49ers

49ers mailbag: Could co-coordinators ease Kyle Shanahan's workload?

49ers mailbag: Could co-coordinators ease Kyle Shanahan's workload?

It has been two weeks since the 49ers’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. That’s more than enough time to turn the page and look ahead.

So that’s what we’re doing -- with the help from some of our Twitter friends. Here is the first offseason edition of the 49ers Mailbag.

Kyle Shanahan is one of the best play-callers in the NFL. I don’t think there’s even a question about that. Is there? So I can’t envision any scenario in which Shanahan stops doing the thing he does best.

Shanahan certainly believes McDaniel and LaFleur are ready to call plays. McDaniel and LaFleur are, in essence, co-offensive coordinators. They are responsible for putting together the first components of the weekly game plan.

Through the first three seasons together with the 49ers, they have found a pretty good rhythm together and Shanahan finds himself placing more trust in them. What they’re doing is working.

If the 49ers have the $19 million-plus in cap room to devote to a franchise tag for Arik Armstead, then I think they could work out a long-term deal that would work for both sides.

As for the question about a tag-and-trade, I’m sure you’re thinking about how the Kansas City Chiefs tagged Dee Ford a year ago and, then, traded him to the 49ers. In that instance, the Chiefs had Frank Clark on the line, so that made sense.

In this case, I don’t think there’s anyone who plays Armstead’s position they would prefer over him. Armstead is exactly what the 49ers need: A defensive end on base downs who moves inside next to DeForest Buckner to rush the passer in nickel situations.

There is no need for the 49ers to do anything with Thomas, except work with him to continue to improve and become more valuable as a rotational player on the defensive line. The 49ers certainly will not pick up the fifth-year option on Thomas for the 2021 season. But with Thomas’ rookie contract guaranteed, there is no cap advantage in parting ways with him this year.

Regardless, Thomas should have a significant role next season. But if for whatever reason Armstead is not back, Thomas has a strong chance to be a starter.

The possibility of recouping a draft pick is part of the reason the 49ers felt compelled to make the trade in the first place. In my opinion, they would have preferred Mohamed Sanu, who was under contract through the 2020 season. But the Patriots offered the Atlanta Falcons a second-round draft pick, and the 49ers did not have a second-round pick after dealing it to Kansas City for Dee Ford.

Instead, the 49ers acquired Sanders and a fifth-round pick from Denver in return for third- and fourth-round draft picks. The 49ers do not figure to be active with veteran acquisitions on the free-agent market this offseason, so it is likely the 49ers have more losses than gains. If Sanders is a loss, the 49ers would stand a good chance of picking up a compensatory pick for the 2021 draft.

https://twitter.com/TotalNiners/status/1228757081974546434

Get stronger. Work. Work. Work.

Pettis had a good offseason program a year ago, but he was not the same player when he came back for training camp. Other receivers on the team came back stronger at the opening of camp. Pettis did not. That is why Pettis struggled and fell out of favor to the point he rarely played in the second half of the season.

Pettis needs to take it up another few notches to get stronger and avoid the nagging injuries that also set him back last season. Pettis has more ability than almost anyone on the team to run some of Shanahan’s favorite routes. He will have an opportunity to prove himself in the offseason and training camp this year.

If Jalen Hurd and Pettis are both healthy, I think the answer is Hurd. The reason is because of his size and his unique skill set.

I envision Hurd being a big part of the 49ers’ two-minute offense because of his versatility. The 49ers can line him up anywhere in the formation, including running back. That puts the onus on the defense to figure out how they want to treat him. Is he a runner, wide receiver or tight end? Then, based on the defensive personnel, the 49ers can exploit those weaknesses.

[RELATED: Juice sick of Jimmy G, Shanahan criticism after Super Bowl]

The draft takes place more than a month after free agency. So the answer to this question could change, based on what the 49ers’ roster looks like at the time of the draft. But, right now, if the 49ers hold onto the No. 31 overall pick, the team can choose among the best available wide receiver, cornerback or defensive lineman.

There are two ways to look at this. But if there’s a team willing to move up to No. 31 overall, then that is the default move. It would make a lot of sense to sit out the first round of the draft to come away with multiple picks on Day 2.

But if there is someone at No. 31 with whom the organization has fallen in love, then they should take that player. The advantage of holding onto the first-round draft pick is that the 49ers would control the contract rights to the player for five years, instead of four.

Vikings should sign Colin Kaepernick to contract, ex-NFL exec believes

Vikings should sign Colin Kaepernick to contract, ex-NFL exec believes

With the recent events in Minnesota, Louisville and other parts of the United States, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is back in the news.

