Monday Musings

Just when it was safe to have an inkling of hope for the 49ers, Aldon smith decides to go an a little rampage and get into a fight with someone over a parking spot. After ramming the offending parker, Smith apparently left the scene and decided to get his drink on. Smart guy that he is, he goes back to the scene of the dust-up and is promptly arrested. Of Course Aldon denies being drunk when he hit the guy. He decided to get drunk after the fact.

Whatever. Until he realizes that he’s his won worst enemy, he won’t get any help. Thing is though, a talent like that won’t be on the sidelines forever. Pacman, and a few others, have made the trip from iron bars to the gridiron.

Anyhow, Tomsula apparently insisted on handling this alone, much like Harbaugh did the first time around. The only difference being Jimbo felt no problem with letting Aldon play hours after being let out of jail. Or letting RayMac play despite 2 run-ins with the police regarding domestic violence charges. Because, you know, winning matters more than character. say what you will about Tomsula, but he handled this situation very well.

Other than that, Frank Gifford passed away over the weekend. He was a little before my time, and Christ, I’d think death would be a happy escape from Kathy Lee, but for all intents and purposes, he was a great football player. I never liked him though. And I don’t know why. Too goodie goodie I guess?

Guys of that era went through a lot more punishment, as penalties were pretty much not called on anything that didn’t constitute attempted murder. The guy was MVP one year, and led the Giants to a championship in the 50s. He played running back, a little QB, defensive back, and became a WR after famously getting knocked unconscious by Chuck Bednarik of the Eagles and retiring for a season. No penalty of course. The picture of Bednarik exulting over his unconscious body is an enduring legacy of football in the golden age.

Beyond that, he was a very good, if bland, announcer for The NFL Today on CBS, and more famously as the foil for Howard Cosell and Dandy Don Meredith on Monday Night Football for nearly 30 years. Though he was a highly respected football player, he didn’t reach the HOF until 27 years after his retirement. Hmmm. I don’t dislike him so much anymore.

RIP Frank.


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The Curious Case of (Newly Released) Aldon Smith

I find it very interesting that Charles Haley is inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time that Aldon Smith gets popped for another DUI. Both guys are phenomenal pass rushers. Both had major character issues that caused problems in their lives. Haley’s issues ran from pissing in Carmen Policy’s potted plants in his office to taking a shit on Steve Young’s car to countless other run-ins with teammates and opponents to the point of pissing everyone off. It got so bad that Eddie D, in a fit of hubris, decided to pawn off the problem child to hated foe Dallas, thinking he’d cause a shit-ton of problems over there. Well, that backfired in about the most horrendous way possible for Eddie and the Niners as Dallas reeled off 3 Super Bowls with Charles in charge on the defense.

Haley has been very forthcoming about his diagnosis with bipolar disorder, and how he hid from it most of his life. Never asking for help as he would feel weak to do so, etc. He has also said ‘I’m done saying sorry as I’ve spent the last 4 years doing that, and how many times can I say it?’ Which leads us to Aldon Smith. He’s a very smart kid who comes across as thoughtful and eager to move on past his earlier problems. He has said all the right things lately, and has kept his nose clean. Til now. Smith was arrested by the Santa Clara police for DUI hit and run and vandalism charges. I’m assuming the vandalism is due to damage from his car tearing shit up, but there are no details as of now as to what happened.

Smith has already come out and said he isn’t in the wrong, but really, to admit guilt would result in his immediate suspension. Here’s Aldon’s response this morning:

“The people who are faithful remain faithful,” Smith said. “Simple as this: Justice will be served, the truth will come out, there’s no DUI. I’m sorry for anybody I let down, I’m sorry for the way this whole thing . . . I need to speak and I want everybody to understand, this wasn’t a DUI, the situation I had could have been handled differently and I apologize for everybody I did let down and I apologize for how it all played out. But as far as everything is concerned, it will work out the way it’s supposed to work out. That’s all.”

Aldon’s either in full-blown denial, or he’s a real shitty driver, or I don’t know, he’s a magnet for trouble.. Point being, this goes beyond football. He needs to take care of himself and figure out what is really going on. He seems to not be able to avoid driving drunk and doing stupid shit. Problem is, the league refuses to do anything to players before court dates and this could be stalled out for a season.

So what do the Niners do at this point? They are ‘not rushing to judgement’ but this could very well play out like the RayMac situation where you have a guy on the hook for various crimes, yet without his day in court, he gets to play. Shit, Smith was on the field hours after being released from jail for his last DUI. Beyond that, Smith was fucked over by Goodell what he voluntarily went into rehab following that arrest. Goodell still levied a hefty 9-game suspension on him. So, do the Niners cut their losses now? Go the ‘due process’ route? Wait for Goodie Goodell?

Frankly, I’d have a talk with Aldon and say look, we’re going to release you. You haven’t held up your side of the bargain that we JUST struck. Get your shit together now. Admit you fucked up, and start on the road to getting past this. We’ll talk in 2016 when you’ve gotten your shit together.  I’d tell Goodie as well. Just say I’m voluntarily suspending myself, so don’t go ahead and suspend me next year when all this plays out.

