When a team loses in the postseason for multiple seasons, the natural question to ask is whether its Super Bowl window is closing.
To some observers, it might be natural to ask this question about the San Francisco 49ers. This team has lost twice in the NFC Championship Game and once in the Super Bowl in the past three seasons. The rumblings being heard? "The 49ers have peaked. They can't win the big one. Their window is closing."
Here's my advice to those who are pondering whether the 49ers have missed their opportunity: Throw that notion out the window.
The 49ers' Super Bowl window is wide open. This is an elite franchise with endless possibilities.
The 49ers' near-misses in the past three postseasons aren't a negative moving forward. Opportunities were blown, but experience was gained. San Francisco can continue to improve and grow.
In fact, I expect the 49ers roster to be improved in 2014. When you study rosters around the NFL, it's difficult to find too many that are set up better for long-term success.
There aren't many holes in this program. Jim Harbaugh became the first coach in history to advance to the conference title game in his first three NFL seasons. Harbaugh and his staff are top notch. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is 21-8 in his career starts. Although inexperienced, Kaepernick is already a proven winner. He will get better. The defense is top notch and will stay that way.
Overall, this is a young team with plenty of depth. Plus, the 49ers are equipped with 13 draft picks and have a chance to dictate May's NFL draft.
There's no reason to think the 49ers will suddenly go south. If anything, they will learn from the experience of being so close the past three seasons. Sooner or later, the 49ers' coaching, talent and playoff experience will work in the organization's favor. It might be a season, it might be three seasons, but this team will close its Super Bowl window successfully.
If you are uneasy about the 49ers' future, all you have to do is look back at when Harbaugh took over three years ago. The team was coming off a 6-10 season and going nowhere. The idea of a Super Bowl window was far-fetched. Three years later, this program is just starting to show its capabilities.