The 49ers lost the Super Bowl 34-31 to the Ravens, but it doesn't mean that they're done. With this loss, the window of opportunity just opened for the 49ers with a great future ahead.
Colin Kaepernick made only his 10th career start and will only get better from here on out. This season he showed he can be more than just a pistol quarterback and can make throws in the NFL.
"We were five yards from being champions," said Donte Whitner. "We were so close but so far. Hopefully we keep everybody together. We have a bunch of young guys and guys like [Michael] Crabtree and Vernon [Davis] coming back, we have a good nucleus."
Seventeen of the 22 starting players on offense and defense are still in their 20s. Kaepernick is 25 while Crabtree and Davis are 25 and 29 respectively. All four starting linebackers - Ahmad Brooks, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman are 28, 28, 23 and 24 respectively. The best thing? They're all locked up for the next three seasons at minimum. Bowman recently signed a contract extension that will last until 2018.
Free agents this season include Isaac Sopoaga, Dashon Goldson, Randy Moss and Delanie Walker. Moss in particular could be expendable with Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams coming back injuries and 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins ready to emerge.
Looking at the big picture, there's reason to believe the 49ers, who held on to their coordinators and Tom Gamble, will be in position to reach the Super Bowl in New Jersey next year. This includes the Super Bowls Arizona in 2015 and Santa Clara or Miami in 2016.
The 49ers are also well-built for the future with 14 draft picks for the 2013 NFL draft to build depth. They'll have at least an extra third round, fifth round, sixth round and seventh round pick that built from last year's draft.
In the short term, the team will have to live with it, but they'll have plenty of chances to make a deep postseason run again. Jim Harbaugh established himself as one of the today's greatest NFL coaches in only two years as a head coach. General manager Trent Baalke has also drafted well in building a core of players for the 49ers. With his first draft pick, he took Aldon Smith who already set a record for most sacks in his first two years in the NFL.
Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Kaepernick, Brooks, Bowman, Willis, Aldon Smith, Ray McDonald and Carlos Rogers are all under contract for at least the next two seasons.
"When I look at this year, this season, I look at it as a blessing, because this right here let us know where we are as a team, and what we have to look forward to coming back in here next year," Davis said. "So I'm excited, man. I'm excited about what we have, the young guys that we have and what we can do, what we're capable of as we move forward."
The 49ers didn't win Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, but they will not go away. They'll have plenty of time to grow up and there's no reason for them to return to the Super Bowl in the near future.