Talented 49ers roster finally comes of age

Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:15pm EST
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By Simon Evans

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Barely three years since being derided as a sorry parody of the franchise which once dominated the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers have a chance to claim a record-equaling sixth Super Bowl win on Sunday.

It has been 18 years since the 49ers last appeared in a Super Bowl - their fifth victory coming against San Diego Chargers in Miami in 1994 - and in that time the franchise endured some poor seasons.

Six straight years of losing records from 2003 tested the patience of even the most loyal of Niners fans but while change was to come, particularly on the coaching side, the franchise resisted the temptation to make it wholesale.

"It is really good to see that we didn't throw the baby out with the bathwater," chief executive Jed York said on Thursday.

"I think that is something that a lot of teams do - 'well, we didn't win anything this year, we need to fire everybody and get rid of them'. That is not my philosophy and I think it has paid off in that we have kept a lot of the pieces together. That is satisfying."

Jim Harbaugh, who took over as head coach for the 2011 season, has rightly earned much of the credit for the transformation but York notes that plenty of things were in place before he arrived from Stanford University.

"I always thought we had talent on this team and that started with Mike Nolan and (former general manager) Scott McCloughan in 2005, really building the foundation," he said.

"I think (coach) Mike Singletary did some great things for this team, bringing the most out of guys like Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis.   Continued...

San Francisco 49ers tackle Joe Staley (L), guard Joe Looney (C), and guard Al Netter work on blocking drills during a NFL Super Bowl XLVII football practice in New Orleans January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes