Patrick Willis: Bright Light of 49ers' Sad Season

RealFootball365.comSenior Writer IFebruary 4, 2008

San Francisco fans have enjoyed years of Pro Bowls that look less like the NFC vs. the AFC, and more like the 49ers vs. the AFC, with as many as 10 of their players on the roster. 

This year, they'll have just two: a punter and a rookie linebacker.

Let's face it, gone are the days of John Madden singing the praises of Joe Montana on Monday Night Football, corny 49er songs, and the effortless pairing of Steve Young and Jerry Rice. 

The formerly finesse team is now composed of players you hardly know and a coach better known for his on-field fashion than his sideline abilities.

But despite dashed hopes and the team's extensive offensive woes, one component did help to make up for the 49ers' sad 5-11 record: their young and talented defense led by Patrick Willis.

Willis became the first Niners rookie to make the Pro Bowl since Ronnie Lott in 1981.  He also nabbed NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.  It had been 17 years since a San Francisco rookie won the coveted award (Bryant Young in '94).

With Willis on track to join an elite history of the 49ers' defensive greats (such as Lott, Dwight Hicks, and Fred Dean), fans are given hope that an excellent offensive player might be next year’s pleasant surprise.

That side of the game sure could use the mojo.