It has become clear that Kaepernick's message from his protests during the national anthem in 2017 NFL season didn't take hold.

The deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis this week, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville in March have led to protests all over the country.

In a column posted Saturday, former NFL executive Joe Lockhart and current CNN political analyst Joe Lockhart said the league attempted to convince teams to sign Kaepernick in 2017 and 2018, and he felt they had "done a righteous job."

Based on the events in Minnesota this week, Lockhart now realizes how wrong he was.

In an attempt to right a wrong, Lockhart believes the Minnesota Vikings should sign Kaepernick to a contract and give him a legitimate chance to compete for the back-up quarterback spot in training camp.

"The situation in Minnesota right now offers a unique opportunity to deal with the symbols of racial injustice," Lockhart wrote. "As a small, but important step, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi and Mark Wilf, can send a strong message by offering Colin Kaepernick a contract to play with the Vikings. Bring him into camp, treat him like any of the other players given a chance to play the game they love.

"It will not solve the problem of blacks and police violence. But it will recognize the problem that Kaepernick powerfully raised, and perhaps show that, with courage, real progress can be made."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since 2016 and opted out of his contract in March of 2017 after the 49ers told him they planned to release him.

Last year, Kaepernick worked out in Atlanta, but no NFL team signed him.

While Kaepernick is arguably more talented than most back-up quarterbacks and even a few starters, he has remained unsigned since leaving the 49ers. Lockhart claims NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spent a lot of time "prodding and pushing" teams to sign the former second-round pick. No one followed through, and Lockhart explained why.

"But for many owners it always came back to the same thing," Lockhart wrote. "Signing Kaepernick, they thought, was bad for business. An executive from one team that considered signing Kaepernick told me the team projected losing 20 [percent] of their season ticket holders if they did. That was a business risk no team was willing to take, whether the owner was a Trump supporter or a bleeding-heart liberal (yes, those do exist). As bad of an image problem it presented for the league and the game, no owner was willing to put the business at risk over this issue."

[RELATED: NFL briefly lists Kap as 'retired']

The only way Lockhart's suggestion can work is if the Vikings give Kaepernick a real shot to compete to be Kirk Cousins' back-up. Even though he hasn't played the last three NFL seasons, Kaepernick has more natural talent than Jake Browning, Sean Mannion and Nate Stanley, the three other quarterbacks on the Vikings' roster.

Kaepernick deserves another shot to play in the NFL. If the Vikings want to make that happen, great. But it cannot be a PR move.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Examining 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo's case as NFC West's most clutch

Examining 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo's case as NFC West's most clutch

Jimmy Garoppolo’s play as the 49ers quarterback has been hyper-analyzed over the past two seasons, as fans try to decide whether the organization indeed has found its franchise quarterback.

Winning certainly hasn’t been an issue for Garoppolo in the Bay Area, as he’s been the victor in 21 of his 26 regular-season starts.

His play in the fourth quarter was particularly impressive during his first full season as a starting quarterback, as evidenced by the numbers.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Solely based off those stats, the argument could be made as to Jimmy G being considered a clutch quarterback.

But how does his fourth-quarter play stack up with his three opposing starters in the NFC West?

Garoppolo’s fourth-quarter passer rating (107.1) far surpasses that of Jared Goff with the Los Angeles Rams (79.7), Kyler Murray with the Arizona Cardinals (82.2) and Seattle Seahawks signal-caller Russell Wilson (99.4). The 49ers’ propensity for being ahead late in games last season allowed Garoppolo to hand the ball plenty in the final quarter, but close games in New Orleans in Week 14 and against the Rams in Week 16 showed that Jimmy G can make plays when it counts.

Garoppolo’s touchdown-to-interception ratio (6-1) only is bested by Wilson (7-1), who is one of the league’s best when it comes to limiting turnovers. Garoppolo also paces the division’s QBs in fourth-quarter completion percentage (70.09).

[RELATED: Jimmy Garoppolo absorbs Joe Montana's wisdom about winning]

Having one of the league’s best defenses on his side makes Garoppolo’s job immensely easier, as coach Kyle Shanahan rarely had to rely on passing the ball to win games. Goff and Murray played quite a bit from behind in 2019, which was a detriment to their efficiency. 

Wilson’s late-game heroics are a focal point of his reputation around the NFL, as 49ers fans saw first-hand during last year’s Week 10 loss to the Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium. But Wilson had a completion percentage below 50 in the red zone last season, where efficiency becomes even more imperative for a QB. Jimmy G was at just over 63 percent in the same zone, throwing 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

While Wilson clearly stands alone as the NFC West’s best quarterback entering 2020, Jimmy G and his clutch play in the final minutes aren’t far behind.