Former 49ers GM Scot McCloughan remains the great enigma of this franchise's rise -- he acquired so many of the major foundation pieces of the current team, but he departed under vague circumstances well before the 49ers began winning.

And then he ended up as a personnel executive with the Seattle Seahawks, destined to be the 49ers' monster rival (and both sides knew it WHEN he landed with the Seahawks, by the way)...

Of course, it was McCloughan's departure in March 2010 -- for "personal personnel reasons," the 49ers announced -- that opened the way for then-personnel director Trent Baalke to move up to the top spot, and he has flourished there, including the semi-decent move of hiring Jim Harbaugh as coach.

San Francisco 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan, here, announced at a press conference Oct. 21 that Mike Singletary is the new coach of the team.
San Francisco 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan, here, announced at a press conference Oct. 21 that Mike Singletary is the new coach of the team. (Karen T. Borchers/Mercury News) ( KAREN T. BORCHERS )

Still, I will once again say that the prime and successful physical, blue-collar culture of this team has all emanated from what McCloughan and Mike Nolan did starting in 2005.

They didn't get it quite right, particularly in the coaching aspect. And McCloughan wasn't able to stick around to see it through.

But the type of players McCloughan was determined to add to this roster -- big, fast, smart -- have lifted this franchise, with the right coaching and as Jed York came into his own as an owner, to exactly where McCloughan planned all along.

Now his Seahawks are trying to knock the 49ers off of that path. It's a fascinating story.

Just to make it clear, among those players McCloughan drafted or signed during his tenure as the 49ers' top personnel man:

  • Frank Gore.

  • Vernon Davis.

  • Patrick Willis.

  • Joe Staley.

  • Justin Smith.

  • Ray McDonald.

  • Michael Crabtree.

  • Ahmad Brooks.

  • Dashon Goldson.

    Yeah, that's not a terrible way to build a winner.

    Via text-message, McCloughan told me days after his 49ers departure: "It was a great run. Players I brought in will win division for next couple of years."

    Well, the 49ers won the division in 2011 and 2012... and then went 12-4 and lost the division to Seattle this season, but you understand how right McCloughan was all along.