year's Niners aren't much different that those early Walsh teams, seemingly coming out of the shadowas to rise to dominance behind a new, talented young coach. Only this time it's not the West Coast offense, it's the lock down defense getting it done for San Francisco, but that same winning attitude resonates with both. 49ers of old are taking notice too, like former tight end and receiver of 'The Catch" in 1982 Dwight Clark:
"I just wanted Harbaugh to get people talking about the 49ers again," Clark said this week. "Nationally no one was paying attention to us. We were like Cleveland. I was hoping he could jump-start things a little."
Jump-start? Harbaugh has super-charged this franchise thus far. But this team hasn't experienced a playoff game in a decade, many players never at all, though Harbaugh's cool-headed demeanor will hopefully quell much of the anxiety:
"It's difficult," said San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree. "Especially the position we're in. We've never been in a playoff before. It should be big for us."
It will be big for them, especially if history feels like repeating itself.
Back in 1981, the first year Walsh took the 49ers to the playoffs, nobody took them seriously that year either. Even after a week 6 beat down of the Cowboys, they were left out of the highlights on Monday Night Football that week, which Walsh saw as disrespect to the 49ers.
The Niners would head to the postseason that year and take out the New York Giants at the 'Stick 38-24 in the divisional round, then beat the Cowboys on 'The Catch' in the NFC title game, making NFL history in the making. Oh yeah, and they won the Super Bowl.
Something similar this year would suffice.