Justin Smith Retires

Not sure why he made this a 4-month decision, but Justin Smith decided to retire at the age of 35. No word from him yet, but a tougher guy on any team would be pretty hard to find. A five-time pro-bowler, all done here with the Niners from 2008 to 2014, he consistently took on double and triple teams to tie up the line and allow the LBs to make plays behind, around, and in front of him. He was also named a 1st team All-Pro DT, and 2nd team DE in the same year, 2011. He was also named All-pro at both positions in 2012. No mean feat there.

He won numerous awards on the Niners, as he came to SF in 2008 as a free agent. In Cincinnati he was a somewhat mis-cast 4-3  DE and some time OLB. In the 49ers 3-4 defense as a DE (he’d switch to DL on passing downs),  his impact was felt across the league. Yet another stalwart from the team who has chosen to retire. I was hoping Arik Amstead would get one year to learn under him, but such is life, and such is the game of football.

Vaya con dios, Cowboy.

jsmith

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How the Mighty Have Fallen

Click back to a year ago, and the 49ers were one of the top-ranked teams in the league. No.2 in fact. The Harbaugh-to-Cleveland rumors hadn’t surfaced, and the whole behind-the-scenes nightmare of innuendo hadn’t surfaced either. What happened? Well, we all remember. Injuries, blown leads, more innuendo, whatever. We ended up 8-8 and not the #2 team.

As it was across the league, in 2014, PFT had it right picking the AFC playoff teams, going 6 for 6. The order wasn’t spot-on, but that’s a pretty good job. The NFC had surprises in Dallas (Ranked 14th in the NFC) and Detroit (ranked 12th) taking the Niners (ranked 2nd) and the Saints (ranked 4th) who fell out.

What does it mean for this year? Who knows? Most likely, diddly. No one certainly stuck their necks out and said the Niners would go 13-3 in 2011. I thought they’d be a WC team. Then again, I had said that for a while because the team had talent. It was the coaching that was suspect. And that’s the rub. No one in any position of doing prognostication goes out on a limb for a team that hit the skids. Or a team that’s on the rise.

The latest power rankings look like this:

NFC – – – – – – – – – – – –

1. Sea
2. Green Bay
3. Dal
4. AZ
5. Philly
6. Det

In other words, they picked the playoff teams from last year. The only exception being that someone has to represent the NFC South. the AFC is the same.The Niners are down with the also-rans at 19th. Again, what does this mean? Squadoosh? Are the 49ers the 19th best team in the league? Not unless you believe that the players they have won’t be any good. This is the 5th ranked defense that didn’t have Bowman or Willis through most of the season. The defense should be fine.

As I’ve said, the big question is the offense. 30th in passing is not very good no matter how you parse it. 4th in rushing is fine, but it sure didn’t seem like we were very effective at it. For al the talk of limiting Kappy’s rushing, he ended up with 639 yards. He had 524 yards when he was supposedly running too much. My take on this is the coaching staff went way too hard in the wrong direction. There is telling your QB to try and hang in the pocket, but then there is leaving him hung out to dry to take a sack. In his ‘running’ year of 2013, Kappy had 39 sacks.  In his misbegotten year in the pocket,  he had 52.

The passing yards were similar, the TD numbers were similar, even the fumble and INT numbers were all close. Why the disparity in the seasons? Well, injuries played their part, especially on the offensive line. But the play calling (surprise) seemed lacking to say the least. 15th in 3rd downs (40%) is smack in the middle of the league. 50% on 3rd and under 4 yards is shitty. All these numbers are down from the previous years. Why? More than one team came out of our games saying they knew what was coming a lot of the time, based on formation and tendencies. Sure, you can say that all teams know most of the time what’s coming, but that’s bullshit. This isn’t 1975. Which is where our offense has been these last few years.

Also, this team lost leads in 6 games.

