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The 49ers’ season came to an end after a deep playoff run for a third consecutive season.
Two days later, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was asked how much longer the organization’s "window" for a Super Bowl would be open. Harbaugh had no interest in playing that game.
“I don’t understand windows,” Harbaugh said. “It’s confusing in terms of football.”
There is no such thing as a window in the NFL – unless a team fails to generate any meaningful roster turnover on a year-to-year basis. So, really, the term “window” is completely irrelevant.
A team’s window is almost always in direct correlation with the quarterback. That’s why any team with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers will always have an open window.
Windows are open for a short period of time with teams that have strong rosters and a solid quarterback who is playing with a manageable contract.
Once the quarterback gets paid big bucks and eats away at the money a team can devote to the remainder of the roster, the onus turns to the quarterback to keep the organization afloat.
The 49ers and Seahawks had an advantage this season because their quarterbacks – Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson -- are young, talented and accounted for a small percentage of the team’s overall salary cap.
Colin Kaepernick is scheduled to make $1.073 million in 2014. He is eligible for a multi-year contract extension, and the sides will undoubtedly enter into negotiations. The challenge for general manager Trent Baalke and president Paraag Marathe is to sign Kaepernick to a long-term extension while implementing a plan to keep as much of the roster intact.
The 49ers and Seahawks could be battling it out for years to come. But things will change once the 49ers and Seahawks sign their quarterbacks to long-term extensions. Their windows will remain open as long as they make good personnel and financial decisions with the remainder of their rosters.
But, more important, the quarterbacks have to play well enough to earn the big bucks and keep their teams in contention.
Kaepernick has been the 49ers’ starting quarterback for just one-and-a-half seasons. If he makes the kind of improvements one would expect, the 49ers’ window could just now be opening.