Here’s a bit of trivia I did not know about the San Francisco 49ers until this postseason, when I looked it up: With a 5-0 record, the 49ers are the only team that has played in more than one Super Bowl, and won every time. There are only four teams that have played in just one Super Bowl, and won that only time: the New York Jets (1968), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002), the New Orleans Saints (2009)…and the Baltimore Ravens (2000).
So, this year, one team is falling from the ranks of the Super Bowl unbeatens.
But that probably isn’t the storyline you’ve heard about in the less-than-24 hours since we found out the teams going, is it?
(Quick Quiz…name the 4 NFL franchises that have yet to go to a Super Bowl.)
How important are coaches in a Super Bowl? Maybe not as important as the players, but…well, ask the Oakland Raiders how it worked out against their former coach John Gruden in that 2002 Super Bowl against the Buccaneers.
It also matters because of how big an influence Jim Harbaugh has been on the 49ers. Mike Nolan was an intelligent coach. Mike Singletary was an incredible leader. Neither came close to doing what Harbaugh has. He has innovated and excited, and although he built off of things the other two coaches had done, he made the kind of turnaround in a team you wouldn’t expect.
It’s not that John Harbaugh has been a bad coach himself…but he hasn’t been all that exciting. He wasn’t a head coach in college, like Jim was. He spent many years as an assistant. And even though he’s been successful as a head coach, with five playoff appearances in five years, and four times leading his team to double-digit wins, one almost feels that it was because he inherited what was already a good team. And they’ve never been dominant under his term; and only once in five years has he managed to get a playoff bye.
Still, though, it’s going to be the coaches you hear about most. Behind that, it’ll be Ray Lewis, and then the quarterbacks, between the rather green Kaepernick and the untrusted Joe Flacco. Even 49er fans might get sick of those storylines after two weeks.
What you probably won’t hear? That this is the second time that the 49ers and the San Francisco Giants each made it to their championships in the same season. However, of course, last time the Giants couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain, in 1989.
All in all, this is going to be a fun couple of weeks. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get into Super Bowl mode for a local team…and for the record?
San Francisco 27, Baltimore 23.
(Quiz Answer: The four teams never to appear in a Super Bowl? The Detroit Lions, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Houston Texans…and the Cleveland Browns, whose fans are probably still fuming that Baltimore made it, again.)