What Will It Take for the 49ers to Return to Champions (Part I)

Keith EmmittContributor IMay 30, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 10:  (L-R) Former San Francisco 49er players Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Joe Montana stand with a Super Bowl trophy during a public memorial service for former 49ers coach Bill Walsh August 10, 2007 at Monster Park in San Francisco, California. NFL Hall of Famer Bill Walsh, who was known by many as 'The Genius' for leading the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl championships, died last week at the age of 75 after a long battle with leukemia.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As a kid growing up, I had the pleasure of watching the San Francisco 49ers win five Super Bowls. From the beginning of this journey, there were always naysayers. People would always doubt the greatness and ability of the 49ers team. Today, those doubters double in number, due to the team's inability not only to win a playoff game, but even get to the playoffs.

This 2010 team has a ton of potential, but can they be the team that returns this organization to greatness? Let’s see what steps this team has to take to become champions of the NFL once more.


Quarterback: Since his draft day in 2005, Alex Smith has been pressured to be the quarterback who could get this team back to the playoffs. Unfortunately for Alex, none of the pieces fell in place right away. The Alex Smith apologists provide many arguments in his defense.

He was without a permanent offensive coordinator for four of his first five years. He had no viable options at wide receiver. He was behind one of the worse offensive lines in the NFL. Don't forget that in his rookie year, Alex witnessed both the collapse and eventual fatality of offensive lineman Thomas Herrion in the locker room after a preseason game in Denver.

All of those reasons engulfed Alex as his numbers continued to disappoint the faithful fans. Alex has performed in 43 games throughout his career, with a total of 37 touchdowns and 43 interceptions. His career QB rating and completion record is 69.7 and 56.1, respectively. His win-loss record is 16 and 24 over the five year period.

Alex improved nicely last year, after taking over the helm from Shaun Hill in week seven against the Houston Texans. Alex threw three touchdowns in that game. Alex won five of the last 10 games in which he played. His numbers improved markedly with the assistance of Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore as primary weapons in the offense.

Alex displayed the ability to win against their NFC West divisional foe Arizona Cardinals, and non-conference opponent Jacksonville Jaguars. However, he was unable to pull the rabbit out of the hat against the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, or Philadelphia Eagles. Those games were critical to getting into the playoffs.

While it doesn't all fall on Alex Smith's shoulders to win, he enjoys the rewards or the negativity of the team's successes or failures. The one poor performance Alex was able to overcome was a win against the Chicago Bears.

In order for the 49ers to return to champions in 2010, Alex Smith must have the best season of his young career. He, like many others on this team, has a great reason to have a chip on his shoulder, and a reason to play his heart out. He is another player in whom coach Singletary has put faith.

With the addition of tackle Anthony Davis of Rutgers and guard Mike Iupati of Idaho, the team has shown great faith in building an offensive line to protect the oft-criticized quarterback.

Alex has been exposed to the loss of comrades, injuries, failures on the job, and a demotion of position. He has gone from boom to bust. Alex, like many others on this team, has a reason to want to overcome past failures and see this team prosper. Hopefully, he will execute and be highly effective in 2010, and this team will have a chance to return to champions.

(To be continued... Defensive Backs: Nate Clements)