NFL

Ken Norton Jr. leaving 49ers after just one week for DC job

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AP

Ken Norton Jr. leaving 49ers after just one week for DC job

Ken Norton Jr.'s stay with the 49ers lasted about one week.

Last Monday, the 49ers hired Norton as the assistant head coach -  defense/inside linebackers. But now, he's going to exercise an opt-out in his contract in order to return to the Seahawks to become the defensive coordinator.

Originally reported by the NFL Network and KING 5 News in Seattle, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area the news that Norton was given permission to leave.

"Last week, Ken was presented with an opportunity to once again coordinate a defense. Because of how we feel about Ken as a coach, we understand and respect his desire to pursue the position," Shanahan said.

Serving as Jack Del Rio's defensive coordinator in Oakland, Norton was fired by the Raiders on Nov. 21. Norton coached the Seattle linebackers from 2010 through 2014.

This past week, Norton sat down with NBC Sports Bay Area to discuss his relationship with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and shared his thoughts on Reuben Foster.

Bortles the worst QB in the NFL? Yeah, he doesn't care

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AP

Bortles the worst QB in the NFL? Yeah, he doesn't care

Blake Bortles of America’s Jaguars represents something new and dangerous in American sports, and no, it isn’t because he is the national punch line who punches back.

Rather, the Jacksonville quarterback who is preparing for the AFC Championship Game against the New England Monolith, is dangerous because he seems genuinely not to care at all that he is routinely savaged as the worst quarterback in the National Football League. Not just passive-aggressively so, but actually and completely.

Have you any idea what this does to the smack-talking industry? If this catches on, our generation of semi-malevolent athletic parrots are stuck without a reason to talk that trash.

Of course, Bortles is unusual in this regard, in that he has been mean-mouthed not just by players but by regular citizens. He has been used as a prop for the Why-Isn’t-Colin-Kaepernick-Working movement, he has been compared unkindly to Ty Detmer, the previous low water mark in championship-level quarterbacks, and essentially disparaged almost universally.

Put another way, a case can be made that he has been savaged in his idiom as aggressively as the President.

And what does he do? Well, win, sure, but he has help, as all quarterbacks do. We always seem to forget that in our only-one-position-matters depth of understanding about the sport.

No, what he does is say with all sincerity that he doesn’t care one way or another, and that he never claps back at anyone for their more pointed views re: his skill set. If this is so, he is not only the owner of a rhinoceros hide, but he may be the living embodiment of a movement toward, “Oh, I suck? Yeah, okay, whatever. You’re probably right. You have yourself a good day.”

Andrew Luck does that after receiving a big hit. Bortles seems to do it on command, and if this is the future of sports in America, we are heading for a fascinating new world of relative silence.

But we know better. Bortles is an outlier, again, and this will not catch on. There’s no putting the mess-talk back in the tube. But if it helps, Bortles has another round of grief awaiting him this week as he is compared to Tom Brady . . . as a compost heap is compared to the Taj Mahal.

Only with more F-bombs.

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

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AP

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

Jon Gruden asked to speak with Marshawn Lynch several times but got turned down.

His job title earned an automatic veto. The enigmatic running back doesn’t talk to the press, even a Monday Night Football analyst with Gruden’s street cred. No production meetings, no insight flowing outside the inner circle.

Lynch must honor the next request. Gruden’s his boss, after all.

“I’m anxious to sit down with Marshawn and meet him,” the new Raiders head coach said Tuesday during his introductory press conference. “We’ll talk about his future and the Raiders. I can’t wait. He came back to the Raiders for similar, I think, reasons that I did. I think he loves Oakland. I think he loves the Raiders and guys like him interest me, so I’m looking forward to talking to him.”

The veteran running back and Oakland native has a year left on a two-year deal struck last April. The 2018 payouts, per overthecap.com, include a $4 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus, a $1 million roster bonus and $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses. There are also significant performance-based incentives.

Marshawn is under contract, but also has some say in this matter. He could post an image of cleats hanging on a telephone wire like he did after the 2016 Super Bowl and call it a career. Lynch made it clear in a rare press conference that he didn’t miss football. He returned for the opportunity to play in front of a East Bay community he champions and bring attention to his significant charitable efforts.

There are several possible outcomes from the Gruden/Lynch tete-a-tete. Gruden might not consider him worth the while. Lynch may walk away, for good this time. Or, the two could traverse 2018 together.

Predicting Marshawn’s movements is a fool’s errand. We can, however, make an educated pros and cons list. Let’s take a look at some factors influencing the ultimate outcome.

PROS

-- The phrase in Gruden’s last sentence above may have tipped his hand: “Guys like him interest me.” Lynch is an intense presence, one of his generation’s most physical runners. Gruden can use on-field talents like him, though it’s uncertain whether he’s a perfect fit in an offense that has certainly evolved during nine years in the broadcast booth.

Also, Gruden loves Oakland. Lynch loves Oakland. That may be a good starting point.

-- Marshawn still has it. The 31-year old was the Raiders’ most productive skill player in 2017’s second half. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the last season games, totaling 625 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He also had at least 92 yards total offense in five of those contests. When he’s motivated and healthy – he didn’t miss a single practice with injury – Lynch can be a force on the ground

-- Gruden reportedly hired Tom Cable as offensive line coach a few days back. That’s probably a plus from Lynch’s perspective. Cable was Seattle offensive line coach, and heavily involved in the running game, during Lynch’s best seasons. He ran a system that fit Lynch well, though Gruden said schemes will be based around team strengths. Lynch and Cable reportedly get along well, and could be a major reason why Lynch finds it appetizing to return.

-- Lynch carried locker room clout. Last year’s coaching staff didn’t love him, but player certainly did.

CONS

-- Lynch comes with some baggage. He’s an eccentric sort who does his own thing, at times without regard for small rules. That may rub Gruden and staff the wrong way. It certainly bothered Del Rio’s crew, especially when he seemed to have his own set of rules.

The Raiders tolerated Lynch’s choice to sit during the national anthem all year, despite being vocal against such actions the year before. He also had a production crew following him around quite often, especially in camp.

He got suspended for sticking up for the other team in Week 7, protecting great friend, Oakland native and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters in an on-field altercation. He then practiced with his old high school during the suspension.

Gruden may not love the prospect of dealing with extra weight, depending on how strict he plans to be during this coaching tenure.

-- Lynch turns 32 in April. While Lynch might be an exception, running backs often fall off a production cliff in their early 30s. Can the Raiders get good value from Lynch at that age, knowing full well another running back might be added to the roster?

-- Lynch may simply not be into another year in Oakland. He enjoyed taking 2016 off, travelling the world and increasing charitable and business endeavors. Is his drive still strong?