Time to come up for air: Some 49ers thoughts, staycation and more

I’ve been absent from this space for the past month for the same reason I write sparsely in the month of March every year in Boston — high school tournament season. A large part of my responsibilities remain the Boston Globe’s coverage of high school sports and I take pride in making sure we’re represented properly online. So much so that I clocked a whopping 72 hours two weeks ago before taking this last week off on vacation following the state basketball and hockey championships.

Just grinding. Or as I like to term on Twitter, #grindmode.

Unfortunately for me, in the time I have been away from writing on this site, NFL free agency has bloomed and the San Francisco 49ers’ weird, twisted quarterback journey has been right in the thick of it.

Oh, and the New England Patriots have been busy too. (Again, two worlds colliding.)

When Randy Moss signed with the 49ers, I was asked maybe a half a dozen times what I thought about it. And I’m sure you could understand that made me wonder why I wasn’t writing about it. I was just too busy. But in retrospect, from March 12 — the day he was officially signed — to now, my feeling on the topic is more ginger than a red head. With Mario Manningham signing on, and Moss’ contract reportedly a 1-year base salary of $750,000 with the ability to reach $1.5 million with bonuses, there doesn’t seem to be too much harm. If the 49ers get the good Moss, great. He’s on the cheap. If the 49ers get the bad Moss, whatever. He’s on the cheap. And Manningham, a hero in the Super Bowl, is more than capable next to Michael Crabtree. I would imagine those two being the starters with Moss providing a deep threat for the team as a third option.

It’s this whole situation with Alex Smith that vexes me. The 49ers re-signed Smith to a 3-year deal March 21 after failing to court Peyton Manning. Manning, as I’m sure you already know, signed with the Denver Broncos who have jettisoned (pun intended) Tim Tebow to the New York Jets. Tebow will back up Mark Sanchez. (Oh, and if you’re paying close attention to backup quarterbacks, Brady Quinn is now a Kansas City Chief. True story.) All this after Smith flirted with the Miami Dolphins and even the Seattle Seahawks before the Seahawks signed quarterback Matt Flynn. Smith eventually said he went to Miami because he’d never been to its beaches before. (Yes, he was actually quoted saying that … And Deadspin has started a Lolphins tag.) I think that has us caught up.

What’s not caught up, is the 49ers’ quarterback situation in the 21st century. San Francisco is now embarking on Year 8 of the Smith dynasty and I’m sorry but there is nothing to be happy about that. I don’t care about what he did in one season and, in particular, one game. (Yes, my feelings have changed. This is allowed.) I don’t care that he had the world against him for seven seasons. I don’t care that he’s only just now getting his wings under him. He’s not a winner in my books. Not now, not ever. He’s got the accuracy of a drunk playing darts. He has the vision of a bat in a soundless vortex. He is the most uninteresting starting quarterback in 2012. Now, he has to prove himself that 2011 wasn’t a fluke and that possibly he can do better than what he showed in the NFC Championship against the eventual Super Bowl-winning New York Giants.

This after I gave him so much love for his magnificent game against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. It wasn’t so much a win as it was poetry, the movement and flow of the game. The gamesmanship. The miraculousness. The poise. The pizzazz. He displayed none of that exactly a week later in the 49ers’ loss to the Giants. It was as if he had reverted to his old self.

The Giants, taking a different tact than the Saints, didn’t give Smith the opportunity to beat them like they would give some rookie quarterback. With a strong defensive front, they were able to pressure him and force bad throw after bad throw. The final 49ers drive and their play in overtime exemplified what it means to put the game on Smith’s shoulders, a 70-30 proposition in favor of the other team. Those situations are what make me think Smith is a stopgap at best in this league until the quarterback situation can be fully resolved. Manning would have fixed that. He would have been the answer to this 8-year Rubik’s cube. If not him, one would assume that Colin Kaepernick is progressing enough to be ready to start. He has to make strides or the 49ers will regress.

