49ers, Raiders succeeding at not entertaining, failing at everything else


49ers, Raiders succeeding at not entertaining, failing at everything else

A lot of fun/weird things happened in the National Football League on Sunday, which is why the sport, for its many flaws, still owns the sports business in this country.

But none of those things happened to the Oakland Raiders or San Francisco 49ers, and they certainly didn’t happen for them.

On a day when NFL Red Zone got whiplash, when Odell Beckham and Graham Gano and Greg Joseph and Linval Joseph and Isaiah Crowell and Pat Shurmur and Sean McVay and Jason Garrett and Trent Dilfer and Blake Bortles and Patrick Mahomes all grabbed your brains and faces for different reasons, the Raiders and 49ers did remarkably little to leave an imprint anywhere except at the bottom of their separate corners of the standings block.

They lost comfortably to flawed teams before acres of empty seats, and here were the highlights:

-- Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw an interception on first-and-goal from the Los Angeles Chargers' 1-yard line, advancing his rep as the best thing that ever happened to the defensive secondary. He's on a pace to be the first quarterback to average two picks per game since Vinny Testaverde did it in 1988 for a 5-11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.

-- Cardinals rookie Josh Rosen threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to a scandalously uncovered Christian Kirk on Arizona’s first -- and only -- offensive play.

The rest of both games were turgid slogs in the sun that served only to remind the winners that they can’t be bad all the time and the losers that bottom has not yet been reached, even though they can see it from where they are.

Raiders fans suspected this would be their future the day Jon Gruden traded edge rusher Khalil Mack, but doubled down on the feeling when he decided as Pete Carroll did on a much larger stage that Marshawn Lynch cannot be trusted to get one tough yard when all he’s ever done his entire career is get tough yards, most recently a week ago.

And 49ers fans suspected this would be their future when the idealized version of Jimmy Garoppolo stepped wrong in Kansas City. Oh, they tried to take the cheerful road about C.J. Beathard and his toughness and how the team could thrive with him as quarterback when in fact Beathard’s insistence on defying the pressures of the pocket and his essential role as a backup quarterback on a rebuilding team leads to games like Sunday’s.

Either way, neither team was competitive in seemingly winnable games, and they certainly weren’t memorable or even conversation-worthy.

And while losing is the worst thing, losing and not covering only makes it worse, and not being interesting in defeat is the condiment that ruins the entire meal. 

Sunday was, in short, a thoroughly wasted day in what is looking more and more like a wasted year for the NFL’s designated representatives in our area. Neither team escaped the orbit of tedium, and both head on the road for what we can only imagine will be more of the same. The 49ers face a doubly angry Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, while the Raiders go to London to play Seattle and plan to maximize jet lag by staying in the Bay Area through Thursday.

In other words, our part of the NFL diaspora is an indistinct and spreading gray smear through four weeks, and it isn’t likely to get much better in the near term. Failure to succeed happens every year to 20 teams, 31 if you’re the win-or-die type, but failure to entertain is a lot harder to endure. Whatever else can be said about the 49ers and Raiders after five weeks, at least they haven’t been captivating.

Roger Goodell says NFL didn't listen, doesn't mention Colin Kaepernick

Roger Goodell says NFL didn't listen, doesn't mention Colin Kaepernick

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted Friday that the league was wrong for "not listening to NFL players earlier" and that they "encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," but his 81-second video didn't mention former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick first sat, then kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before games in the 2016 season to protest police brutality and institutional racism. The QB's protest has recently received renewed attention, as demonstrations against the same issues spring up around the globe following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, in Minneapolis police custody last Monday.

"We, the [NFL], believe black lives matter," Goodell said Friday. "I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no [NFL] and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.

"We are listening. I am listening. And I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and move forward for a better, more united NFL family."

The commissioner's comments came shortly after the league shared a video of players asking for the NFL to "listen" and admit they were "wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting." Multiple players, including star New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, first shared the video Thursday.

