Shanahan goes full Del Rio in 49ers debut, but without the talented roster


Shanahan goes full Del Rio in 49ers debut, but without the talented roster

It did not take Kyle Shanahan long to figure out what kind of coach he will need to be in San Francisco – at least not in the short term.
Faced with the conundrum of the Carolina Panthers’ defense, which has broken far better teams than the San Francisco 49ers, Shanahan used his debut as head coach to try to hit a few gutshot straights and make fourth down a non-traditional event.
Four times in the first half of a game the 49ers lost in uninspired fashion, 23-3, Shanahan was confronted with fourth downs, and after two punts which gave them boring old field position, he decided, first down 7-0 and then 10-0, that the players, and the half-filled stadium, needed a reason to reinvest themselves in the chase.
So he went full Jack Del Rio, only without the Raider coach’s roster inventory. The first time, he wagered field position on a fourth-and-four at the Panthers’ 44 with seven minutes left the second quarter. The second time, with only 44 seconds left in the half, he went again from the Carolina 45.
Both times failed. Both times the Panthers got routine field goals out of the gambles to provide a cushion the locals never threatened.
And, even though the small sample size might suggest otherwise, he should continue to do so. He is building a team from the storm cellar up, and punts are far less educational (and exciting) than playing riverboat poker.
“Both,” he said when asked if he was trying to be aggressive or because he was playing for field position. “The two times in the second half, we didn’t really have a choice, but the first one, were down one, just out of field goal range, and you have a choice between punting it and pinning them back or going for it, and I thought we had a chance to get it.”
As it was, quarterback Brian Hoyer got sacked by Thomas Davis, killed the drive and propelled a drive that led to Graham Gano’s first of three field goals.
On the second, fullback Kyle Juszczyk was stacked by tackle Star Lotulelei and end Wes Horton, prompting a last-minute march by the Panthers to a second Gano field goal and a 13-0 halftime lead.
That is 13-0, as in insurmountable. That is to say that the game was in most ways a disappointment for him, his players and a crowd generously counted at 70,718. The offense gained only 217 yards in a mere 54 plays, a passable average of 4.0 per play but threatened to score only once, late in the game (and that drive died on a fourth-and-one from the Carolina 1, when as Shanahan said, “We didn’t really have a choice.”)
Running back Carlos Hyde looked tolerable but not dynamic, and neither quarterback Brian Hoyer nor his receivers caused much panic in the Carolina secondary. Of the three units, the defense was by far the most inspiring.
Or, as Shanahan put it, “We played a very good team, and we weren’t at our best. I definitely expected us to be further along.”
But he knows just as well that Rome wasn’t built in two hours and 55 minutes (at least they read the league directive on playing faster games; last year they averaged 3:09, with similarly turgid results).
They also committed two turnovers which led to Carolina touchdowns, and 10 penalties, including three false starts, three illegal formations and one defensive offside. In short, between an offense that would need a tuneup to sputter, inattention to detail and Shanahan’s gambler’s instincts, the 49ers looked like exactly what they are – a team with seven wins in the past two years starting from scratch. 
Which is not Shanahan’s sin, or general manager John Lynch’s, either. They are what we thought they were, to quote the bard Dennis Green, and making them not be what we thought is going to take a long time, and a hard climb.
But you knew that going in. They knew it going in. It doesn’t make it any tastier, but everybody’s got to eat.
“Yeah, it was disappointing,” Shanahan said when asked if this was any way to make a first impression. “But whether it’s the first time, last time or any other time I have the rest of my career, it was disappointing. Any tyime you lose and lose that way, it's frustrating and disappointing. I’ll feel that all day today and all night, and our players will too, and then we've got to watch the tape tomorrow and figure out a way to get better.”
That would be starting Sunday in Seattle against a Seahawk team which lost 17-9 in Green Bay with an equally inert offense. The Seahawks are a much different seabird at home, and have much more of a resume of bounceback games under Pete Carroll than Shanahan could possibly have, but Seattle is not San Francisco’s worry. San Francisco is.
The 49ers are playing against themselves for the time being, trying to figure out who and what they are and the best way to get to who, what and where they want to go. Sunday, they showed predictably little except for a little more swashbucklery in do-or-die situations.
And until further notice, that’s exactly what this team needs – practice in those situations, because though they might not come along often, they need to be played when they do. Kyle Shanahan has many metrics upon which he will be measured, but the number of times he asks his team to show its mettle on fourth down should be near the front – at least until they become good enough collectively to be a little more careful.

LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’


LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’

LeBron James is an avid football fan. He's now an even bigger Colin Kaepernick fan than the sport. Following the Cavaliers' practice on Sunday, James opened up on Kaepernick and his absence from the NFL. 

"I've commended Kap, and for him to sacrifice everything for the greater good for everyone, for what he truly believed in, the utmost respect to him," James said to ESPN. "Obviously he had a vision like Martin Luther King and like some of our all-time greats that people couldn't see further than what they were doing at the point and time. And Muhammad Ali and things of that nature."

James believes the masses don't truly understand what Kaepernick was doing when he first took a knee as a protest against social and racial injustices in America. For his actions, James respects Kaepernick choosing his beliefs over his sport.

"When it's something that's new and it's something that people are not educated about or don't understand what your beliefs are all about, people are so quick to judge and people are so quick to say that what you're doing is wrong," James said. "For him to sacrifice the sport that he plays and to sacrifice the things he's done his whole life because he knew what he believed in, I salute him. I salute and respect that."

Add James to the list of those who believe Kaepernick is being blackballed by the NFL for taking a knee last season. The more games he watches, the more James sees the evidence on the wall. 

"I don't represent the NFL. I don't know their rules and regulations. But I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing, I do know that," James believes. "Just watching, he's an NFL player. He's an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he's been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that."

Kaepernick, who recently turned 30 years old, appeared in 12 games for the 49ers in the 2016-17 season. Through the air he completed 59.2 percent of his passes and ended the year with 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Kaepernick also added 468 yards and two more scores on the ground. 

"The only reason I could say he's not on a team is because the way he took a knee," James said. "That's the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks -- first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks -- that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let's just be honest."

For his career, Kaepernick has thrown for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns to 30 interceptions. With his speed as a dual-threat quarterback, Kaepernick has also gained 2,300 yards rushing and 13 more touchdowns. 

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.