49ers

NaVorro Bowman: Great player robbed of the opportunity to be even more

NaVorro Bowman: Great player robbed of the opportunity to be even more

NaVorro Bowman came, and then he went.

If that seems a cruel way to summarize his career in San Francisco, that’s because football is a cruel game in the best of times, and when your boss changes, all the good will you may have assembled for yourself matters as much as a broken printer.

It is simply the nature of a very vicious beast.

Bowman was released by the San Francisco 49ers seemingly hours after the team cursorily explored trade possibilities for the once-great linebacker.

And with all due respect to the sentimentalists among you, this move was inevitable; if it wasn’t today, it would have been on January 2, two days after the end of the season. Bowman shone brightest on Jim Harbaugh’s watch, three coaches ago, and neither Kyle Shanahan nor John Lynch is married in any way to any part of the 49ers’ past.

That’s why they were hired. That’s why they got six-year deals. They were mandated to change the franchise on the football level, and you don’t have to tell the leaders of a new regime twice that the icons of the old regime have no special pride of place.

Bowman is one of the truly unlucky great players here – an All-Pro-level player until his torn Achilles tendon in 2016. The only thing that happened to him was he lost the speed and lateral movement that made him great, and neutralized his in-game knowledge because his body sometimes wouldn’t always let him capitalize on it.

But in a violent and sentiment-free business, luck often plays an outsized role in a man’s career. Had he survived the Achilles injury, he might have continued on his path toward Canton, but that atop his torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in 2013 rendered him expendable in a new world order.

And with that, he was expended Friday – swiftly and, from the outside at least, harshly. But nothing says the football business quite like swiftness and harshness. That, if anything, is NaVorro Bowman’s story in San Francisco – a great player robbed of the opportunity to be even more.

Kilgore: All of 49ers on same page 'for the first time in a long time'

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USATSI

Kilgore: All of 49ers on same page 'for the first time in a long time'

The 49ers’ coaching staff made its feelings known to center Daniel Kilgore throughout the season.

But, in the past, that would not have necessarily meant everyone in the organization had the same thoughts about Kilgore, who was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

“The whole season, coaches and I had a good relationship,” Kilgore said Wednesday on conference call with Bay Area reporters. “Just talking and having one-on-ones with various coaches, I had a positive outlook for the future.

“But that’s just one thing. The coaches have an opinion of you, but then there’s also the front office. That’s two totally different things. And I think for the first time in a long time, our coaches and the front office are on the same page.”

Kilgore was working out back home in Tennessee on Wednesday when he signed a three-year contract to avoid hitting the free-agent market. Kilgore, 30, a seven-year NFL veteran, described the contract as a team-friendly deal.

The 49ers presented Kilgore with a contract offer during the season but negotiations did not get serious until just recently. While the 49ers expressed interest in retaining Kilgore, he said he did not know what the future held for him when he packed his belongings from the locker room on the day after the season ended.

“It kind of makes you nervous because in this profession, people like the younger guys,” Kilgore said. “You just never know what will happen at any time, any given day, in the NFL. So toward the end, that last day of clearing out the locker, I didn’t know if I’d be back. I didn’t know if the Niners would want me back.”

Kilgore was named the winner of the organization’s top honor for an offensive lineman. Kilgore won the Bobb McKittrick Award for best exemplifying the dedication, excellence and commitment of the long-time 49ers offensive line coach. Kilgore started all 29 games in which he appeared the past two seasons, including a career-high 16 games last season.

"I've been here seven years and I consider the Bay Area my second home,” Kilgore said. “To be able to extend my career wearing the 49ers jersey was special to me. This team is heading in the right direction, I wanted to be a part of it."

Why the 49ers did not hesitate to pay Garoppolo big money

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Matt Maiocco

Why the 49ers did not hesitate to pay Garoppolo big money

When Jimmy Garoppolo signed a contract that could pay him up to $137.5 million over the next five years, he was asked what convinced him during his nine weeks with the organization that he wanted to be with the 49ers for the long term.

“I think it was a number of things,” Garoppolo said last week. “The team, the acceptance that they had of me when I first got here from the get-go, the coaching staff, Kyle and Rich. It was a very welcoming environment, and I really liked that. We had some success down the stretch, and you could see that pieces were falling into place. We've got a long way to go, but I think we're moving in the right direction.”

Kyle, of course, is head coach Kyle Shanahan. Rich Scagarello is the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach, and the person from whom Garoppolo spent the most time after arriving in Santa Clara on Oct. 31 after a trade with the New England Patriots.

Garoppolo earned $3.5 million in his first four NFL seasons. His new contract makes him the NFL’s highest-paid player, making an average of $27.5 million per season, with $48.7 million fully guaranteed.

Scangarello, appearing this week on The 49ers Insider Podcast, talked about what he learned about Garoppolo from working so closely with him to teach him Shanahan's offense. Scangarello said there is no question in his mind the money will not change Garoppolo’s approach to his work.

“That’s why it was easy for the organization and everyone to invest in somebody like Jimmy Garoppolo,” Scangarello said. “I just think that’s not the kind of person he is. If you met his family, you know where he comes from, what he’s about. His brothers, his parents, are just good, solid people people. He’s made of the right stuff and I just don’t see that affecting him in that way.

“It’s just not who he is. That’s the fun part of working with somebody like that every day. When they’re really talented and they appreciate everything and they work at it, you have a chance to be a successful organization and they can be a great player. And I don’t think those things will ever affect him.”