I don’t think it needs to be explained that a 13-3 club is not going to be getting a high enough draft pick to select the quarterback of the future. Things don’t work that way. So free agency and trades are all that’s left to figure out this QB quandary. With Smith on board for three more years, the 49ers must assume that they’re either stuck in the desert or still figuring out how to find the promised land of signal callers. So are followers of this franchise to assume that Smith is the fallback plan … again? The SF brass can’t keep using this excuse. It’s only worked well once in seven tries. I’m not optimistic it’ll work well again.


In the course of my staycation, I’ve mulled these thoughts and more, figuring I’d jot them down when I had the chance. Lucky for me, I’ve had plenty of free time. I’ve actually gotten a chance to enjoy myself quite a bit in Boston over the last week. I went to the New England’s Revolution’s home opener against the Portland Timbers (that’s Major League Soccer for the uninitiated), walked Harvard Square (for the umpteenth time), watched “The Hunger Games,” and have experienced some new cafes and restaurants. Boston has been blessed with some great weather this week, allowing me to shed the winter coats and rock some new T-shirts. I couldn’t have asked for more. Best part? I haven’t woken up before 11 a.m. yet.


Tomorrow, the work week starts with my last day off before going back to the Globe on Tuesday. Everyone’s mind is on baseball with opening day looming April 5. My mind will be on that as well as a number of other projects. But one thing I think I’ll continue to focus on this spring and into the fall is social media, particularly for our high school sports coverage. I launched a Google+ page for Boston.com High School Sports and I intend to work on some more offerings for the socially apt as well.

In the meantime, I’ve been exploring Pinterest, the iPhone app Socialcam, and have fallen in love with Instagram all over again.

My attention to Pinterest is the same one I take with every social media site. What good is it for me journalistically? So far, outside of gathering pictures from the Boston Globe where their copyright can be shredded, I believe the journalistic aspect of the website is lacking. That’s not a bad thing for Pinterest. But it is a bad thing for journalists who want badly to join another social network that is rising in popularity. Simply posting a photo with an interesting caption and link back to your website does not suffice for Pinterest users. The vast majority don’t want to click on the links to see where the content originated. Instead, they want to “re-pin” the item to one of their “boards” so it can be seen as part of their collection. Without the clickthrough, it’s hard to ascertain why a journalism organization — outside of branding purposes — wants to utilize this system.

Here’s a thought: What if, in Pinterest’s grand scheme of schemes, you could disable repins? What if brands could force users to go to their website if they want to see where pins originated? That would fix a lot, dontcha think?

And then there’s Socialcam, an app I downloaded randomly for my iPhone that is surprisingly awesome. Basically, you take videos of yourself or whatever and share it with friends via Facebook, YouTube or friends in the app’s network. It has a strong journalistic root, in my opinion, because it allows for a user to submit instantaneously recorded content. It’s available in Android as well. I’ve had fun with it mainly to test and mess around with while I’m out and about at assignments. But I imagine I will use it a lot more going forward for interviews. (Side note: Why doesn’t Brightcove do these things? I mean, they are the juggernaut of newspaper video portals. Why does YouTube get to have all the fun and Brightcove continue to be cumbersome for sharing and social spaces? Why, why, why???)

And of course I’ve fallen prey to the awesomeness that is Instagram. That’s one iPhone app I don’t think I can do without now. I used it extensively for the Super Bowl and then I was messing around with it again this week. Best part about this app is that it loads phenomenally fast. Better than the Facebook app, better than Twitter app and 10 times better than the Google+ iPhone app. (Why does Google even have this app? It’s horrible. You can’t do anything you want to do with it and nowhere near as seamless as the web experience. It’s just awful.) The filters are simple and cool enough to enhance most photos without so much as even whispering “edit” and everybody seems to love the intuitiveness of it all. There’s nothing to argue with about this app. And now, it’s becoming available on Android too for wider use.


I think that sums up what I’ve wanted to say in the last week. It only took me 1600 words to do so, but it’s a good 1600 because it’s off my chest. Now I’m going to finish my vacation in style with some brunch before taking a run and settling into the couch for Sunday night TV.

Goodbye winter, hello spring.

