What happened to the flagship 49ers?

DALLAS -- This Super Bowl features two marquee franchises in the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The San Francisco 49ers once qualified as such, but eight consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance has done more than change perceptions. It has removed the 49ers' elite status and frustrated a proud fan base.

What happened? Who deserves the blame? Why? What will it take to restore the 49ers' status?

These are questions I'll explore on the blog Thursday, but not without your help. Some of you have been following the 49ers longer and more closely. I'd value your thoughts and plan to use some of them in the upcoming piece.

So, fire away. Don't be shy. Help make this a productive discussion (and a civil one, of course).