49ers

Could 49ers linebacking corps be best of all-time?

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Could 49ers linebacking corps be best of all-time?

SANTA CLARA Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has been around good linebacking groups before.

In fact, as the coach of that position for the New Orleans Saints from 1986-94, an argument can be made he coached the best assemblage of all-time in Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson and Pat Swilling.

Could the current 49ers group of Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks be mentioned in the same breath as that legendary Saints quartet, by the time all is said and done?

Before I start answering any questions about comparing those groups, these guys need to be together a little bit longer. Maybe next year at this time Ill give you a good answer, Fangio said, with a slight smirk.

He continued: You get good players playing together in the same system for that long of a period, good things are going to happen. They learn each other. Things become second nature. The first time they have to communicate a tough situation, isnt the first time anymore. Its the third, fourth, fifth.

Its the spoken communication and the unspoken communication.

That celebrated Saints group was together for seven years from 1986-92, and combined for 18 Pro Bowl appearances. Now that Bowman is locked up for the foreseeable future after he agreed to a five-year extension on Tuesday, the 49ers linebackers will be together until at least 2015.

Any talk that they might become one of the fiercest linebacking groups of all-time is still extremely premature, according to Fangio. After all, Brooks and Bowman are in just their second years as starters, while Smith is starting for the first time this season.

But, it's possible.

I think the potential is there, but weve got to do it. We all know what the word potential means. The Saints did it for seven straight years together, this is really our first year together as a starting unit, he said.

Willis, the veteran of the group, doesnt want to think too far ahead, either. After all, the 49ers are in the middle of what could be a Super Bowl season, standing second in the NFC with a 8-2-1 record as they head to St. Louis this weekend.

He wants to take care of more immediate business.

Right now, all I can think about is just taking advantage of the opportunity now. Not banking on next year, and the year after, and the year after, Willis said on Tuesday after the Bowman extension was announced. You know, things happen and you never know about this business. All we can control is right now.

Bowman said: Right now, were just worried about this year, but we really have a chance to do something special. We have all four linebackers being here, for sure, for the next three years. We can definitely make a great statement for ourselves, and a great legacy for our defense.

REWIND: So happy together -- Bowman, Willis paired through 2016

As opposing offenses prepare to face the ferocious 49ers defense, both now and in future years, Fangio issued a warning for receivers coming across the middle.

If they watch enough film, theyll see that there are some land mines in there that they might step on, he said.

San Franciscos team defense ranks second in the NFL, but had a game it would like to forget just three weeks ago against the Rams.

The start in particular was troubling, as St. Louis jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead on two long drives before San Francisco came back to salvage a 24-24 tie.

Theyll be much more prepared on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, according to defensive tackle Ray McDonald.

They came out intense. We didnt come out the way we usually do, McDonald said. A lot of guys, weve been talking about it since that game. Well talk about it today in the walkthrough, like, hey man, we cant come out like we did the last time we played them because they outplayed us the last game.

If we do that out there in St. Louis, well get our butts whipped.

Fangio gave a tip of his hat to the Rams for their blocking, which allowed them to gain 159 yards on the ground, including 101 from Steven Jackson.

It was a low point because they blocked us, and they ran the ball extremely well against us. Give them credit, their o-line, tight ends and backs blocked us and ran the ball harder than we were able to defend at that time, so give them credit, he said.

McDonald said the rough start was just something that every team experiences at least a few times throughout a 16-game season.

You dont want to make excuses, but every team goes through it, he said. You have those weeks sometimes. Its a long season; sometimes youre going to be down. But you have to limit the weeks youre down, because if you dont, you end up with a losing record.

McDonald weighed in the biggest point of conversation surrounding the team right now, addressing quarterback Alex Smiths removal from the starting lineup in favor of Colin Kaepernick.

Were a team. Whoever is back there, were going to support him. If Kap is back there, well support him 100 percent. Were about winning football games here, and the best player will play, McDonald said.

Still, he feels for Smith, who was only removed from the lineup when he got hurt against the Rams and who met with the media earlier Thursday morning.

I mean, it does suck to kind of lose your job to injury. But, I mean, that happens in the NFL. Guys will move on, guys have mouths to feed, guys want to win championships. You have to kind of put that in the back of your mind.

Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists

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AP

Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Former 49ers running back Roger Craig, in his final year on the modern-era ballot, is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the 10th consecutive year.

Craig is among 27 semifinalists announced for the Class of 2018. The list includes six first-year eligible candidates and four other players who have been eligible previously but are semifinalists for the first time.