Overachieving 49ers spruced up the football season

Alex Smith
One week you love Alex Smith, the next week he's back on the chopping block.

In retrospect, the San Francisco 49ers played astronomically beyond their talents this season. Probably nobody knows this more than Jim Harbaugh. But I imagine he still must be distraught over Sunday’s 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship. I know 49ers fans are.

One can only look at Alex Smith and marvel at the 49ers’ turnaround season. With Smith at the helm, the franchise was teetering on edge in all of its 18 games. Could he make the big throw? Will he make the throw? Will the season go down in flames because of him? He transcended all of that, helping the 49ers to a 13-3 regular season and a stellar divisional playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints. And yet, still, the 49ers faltered.

Blame Kyle Williams if you want, but there were way too many plays left on the field against the Giants. And Smith, in my opinion, is just as worthy of fault as Williams.

Sunday’s NFC Championship was much like the 49ers’ Thanksgiving Day game against the Baltimore Ravens. The 49ers made too many mistakes to survive. The fumble by Williams in overtime stands out, but when Smith started playing target practice with the ankles of his receivers to begin two straight drives in the fourth quarter, there was more than a bit of trepidation seeping in the building. Smith’s final line was 12 of 26 passing for 126 yards and two touchdowns. If one didn’t know any better, you’d think the team in red and gold was playing with its backup under center.

However, in keeping with the 49ers’ theme of the year — stellar defense, mediocre offense — the team somehow fought its way into a position to win the game, pushing the Giants into overtime despite going three-and-out on two straight possessions with less than five minutes left in regulation. An inability to punch it into the end zone literally murdered the 49ers’ chance at Super Bowl XLVI.

Forget Williams. Get over that. It was a team loss, one marked by a deficient offense and tired defense. But what you can’t forget is that the 49ers went 14-4 despite what we all knew to be a limited team. It’s because of their phenomenal success that this year has been so satisfying for football fans, whether you’re from the Bay or not.

The loss to the Giants is not the first time the 49ers have disappointed me — and it surely won’t be the last. But this season also happens to have provided some surprises, for the better. I can live with that.

Alex Smith makes good

Alex Smith
Alex Smith is creating a new legend in San Francisco lore.

I think we all can agree that Alex Smith has come of age this season. In the best game of his turbulent seven-year career, the man who played his college ball in Utah and never seemed to bring his helmet with him to the NFL, has leapfrogged every expectation thrown at him this season under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh. Smith provided San Francisco 49ers fans with an unbelievable performance to admire for years to come, besting the highly touted New Orleans Saints and their MVP-candidate quarterback Drew Brees. In the 49ers’ 36-32 win Saturday, Smith was nothing short of phenomenal (24-of-42 passing for 299 yards and three touchdowns). And while it was really a complete game for the 49ers, with the team being carried for three quarters by the defense, Smith really turned it up a notch in the fourth quarter as the offense carried the team. And it’s because of his late game heroics that I’m so enamored with the guy I openly said should be out of football — both here on this site and in my columns for The Union.

49ers linebacker Larry Grant, who I attended school with, expressed that the mood of San Franciscans has changed in regard to Smith, something I think has occurred nationally too.

“Being a San Francisco guy, I’ve seen the ups and downs in the past with Alex Smith,” Grant said. “Not only am I, but the city of San Francisco is proud of what happened. His success is leading us to the next level each week.”

A few plays on offense stand out to me and I think they should be noted here:

1) I’ve been critical of Smith because of his seeming lack of accuracy, penchant for tunnel vision, and general flappableness under duress. Not on Saturday. Not in the red zone. In the first quarter, on a patented West Coast slant, Smith hit Michael Crabtree in stride for a 4-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 14-0 lead, erasing any doubts about his ability to pull the trigger and be a gunslinger with the best of them. I think I tweeted at the time it was a big boy throw. Better than the 49-yard touchdown he threw to Vernon Davis to go up 7-0 moments ago. It put the Saints on their heels and made Brees antsy, throwing multiple times into coverage. That was great for an opportunistic defense.