Thing is though, due to Goodell’s previous actions I can see Smith playing out the string until the league does something. Whether that’s here or elsewhere is a question. But you KNOW he would be on the open market for about 24 hours before some other team would sign him to a deal.

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I Walk the (O) Line . . .

It’s pretty early in camp, but it is becoming apparent that the offensive line is thin to say the least. Daniel Kilgore hasn’t recovered, and in fact had a ‘clean-up’ procedure to help heal his ankle. As it is now, he’s still in a boot, and isn’t looking to be off the injured list before the end-of-camp deadline barring some kind of miraculous recovery. Which means he’s out the first six games. With AD’s untimely retirement, this leaves the 49ers very thin at RT. Marcus Martin is still learning, but the Niners would love to plant him at RG while Kilgore gets the Center duties. Eric Pear is pretty much a turd from everything I’ve read about the guy. I don’t see him magically being spectacular, but serviceable, even? Hard to say, but it doesn’t look good. They are even trying rookie Trent Brown at RT. At least early in camp.

As of now, Joe Looney is getting the majority of the snaps at C, so that would put Martin at RG. Tomsula has pencilled in Alex Boone at LG apparently in case  Joe Staley goes down and they need a smooth transition. This seems risky as the right side of the line looks to be pretty weak and inexperienced. Brandon Thomas would appear to be the rover a la JMart, just not as sucky.

I think at this point we need to find a RT soon. One better than Pears. If only for depth. Shit, he’s injury-prone, but get Sam Baker. I can’t find out of he’s ready to go or not, but they should look. Oniel Cousins may be the only guy out there worse than Pears, so they can avoid him. Other than that, there’s always the chance they can pick up someone from the upcoming cut-down days.

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Camp is Here!

Not going to bore you with a long post, but day 1 of camp is in the books, and a funny thing happened on the way to the cellar. The team was happy. Smiling. Having fun. For all the talk of Harbaugh and the record, he sure seemed to suck the fun out of the building. “Who;s got it better than us?” became a cliche that I’m sure the team rolled its eyes at. At least among the vets. The heavyhandedness is gone, and according to Matt Maiocco (another glad-handing media type looking for brownie points) the team seemed to be in great spirits and ready to take on the challenge of losing their Supercalafragelisticexpialadocious leader in St. Jim Harbaugh.

I mean really, the team HAS to hit the shitter because of the void left by that gimormous personality. Right. More like Ego. He placed himself into practice as a look-at-me-hang-with-the-guys type rather than be their coach. That’s fine and all, but not when the same guy that wants to be one of the guys suddenly says shit like no cards on plane rides. No loud music in the locker room. No fun other than driving all the players to distraction. You can’t play it both ways.

I said a couple days ago on this very bog that the players being happy campers guarantees zilch in the win column, but it does engender some ownership from the players to push the youngsters to get themselves ready for the bog-time. Harbaugh created and ‘us-vs-them’ attitude ward the front office, but he also put himself above the players by treating them like a college team and this grated on the vets.

I look at it through the lens of a successful coach like Bruce Bochy. He;s not a table-flipping bullshit flinging coach like so many in baseball. For all his country drawl and backwoods rambling lies a very acute baseball mind. He shoots straight with the players, and is forthcoming with the front office. He trusts his vets to hold the fort down, but isn’t afraid to do the necessary things to ensure the team puts its best effort out there.  Behind the scenes. He doesn’t give semi-incoherent rambling pressers, or giving any rah-rah bullshit either.  Tomsula strikes me a a more straightforward guy who will be in that mold rather than the hype generator that Harbaugh was. For all his coaching success, Harbaugh has one Orange bowl victory, and one NFC Championship to show for his chutzpah and bravado. Good luck in the Big House, Jim, but I ain’t gonna miss you all that much.

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Free Beer Tomorrow!

Saw this sign in front of one of my watering holes (Cooper Street Tavern) when I lived in Colorado.  Spent many an afternoon and evening shooting pool, throwing darts, and playing shuffleboard for pitchers of beer. Alas, tomorrow never came for that free beer at Cooper Street, but here in Ninerland, tomorrow is nigh. The 2015 offseason is officially over. The team can move forward without the overarching presence of Jim Harbaugh and the baggage he surrounded himself with.

Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is yet to be determined, but hey, that’s what blogging is about.  I’m sure the players will be happy that the Center of the Universe now resides on Bo Schembechler’s old street instead of Addison Ave, but again, this fact alone determines nothing. Happy players don’t necessarily mean winning players.

Then again, ego-driven coaches are a dime a dozen. The golly-gee-I’m-happy-to-be-here types are not as prevalent, but then again, Tomsula doesn’t strike me as that kind of guy, despite the chattering nabobs. He’s by all accounts a tough taskmaster who has done wonders with various players that are varying shades of fair to great. The overall defense under Fangio has been very good, but the run defense under Tomsula starting with the dark days of 2007, the run D has ranked 22, 13, 6th, 6th, 1st, 4th, 4th, and 5th. The line has always been very strong under Tomsula. And the current crop of defensive coaches is very strong and experienced.

