49ers

Manning should heed Montana, Namath, Unitas

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Manning should heed Montana, Namath, Unitas

Whitey Gleason
Special to CSNBayArea.com

Peyton Manning is not the first elite quarterback to saddle up and head west before hanging up his guns. In fact, there are three Hall of Fame quarterbacks who won Super Bowls with one team, then finished their careers with another. The results were decidedly mixed. So Peyton, heres a little Wild West history lesson for you -- the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly story of Hall of Fame quarterbacks riding off into the sunset.

The Good: Joe Montana, KC Chiefs, 1993-94
Once the dismantling of Bill Walshs great teams began, 49er fans had to adjust to some strange sights, like Ronnie Lott in a Jets jersey, and Jerry Rice with the Raiders. But none of those moves had the visceral impact of this one. After two injury-plagued seasons, during which Steve Young cemented himself as the 49ers quarterback, 37-year-old Joe Montana was traded east to Kansas City -- but still ended up in the AFC West. Wearing No. 19 (the Chiefs had retired Len Dawson's No. 16), Montana actually had a shot at meeting his old team in the Super Bowl after the 93 season. Both the Niners and the Chiefs, however, lost their conference championship games, and the 30-13 loss to Buffalo was especially brutal for Montana, who left the game with a concussion. In two seasons with the Chiefs, Montana threw for 5,427 yards and 29 touchdowns -- two fewer touchdowns than hed thrown for San Francisco in the 1987 season alone. While he couldnt take Kansas City to the Super Bowl, as Dawson had, Montana did get the Chiefs to the playoffs both years, playing his last game in a 1994 Wild Card loss to Dan Marino and the Dolphins. After retiring, he would undergo the same neck fusion surgery that Manning had last year.

The Bad: Joe Namath, LA Rams, 1977
One of the most surprising aspects of Joe Namaths 1977 season with the Rams is that anybody wanted him in the first place. In 1976, a sore-kneed, 33-year old Namath threw four touchdowns against -- gulp! -- 16 interceptions in eight games for the Jets, who won only one of those games. (And hes criticizing the Jets for picking up Tim Tebow?) The Jets waived Broadway Joe, who signed with a Rams team that had serious Super Bowl aspirations. A 34-14 Week 3 win over Jim Plunkett, O.J. Simpson, and the 49ers put Namath and the Rams at 2-1, and Namath had thrown three touchdown passes through the first three games. But Namaths next game would be his last, a Monday Night debacle in Chicago in which an ineffective running game forced him to throw often. Namath threw four interceptions, the Rams blew a 13-0 lead, and lost 24-23. Namath would never play again, and the Rams would rally behind Pat Haden to reach the playoffs. Namaths final numbers with the Rams -- three touchdowns, five interceptions, and a passer rating of 54.5 -- are so lackluster, they make me want to get drunk and try to kiss Suzy Kolber.

The Ugly: Johnny Unitas, San Diego Chargers, 1972
Just as some Colts fans curse Jim Irsay for the way Mannings Colt career just ended, so did Colt fans in 1972 curse Irsays father Bob for the way Johnny Unitas career ended in Baltimore. The elder Irsay had actually purchased the Rams in 1972, with the intent to swap them for the Colts, which he did. Irsay wanted the Colts to get younger, which meant that Johnny Us days were numbered, since he was 39 and had played in only eight games in 72. So in January of 1973, Unitas was traded to the San Diego Chargers for unspecified future considerations. If Unitas had given any specific consideration to his future, he probably never wouldve gone to San Diego. The team was awful, ending up 2-11-1. Unitas threw for 55 yards with three picks in the opener, and was replaced early in the year by future Hall of Famer Dan Fouts. Unitas did have one shining moment in the San Diego sunshine, throwing a pair of touchdown passes in a Week 3 win over Buffalo. Throwing for two scores in one game for a team as bad as the 73 Chargers was nearly as remarkable as Unitas 47-game touchdown pass streak. But the next time you hear someone argue that a player should not change teams late in his career because it might damage his legacy, consider the case of Unitas. His brief stay with the Chargers was so out-of-character with the rest of his career, that not only did it leave his legacy intact, most people dont even know it happened. Certainly, Unitas tried to forgot about it as quickly as he could. Deactivated by San Diego for the last game of the season, Unitas went back to Baltimore to watch the Colts play.

Once enshrined in Canton, Brett Favre will no doubt join the Super Bowl-Winning, Team-Switching HOF Quarterback Club, although it wouldve been in keeping with our western theme had he come out retirement last year to join the Raiders after Jason Campbells injury. As for Peyton? Happy trails, amigo. Just be aware, the road out West for 30-something-year-old gun-slinging legends is fraught with peril, picks, and playoff disappointment.

Whitey Gleason is the host of "The Rise Guys" on 95.7 the Game.

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

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USATSI

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.

“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”

The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.

“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”

Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.

“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.

“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”

Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.

“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”

Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.

Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.

“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.

Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

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AP

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.