Christian McCaffrey is a Super Bowl reminder that running backs still matter

When the San Francisco 49ers traded for Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey in the middle of the 2022 season, they were going against the grain. Conventional wisdom had been working against running backs for a decade or longer, as team after team in the NFL realized that they could find effective tailbacks without using premium draft picks or gaudy free agent contracts to get them. Running backs, the league has come to know, are a relatively fungible group.

But McCaffrey was a different beast, so the 49ers gave up a small ransom to get him: four draft picks over two years: a second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-rounder. McCaffrey played well down the stretch in 2022, but then the Niners pushed their chips in even further before this season: They restructured McCaffrey’s already huge contract to create about $9m in space under the salary cap this year. The bill will be due later, and it will be massive, but the 49ers knew they had a precious window to take their best shot at a Super Bowl. They had a useful quarterback, Brock Purdy, on a cheap rookie contract. They had a Hall of Fame left tackle, Trent Williams, still playing well at 35. And they had two of the best defensive players in the NFL, Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, in their primes.

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By delivering elite play at the right time on the 49ers’ organizational calendar, McCaffrey has arguably been the marginal difference that’s pushed the 49ers from a regular elite team to a Super Bowl contestant on Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. While the Kansas City offense pivots around Patrick Mahomes and his star tight end Travis Kelce, who are still formidable after so many years together, the 49ers offense scores because of a multifaceted attack that shows no weaknesses running or passing the ball.

And of course, it is McCaffrey whose hands are all over that offense. Everything the 49ers do runs through him in one way or…


Source link : https://sports.yahoo.com/christian-mccaffrey-super-bowl-reminder-090016100.html

Author : The Guardian

Publish date : 2024-02-06 09:00:16

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