The San Francisco 49ers had no head coach, questionable on-field prospects, an unproven front office and an uphill fight off the field as they chased a new stadium.
That was 11 months ago. The landscape is has changed dramatically on all fronts.
Jim Harbaugh is a leading candidate for NFL coach of the year. The team has a 9-2 record and can clinch the NFC West title Sunday. President Jed York and/or general manager Trent Baalke are looking like strong candidates for executive of the year. Momentum on the stadium front is also building with news that the team has lined up financing for a new one near its headquarters in Santa Clara.
Those of us more interested in third-down conversion rates and goal-line formations tend to have little patience for stadium-financing stories. The latest reports appear substantial enough to command our attention. By all appearances, the 49ers have cleared the largest remaining hurdle on their way to opening a new stadium near team headquarters for the 2015 season.
That's great for York and the organization. It'll be tough for some to see the team play its games outside San Francisco. The 49ers' need for a new stadium was great if you believe modern facilities help teams compete over the long term. Candlestick Park, though steeped in history and memorable moments, has become increasingly decrepit.
This is not quite a done deal. Mike Rosenberg's piece for the San Jose Mercury News quotes one of the project's proponents saying the funding commitments leave the venture facing "first-and-goal from the 9" -- close, but not quite there. Opponents call the agreement less favorable for taxpayers than previous ones. That's a civic issue beyond the scope of what we generally discuss here.
The 49ers consider this a victory for them. Opponents of the project also consider it a victory for the team. That makes it a victory for the team.