"We will not be silenced," the players said. "We assert our right to peacefully protest."

Protests have taken place nationwide in each of the 10 nights following Floyd's death prior to this story's publication. Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe as Derek Chauvin, a since-fired officer who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. The 46-year-old's death occurred within months of Breonna Taylor, 26, and Ahmaud Arbery, 25, dying, all as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disproportionately affect African Americans. Louisville police fatally shot Taylor in her home while reportedly performing a "no-knock" warrant, and two white men allegedly shot and murdered Arbery as he jogged around his Georgia neighborhood.

Demonstrators have taken the streets to protest the same issues Kaepernick highlighted, nearly four years after he first began protesting. Kaepernick, who agreed to kneel during "The Star-Spangled Banner" after consulting with former Seattle Seahawks long-snapper and Green Beret Nate Boyer, faced criticism for disrespecting the American flag and the country's veterans. Goodell said he didn't "necessarily agree with what [Kaepernick was] doing" in his first public comments after Kaepernick's protest.

“We have to choose respectful ways of doing that so that we can achieve the outcomes we ultimately want and do it with the values and ideals that make our country great,” Goodell told The Associated Press on Sept. 7, 2016. “I think it’s important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement; and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.”

Goodell said in 2017 players had a "responsibility" of demonstrating "at the right time and in the right way." The NFL owners approved a national-anthem policy in May 2018 that would've required players to stand on the sideline as "The Star-Spangled Banner" played, but the league and the NFL Players Association announced in July there would be no new policy.

[RELATED: 49ers' Shanahan wants NFL to fix coaching diversity issue]

Kaepernick argued his protest cost him his career in a collusion lawsuit he settled with the league last February. The quarterback opted out of his contract ahead of the 2017 season, when the 49ers told him he'd otherwise be released, and has not been signed since. The NFL organized a workout for Kaepernick at the Atlanta Falcons' facility last November, but Kaepernick pulled out of the workout after the league barred media access and his lawyers deemed a liability waiver "unusual."

"I've been ready for three years, and I've been denied for three years," Kaepernick told reporters after moving the workout to a high school outside of Atlanta. "We all know why I came out here and showed it today in front of everybody -- we have nothing to hide. So we're waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running. Stop running from the truth, stop running from the people."

Goodell said in December that the NFL had "moved on" from Kaepernick after he "chose not to take" the opportunity the NFL gave him by moving the workout.

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

49ers' George Kittle reveals which NFL players are toughest to block

49ers' George Kittle reveals which NFL players are toughest to block

George Kittle has never kept his love for run-blocking a secret. Any opportunity to drive a defender into the turf is embraced by the 49ers tight end the same way kids greet the arrival of Christmas morning.

During a recent appearance on the “Bussin’ With The Boys” podcast with fellow NFL players Will Compton and Taylor Lewan, Kittle revealed two blocking assignments he doesn’t exactly live for.

“Khalil Mack’s tough,” Kittle said. “He’s pretty good. (Jadeveon) Clowney is pretty good too.”

Kittle and Mack faced off late in the 2018 season, during a low-scoring dogfight at Levi’s Stadium between the 49ers and Chicago Bears. Mack got three hits in on quarterback Nick Mullens, but didn’t end up with a sack among his five tackles.

[RELATED: Ranking top 49ers plays in franchise's storied history: No. 5-1]

Clowney was a difficult assignment for the Niners in both matchups last season, although Kittle was inactive for the Seattle Seahawks’ win on "Monday Night Football" in Week 10.

The current free agent had six tackles and five QB hits over those two games against San Francisco, not to mention scoring one of his two touchdowns on the season after scooping up a fumble.

Mack and Kittle could face off when the 49ers and Bears meet during the 2020 preseason on Aug. 29, but it remains to be seen where Clowney will wind up signing in free agency. 

Some have even postulated he could be a fit for the 49ers, if no team is willing to meet a reportedly exorbitant asking price.

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