Bears? 17-7 at the half.
AZ? 14-6 lead
Rams? 10-10 tie
Oaktown? 10-10 tie (13-10 Niners in the 3rd)
Seattle? 7-3 lead
SD? 28-7 lead

Harbaugh would go conservative and sit on leads. 11th in scoring in the 1st halfs of games. 30th in 2nd halfs.

Bring on the Geepster.

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Draft Picks Are All (Mostly) Signed

The 49ers wasted little time (hello Michael Crabtree) in signing their draft picks, minus Arik Amsted. he apparently has some academic issues and must wait until the end of his last quarter at Oregon. Which happens to be early June. Armsted can attend the rookie mini-camp but must return for his finals week June 8-12. The Niner mandatory mini-camp runs from June 9-11, so there’s a conflict. I have no way of knowing Amsted’s finals schedule, so maybe he’s done on the 10 and can make some of it, but they can sign him on Friday when he shows up for the rookie camp.

Other than that, no news in Ninerland. Although I did add a new feature. I call it the Skeebers Score board. I’m tracking how many times Akeebers posts bashing the front office, how many times the ‘apologists’ are mentioned, and how many times the phrase ‘escaped goats’ pops up. Enjoy.

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One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RONNIE!!

Or, the George Thorogood school of thought. To paraphrase:

Everybody funny
Now, you funny.too

The media in general, and especially locally, seem to be making a case that the 49ers are all of a sudden a lousy team looking up at the rest of the division.  Funny thing is, as I’ve said before, 98% of these issues would have come to pass regardless of the martyrdom of St. Jim. Not going to rehash that, but just say that I think the offense improves. Why? Because it has never been very explosive these past 9 years, and has been on a downward spiral lately.

Yeah, we had injuries, but the defense suffered many more devastating injuries and was able to keep it together. The offense floundered terribly amidst missed blocks, bad line calls, and shitty play calling. Happy regressed as the directive seemed to be to take away one of his weapons in running when things broke down. By the 12th game, guys like Frank Gore, VD,  Crabs, and Joe Staley were openly questioning Roman and the offense being trotted out there.

Truth is, the 49ers lost halftime leads in something like 6 games. Defenses seemed to be able to figure out how to stop us at will while the 49ers couldn’t adjust to save their lives. Even some of the wins (Wash, NYG) were exercises in futility as the offense 3-and-outed itself to nowhere while the defense held on. The adjusting to defensive schemes was terrible.

Anyhow, that’s the past. With a new offensive scheme and some new ideas, I think these guys can introduce  some needed flexibility and speed into the offense. Steve Logan is a huge WCO proponent, and looks to get things moving much quicker than has has been these past 9 years. New WR coach Ron Curry, an offensive assistant the past 2 years, and a 7-year NFL vet who learned his trade under Freddie Biletnikoff, should be a vast improvement over John Morton. What also makes me laugh is when people point to Jed and Trent saying things like “we will get back to running the ball” in January as if they designed the offensive schemes before anything happened, and the coaches haven’t set foot in the building.

Still and all, the big question to me is Geep Chryst. Our new OC has a spotty career as an OC (in a shitty situation in SD), and varying degrees of success in various stops working with every offensive group on 5 different teams. Either he has learned a lot in his various stops, or he’s a bland lifer who won’t bring anything different or dynamic to the team.

The defense should be fine. I think Mangina-eous should be fine as the DC. The players certainly understand why things changed. Fangio bailed amid reports of him not getting the HC spot, or York balking on Fangio staying in his role if Adam Gase came in. Not sure about the veracity of that, but whatever. The coaching staff turned over, and the players will deal with it. Managing at least has a solid record of DCing what with his success under Brian Belichick in New England. His HC record is shitty at best, but certainly he brings a big presence on the defensive side of things. I said two years ago when they hired him to work with the TEs, that he was positioning himself for another HC run, either here or elsewhere. The defensives coaching staff is also full of ex-DCs and ex-HCs, notably Tony Sparano, Jason Tarver, and Clancy Pedergast AZ’s recent DC.