Regardless of how the national (and even local) media portrays the team, the sense that they are going to be worse than last year is laughable. Barring of course another injury-riddled season. The offense was flat terrible. 20th in total offense, 25th in scoring, and 30th in passing won’t get you anywhere in today’s NFL. The defense held its own despite their injuries, so I have hope there. It has been 26th, 11th, 24th, and 20th under Harbaugh/Roman, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.  Scoring has been consistently fair to middling at 11th, but plummeted to 25th last year. Yeah, there were injuries, but the defense was able to overcome them. The offense was left floundering as the injuries mounted.

So there you have it. A guardedly optimistic look at the state of the 49ers. I think 10-6 and the playoffs is possible regardless of the transitory supposed ‘strength of schedule’ nonsense. Like the weekly ‘power rankings’ these are bullshit numbers applied to nonexistent or stale parameters. Half the teams we play could turn to garbage faster than shit through a goose. Still and all, I can’t wait for that free beer.

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2 Days to Camp

Rookies report to 4949 Centennial Blvd today! Huzzah!! There was much rejoicing!!! Or, then again, there wasn’t. The prevailing sentiment is the Niners are circling the shitter ready to take the downward spiral to the cesspool, but who am I to listen to prevailing sentiment? I mean really. If it was outrageous to think they were going to suck this year, I’d still think they were going to do well.

Other than that, these last couple preseasons have been just a clusterfuck of innuendo and animosity. The sooner this starts the better. Lots of talk of the potential of Arik Armstead. A guy getting a lot of talk however is Eli Harold, a guy who some saw as a first rounder. Safety Jaquiski Tartt also sounds like a player, but everyone is an all-pro when training camp starts.  There will be booms, busts, and surprises.

Baalke has just completed his 5th draft. He didn’t draft for obvious need this draft, as WR, ILB, and CB were the prevailing thoughts going into the draft. Instead Baalke went DL, S, and ILB. 6 of the next 7 were offensive players (with a punter thrown in), but the thought is the lower you go, the longer the shot. We have a ton of UDFA WRs as well, along with a QB. Lots of bodies, but we are at the point where Baalke needs to start hitting on some offensive players. The team has a lot of talent, but as we’ve seen, Gore has gotten old and left, and Willis and J Smith retired among the other changes. The talent and experience level from just a couple years ago has decreased, but the team has gotten younger and faster.

The good news is the D line has a lot of decent players, the RB corps looks strong, and the WR group looks better by gaining Torrey Smith and losing Crabtree. We stood pat at QB, as the thought is Kappy has another year of experience to build on, but I was surprised  we didn’t draft a backup along with Gaine Blabbert. Worrisome to me is the O line and CB. We hear a lot of encouraging things out of camp re Brandon Thomas and such, but the proof willl be in the pudding on that fateful Monday night, September 14. Talk is just that.

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Five Days and Counting

Well, the wait is (almost) finally over. the new-look streamlined 49ers open camp on August 1st at 7:00 pm pacific time. In these days of truncated preseasons and quick turnaround times, we have out first exhibition game on August 15th in Houston. The home preseason opener is Aug 23rd vs those lovely Cowgirls.

Two weeks of practice and instant season. Is it enough time to assimilate everything? Gosh, Wally! Who knows? There’s been enough blogticulation to fill 666 King James bibles, so I’ll leave that part of the story out, other than to say there appears to be little middle ground on what the future portends. I will say that Harbaugh managed to pull it off back in 2011 with an even smaller window. No reason to think these guys can’t get shit rolling quickly. Unless you subscribe to the myth that St. Jim is otherworldly.

As far as the season goes, you have the chicken-littles and you have the guardedly optimistic. No one is predicting a Super Bowl berth with the amount of talent that left, but many (including me) expect a playoff run. The team still has a lot of talent, and they have an experienced coaching staff. Defensively anyway. Then you have the crowd that seems to caper around gleefully predicting the long and hard fall to abject shittiness and decrepitude. No middle ground, no thinking that there may be a bump in the road. It is a decade of downtime. Jed screws the team into the ground for 10 years for some sort of ego bath. Got it. It had nothing to do with the fact that the former head coach was a major league asshole who alienated everyone in the building and took a strong team to be the bridesmaid, but not the bride. A team that went 8-8. Despite St Jim and all those guys that left.

I get thinking the team could possibly have a rough patch, but to devote so much time and energy to spreading the bile endlessly over months and months and ridiculing every move the team makes and inventing reasons for why shit went bad 2 years ago is baffling. The overarching need to get in front of the ‘they suck’ train is a mystery to me.

Like the crazy crab promotions at the Stick years ago (“We don’t do mascots. Please boo the crab!”) , there are people hoping against hope that the team crashes and burns, so they can project their hatred of the owner. A guy who looks and acts just like his predecessor, Eddie.

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