San Francisco players carry on legacy they know little about
By BENJAMIN HOFFMAN
the new york times | January 30,2013
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh directs the team during a team photo at media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game Tuesday in New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS — The San Francisco 49ers last won a Super Bowl on Jan. 29, 1995. Colin Kaepernick, the team’s current starting quarterback, was 7. While the franchise has five Super Bowl wins, Joe Looney, San Francisco’s youngest player, was alive for just one of them. The same is true for three other members of the active roster.
And yet, since the 49ers arrived in New Orleans, the questions from reporters have inevitably turned to the 49ers’ impressive history. The 49ers’ players are being asked to keep the team’s undefeated record in Super Bowls going — no other team with multiple appearances has never lost one — despite many of them not being all that familiar with the team’s legacy, largely because they are too young to have witnessed it.
“Right now we are trying to establish our own identity,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “You do not want to live in the past and we are trying to create our own tradition and things that everybody can be excited about.”
Even coach Jim Harbaugh, who is old enough to be familiar with the Joe Montana-led teams of the 1980s, is doing his best to avoid looking back.
One of the few players who said he had strong memories of past San Francisco teams was center Jonathan Goodwin, who won a Super Bowl ring with New Orleans in 2009.
“I was a 49er fan growing up,” he said. “Steve Young got the Super Bowl ring, so that’s the main thing that stands out to me.”
Dashon Goldson, the 49ers’ hard-hitting safety, was born in 1984 and struggled to recall details about the San Francisco teams of that decade.
“I wasn’t really in tune when they were out there killing people,” he said, “but I definitely know about Ricky Watters out there and Garrison Hearst.”
Watters was on the 1994 team that won the Super Bowl. Hearst did not join the 49ers until 1997.
“There is a great 49er history with our team and we’re proud of that,” Harbaugh would say before trying to move the discussion back to his current players.
Most of the other players failed to relate much to the teams of the past, even though they walk past the five Vince Lombardi trophies displayed in the team’s training facility daily.
Goldson’s recollections of 49ers’ lore had Kaepernick beat by a few seasons. Kaepernick, who grew up a fan of the Green Bay Packers, was pressed to recall moments of glory from San Francisco’s past and he was only able to come up with one.
“My biggest memory of the 49ers was when they beat the Packers in the playoffs with T.O. down the middle,” he said, referring to the 1999 wild-card playoff game when Young found Terrell Owens in the end zone for a last-minute touchdown, sending Kaepernick’s favorite team home for the season.
It would turn out to be the last great moment of Young’s Hall of Fame career. Now Kaepernick and his teammates have a chance to add their own to San Francisco’s rich history, even if it is one they are not all that familiar with.