2) On what seemed like the 49ers’ last drive, their last chance to tie or win the game, on 3rd-and-7 with a little more than two minutes to go, Smith broke out left on a bootleg with tackle Joe Staley sprinting in front of him. Simultaneously, the realization of both talents came to fruition on a national stage. Staley, the veteran tackle and leader on the 49ers’ offensive line, performed one of the best blocks of his career and Smith, looking every bit the athletic quarterback he was touted in 2005, toed the sideline en route to a 28-yard touchdown. With the 49ers’ defense, the thinking was that the Saints were toast. Not so fast …

3) After giving up an unforgivable 66-yard touchdown to Jimmy Graham, the 49ers were faced with another long drive to win the game, with 1:32 left to do it. Smith, still with his big boy shorts on, made two not-so quick passes to Frank Gore to get the 49ers going. But it’s what he did on the fourth play of the drive that picked up the chins of the fans at Candelstick Park and those watching around the world. On 2nd-and-10, Smith threw a dart to Davis over the middle of the field with tight coverage on him. Davis turned it up field, sprinting for a 47-yard gain. Again, the old Alex wouldn’t have made that throw. He would have been paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake in that situation. But Harbaugh has him brooding with confidence, rightfully so, and he was able to show the world again that he was a quarterback that belongs.

4) With 14 seconds on the clock, and 49ers’ season seemingly on the brink, Smith stepped into another echelon of quarterbacks in San Francisco lore. Joe Montana did it. Steve Young did it. Now Alex Smith has done it. Looking for Davis again over the middle, Smith connects with the burly tight end on a laser of a pass for a 14-yard touchdown, one in which if it wasn’t as timely or as on target, would’ve likely been an interception. Even more phenomenal, Davis took his route, a post, behind Saints linebacker Scott Shanle in zone coverage and in front of Saints safety Roman Harper who was sitting two yards in the end zone. He had to bulldoze his way over the safety for the score. But it was small window of opportunity that amazed me. The possibility and probability of success on a throw like that must be very, very small. It was a Brett Favre throw. It didn’t make much sense, but it won the game. And with it, it won over more than few Smith detractors, myself included.

I could go on and on about this game. I could nitpick how the defense almost gave it away after setting a physical tone. I could look at five other Smith throws that I don’t think he would’ve made a year ago. I could go in length on the ballsy call by Harbaugh on Smith’s touchdown run. But the unrelenting sentiment is that this team, and in particular Smith, are overachieving underdogs. And despite being counted out, both in his career and in these playoffs, Smith has proven everyone wrong by leading the 49ers on this remarkable journey to the NFC Championship. The win against the Saints has been billed as an instant classic. Vernon Davis has said to call his touchdown “The Grab,” following in the footsteps of Montana’s “The Catch” and Young’s “The Catch II.” (On Twitter and Facebook, I called it The Catch III. I’ll defer to Vernon on this.) It can only get better for the 49ers. And certainly, if the season were to end on Sunday against the New York Giants, the overwhelming feeling now is that Alex Smith is the 49ers’ quarterback going forward. He has earned it.

A few silly ideas about the 49ers, Patriots and my Week 13 NFL picks

Wouldn't it be awesome to have the 49ers defense paired with the Patriots offense?

It occurred to me after Sunday’s games were over that the New England Patriots, a team in which I occasionally help cover for the newspaper, is remarkably similar to the San Francisco 49ers.

How, you might ask? They’re not stupid teams. Not like the Eagles, whom killed themselves with penalties and drops against the Patriots, or the Jets, whom succumbed to idiotic gameplanning against the Patriots twice. The 49ers, unlike the bottom tier of the NFL and particularly the AFC East, are turnover allergic. They’re penalty averse. They’re smarter than your average Bear.

Through Week 12, the 49ers are 21st in the NFL for penalties committed and 15th in penalty yards. But most important, their turnover differential is a +16. The Patriots are a +6.

(The Patriots’ numbers in general are nowhere near as kind. I’ll get to that.)

