Tag: NFL

Should Niners Take T.O. Back Just for Class?

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Former NFL great wideout Terrell Owens (T.O.) has apparently been fired by an Indoor Football League team in the Dallas area, allegedly for contract violations. His career has sunk about as far as it can without completely fizzling out.

Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN that he's deeply worried about what might happen to T.O. when the lights finally go out. He didn't say it outright but I had the impression he's concerned T.O. might do something to himself.

A few days ago, T.O. told the Bleacher Report he wants to finish his career in San Francisco. 

So here's the question. Should the Niners take T.O. back for a sayonara season? Cut a lowball one-year deal to let him retire a Niner? Would that be the class act it would seem to be? Or would it end up hurting the club or other players or even T.O.?

Bill Walsh probably would take him back. Eddie D would probably take him back. Will Jim Harbaugh? Will the new Niners' front office?

Should they?

I say they could afford to do so and I'd like to see them do it, not so much for T.O. as for the image of the team. But I highly doubt the current ownership and management has the stomach for such a move, so I don't expect it to happen.

How about you?

Great Piece on Death of Junior Seau

There is, sadly, not a lot of good writing being done in the world of journalism these days. Today I found an exception.

Mike Lopresti wrote a softly beautiful, insightful and penetrating piece for USA Today on the apparent suicide yesterday of long-time NFL great Junior Seau. In it, he asks the larger question: was this brilliant athlete's death part of (and by implication masking) a larger problem with the very culture of the NFL? The still-fresh wounds of the Saints' bounty scandal in which players were offered and paid bribes for injuring players from other teams give stark relief to Seau's apparent decision that he couldn't live any longer with the demons of head injury.

Clearly we don't yet have nearly enough information to draw the conclusion that the brain damage was the cause or even a contributing cause of Seau's death. But there are plenty of indications that it is. 

The NFL has been burying this problem for years. Maybe it takes the loss of so bright a light as Seau to bring it into a stark enough focus that something real and deep and serious and lasting can be done about it.

Meanwhile, Junior Seau is gone.

Bleacher Report Eval of Niners Draft is Weak-Kneed

I read Bleacher Report just about every day. Sometimes I read every article in the newsletter. I read everything they write about the San Francisco 49ers. So I was anxious to hear their assessment of the Niners' just-completed NFL draft. I'll tell you up front, I'm pretty dubious. Trent Baalke, the Niners' GM, has earned a rep as a draft wizard and those who have criticized his past picks have not fared well when the season played out.

But Ted Johnson went through the Niners' eight top picks and rated the first pick an "A" and all the others a "B". Gimme a break. In a couple of cases the only way Johnson could even defend his eval was to fall back on "Trent Baalke knows more than we do."

Yeesh. Maybe Johnson belongs in the front office as a flak for the Niners. He's mastered the art so well.

FWIW, here are my grades of the Niners' picks:

A. J. Jenkins, Illinois, WR. This guy's fast but he's small even by the Niners' diminutive standards at 6-0. I'll agree with Johnson's A here, though. He may have some serious potential even as a rookie.

LaMichael James, Oregon, RB. He's too small (5-8, 194) and clearly not ready for NFL Prime Time. That makes him a B before I throw in the fact that we've got too many freaking running backs already! As a pick, this is a low C this high in the draft.

Joe Looney, Wake Forest, OL. At 6-3 and 315, this guy's a moose and his rep is for having great hands and a mix-it-up attitude. He could get the start or 1st backup at RG. Smallish school but he seems like a decent fit. I'll agree with Johnson and grade this one a B.

Darius Fleming, Notre Dame, OLB?. He has a rep as a decent edge rusher but I can't see him higher than 3 on the depth chart behind Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson. Average pick gets a C.

Trenton Robinson,  Michigan State, S. Robinson comes in at 5’9” and 193 pounds, which is a lot of weight on a small frame for an NFL safety. My guess: he won't be a regular for at least two years and probably never make a real mark. My grade: D.

