49ers

Shanahan's debut: One regret, one apology, one loss

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AP

Shanahan's debut: One regret, one apology, one loss

SANTA CLARA – A day later, Kyle Shanahan had one regret and made one apology from his first game as an NFL head coach.

Shanahan’s 49ers opened the season on Sunday with a 23-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium.

Shanahan, who doubles as his own offensive coordinator, showed an aversion to punting the ball in the middle of the field. And it backfired both times in the first half that he kept his offense on the field for fourth downs.

Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, the 49ers went for it on a fourth-and-4 situation from the Panthers’ 44-yard line. Quarterback Brian Hoyer was sacked for an 8-yard sack when Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis pushed his way past running back Carlos Hyde.

The Panthers capitalized by moving the ball just 27 yards to set up a field goal.

On the 49ers’ next possession, the 49ers failed on a fourth-and-1 from the Carolina 45 when fullback Kyle Juszczyk was stuffed for no gain. Shanahan said he did not regret that decision or the play call – a fullback dive against a team with five defensive backs on the field. The Panthers also turned their prime field position into a field goal to take a 13-0 lead at the half.

But, Shanahan admitted, the first time to go for it on fourth down was not sound strategy. The 49ers took over after safety Jaquiski Tartt made a one-handed interception and 37-yard return to the 49ers’ 38-yard line.

“Looking back at all of them, the first one is the one I regretted, when it was fourth and 4,” Shanahan said Monday during his day-after-game press conference. “I think there was about three and a half minutes left (in the first half). We were down seven. Tartt just made an unbelievable play on a pick. I thought we were moving the ball pretty well and came up short there on third down, and I just, I believed we were going to get it. I had a lot confidence that we would and it just didn't work out. But, definitely looking back on that, I wish I did punt because I think it would have made it a lot harder for them to go 90 yards.”

In all, the 49ers were just one of four on fourth-down conversions. They would have had another chance, trailing 23-0, but Shanahan did not get a timeout called before a fourth-and-1 opportunity. The 49ers were called for a delay penalty despite Shanahan’s late attempt to signal for a timeout.

Shanahan was shown on TV berating down judge Hugo Cruz. Shanahan said he has made that mistake before. In 2012, while serving as Washington’s offensive coordinator, Shanahan was fined $25,000 for verbal abuse of an official in a game against Cincinnati.

“And if he (Cruz) was here, I would apologize to him now,” Shanahan said. “He's trying to do his best just like I am. I was just frustrated. I wanted a timeout and I yelled it as loud as I could three times and he just didn't hear me. I was mad at him for it. It's not his fault. He's focused on the game, too. Hope he has no hard feelings towards it.”

Overall, it was a rough debut for Shanahan, who six times in nine seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator fielded top-10 units. But Week 1 showed that he has a lot of work in front of him after inheriting a team that went 2-14 last year under Chip Kelly.

“The thing that's tough for a coach when you look on tape and you just feel like you have no chance, then there's not much to say,” Shanahan said. “There's a lot of clips there you could see that we had a lot of opportunities that we missed on, and especially early.

“I think our guys watching the tape, by no means do they just look at it and feel that they didn't have a chance. I think we're all disappointed because there was a number of times that we could have had a chance to be in that game and we just came up short.”

Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts

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USATSI

Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts

The 49ers recently re-signed eight of the 10 players who finished the season on the team’s practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who was not among the first wave of 49ers signings to 2018 contracts, signed Wednesday with the Indianapolis Colts, ending his three-season association with the organization.

Smelter was one of general manager Trent Baalke’s redshirt draft picks. The team selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft despite a torn ACL that ended his final season at Georgia Tech.

Smelter spent his first season on an injured list. He was waived at the beginning of the past two seasons, finishing both years on the 49ers’ practice squad. Smelter appeared in two games in 2016 and caught one pass for 23 yards.

Last season, the 49ers signed wide receivers Louis Murphy and Max McCaffrey to spots on the 53-man roster instead of Smelter, who remained on the practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Carter, who also spent the entire season on the practice squad, was signed recently to the team’s 90-man roster.

Others who finished the season on the 49ers practice squad to remain on the team’s offseason roster are: quarterback Nick Mullens, tight end Cole Wick, offensive linemen Andrew Lauderdale and Pace Murphy, linebacker Boseko Lokombo, and defensive backs Trovon Reed and Channing Stribling.

The 49ers also signed fullback Malcolm Johnson, who spent last season on injured reserve with the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson appeared in 19 games over the 2015 and ’16 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He was a sixth-round draft pick in ’15.

Offensive linemen Cameron Hunt, who finished the season on the 49ers’ practice squad, remains unsigned. Guard JP Flynn is also unsigned. He sustained a torn patellar tendon in November and underwent surgery that was expected to keep him out up to nine months.

An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

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USATSI

An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

If the 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are unable to reach a multi-year contract extension by March 6, the 49ers have no other choice but to designate him as their franchise player.

The estimated one-year salary for the franchise tag would be $23.307 million, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry, whose work now appears at CBS Sports. (That is assuming a 2018 league-wide salary cap of $178.1 million per team.)

There is a lot to consider for both sides as they look to enter into a long-term contract. Corry said if a deal is struck, he would expect it to be in the neighborhood of Derek Carr’s five-year, $125 million deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason.

“And then there’s the other dynamic, which I would not undersell or I think may not be appreciated as much as it should be,” Corry said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “(Garoppolo’s agent) Don Yee has a reputation – no fault of his own – of doing team-friendly deals.”

Yee also represents New England quarterback Tom Brady, whose average of $20.5 million annual pay ranks 15th among NFL quarterbacks. Brady is underpaid by design, Corry said, because one of the great quarterbacks of all-time realizes it helps the Patriots to maintain a strong supporting cast.

“That’s because Tom Brady dictates, ‘I want to do something good for the team, take less money so we can improve the roster to win Super Bowls.’ That’s not Don Yee who wants to do that,” Corry said.

“The agent works for the player, so he’s executing Tom Brady’s wishes. But he gets that held against him in recruiting. So this is his opportunity to erase that perception if Garoppolo allows him to do his job and gives him latitude to strike the deal that he feels is appropriate.”

For more on the potential negotiating strategies of both sides, listen here to the 49ers Insider Podcast.