49ers again choose Youngstown for 5-day layover


49ers again choose Youngstown for 5-day layover

SANTA CLARA -- A year ago, the 49ers took a 10-day road trip that included five days of game-planning, study, workouts, practices and bonding in Youngstown, Ohio.The unique itinerary proved successful as the 49ers returned to the Bay Area with road wins over the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles, the team's signature come-from-behind regular-season victory.When this season's schedule came out in the spring, coach Jim Harbaugh saw a chance to do it all again with back-to-back 49ers road games against Minnesota and the New York Jets.So when the 49ers leave Friday afternoon for their Sunday game against the Vikings, the club will not return to the Bay Area until after the team's Week 4 game against the Jets."I thought it was a real positive when we went through it last year, that we were together," Harbaugh said. "It gave us a great chance to be around each other. You stayed longer at the meals, got to know each other more, found out a different guy's story that you didn't know before you had a longer conversation with him than sometimes you did at the facility."So, I didn't feel that that was a tough thing. I thought it was a positive thing."Immediately after Sunday's game against the Vikings, the 49ers will take a 90-minute flight to Youngstown, where the players and staff will prepare Monday through Friday for the Sept. 30 game against the Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.The 49ers will save themselves more than 6 12 hours of flight time between games with their five-day layover in Youngstown."It's tough to be away from your family, for sure," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "At the same time, thinking back to last year, it was a good experience. For us, it was another little minicamp. You only have 53 guys going, all together, and nothing to do there. You practice, you prepare and you hang out with each other. I thought it was a good thing for us last year. I enjoyed it."The 49ers' ties to Ohio date back to 1977 when Youngstown shopping mall developer Edward DeBartolo Sr. purchased the 49ers and put his son, Edward Jr., in charge of the day-to-day operations. Denise DeBartolo York was an equal co-owner, though she remained far from the spotlight until she and her husband, John York, took control of the 49ers in 2000.Their eldest son, Jed York, the 49ers' CEO, grew up in the Youngstown area and attended Cardinal Mooney High School. The DeBartolo and York families were inducted into the Youngstown State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004 for their many contributions.Following the team's successful road trip of a year ago, the 49ers showed gratitude to their hosts for the week."Our team and Youngstown share a very special trait, a hard-nosed and determined work ethic that serves each extremely well," Jed York stated. "The city should take great pride in knowing that their tremendous hospitality and effort helped our team complete a two-win road trip. The entire 49ers organization thanks those who went out of their way to accommodate our needs."Harbaugh, in particular, seemed to enjoy the experience. He spoke glowingly of a vacant lot behind the team hotel, partially obscured by trees, where the team held its walk-throughs before boarding buses to practice and work out at Youngstown State."Youngstown State has been an excellent facility for us to get our work in. It's outstanding," Harbaugh said afterward. "The weight room's fantastic, our guys had great workouts in there. Really everything we need, you guys have here."

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?


49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.