NEW ORLEANS -- Here, on the doorstep of a potential sixth 49ers Super Bowl title, the architecture and science of this seems obvious, right?
Get good, tough players. Coach them well. Sign them to fair deals.
Win and win and win, including Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, if possible.
But of course that's all a bit tricky to pull off -- as proven by the 18-year gap between 49ers Super Bowl appearances.
They're here now -- and favored to beat Baltimore on Sunday; the main and only sensible reason for this is that the 49ers are layered with talent, and they know it.
"It's ridiculous," All-Pro defensive lineman Justin Smith said. "You look around our locker room, and from head to toe, the offensive line, receivers, DBs, defensive line.
"It's just the main reason we're here. The talent level, what the coaches have been able to get out of us, it just all has come together. This roster is loaded."
How did this happen? They acquired good players (the 49ers have an amazing 15 former first-round picks on the roster), coached them well, and they have built themselves quite an operation.
To honor Joe Montana (a decent move in a bygone era), here are the top 16 moves that set up this 49ers team for great things:
1. Hiring Jim Harbaugh as coach and Trent Baalke as general manager, January 2011.
CEO Jed York knew he had one chance to get this right -- the 49ers had talent, but zero direction. And York nailed it.
Not only has this command tandem excelled at the coaching/leadership/personnel maneuvering, but they also have worked seamlessly together.
Baalke provides the right kind of players for Harbaugh's blue-collar vision, and they both embrace the hard decisions (and often brush off the media).
2. Signing Justin Smith as a free agent, March 2008.
This was former coach Mike Nolan's greatest move, and essentially his parting gift to the franchise.
Nolan was gone a half-season later, but Smith has turned into a one-man foundation -- "one of the greatest players to ever play in the National Football League," Harbaugh said this week.
3. Drafting linebacker Patrick Willis in the first round of the 2007 draft (11th overall) and tackle Joe Staley 17 picks later.
Former G.M. Scot McCloughan's magical day -- he set up the 49ers with a future Hall of Fame defensive player and long-term left tackle in a matter of a few hours.
4. Moving up nine picks in the second round of the 2011 draft to select quarterback Colin Kaepernick 36th overall.
Kaepernick was taken 24 slots after Christian Ponder, 26 after Blaine Gabbert and 28 after Jake Locker.
5. Drafting Frank Gore in the third round of the 2005 draft (65th).
McCloughan had some clunkers, but anybody who drafted two potential Hall of Famers (Gore and Willis) in three years has set up his team for success.
It took Harbaugh and Baalke to organize it, though.
6. Drafting Anthony Davis (first round, 11th), Mike Iupati (first round, 17th), NaVorro Bowman (third round, 91st) with their first three picks in the 2010 draft.
Baalke's first draft (after McCloughan departed but before Baalke was named G.M.) set the stage for offensive line and linebacking dominance for years to come.
7. Drafting Aldon Smith in the first round of the 2011 draft (7th overall).
How great was the 49ers' 2011 draft? Smith has 33½ sacks in his first two seasons, the most by any player in his first two NFL seasons, and he's only the second-best value of the class.
8. Signing safety Donte Whitner to a three-year deal as a free agent in 2011.
A classic under-the-radar Baalke signing, and an early sign that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio knew exactly what to do with productive players.
9. Drafting Michael Crabtree in the first round of the 2009 draft (10th overall).
10. Drafting Dashon Goldson in the fourth round of the 2007 draft (126th overall).
11. Signing linebacker Ahmad Brooks in 2008 after he was released by Cincinnati, then promoting him to the starting spot for the 2011 season.
Brooks replaced Manny Lawson in the lineup and has been a huge upgrade.
12. Signing Carlos Rogers as a free agent in 2011.
Instead of busting up the salary cap chasing Nnamdi Asomugha or Johnathan Joseph, the 49ers landed a credible cornerback at a deep discount.
13. Signing kicker David Akers as a free agent in 2011.
Only for his incredible 2011 performance, not for his 2012 wobbles.
14. Drafting Vernon Davis in the first round of the 2006 draft (sixth overall).
15. Tying up Willis through 2016, Davis through 2015, Bowman through 2018, Brooks through 2017, Gore through 2014, Staley through 2017, punter Andy Lee through 2018, and defensive end Ray McDonald through 2015.
In all, the 49ers doled out $127.85 million total guaranteed to those eight players -- and gave themselves financial and personnel stability for years.
16. Committing to Alex Smith in 2011.
It seems out of date now, but Harbaugh's firm backing of Smith in his first days as coach and Smith's immediate solid play settled down this franchise in all kinds of ways.
It was a loud sign that Harbaugh would do things his own way, that he knew what he was doing and that the quarterback spot, in his hands, was totally under control.