Ray Ratto

Concussion leads to tie, QB controversy


Concussion leads to tie, QB controversy


SAN FRANCISCO -- As the St. Louis Rams walked through the tunnel to their locker room, many of them with the same befuddled look quarterback Sam Bradford wore, one put it succinctly, if not logically.Sometimes you win and they say you lost, and sometimes you lose and they say you win, and sometimes you do both, and it ends up in a tie.In other words, nobody knows what to do with the 49ers-Rams 24-24 tie Sunday. The Rams think they sort of got jobbed, but arent sure why. The 49ers think they underachieved, but arent sure why.And everywhere else in the Bay Area, it is Christmas Eve. The 49ers have a real quarterback controversy again, and nothing opens arteries in these parts quite like a quarterback argument that cannot be settled.In fact, because these are the 49ers, where information is not their most important product, were not even sure when it all began, because nobody is quite sure when Alex Smith received the concussion that eventually put him out of the game, off the field and out of the stadium. Most people thought it was the shot he took from linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar on the first play of the last series of the first quarter, but head coach Jim Harbaugh claimed it happened on a quarterback sneak six plays later.
MAIOCCO: Smith sustained concussion on sneak
But it happened, with the 49ers down 14-0, and Colin Kaepernick sort of rallied the lads to a hard-fought draw that left both sides feeling ... well, pretty damned meh.The players feel like I do, Harbaugh said. They dont know quite how to feel.
RELATED: 49ers not sure how to feel after 24-24 tie
Oh. Okay. Whatever that means. Maybe thats just his version of Sometimes you do both and it ends up in a tie.The 49ers played down to the Rams, that much is clear. But the Rams also played up to the 49ers, so in that way, the NFLs first split pot in 10 years was probably the right result.But that ignores the number of ways the Rams kneed themselves in the groin (never an easy thing to perform), like the 62-yard Danny Amendola punt return that was called back by a Justin Cole illegal block, or the 80-yard Amendola catch and run on the first play of overtime that was called back because Brandon Gibson didnt cover Roger Saffold in the Rams original formation. Or Greg Zuerleins 53-yard field goal in overtime that would have won the game if not for a delay of game call.And it also ignores the ways the 49ers tried to lose control of the game before that, or the missed 41-yard David Akers field goal in overtime, or the two fake punts the 49ers didnt cover that allowed the Rams to extend possessions. Or, frankly, how the loss of Smith probably damaged their offensive cohesion in a game that was much more difficult than they expected it to be.But hey, you still got more useful evidence of the Smith-v.-Kaepernick death struggle youve been itching for all these months. Over the years, Smith has been unencumbered by true competition (with all due respect to Shaun Hill), and now Kaepernick brings a crypto-comeback to the argument.An argument, frankly, that still shouldnt really exist. Smith is still the better of the two for obvious reasons, and Kaepernick showed more with his feet Sunday than with his arm (which is still the major complaint against Smith).But weve never let logic chase us away from a quarterback argument when were spoiling for one. And Kaepernick did say while the result didnt feel very good, I thought I did pretty well.He did throw some smart-looking balls to Michael Crabtree on the 49ers first touchdown. He did hold serve on two long drives, one of 15 plays and 8:34, the other of 11 plays and 6:38. And he did gain 29 of the 63 yards needed to set up Akers game-tying field goal.So yes, he did pretty well, and that will keep the fires of tavern-based shouting burning at least until Smith is cleared to play again. He has protocols to endure and baseline tests to match between now and next Mondays game against Chicago, and between now and the day Smith is cleared, the customers will get the gift that keeps on giving.The Eternal QC. An argument that cant be settled because nobody admits that theyre wrong, and the kind of thing that makes coaches very uncomfortable because it introduces so many unknowns into a world that demands as much certainty as possible.In other words, good times, children. The 49ers are 6-2-1, and the 1 is the biggest game of them all because of the rhetorical bloodsport it has just spawned.In other words, a tie has the area all in knots. How does it get better than that?

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy


Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

Dusty Baker’s face tells a lot of different stories, but there is only one it tells in October.

Disappointment. Deflating, soul-crushing, hopeless disappointment.

With Thursday night’s National League Division Series defeat to the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals have reinforced their place in the panoply of the capital’s legacy of failure.

But Baker’s agonies extend far further. His 3,500 games rank him 15th all-time, and only one manager above him, Gene Mauch, is not in the Hall of Fame. His 105 postseason games ranks seventh all-time, and his nine postseason appearances ranks sixth.

But his postseason record of 44-61 and no World Series titles curse him. He has been on the mailed backhand of eight series losses in 11 tries (plus a play-in game loss in 2013), and been marked by the media-ocracy as an old-school players’ manager who doesn’t wrap himself in the comforting embrace of statistical analysis.

He is now Marv Levy and Don Nelson – the good manager who can’t win the big one.

Only Levy and Nelson are in their respective halls of fame, and Baker probably won’t be. Having no World Series titles (his bullpen dying in 2002 being as close as he ever got) dooms him as it has doomed Mauch, although Mauch made his reputation as a brilliant tactician with bad teams.

But even if you take Baker’s worst metric – the postseason record – he still ranks in the 90th percentile of the 699 managers in the game’s history, though even then there’s the caveat of the 200 some-odd interim managers who you may choose not to count.

This is not to claim he should be in the Hall of Fame. This is to claim he should be discussed, if only to determine if reputations in the postseason are the only way managers are allowed to be evaluated. Because if that’s the case, Dusty Baker’s world-weary October face makes that conversation a very short one.


U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance


U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

So Bruce Arena resigned as the U.S. National soccer team coach Friday. Big damned deal.

Oh, it is to him. He probably liked the job, and might have wanted to keep getting paid.

But whether he’s there or isn’t doesn’t matter. In fact, whether the people who hired him are there or not doesn’t matter either. U.S. Soccer is the definition of sporadic interest and patriotism-fueled frontrunning, of imbedded self-interest and general indolence, all born of inexcusable arrogance.

Bruce Arena didn’t bring that to the job, nor does he remove it by leaving. He’s just another head on a spike, like Jurgen Klinsmann was before him, and Bob Bradley before him.

But that would also be true if the head of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, quit or was fired too. Even the people bleating that the U.S. shamed itself by losing to Trinidad and Tobago display the same kind of blinkered ignorance and arrogance that dogs this sport in America.

Being in CONCACAF is a gift from the heavens, and the U.S. has decided as a national collective to replace that with actual achievement. Beating Germany in friendly is proof of long-term worth. The fact is, we don’t know how to evaluate America’s place in the soccer world except as an audience, let alone how much massive structural change is required to change that.

And change must be massive, and can’t be evaluated by the next cheap win or the next galling loss, or television ratings. America is good at watching soccer, good enough to catch on the actual chasm between its national team and development structure.

But that’s where it ends, because knowing what’s bad because you just watched it, or what is actually good (like, say, a UEFA or CONMEBOL qualifier) is light years from knowing how to fix a system built on the flawed concepts of work rate without creativity and money as a solution to crippling organizational problems.

So Bruce Arena does the decent thing given the circumstances, falling on a sword that should actually be a kebab skewer. But it makes no difference. The American soccer structure needs to get what it needs before it can get what it wants, and there are no more shortcuts to take in a short-attention-span world.