San Francisco 49ers: A Story of Mediocrity Behind Center in the 21st Century

Thomas LawrenceContributor IJanuary 22, 2011

Alex Smith getting pulled down by Darnell Dockett.
Alex Smith getting pulled down by Darnell Dockett.Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers may be several crucial pieces away from being a championship contender, but they're just one piece away from being respectable.

Ever since the much underrated Jeff Garcia era, anchored by underrated coach Steve Mariucci ended in the city by the bay, the quarterback position has been anywhere from anemic to mediocre at best.

Champions of the lame duck interception like Ken Dorsey, Alex Smith, and UC Davis grad J.T. O'Sullivan have come and gone. All unsuccessful in leading the 49ers to a postseason appearance.

Let's put it this way, the last time the red and gold made the playoffs was 2002. I was 12 and working on becoming a man. Now I'm nearly 22 and a soon-to-be college graduate. Seasons change, life moves on, except for the 49ers disappointing on a yearly basis.

Despite what people will say about rotating offensive coordinators, in the spring of 2005, the 49ers had a window to end the anguish and disappointment of the title-less post-Steve Young era.

With the first pick in the draft, Jed York and company had a choice between the spread offense-minded, small-handed Alex Smith and Northern California native stud Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers, the same quarterback who is now on the verge of an NFC title, once wore a 49ers shirt under his jersey at Cal.

The nonsense Niners opted for Smith, who since has thrown more interceptions (53) than touchdowns (51) in 50 career starts, and has a dangerously low passer rating of 72.1.

Rodgers, meanwhile, is the toast of the National Football League. He boasts 86 touchdowns in only the last three seasons. Not to mention his 98.4 passer rating and pair of playoff wins already to his credit. Let's put it this way, if Rodgers keeps it up, he'll have a higher passer rating than Super Bowl champion MVP and Niners' legend Steve Young.

Say what you will about the organizations and the offenses, the red and gold made a dire mistake.

Now with offensive minded Jim Harbaugh on the headset, San Francisco has to take advantage of its heightened talent at the skill positions—like Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, and Michael Crabtree—and get a half decent quarterback in there before they have to start all over again.

The time may not be now to contend for a Super Bowl, but the time is now to win their mediocre division and get a rowdy home crowd to fill Candlestick Park in the middle of January, and to wax nostalgic about the days of lore. 

Kevin Kolb. Donovan McNabb. Hell, what's Vinny Testaverde doing these days?

If these 49ers aren't careful, their window will close again. And with a lockout imminent, nobody knows when it will reopen.