Jason Slowey, Western Oregon, OL. At 6-4/315, Slowey has size, speed and strength. He's from a really small school which makes it hard to assess his NFL potential. He's likely to end up as a center for the Niners. I'm picking him to be the draft surprise and giving his pick an A.

Cam Johnson, Virginia, OLB. Could be another surprise smart pick. At 6-2 and 268, he has the size and build to be an immediate contributor at OLB, which was a weak position for the Niners last year if only in its lack of depth. He could also play DE when called on and that's a big plus. I like this guy. Give him an A. (A- but I don't let myself do + and -).

Overall. USA Today ranked the Niners' 2012 draft quality overall at 23rd out of the 32 teams. I think they got it about right.

Note to Niners: DO. NOT. DO. THIS. TO. ALEX

ESPN reports that the San Francisco 49ers are one of three teams in the finals of what they call the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes. Appropriate name for this fiasco. Manning is too big a risk. Period.

But  beyond that there is a sort of gestalt at work here. The Niners have been messing with Alex Smith's head from the day they drafted him out of college. They started him too soon, gave him too much offense to learn, swapped offensive coordinators on him every stinking season, and generally treated him as if he were just another player. Despite all that horrible mistreatment, Alex hung in. When the Niners hired Jim Harbaugh as their head coach, he went to Smith and asked him if he wanted to be the starter at SF or be traded. The two hit it off. Result: a stunningly good season for the Niners.

Now with the proper additional elements — notably a new wide-out whose name is NOT Randy Moss — the Niners could ride Smith to a Super Bowl win. They should be dancing in the aisles. So what do they do?

They entertain, wine, dine and test Peyton Manning, whose severe neck injury kept him out of last season and who was released by the Colts where he was a cult hero. Shouldn't that alone tell us something?

Guys, guys, guys. By even considering signing Manning you've given Smith another shot to the helmet of self-confidence. Now it may not even matter if you sign Manning or not because Alex may be so shell-shocked that he won't be able to perform even if you don't sign him. What are you thinking? Manning is the QB of the past. Smith is the QB of the present and near future. And you have a solid backup for him in Colin Kaepernick. 

It would be insane, dishonest, insensitive and uncaring for the Niners to essentially dump Smith now for the shiny old object rolling in from the Midwest. Let it go. Give Smith some love. If not, you may not just lose a great QB and a strong human being, you may also start bleeding fan support as well.

I'm just sayin'.

Niners Sign Moss. Big, Big Mistake

According to reports circulating tonight, the once-great Randy Moss has signed a one-year deal with the 49ers. Assuming it's true, it's one of those inexplicably dumb moves teams make from time to time that cause most knowledgeable fans to scratch their heads.

The guy's 35. He's been out of football a full season. The last season he played, he visited three rosters and didn't help any of his teams. 

But the real problem is team chemistry. Moss has been a troublemaker and a troubled player everywhere he's been. The Niners don't need his garbage.

Hopefully, he doesn't make the starting lineup.

Even if Jim Harbaugh turns out to be prescient here and Moss makes a big on-field contribution, unless he's matured a lot during his lost seasons, he's not going to be a positive influence on a relatively young team.

Hey, Niners. Forget Manning. Sign Alex. You Morons.

Publicly, the San Francisco 49ers insist that: (a) they really, really, REALLY want to re-sign QB Alex Smith; and (b) they have zero interest in the recently released super QB from the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning.

So why is it taking so long to do a deal with Smith? The team's offer is reportedly for 3 years and little or no guaranteed money while Smith and his agent Tom Condon (who, coincidentally?, represents Manning, too) have said they want 5 years and about $20 million guaranteed.

