San Francisco 49ers: Will They Win A Super Bowl At Home?


May 22, 2013; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers guard Mike Iupati (77) and outside linebacker Aldon Smith (99) stretch on the field in front of the construction for the new stadium during organized team activities at the 49ers training complex. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Towards the end of May, the San Francisco 49ers were granted the rights to host Super Bowl L (50) by the NFL at their new stadium in Santa Clara. It is the first Super Bowl to be held in the San Francisco Bay Area since Super Bowl XIX (19), which took place in 1985 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto.

Earlier this week, Joel Corry of released an article discussing how he believes the Niners are a team poised to be the team to emulate for the next decade, much like the New England Patriots during the previous decade. These two pieces of news led to an interesting question. Can the Niners be the first ever team in NFL to play in and win a Super Bowl on their home field?

Previously in NFL history, no team has never won or even played on their home field during the Super Bowl era. The closest team to actually accomplish that feat is the Niners. They defeated the Miami Dolphins in the 1985 Super Bowl held at Stanford Stadium.

The only other team to play in the same local region as their home stadium is the Los Angeles Rams against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV (14) held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The Rams lost to the Steelers, which left the Niners as the only team with a Super Bowl victory in their regional market.

The Niners’ chances at winning the Super Bowl in 2016 is going to rely on several factors. The first is their continued to success in the NFL draft. Building through the draft has been the cornerstone to the Patriots’ continued success in the NFL.

Finding players that provide significant contributions throughout all rounds of the draft have allowed the Patriots to continually replace and fill holes left by players leaving through free agency or retirement. The Niners’ recent resurgence has been due to their ability to build the core of their team through the draft.

Corry makes a note in his article that 41 of the 59 players on the Niners’ roster were players drafted or signed as undrafted free agents by the team. He goes on to breakdown it down further by saying 16 of the 22 starters for the Niners’ were part of that homegrown talent group. This is absolutely outstanding as an organization.

More than 70 percent of the team’s starters were brought in through the draft or undrafted free agents. It gives the front office lots of options on how to fill those other holes that aren’t filled through the draft. The other amazing fact is that these homegrown players are simply more than just bodies to fill the roster. Seven players selected between 2005 to 2011 have been named to the Pro Bowl or to the NFL’s All-Pro team.

Their ability to find talent through the draft allows them to successfully manage the salary cap. The salary cap has been the great equalizer in the NFL, as player spending grows with each coming season. The Niners are able to constantly replace expensive, expendable players through the draft, which allows the team to tender contracts to the young talented players that make up their core.

The Niners have made a habit of signing their core players to long-term, salary friendly contracts before their rookie deals have expired. They typically add more money to the end of the players rookie deals, while getting more team friendly salary over the life of the contract. These contracts often have little to no dead money tied to the latter end of the deal as the team is able to cut the cord, if a player’s output is declining.

How the Niners navigate the salary in the next upcoming off seasons is going to be pretty telling for the teams chances at Super Bowl 50. Next off season, many notable contracts expire and will leave the team with a lot of tough decisions. Players, such as Justin Smith, Terrell Brown, Nnamdi Asomugha, Anquan Boldin, and Donte Whitner will be unrestricted free agents following next season.

The following offseason creates even more problems as several super stars will see their deals expiring. Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, Aldon Smith, and Mike Iupati all see their deals ending after the 2014 to 2015 season and will be looking for deals that will pay them money that puts them towards the top of their respective positions. Frank Gore, Chirs Culliver, and Kendall Hunter will be free agents during that off season, as well.

The next two off season provide the Niners with a number of difficult decisions and questions. Do you late the young talent to step in to the position of the older player? Is the young talent ready to allow the team to let the older players to walk in free agency? Do you sign the young stars to big money deals, or do you let them walk to avoid cap concerns in the future?

Obviously, a lot of this is tied in to the health and performance of the players during this season. Do the older players, such as Justin Smith, Boldin, and Asomugha, show they have enough gas in the tank to help the Niners in the near future? The toughest question is Smith, as he showed some chinks in the armor for the first time in his career. The team might be tempted to let him walk, if Tank Carradine and Glenn Dorsey are able to step up.

The younger players create a greater concern. Kaepernick is going to command the greatest deal, due to his position and his athletic potential. The team should try to lock up Kaepernick before his contract expires to prevent them falling into a similar situation to Joe Flacco and the Ravens, where the player’s production forces them to overpay.

Aldon Smith is also an intriguing question, as outside linebackers do not command exorbitant salaries prior to Clay Matthews’ five-year, $66 million dollar deal this off season. Crabtree’s potential deal is going to be tied to how he performs following the injury this off season.

The Niners are a team that looks to be in strong situation, as they look to be a Super Bowl threat every year for the near future. They have a lot of their young core tied up to long term deals, but they will have some key contracts that come up in the next couple of off seasons. How they deal with the cap or roster implications will go a long way in determining their future.

Their draft history has shown they can fill those holes left behind, or Trent Baalke will find a deal in free agency to fill the hole. Jim Harbaugh and Baalke show no signs of slowing down and should continue their growth as the franchise of the decade. They will have the Niners in position to contend for a Super Bowl in 2016. If, the roster stays relatively unchanged and the youth continues to grow, then the Niners will be playing in Santa Clara during Super Bowl 50 and will be the favorites to take home another Lombardi Trophy.