There are signs of Bill Belichick in Jim Harbaugh. They’re both ill-disposed to making direct statements. They’re both committed to crappy players for reasons no one understands. And they’re both making the best of units that have eye-popping deficiencies. Think Alex Smith or the Patriots’ secondary.

Yet, when given the opportunity on a primetime game on the nation’s best holiday (yes, I went there) to show off the team’s new stature among the NFL elite, the 49ers were not up to the task. They committed seven penalties for 97 yards and Smith threw an interception, helping the Ravens bring the Red and Gold back down to Earth. What had worked for a majority of the season — ball security — was lost in the talk of the Har-bowl.

But luckily for the 49ers, they know this. Said Harbough, “I think it will makes us stronger going forward.”

Identifying the problems have been simple. Fixing the talent, has not.

Sound familiar?

The Patriots had the same sort of issues when they suffered a two-game skid a month ago. They knew what the problems were, but couldn’t fix the talent issue. (Again, think Patriots’ secondary.) In time, the team has gotten smarter. The talent-less Joes charged with defending the best wide receivers in the league have made fewer and fewer mistakes. Yes, they’ve given up some big plays, and yes they’re still worst in the NFL in passing yards allowed. But despite the alarm bells behind the numbers, they’re still apart of a defense that is giving up 20.3 points per game, good for 11th in the NFL. That’s because they don’t make stupid mistakes. Instead, they make the competition beat them straight up.

Imagine the Patriots with 49ers defense, which is the best in the NFL. They’d be undefeated. Imagine the 49ers with the Patriots offense, which is the second best, if not the best, offense in the NFL. They’d be undefeated.

These hypotheticals here really have no place in the world. But stop for a second and imagine if other teams in the NFL not only closed the talent gap, but closed the intelligence gap.

I recall sitting in the press box at the Meadowlands watching the Patriots beat up on the Jets and thinking, this is horrible. The Patriots aren’t more talented, but they’re certainly not as stupid as this team. The same could be said of a number of the 49ers’ wins. It’s a testament to the coaching and the fact that the NFL is not as much about brute force and talent as it is about smarts. Without smarts, the Patriots definitely wouldn’t be 8-3. And the 49ers wouldn’t be 9-2. And I wouldn’t be thinking of some fantasy concoction.

And now on to my picks, comments not included.

Rams at 49ers
My pick: 49ers
Continue reading “A few silly ideas about the 49ers, Patriots and my Week 13 NFL picks”

A new dawn for the 49ers

Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh smiles as he is introduced as the San Francisco 49ers' 18th head coach in a press conference. (AP photo)

MADRID — I’m happy to take a moment here on vacation to report that I have been keeping abreast of the news back home and I’m thoroughly pleased with the recent turn of events for the San Francisco 49ers.

The moves of the past month have been needed for a long time.

First, the Week 15 firing of Mike Singletary capped what was surely the most disappointing coaching stint in 49ers history since Dennis Erickson’s “glorious” return from the college ranks. Second, the hiring of 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, who fills a role that was left void following Scot McCloughlan’s abrupt departure after the Mike Nolan reign, put a must needed football man in front of a once awkward power structure. And lastly, Jim Harbaugh’s hiring ices the cake as the 49ers went after, and attained, one of the best college coaches in the game and a guy on everybody’s wish list. (Well, OK, maybe just Miami’s.)
Continue reading “A new dawn for the 49ers”

More news on the home front, and then some

Editor’s note: If I ever wrote a column again, it’d be here on Wednesdays. In fact, that’s what I plan on doing. Starting next week, right here, my thoughts. You know the topics: Giants, 49ers, Warriors and journalism. Screw the Raiders. (OK, maybe some Raiders. But definitely screw the A’s.) This is long overdue.

The Boston Globe. You know, my employer.

A new group is saying they want to buy The Boston Globe.

This comes at a time when the New York Times Company has not put the Globe up for sale. Instead, the group, The 2100 Trust, is looking to protect the interest of the community, so to speak, buy buying the Globe as some form of community trust. Hence the name.

The 2100 Trust, a Massachusetts-based limited liability company, is putting together a community-focused investor group to submit a letter of intent to purchase The New England Media Company, including The Boston Globe and all its associated properties from the New York Times Company.

