Manning vs. Smith -- a franchise statement


Manning vs. Smith -- a franchise statement

The troubling nature of the 49ers flirtation with Peyton Manning begins and ends here, with this thought:That Alex Smith has never been Mr. Right. That he is simply Mr. Right Now.But that is the nature of football, and not only as Jim Harbaugh perceives it. It is the nature of football, period. Organizations marrying themselves to one player is so contra-indicated as to border on the foolish, as Mannings separation from the Indianapolis Colts reminds us.So Harbaugh turning up to kick the tires on Manning, as the saying goes, is merely one more reminder not to Smith alone but to all of us that nobody is safe in the sport built on the most primal laws of Darwinism. Break a player, get a new one. See a drill in the window that works better than your, get it.Put it this way: If Harbaugh thought there was a better linebacker than Patrick Willis, hed seek that out, too.
Harbaugh is a pragmatist with a reptiles blood temperature. He always has been. The great quarterback mastermind won at Stanford with Toby Gerhart as his centerpiece before he won with Andrew Luck. It is why he has a reputation out of size with his deeds to date because he doesnt mind tweaking his system to fit the players in his command.Manning, of course, is a different matter because he plays quarterback, which is the only position many 49er fans acknowledge at all. It is this teams great cultural flaw that it obsesses on its quarterbacks in ways that more traditional markets do not.Thus, Smith was the embodiment of evil when he was quarterbacking a bad team for more coaches than Manning has ever seen, the representative of truth and beauty when the team finally got good last year, and after not winning the NFC title game to a superior New York Giants team, he became Public Enemy No. 1 again.In fact, Smith is and has always been a serviceable quarterback who found a coach who could give his gifts voice in his seventh year. He is not Dan Marino. He is also not Charlie Whitehurst. He is, and take this any way you like, an okay quarterback with a range of results.And take this, too. He did not cost the 49ers the Giants game. The Giants took it. Period.All that said, Manning is worth a free look. The problem becomes in projecting what Harbaugh saw this week with what he would see with angry mesomorphs beating on him relentlessly in the fall and early winter, and at what cost that vision demands.As Comrade Maiocco, a troublesome brute in the best of days, has told us, Denver has more than 40 million in cap space, and the 49ers less than 20 million. Manning has apparently been offered a five-year, 90 million deal from Denver that would essentially Zito-ize the 49er payroll if Manning isnt all that.Thats your downside right there. Its no more elegant than that. The 49ers cannot afford to be wrong with Manning because of the collateral damage. Being right with Manning, of course, speaks for itself, but the question remains a dangler suspended from the front of Harbaughs omnipresent ball cap is there enough Manning for the quick strike that nets a ring?This is, then, a strategic rather than a tactical decision, one that seems financial but in fact is a football call at its most elemental. Jed York seems clearly like the sort who would do and pay anything Harbaugh requested, so hes going to follow the coachs lead, and Trent Baalkes specialty remains the draft.Harbaugh, though, has the decision that makes, breaks or just dents the franchise. The quick hit that is Manning who may or may not be the perfect stroke for the here and now, against the safer and more financially prudent choice that is Smith who, in any event, would always be auditioning for his job no matter what his contract reads.So forget loyalty. Loyalty is always a one-way street in the NFL, and always has been. Players who expect it end up being devastated by its absence. Alex Smith is nobodys yutz he knows the game; he has no right not to know it. So does Peyton Manning, who unlike the 49er fan base is looking at his decision in a far more clinical light, with no interest in or concern for Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Matt Hasselbeck or, if it came to that, Darian Durant of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.But for a change, the down side of keeping Smith is minimal, whether you want to believe that or not. So this decision becomes the essential Harbaugh tell does he like to go all-in with ace-four unsuited (Manning), or play the percentage with jacks paired (Smith)?The answer will tell you what kind of football executive (as opposed to coach) he is pragmatist with a hint of gambler, or gambler with a hint of pragmatist. Its his call, and his franchise statement.

Who 49ers start at quarterback is the last thing on Pete Carroll's mind


Who 49ers start at quarterback is the last thing on Pete Carroll's mind

SANTA CLARA – Quarterback C.J. Beathard is expected to make his fifth consecutive start for the 49ers on Sunday, but Seattle coach Pete Carroll said his team will be prepared to face Jimmy Garoppolo, too.

“It really isn’t a factor,” Carroll said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Wednesday. “We’re just preparing for the 49ers. They got a style of offense. They got really good players who do what they do. And whoever’s triggering it from the quarterback spot, we’re going to go play football.

“We’ve seen Jimmy play. We’ve seen how he’s mobile and the kind of athlete and competitor he is. But other than that, we just go play football. We can’t do anything about that.”

Beathard remained on the sideline when the clubs met Sept. 17 in Seattle. The Seahawks have defeated the 49ers seven consecutive times, including a 12-9 victory in Week 2 this season. Quarterback Brian Hoyer started the 49ers’ first six games of the season and rushed for just 7 yards during that time. Beathard has 115 yards rushing on 20 attempts in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

“He’s been mobile. He’s got a rushing average, you know,” Carroll said of Beathard. “He’s averaging 5-yards a carry and stuff. They’re incorporating him in the run game some that we have to be concerned about. That’s different than other quarterbacks at times. I’d think Jimmy can do the same stuff.

