Are the 49ers just smarter than everyone else?
“Sure,” quarterback Steve Young said. “Why not?”
At eye level across the foyer rest five Lombardi trophies, sleek, shiny, smug. Oddly, only four Halas trophies are arranged above them. This would indicate one fewer NFC title for San Francisco than Super Bowl victories.
I ask if one of the Halas trophies has been lost or stolen.
“Oh, it’s somewhere,” my guide says. “We don’t keep track of silver medals around here.”
Game balls, championship rings, team photos - nothing else clutters the trophy case but mementos of the Super Bowl years, as if there were no 49ers before the first one and none after the last one.
As if there are no 49ers at all without one.
The 49ers have not only endured at the top of pro football for nearly two decades, they have been the single constant of the NFL, the standard against which all the occasional intruders must be measured, Green Bay being only the latest.
“Everyone in this locker room is very aware of the tradition,” Young said. “I take it very personally.
“That’s something I’ve thought a lot about … to keep it going, to build on it. There has been a long period of success, and not on my watch is it going to go down.
“I think we all feel that way. I mean, we don’t talk about it or make secret pledges in blood, none of that stuff. We just live it.”
It started with the Cowboys, with Dwight Clark’s catch in the end zone. It outlasted the Cowboys as America’s Team and as America’s Most Wanted.
The Bears were mere passers-through. One of the Halas trophies offers a reminder, 23-0, the year before the Bears’ only Super Bowl.
The Redskins flowed and ebbed, the Giants came and went and came again. Thirteen of the last 17 years, the 49ers have won their division. This year was the fourth time they have swept their division.
And now the Packers. Few teams got to where they were going without going through the 49ers. And so it will be again.
“This goes on year in and year out,” Young said. “Each year if there is any sign of demise, there’s a loud call to it. Because people have been waiting for it.
“Each time there is a real resiliency to fighting back and holding on and building on it. That’s what has separated this organization. They’ve built on prior success rather than just trying to hold on.”
It’s called vision.