The Boston Globe has been a pillar in the city, the Commonwealth and the region for more than a century. We believe that The Boston Globe’s strongest days can be ahead. It is essential that the Globe be positioned for its next 100 years. This will require the significant long-term investment that we intend to make. One of the principal areas of investment will be the newsroom, which is due for a significant increase.

This all comes on the heels of the Globe’s major announcement a couple of weeks ago in which publisher Chris Mayer revealed plans for the Globe to carry two websites going forward, BostonGlobe.com and Boston.com (for which I am employed). BostonGlobe.com will be a sorta paywall website, whereas as Boston.com will remain free. Globe content will be split up among the two.

Mayer responded in a memo to the Globe about the advance, which the NYT co. still has not received.

“While we can’t stop others from having interest in our business, I’m viewing any potential outside interest in the Globe as a reaffirmation that we’re doing all the right things and moving the business forward,” Mayer wrote. “We have a solid strategy. Let’s stay focused on our success.”

The idea of having two websites at the Globe was a hot topic in the hallways last week. Everybody wants to know how it’s going to work out. And, as Mayer has said before, all the answers have not been determined yet. But this renewed interest in purchasing the Globe, something which was broached in 2006 and in 2009 when the Times threatened to shutter the Globe, seems to be an obvious response to the new strategy. I say obvious without actually knowing what’s in the minds and hearts of the individuals encompassing The 2100 Trust. However, this group’s timing could not be any more questionable.

This also comes at a time when the union is negotiating the Globe’s contract before it expires at the end of the year.

What does all of this mean for me?

It means that I’ll be working for both of the websites going forward, producing content for both. There’s a lot of gray right now, but I’ll be one of the many producers and editors for the website that determines what content goes to each website and what goes on both. (Yes, there are some items that will be on both.) My job will not drastically change. I’ll still be producing journalism with my eyes on serving New England fans for both high school sports and wherever else needed.

Eastie-Southie game hitting home

I recently moved from East Boston to South Boston. So went from hanging out in Eastie, to now living Southie. (Explaining this for the non-New Englanders.) Anyways, it means that I now have a rooting interest in watching the Eastie-Southie game on Thanksgiving Day. Or at least I can pretend. Either way, I miss the house in East Boston. But the move was warranted. They were selling it. I’m very happy with the new home and it’s actually pretty cool to be two minutes away from the office. In eight days, I will have been in New England for an entire year. I flew in on a blustery night, Oct. 28. In the past 12 months, I’ve lived in three different places. Hopefully, I’m here in Southie for awhile.

Alex Smith sucks

Alex Smith still sucks in my eyes.

One game doesn’t change my opinion of a man. Nor does two. In fact, his entire body of work is what I’m thinking of when I say I think he’s a rotten QB and should be tossed out on his hindquarters. But it’s not my team, now is it. The 49ers won their first game on Sunday despite Alex Smith. However, the embattled QB did not throw an interception. He had averaged 1.8 interceptions a game up until the Battle of the Bay. It was another milestone for what has been a terrible season for Mr. Suck. But he is getting better. In fact, the comeback attempt against the Philadelphia Eagles was his first signs of real life to me, throwing two touchdowns in a what eventually was a 27-24 defeat including a — you guessed it — interception to end the game. The whole incident in which he argued with Mike Singletary and fought to go back in the game after getting pulled was the first time Smith actually appeared to be a sympathetic figure to me. He wasn’t just arguing for a few minutes of reserve time. Smith was arguing for his career right then and there. You could see it in the urgency of his body language. You could see it in the urgency of his play after he called David Carr back to the sideline. He was a man on a mission to save his career. That was interesting. But two games doesn’t change my opinion of Alex Smith the QB yet. He still sucks.

How about ‘dem Giants?