Wide receiver Terrell Owens and safety John Lynch, currently 49ers general manager, are among the return semifinalists. Lynch was among the final 10 players last year, while Owens made it to the top 15.

The list of first-year eligible semifinalists includes wide receiver Randy Moss, defensive back Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

The four previously-eligible players who are semifinalists for the first time are safety LeRoy Butler, defensive ends Leslie O’Neal and Simeon Rice, and cornerback Everson Walls.

In January, the list of modern-era candidates will be trimmed to 15 individuals. There will be a total of 18 finalists, including contributor finalist Bobby Beathard and seniors finalists Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer. Hall of Fame rules stipulate from four to eight new members will be selected every year.

Beathard, Brazile and Kramer will be voted on separately and, like all other finalists, must receive 80-percent approval from the full selection committee at the annual selection meeting on Feb. 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, the day before Super Bowl LII.

Craig's teams made it to the playoffs in each of his 11 NFL seasons, including his first eight years with the 49ers. In 1985, he became the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

Owens, who played his first eight seasons with the 49ers, was a first-team All-Pro performer six times. He ranks second all-time in receiving yards (15,934) and third with 153 receiving touchdowns.

Lynch, a hard-hitting safety with Tampa Bay and Denver, was selected to nine Pro Bowls in his 15-year career. He recorded 26 interceptions, forced 16 fumbles and recovered nine in his career.

2018 MODERN-ERA SEMIFINALISTS
Steve Atwater, S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Ronde Barber, CB/S – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Tony Boselli, T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Isaac Bruce, WR – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
LeRoy Butler, S – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Don Coryell, Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2005, 2010-18)
Roger Craig, RB – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2009-18)
Brian Dawkins, S – 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)
Alan Faneca, G – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Torry Holt, WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Steve Hutchinson, G – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Joe Jacoby, T – 1981-1993 Washington Redskins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2005, 2008, 2013-18)
Edgerrin James, RB – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Jimmy Johnson, Coach – 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2014-18)
Ty Law, CB – 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005, 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Ray Lewis, LB – 1996-2012 Baltimore Ravens | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
John Lynch, FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2013-18)
Kevin Mawae, C/G – 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Karl Mecklenburg, LB – 1983-1994 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Randy Moss, WR – 1998-2004, 2010 Minnesota Vikings, 2005-06 Oakland Raiders, 2007-2010 New England Patriots, 2010 Tennessee Titans, 2012 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Leslie O'Neal, DE – 1986, 1988-1995 San Diego Chargers, 1996-1997 St. Louis Rams, 1998-1999 Kansas City Chiefs | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Terrell Owens, WR – 1996-2003 San Francisco 49ers, 2004-05 Philadelphia Eagles, 2006-08 Dallas Cowboys, 2009 Buffalo Bills, 2010 Cincinnati Bengals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Simeon Rice, DE – 1996-2000 Arizona Cardinals, 2001-06 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 Denver Broncos, 2007 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Richard Seymour, DE/DT – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Brian Urlacher, LB – 2000-2012 Chicago Bears | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Everson Walls, CB – 1981-89 Dallas Cowboys, 1990-92 New York Giants, 1992-93 Cleveland Browns | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Hines Ward, WR – 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is one of 48 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

John Lynch: Eventually, Garoppolo 'is going to be our guy'

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USATI

John Lynch: Eventually, Garoppolo 'is going to be our guy'

SANTA CLARA – General manager John Lynch came close Tuesday to announcing which quarterback will start for the 49ers this week.

But the official announcement that rookie C.J. Beathard will start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks will have to come from coach Kyle Shanahan, he said.

“C.J. (Beathard) played extremely well against the Giants, and that’s likely,” Lynch told reporters at Levi’s Stadium. “But I’ll let Kyle speak to that.”

Lynch reiterated that they want to give newly acquired Jimmy Garoppolo the best chance to succeed. Garoppolo spent part of the 49ers' bye week learning the basics of the offensive system in meetings with quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello. Garoppolo also met one-on-one with Shanahan.

Beathard had his best game as a pro on Nov. 12, before the bye week, as he threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-21 victory over the New York Giants. Garoppolo arrived in Santa Clara on Oct. 31 in a trade with the New England Patriots.

Lynch said he feels Garoppolo “is going to be our guy,” so the organization does not feel any urgency to rush him onto the field. In fact, Lynch sounded as if the 49ers are not placing a high priority on spending big on the quarterback position with Garoppolo and Beathard on the team.

"You still study every position, but we feel pretty good about where our quarterback room is,” Lynch said.