The feeling around the Bay Area about San Francisco 49er football is one of "maybe, just maybe, they are finally starting to come around."
With 49ers defensive end Justin Smith becoming the fifth 49er Pro-Bowler this year along with Patrick Willis, Andy Lee, Frank Gore, and Vernon Davis, the 49ers will be sending the most players they have sent to the game since 2002.
Now what happened in 2002 that hasn't happened the last seven years? Well, that was the last year the Red & Gold were in the postseason.
Jeff Garcia's comeback anyone?
Now granted, the 49ers didn't qualify for the postseason for the seventh straight year, but they came closer than they ever have over that span. A Favre miracle touchdown and a gaff of a game in Seattle caused the 49ers to miss the playoffs.
Those two things should not have happened, and in most cases they wouldn't have. The 49ers were close, really close last season.
And a huge part of their improvement defensively last year came from Justin Smith, who continued to be San Francisco's most consistent defensive force outside Patrick Willis.
Smith never comes off the field with his team on defense, and in his two seasons with San Francisco has helped the defense finish 13th and sixth against the run compared to 22nd the year prior to his arrival.
Without him, the average defensive line become one of the worst in football. Averaging six sacks per season and a bunch more pressures and hits on opposing quarterbacks should have Smith in the conversation as one of the top defensive ends in football.
Unfortunately he has played with the Bengals and 49ers over his nine-year career, not exactly teams known for defense over that span.
But Smith can do just about everything. Unlike other pass rushers, he plays every single down. He doesn't play in just passing situations or just running situations, he is always on the field.
In my mind, there is no other defensive lineman in football more deserving of going to his first Pro Bowl.
Hopefully the 49ers can add another pass rusher over the offseason to help Smith get the double digit sack numbers he deserves.
Kind of how the San Jose Sharks got Dany Heatley for Joe Thornton.
An equally comparable defensive end or OLB to Smith would do wonders to increase the sack totals of No. 94 on the defense.
The guy surely deserves it.
Time for Jed York to spend some money to bolster the pass rush. If he does, I'd be willing to be you'll see Smith qualify for back-to-back Pro Bowls.
He really is that good, and it is unfortunate that his play usually goes unnoticed.
The author originally published his first article on this topic at NFLtouchdown.com. you can see that article here: http://www.nfltouchdown.com/san-francisco-49ers-defensive-end-justin-smith-finally-getting-the-credit-he-deserves/