New head coach Jim Harbaugh
Every football fan knows the San Francisco 49ers have been very bad for quite some time now. Yet what many outside the 49er faithful don't see are the constant promises to return the team to its glory days and asinine proclamations that this year they will finally win the division again.
Every season the Niners make bold statements and fail to live up to the hype they just look that much more foolish.
In order to return to the winning ways the organization and its fanbase are used to, the team needs to build the team for the long term.
There has been quite a bit of excitement surrounding the appointment of Jim Harbaugh as coach of the 49ers, yet that same enthusiasm was felt by the fans when Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary took over. The biggest problem was that both faced pressure to win right away, so they focused too hard on winning immediately while failing to plan for the future.
While this is true all over the NFL, it is that much more important when an organization which used to own the most Super Bowl wins suddenly looks like a perennial cellar dweller.
The key for the 49ers' 2011 NFL season—assuming there is one—is to find a franchise quarterback and to have their young talent produce as expected.
Michael Crabtree, Taylor Mays and Anthony Davis are all players who should be expected to contribute much more in the future. and the team needs to put them in the best position to do that.
The team is loaded with younger players who should improve under the right coaching and this is the year it needs to happen.
But the QB issue is by far the most important.
Whether it is Alex Smith once again, another signal caller the team trades for an early-round draft pick, the Niners need to find someone they believe in.
Then they need to put that player in the best possible position to succeed for the long haul. If that means playing a rookie early on and losing a few more games next season that is what has to happen.
Should San Francisco go with a stopgap solution instead, they will likely find themselves in the same position a few years from now only with higher expectations.
In order for the San Francisco 49ers to be relevant long-term in the NFL, they have to start planning for their future.
While that might mean taking more lumps now, it will be worth it in the end. They should not want to be a flash-in-the-pan team that makes it to the playoffs on occasion, but must instead shoot to be perennial contenders in the mold of the Patriots and Colts.
While I know many 49er fans are sick of the losing, it just might be necessary for one more season.