So, laugh as the hipsters and media trolls must at our goombah coach, power hungry GM, and the brash owner, I think this team stands to certainly do better than last year’s mark. Yeah, kind of a low bar, but to listen to the pundits, we’re on our way to 4-12. Let the techie-wonks sell their tickets, and run for the shade. Super Bowl? Probably not, what with all the roster turnover, but certainly a playoff run. And, as the San Francisco Giants have proven in recent years, once in the dance, the season resets. Get on a roll and you can take the trophy.

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Police Blotter News

Ahmad Brooks is the latest player accused of sexual assault. TMZ says it has video of Brooks sexually assaulting a passed-out woman. Funny thing is, this is the same woman who accused Ray McDonald. The story is she hit her head at the party with both of them, and was groped by Brooks while unconscious. RayMac then carried her upstairs and banged her without her consent. She’s suing for all kinds of stuff, but this is a new wrinkle.

Brooks was already on thin ice, so it looks like Brooks and RayMac will soon be teamamates in Chicago. And Eli Harold is our new starting OLB.

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Draft Picks and UDFAs

Per the rest of this busy sports weekend, here are the newest 49ers, draft and UDFA:

1 (17). Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
2 (14). Jaquiski Tartt, S, Samford
3 (15). Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
4 (18). Blake Bell, TE, Oklahoma
4 (27). Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
4 (33). DeAndre Smelter, WR, Georgia Tech

5 (29). Bradley Pinion, P, Clemson
6 (14). Ian Silberman, OL, Boston College
7 (27). Trenton Brown, OL, Florida
7 (37). Rory Anderson, TE, South Carolina

UDFA picks

Dres Anderson, WR, Utah
Issac Blakeney, WR, Duke
DiAndre Campbell, WR, Washington
Darius Davis, WR, Henderson State
Patrick Miller, OT, Auburn
Marcus Rush, DE, Michigan State
Dylan Thompson, QB, South Carolina
DeAndrew White, WR, Alabama

Not crazy about the first 2 picks, but the hope is that Tomsula can get the most out of Armstead. Eli Harold looks like a solid pick, however I thought we’d go ILB instead of OLB. Bell, Davis, and Smelter all come highly regarded. The rest? Well, we’ll see. Looks like Baalke chose a punter with that extra pick they got from SD. Lee’s getting up there, so I get it, but a 5th round seems high. Tartt is a strange one as we seem to need CBs and we didn’t get any.  I suppose there will be some fallout in the next few weeks as players get released/cut to make the roster.

This is a very important draft for Baalke and the team, and grading it now is a fallacy.  Smelter and Bell are big targets that should help in the red zone. and all those UDFA WRs should at least prove to be interesting to see if any stick.

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Huh. All Defense All Draft?

Certainly didn’t think they’d go this hard after defensive players. Still and all, with 7 picks today, they can do some depth filling to say the least. I guess the ‘braintrust’ feels that the offensive stagnation was a product of the coaches, not the players. That’s certainly a theory, but one I’m not too comfortable with. I mean, if the offense somehow regresses, we are doomed. Even incremental improvement likely won’t overcome the insanely tough schedule we have, and the players we lost. I understand that most of the defections and retirements were on the defensive side of the ball, but really? All defense? The most curious pick to me was Tartt in the 2nd. The defensive backfield took some hits with Cully and Cox hitting the road, so natch I thought they’d go after one of the many CBs available at 2. They took a strong safety.

Yeah, Bethea’s getting up there, but Brock is coming off an injury-plagued season, and Cook, while  semi-decent, is no C0x. Donate Johnson played well as a rook, but the rest are various flavors of backup. I thought CB was much more a need. Unless they know something they aren’t telling us re: Bethea. He is 31, but still played well last year. Beyond that, they lose 2 ILBs and draft an OLB. Harold looks like a solid guy, but again, not really an area of dire need like ILB appears to be.

Armstead? Safe pick. One Tomsula should be able to reap major rewards out of.

Today? I’m hoping they go WR, ILB, CB, ILB, OL, TE, WR.

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