“The 49ers have more ways to win the Super Bowl on Sunday than they did in this same game four years ago, which is only relevant because they’re playing against the same team, with the same GOAT-mode quarterback, same spectacular tight end and same Hall of Fame coach.
But the 49ers have Brock Purdy at QB now, not Jimmy Garoppolo, and they have Christian McCaffrey at running back, not anybody else in the universe. I think that’s the difference. Even though it feels far too simple, and even though Patrick Mahomes is a winning formula all by himself in almost any game, especially the biggest ones (especially-especially the one four years ago in South Florida), I think the 49ers had everything else they needed to beat the Kansas City Chiefs back then except the right QB and RB.”
“Aiyuk’s odometer turned over long before he got to the NFL. He was affectionately termed a “zero star” recruit — more accurately, non-recruit — from Patrick McQueen High School in Reno, Nevada, where he began as a 5-foot-3 freshman (“But I was athletic,” he says, “so I could get away with it”) and sat out as a junior because of academic issues (Of school, he says, “I wasn’t a fan.”) It wasn’t like anyone really noticed, though, because one of his coaches at the time, current McQueen head coach Matt Marner, can’t remember whether Aiyuk was even called up to the varsity for the playoffs his sophomore year. To the best of his recollection, he wasn’t.
“The kid you don’t see as a junior, you pretty much write off as a senior,” says Marner, who began coaching Aiyuk in middle school basketball. “You’re probably not going to see that kid again.”
How easy would it have been for him to drift into another lane and forget about sports — and school — entirely? “I’m not sure what kept me going,” Aiyuk says. “That was a long time ago. But the love that I have for the game right now, I’m sure it was similar at that time. So I don’t think it was hard, really. I think it was probably the plan the whole time.”
Everything about his path is just a bit more circuitous than most. He got his classwork in order and grew to about 6-foot. He had an excellent season playing defensive back and returning kicks while remaining, in Marner’s words, “on absolutely nobody’s radar.”
The 49ers have a quarterback who can get the ball to their playmakers. Who can make something happen when the 49ers need it most? Who on San Francisco can make something out of nothing? The 49ers have several options. Still, you know Deebo wants it to be him.
“Because it’s no gimmick,” Williams said. “You’ve got to go tackle him. You’ve got to be fast enough to catch him, and you’ve got to be strong enough to get him to the ground. That don’t change. It ain’t like we’re hitting trick plays. It’s mano-a-mano. You’ve got to take him down. That’s who he is.”
“ In that sense, not much has changed since 12 years ago, when he leaned on all he had learned in flag football and guided those Bulldogs to a middle-school league championship.
“I think it just helped with the speed of the game,” Purdy said of flag. “It was a quick game. Hand-eye coordination, all that kind of stuff, really did develop for me throughout my years playing flag football.”
“Like Kittle, Bosa was asleep when the alarm went off. He woke up and immediately texted the rest of the defensive line group chat, which he said was already full of complaints for the premature and loud wake up.
While Bosa took some solace in the fact that it was relatively close to a normal wake up time instead of 2 or 3 a.m., he agreed with McCaffrey that it was unlikely an accident and noted that this isn’t the first time the Niners or any other team has dealt with some hotel shenanigans on the road.
“I’m sure somebody did it,” Bosa said. “It kind of reminded me of Philly when they had this construction going on outside. It was early in the morning and they were like demolishing a bridge right outside of our hotel. We haven’t had the best luck. But no excuses.”
“If anything, Williams believes winning a Super Bowl only would make him more intent on extending his NFL career.
“I haven’t thought about the end, so I know I’m definitely in for the next couple of years,” Williams said. “I’ll revisit it after that.
“Winning on Sunday will only make me want to win another one next year. When you can achieve something that feels this good, you kind of get addicted to it, right? You want to achieve that award again. So I think that it will only make me want it more.”