ALAMEDA, Calif. — The days of shoddy quarterback play, overmatched coaches, wasted draft picks and free agency blunders appear to be over in the Bay Area.
For eight years, the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders had far more than their share of each of those to contribute to a playoff drought in what had once been one of the NFL's most fertile spots for success for decades.
Led by energetic first-year coaches in San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh and Oakland's Hue Jackson, the 49ers and Raiders finally appear ready to shed a nearly decade-long stretch of losing and compete for championships, which used to be so routine around here.
The 49ers have been the surprise of the NFL, starting the season 5-1. The Raiders aren't far behind at 4-2 and in the thick of the race in the AFC West.