Cody Ross is the man.
I can’t help but think about the inevitable argument on sports radio here in Boston when the San Francisco Giants make the World Series. These guys are gonna bring up all the reasons why the Giants shouldn’t be there. How the Red Sox could beat ’em and yaddy ya ya ya. I hate this line of argument. It’s all about the American League being better than the National League. I get it. AL cities have a superiority complex. Fine. But let’s not let the conversation fall into what the Sox, or any other AL team would do, when they’re not even in the dance. That’s just stupid. If the Red Sox were to be included in the argument, they’d first have to go back and win a couple of regular season games and then win a couple of series against some of the best teams in baseball before even being mentioned. I have no problem with the Yankees, Rangers, or even the Phillies, beating the Giants as the world crams it on the Black and Orange about how they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. But those are playoff teams. And as far as I’m concerned, they’re the only ones that matter.

Jason Campbell sucks

But you know this, right? And to think, I had lobbied for the 49ers to actually trade for Jason Campbell. But after the stinker he put up against the 49ers (8-of-21, 83 yards, 2 interceptions, 10.7 QB rating), I’d be remiss to say that wasn’t one of my better ideas. I mean, he did that against the 49ers. I’m not saying the 49ers defense is bad (10th in yard allowed per game), but they aren’t the Chargers (1st in yard allowed per game, 1st in passing yards allowed per game).

Crackdown on the crackdowns

I used to blow guys up all the time … OK, I’m lying. I used to cheap shot guys as my teammate ran up and down the sidelines for a league-leading 32 touchdowns. But you know what, I never once hit a guy helmet to helmet. Not on purpose. I did so one time on accident. Guess who got hurt? I did. Sorta Dunta Robinson like. It made me woozy for at least two more plays as I stayed in the game trying to stop a team from scoring on us. I don’t think it was a concussion, but it would explain a lot. Either way, this crackdown needed to happen. These guys are physically talented enough at the NFL level to tackle people by aiming for the core of the ball carrier’s body, rather than the head or neck. For guys like James Harrison to consider retiring because he may not know how to play the game is absolutely idiotic. But then again, he’s the same guy who said he wouldn’t go to the White House and meet the president (Obama and Bush) after winning the Super Bowl because “they weren’t for the Steelers.” We’re not talking about the smartest Golden Girl here.

Be sure to follow along on Twitter as I tweet about things related to Massachusetts high school sports and other stuff. I like the other stuff, but Mass High sports are cool too. It’s football season, ya know.

Easy, breezy Bay Area sports storylines

A roundup of the Bay Area storylines that are dominating my psyche.

So I wrote a little thing about Boston sports summer storylines knowing very well that this topic was going to come up. You know, Bay Area sports storylines.

Here, again, I’m dividing them by individual team. Now, because the Bay Area obviously has more teams than Boston, I’ll just have to write more. But you know who comes first….
Continue reading “Easy, breezy Bay Area sports storylines”

NFL draft coverage: Who will the 49ers pick?

OK, I really don’t care who they pick. I’m really more interested in what they pick with their first pick of the 2010 NFL draft.

Will it be a quarterback? A wide receiver? A running back? That’s really what’s important.

Readers of this blog will know from prior posts where I stand. The San Francisco 49ers need a quarterback. They continue to sign and trade for receivers as if the team has a receivers problem. Arnaz Battle wasn’t the problem. And Ted Ginn Jr. is not the answer.

Neither is David Carr.

Every problem with the 49ers offense — and I mean every problem — falls at the feet of Alex Smith. He’s a former No. 1 pick that’s not a No. 1 quarterback. That’s plain and simple to me.

No offense to Smith, but 2010-11 cannot be his year for the sake of my sanity. This year, like last year (and the year before that), the 49ers need to go in a different direction.

So what will it be? Jimmy Clausen (above) looks kinda sexy at No. 13 … or No. 17.

NFL training camp wants: Shaun Hill, don’t screw this up

Shaun Hill better have his game together, because the 49ers cant go back to Alex Smith for the sake of my sanity.
Shaun Hill better have his game together, because the 49ers can't go back to Alex Smith for the sake of my sanity.
Life must be good for Alex Smith. He’s a pro football player, a millionaire, his shoulder is feeling better and he’s back in competition for the starting QB spot for the San Francisco 49ers, which won’t be named until Aug. 29 when the 49ers play the ‘Boys in the final preseason game.