“He (Beathard) is getting more settled. You can see the offense growing. You can see Kyle able to expand and do more stuff. He’s an incredible offensive coordinator and play-caller that we’ve respected for a long time. I think they’re just grown and they’re getting more proficient at what they’re doing."

49ers GM Lynch: Colbert shows characteristics of 'big-time starter'


49ers GM Lynch: Colbert shows characteristics of 'big-time starter'

SANTA CLARA -- Just hours before John Lynch was announced as a Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalist for the sixth time, he spoke glowingly about a young, promising safety.

Lynch was a nine-time Pro Bowl performer during his 15-year career. In his role as 49ers general manager, he saw a lot that he liked from seventh-round draft pick Adrian Colbert two weeks ago against the New York Giants.

Colbert, making his first career start, sustained a broken thumb early in the game. He still played every snap on defense, recorded four tackles and showed his range in the deep middle to break up two passes.

“That was a really, really good football game and he displayed some things in that game that are characteristics of a starter and a big-time starter,” Lynch said during a 45-minute session with reporters on Tuesday at Levi's Stadium.

The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option on free safety Jimmie Ward, whom they appear to view as their starter for next season. But Colbert has a chance to figure prominently in their future, too.

“If he plays like he did last week, you consider a lot of things,” Lynch said.

Here are other things you need to know from what Lynch said on Tuesday:

The 49ers invested the No. 3 overall pick on Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. He appeared in eight games, with six starts, before missing the past two games with an MCL sprain.

Thomas has not been spectacular, recording 26 tackles and two sacks. But Lynch said he is pleased with Thomas’ development.

“I think some people are saying, 'The No. 3 pick, maybe perhaps should be a little more dynamic.' But his play has been solid," Lynch said. "We knew it would be a process. He's a young kid that I think, physically, he's going to grow in stature."

Guard Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, did not distinguish himself during the offseason program or early in training camp. Then, he sustained a knee injury with a lengthy timetable for recovery.

His timetable would have enabled him to play this season. But the 49ers opted to take “the long-term view” and place him on season-ending injured reserve to put him in a better position to realize his potential upon his return.

But, first, that means Garnett had to change his body composition. Lynch said he challenged Garnett and the team’s strength and conditioning staff to put in the work to make Garnett stronger, more agile and in better condition to succeed in the 49ers’ zone-blocking scheme.

“We certainly hope he responds,” Lynch said.

Whether it’s Jimmy Garoppolo, Carlos Hyde, Dontae Johnson, Eric Reid, Daniel Kilgore, Aaron Lynch or others, the 49ers have been active in discussing the possibilities of contract extensions.

John Lynch declined to speak about which specific players the organization is trying to extend beyond this season – only to say there are ongoing talks.

“I will tell you there are players we’re talking to their representatives, but I’m going to get into who, when, why,” Lynch said.

The 49ers are allowed to enter into extension talks with Trent Brown after this season. Whether they are able to work out a long-term contract remains to be seen, but Lynch made no secret he hopes he can keep the tackles together into the future.

Left tackle Joe Staley, 33, appears to have at least a couple more season in him. He scored some big points with the organization with his willingness to return to action just two weeks after sustaining a broken eye socket.

“We love Joe Staley -- love the way he plays, think he’s a really good scheme fit for the offense we play,” Lynch said.

Lynch said he likes the idea of keeping Staley and Brown together for the foreseeable future.

“We feel there are a lot of places where we need to improve,” Lynch said. “And you’re always trying to improve, but those two guys are cornerstones for the next couple, few years.”

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead has not produced like a first-round draft pick. And the next time he takes the field for the 49ers, he will be entering his contract year.

Questioning Armstead’s fit for the 49ers’ defensive scheme is reasonable. But Lynch said he believes Armstead has a place with the organization.

“We’re real pleased,” Lynch said. “We think he’s a fit with what we are and who we are, going forward. We think he has a bright future with us.”

Armstead had his best game this season against Washington, a game in which he sustained a broken hand and required season-ending surgery.

“He put it all together,” Lynch said. “It was very encouraging and, at the same time, disappointing.”

The 49ers have 18 players on injured reserve with a variety of physical conditions that knocked them out of action from broken bones to torn ligaments and tendons.

“Some of those things are freak, but, yes, there has been an alarming amount,” Lynch said. “We’re going to study everything. That was part of what I was charged to do, evaluate every facet of the football part of this organization.”

There do not appear to be any obvious answers. Many teams around the league are also experiencing a rash of injuries to star players. On defense, the 49ers lost Armstread (broken hand), linebacker Malcolm Smith (torn pectoral tendon), and safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt (broken forearms) for the season.

“Some of it, broken forearms from two safeties and a broken thumb from a safety, I don’t know what the answer is there,” Lynch said.

“We’re going to take a deep dive – we already are – into why and if there are any common threads. We’re studying it hard.”