Sputtering 49ers might be missing their window

Football teams in many ways have the attributes of a virus. As each season goes by, teams mutate as pieces are added and others subtracted. This mutation comes through free agency, retirement, draft infusion, salary cap management and other transactional activities, such as grabbing players off the waiver wire.

Watch Put Up Your Dukes, a 30-minute, opinion-based talk show starring former NFL offensive lineman Jamie Dukes, airing Tuesday through Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET. Encore performances air each night at 12:30 a.m. ET.

You have heard me talk about this mythical moment in time called "The Window." Every team has a window, whether it yields a Super Bowl championship or a playoff berth or, in some cases, nothing. "The Window" is the culmination of assembling good young players, good moderate-aged players and a few good older players.

Introduced into this Einstein-esque formula is one key element -- the right quarterback. The right quarterback is not the guy with the biggest arm, or the quickest release or the highest IQ. The right quarterback makes great decisions and is judicious with the football. The quarterback must be efficient enough to provide appropriate balance in the offense, which prohibits opponents from stacking the line to suffocate the running game.

Such is the case for the San Francisco 49ers. The organization has done a tremendous job assembling all the pieces to be a playoff challenger. Imagine Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb or Peyton Manning at the helm of the 49ers. Truth be told, a guy like Chad Pennington would be the right guy for the Niners.

I understand the need for patience with a young quarterback, but time is not on the 49ers' side. Three key players for the Niners are in or beyond the twilight of their careers. Bryant Young, Jonas Jennings and Hall of Famer-to-be Larry Allen are on the clock. In addition to being stellar players, they are great leaders, and you can't take for granted that the organization will replace these unique players.

This is not an indictment of Alex Smith; this is the business of football. Add the fact that offensive coordinator Jim Hostler's scheme doesn't seem to work, and this team needs a veteran at the helm to steady the ship. Trent Dilfer is not the future for the Niners, but he is a better option at this time to help them maximize this "Window."

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