I’d hate to have the 49ers go this route for two reasons:

  1. When Smith was the starter, and healthy, he went 7-9 in the 2006 season while leading the 49ers on two phenomenal comebacks. Unfortunately, these two golden nuggets were not a sign of promise. It’s a sign of his limit. What we’ve come to know of Smith is that he’s fragile. (how did he injure that shoulder again last season? Oh, that’s right, by throwing the ball in practice. The primary function of his job!) He’s also sensitive and he wilts under pressure. Taking slices of Smith’s career and then evaluating him as a whole is faulty logic, and an apologist’s summation for a loser.
  2. Locker room leadership may take a hit if Hill can’t surpass Smith. I remember vividly the divide on our team in high school when we were trying to determine who would be our quarterback. Of course, it was always up to the coaches but everyone had their sides. And when a decision was made, some folks were disgruntled. If you think that can’t or won’t happen on a professional team, you’re whacko. Last thing Mike Singletary needs on his team is a loser. Guess who fits that description best of the two.

Look, I don’t want to go back down the path of trying something old (relatively speaking), tested and not battle ready. That’s exactly what Smith is. We’ve tried him, it didn’t work, it’s time to move on. Full-time duties should be put on Shaun Hill until he screws that up royally. And if it comes to that, the 49ers need to make moves for a veteran free agent. I mean, Trent Green is available. It can’t get worse than that. Can it?

49ers need to snap up Jay Cutler

Hey Denver, your loss may be San Francisco’s gain. And I’m not talking about the Rocky.

If Jay Cutler successfully forces a trade because of Josh McDaniel’s first bungled player-personnel flap, I’m personally suggesting to Scot McCloughan that he should make a move on the 3-year veteran.

What’s more, I’m pretty sure that if the 49ers don’t make a move in the first round with a quarterback selection as expected and don’t find another “capable” quarterback in free agency, San Francisco is going to be doomed with the likelihood of a prolonged quarterback problem as Alex Smith and Shaun Hill battle it out for the top spot. I know Smith took his medicine last year getting benched, but his lingering presence is, at best, a distraction. At worst, drama.

Shaun Hill, for all of his positives and glowing record as a starter (7-3), is just not the man to carry the franchise to the next level. Now is the time during to build on a solid, new prospect. Cutler can be the man the 49ers always hoped for in Smith.

Cutler, or a young unnamed and undrafted quarterback, fixes everything that eviscerated under Mike Nolan’s power. The guy from Santa Claus, Ind., is coachable, he’s fairly precise (career 62.5 percent completion rate) and his faults haven’t been played out on the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle.

No, we’ve watched him dismantle the Oakland Raiders (in prime time) and lead a relatively successful career in the shadow of John Elway’s legacy. His 4,526 passing yards and 25 touchdowns were career bests last year — a pro bowl year.

Did I mention that he’s only 25?

I’m high on Cutler because he’s one of those 12 quarterbacks in the league with 100 percent ownership in fantasy football leagues. Hill would kill for 50 percent next season.

And you know what? After all that he’s done for his team and city, they’re treating him like he’s Alex Smith.

I’m flabbergasted.

You don’t bring in another quarterback when you’ve got a pro bowler on your team in the very same position. Repeat: You don’t bring in another quarterback when you’ve got a pro bowler on your team in the very same position.

What McDaniels did was a slap in Cutler’s face. For him to jockey for power at their recent meeting, when the feud was really about respect, is the infancy of idiocy.

Did he learn his people skills from Bill Belichick? I’d really like to know.

To solve Denver’s problems, which are not going to change without some furniture moving, and to quell the angst of this 49ers fan’s spirits, I suggest a trade of Smith and Cutler, with appropriate draft picks to measure the weight of the Broncos’ loss.

Smith would get the fresh start he deserves — as far away from my red and gold as possible — and Cutler will get treated with respect and dignity in a football town in need of a quarterback.

Oh, and Denver will get exactly what it deserves — another loss.

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in The Union.