After the way the Niners have shafted Smith over the years and after the great breakout season he just had, you'd think they'd feel somewhat obligated to offer him a decent deal. I know, that's not how things work in the No Fun League, but still… But the fact is, Smith deserves to be rewarded now for the accomplishments of the past, particularly last season. The Niners would be morons to sign Manning, assuming they could get him in the high-stakes bidding war that's already unfolding. Manning's physical condition is dubious, and his remaining years as a top-flight QB are definitely three or fewer. Smith, OTOH, is still young (27) and among the top 5-7 QBs in the NFL despite the Niners' mismanagement of his career.
Let's get this thing done, guys. Focus, focus, focus.

Niners Have One of Five Best Future QBs, But It’s Not Alex?

Interesting post on the Bleacher Report today by SF Bay Area correspondent Grant Cohn. In picking the top five prospects to be a top-rank NFL quarterback in five years, Cohn gives the No. 5 spot to Niners' backup Colin Kaepernick.

Gotta admit I didn't see that one coming.

Cohn has some interesting arguments in favor of Kaepernick despite the guy's abysmal showing in the past pre-season. But what it seems to come down to for him is that Kapernick will be way better than he seems to look almost entirely because of the influence of Coach Jim Harbaugh.

Could be. Harbaugh certainly did wonders for Alex Smith this year (though going way conservative in game plans had something to do what that as well). But I'm pretty skeptical. Also, I'm doubtful that if Kaepernick is half as good as Cohn says he is, he'll still be a Niner in five years. I don't see Alex retiring or being let go in that time frame unless he explodes or gets hurt badly and I don't expect a guy with the skills Cohn sees in Colin will stick around as a backup that long.

Niners – Saints Tomorrow: My Prognosis

Here, FWIW, is my take on tomorrow's playoff game between my San Francisco 49ers and the smokin' hot New Orleans Saints.

The present line has the Saints favored by an astonishingly small 3.5 point margin. The over-under is also low at 47.5.

I'm predicting the Niners will lose, but by between 6 and 10 points, making the game closer than expected.

If — big If — the Niners are ahead by 10+ at the half, they could pull out a win. Otherwise, I don't see how the Niners stop the potent Saints' offense and Drew Brees in a second half they've dominated all year.

Niners vs. Lions: A Feast for an Old Fan

Tomorrow morning Pacific Time, the San Francisco 49ers (4-1) and the unbeaten Detroit Lions (5-0) square off in Detroit. At this moment, at least, I intend to be in church when the game starts and to come home and watch it from my DVR after it has ended. No guarantees. The Church of the NFL may yet beckon me with temptation beyond my endurance.

I grew up a Lions fan. As a young sportswriter, I covered the Lions. I was on the sports staff of the Pontiac (now Oakland) Press the year the long-time iconic Sports Editor, Bruno Kearns, worked tirelessly to get the city of Pontiac to build the stadium that lured the Lions out of Detroit and into suburbia. From the time I left Detroit until I landed in the Bay Area in the late 70's, I was a die-hard Lions fan. And that meant supporting them through some horrible, horrible years.

But I have always believed that when you relocate, you need to adopt the local teams, so I became a 49ers loyalist and I have remained one ever since.

So for me this game is going to be wonderful no matter how it turns out. I expect a really great game, but I think the Niners might win this one by more points than most folks think.

The last time the Lions were 5-0 was in 1956. They faced the Niners for their sixth game and defeated the gang from SF. I was 11 at the time but I remember the game from the newspaper accounts.

But the Niners have won the last five meetings between these two teams, having outscored Detroit almost 2-to-1 (115 to 62).

I think the Lions depend far too heavily on the long game and the 49ers are far too good deep on D to give up many long plays for the Lions to stand a real chance in this one. There are a number of key stats I watch that all favor my Niners, most important of which are the Niners much higher-rated defense (they're 2nd through 4th in the stats categories while the Lions are in the bottom third on all three) and their better takeaway ratio (+10 to +7) even though Detroit is good enough to be tied for second in the league.
But the real reason I think the Niners are likely to win Sunday is that long winning streaks are really tough to sustain in the NFL. The Lions are a good team, a much-improved team and I think they'll give SF fits a good part of the day, trying the defense particularly. But when it's all over, I expect the Niners to win by 5+.