SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Over the last 10 years, San Francisco Bay Area sports fans have become connoisseurs of what it takes for a franchise to be among the elite.
Since 2010, Bay Area teams have reach the finals of their sport with a championship within their grasp 11 times. A Stanley Cup Final, two Super Bowls, three World Series and five NBA Finals have all be decided in contests involving local teams. No region or city in the country can make such a boast.
So with this sharpened eye, lets look into the crystal ball and try to see what the future may hold for the San Francisco 49ers.
Lasting power for an elite starts with a core of gifted young players. The San Francisco Giants had Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum. Golden State is still being driven by the threesome of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green although injuries this season have forced the team to endure their version of a “gap” year.
The 49ers also have such a core in George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa. Samuel and Bosa culminated their rookie season by making big plays in Super Bowl LIV while Kittle just wrapped up his third campaign. Conventional thinking says that each will become more impactful barring a major injury as the decade progresses.
A second ingredient is innovative thinking at the top. While recently retired manager Bruce Bochy was a grizzled baseball veteran, his postseason management style was a thing of beauty – plugging players into the lineup and artfully employing his bullpen. It was a master class in winning baseball.
He also had a formable tactician in the front office in Brian Sabean.
The Warriors run of five straight NBA finals and three championships has also been powered by the unique brain trust of head coach Steve Kerr and GM Bob Myers.
Kerr’s screen-and-roll motion offense has maximized the long-range accuracy of Curry and Thompson to transform the way basketball is being played to the youth league level.
Have you been to a Bay Area high school hoops game lately? Players are hoisting 3-pointers from well beyond the arc.
Myers has added a keen eye for talent and has the deal-making abilities of a world class poker player.
The 49ers also have such a tandem in head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch. They have masterfully transformed a 4-12 doormat just a year ago into a Super Bowl team.
Lynch has brought in the players while Shanahan’s offensive scheme and Fortune 500 CEO capabilities of managing a coaching staff have taken care of the rest.
Sure, in the hours after the Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs there were questions about clock management and play-calling, but don’t forget employing Shanahan’s offensive scheme the 49ers were 15-4 this year with a 2-1 record over a punishing regular-season stretch of consecutive games against Baltimore, Green Bay and New Orleans.
The last element of drama is facing a menacing foe; an opponent the media says is unconquerable and whose glare makes the Bay Area fan base boil.
During the Giants run of three World Series titles it really wasn’t one player. In each run, San Francisco found itself an underdog in nearly every post-season game even more so when it came to the World Series.
But for the Warriors it was one man. A superman named Lebron James. For the first four NBA Final runs, both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Warriors easily dispatched most of their post-season foes on the way to a Finals showdown.
Each year, each game the rivalry elevated to new heights. James’ signature hand-clapping, talc cloud before the opening tip drew sneers from the Warrior faithful.
Curry, Thompson, Green and for the 2018 showdown, Kevin Durant, facing off against James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Basketball at its best.
The 49ers find themselves now with just such an opponent — Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. The modern-day gunslinger with a calm that guided Kansas City to three straight touchdowns after failing behind 20-10 in Super Bowl LIV. Bay Area fans have a new villain.
Mahomes also fronts a young, talented Chiefs team only on the brink of its run among the league’s elite. While nothing is ever certain in sports, Super Bowl LIV could be the opening act for an NFL rivalry that could rival the famed Warriors-Cavs showdown.
Bay Area fans are already salivating for another shot at Mahomes and at another NFL title.