The 1981 San Francisco 49ers: Does History Repeat Itself?

Abraham LopezContributor IMay 7, 2010

The San Francisco 49ers 1981 season was their 32nd season in the National Football League. The season was highlighted by their first Super Bowl victory. I found this to be interesting because we are exactly 30 years from their first Super Bowl victory and the beginning of a new decade. I then began to look at their schedule that year and we played the current NFC South teams: Saints and Falcons which I found to be weird because they are on this year’s schedule.  After finishing 8-8, the 2010-11 season leaves room for optimism starting from ownership trickling down to a hardcore 49ers fan like me. In which, this inspired me to do some research and ponder if history really repeats itself.

A big turning point for the franchise was the drafting of Ronnie Lott from the University of Southern California. Although, we just drafted Taylor Mays, comparing him to the greatest safety to ever play the game right now is premature. He has yet to play an NFL game!  However, Mays and Lott have been open about their relationship in recent media outlets and says he serves as a role model and mentor to his protégé.  Also, Mays said he has tried to mirror image his style similar to his mentor’s. The 49ers defense last year allowed an average of 229.4 passing yards which ranked them 21st in the NFL.  I may be opening old wounds but if Mays were in the secondary last year would have Favre completed the so called “miracle throw” to seal the victory? The intention is for Mays to step in this year or next and use his athleticism and new skills to limit those types of plays in the secondary. We all agree that his technique needs some fine tuning but which rookie’s doesn’t? One thing you cannot teach, Coach Manusky said is speed. Please reference his freakish athleticism to his combine results especially on YouTube.

Quarterback Joe Montana began the 1981 season as San Francisco's starting quarterback. The season would be one of the franchise's most successful seasons to that point. Montana was influential as he helped San Francisco win two of those games with fourth-quarter comebacks. One of the most famous moments of his career was part of the winning drive in the NFC Championship Game. Montana was special and we were blessed to witness greatness for so long. However, Coach Singletary has said that it’s not up to one guy. This will be a team effort. Because the NFL has evolved and is now a quarterback driven league we would all agree that depending how far we go this season a lot (NOT ALL) will be determined by Alex Smith's performance.  The 49ers drafted 625 lbs. to protect Smith and a 230 lb. running back to alleviate the stress and to focus on the run game. The plate is set up for Smith to simply play pitch and catch. As he continues to mature and develop repertoire in camp with the receivers/tight ends, especially Crabtree and Ginn Jr. we should see his statistics improve this year. Nonetheless, Smith will be tested and will need to win us 1-2 games in the 4th quarter.

Under the tutelage of Bill Walsh, the team finished the regular season with a 13-3 record. One may argue that Patrick Willis is the quarterback of the defense and the heart and soul of the team and under the auspices of Coach Singletary will lead the 49ers to victory. The organization recently has committed to Willis as the face of the franchise by awarding him a $50 million extension with $29 million guaranteed. This commitment shows that the 49ers are willing to take care of their own but more importantly under Coach Singletary he will be led the right way in order to continue getting production from the All-Pro Linebacker. Coach Singletary has established a solid base by bringing back a “football 101” approach by focusing on fundamentals and passion and love for the game. As a former Hall of Fame player Coach Singletary knows how to reach out to his players and knows what it takes to be a championship team. Something Bill Walsh excelled in. Which in my mind separates himself from the X’s and O’s type of coach. Although, Bill Walsh treated the West Coast offense like a science, Coach Manusky and Coach Raye have the tools to succeed. This approach has lead to an 8-8 record and has the 49ers on the brink of something very special.

            In summary, one would say that after this season it leaves room for optimism. Drafting a former Trojan, getting good quarterback play, and Coach Singletary’s leadership may be the turning point for the 49ers. However, the reality is that the games still have to be played. Conversely, as a 49er Faithful this is the best position we have been in a long time.

Source: Good ol’