NaVorro Bowman: Great player robbed of the opportunity to be even more

NaVorro Bowman: Great player robbed of the opportunity to be even more

NaVorro Bowman came, and then he went.

If that seems a cruel way to summarize his career in San Francisco, that’s because football is a cruel game in the best of times, and when your boss changes, all the good will you may have assembled for yourself matters as much as a broken printer.

It is simply the nature of a very vicious beast.

Bowman was released by the San Francisco 49ers seemingly hours after the team cursorily explored trade possibilities for the once-great linebacker.

And with all due respect to the sentimentalists among you, this move was inevitable; if it wasn’t today, it would have been on January 2, two days after the end of the season. Bowman shone brightest on Jim Harbaugh’s watch, three coaches ago, and neither Kyle Shanahan nor John Lynch is married in any way to any part of the 49ers’ past.

That’s why they were hired. That’s why they got six-year deals. They were mandated to change the franchise on the football level, and you don’t have to tell the leaders of a new regime twice that the icons of the old regime have no special pride of place.

Bowman is one of the truly unlucky great players here – an All-Pro-level player until his torn Achilles tendon in 2016. The only thing that happened to him was he lost the speed and lateral movement that made him great, and neutralized his in-game knowledge because his body sometimes wouldn’t always let him capitalize on it.

But in a violent and sentiment-free business, luck often plays an outsized role in a man’s career. Had he survived the Achilles injury, he might have continued on his path toward Canton, but that atop his torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in 2013 rendered him expendable in a new world order.

And with that, he was expended Friday – swiftly and, from the outside at least, harshly. But nothing says the football business quite like swiftness and harshness. That, if anything, is NaVorro Bowman’s story in San Francisco – a great player robbed of the opportunity to be even more.

Former 49ers lineman Keith Fahnhorst, 66, passes away


Former 49ers lineman Keith Fahnhorst, 66, passes away

Keith Fahnhorst, who played 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and started on two Super Bowl-winning teams, died on Tuesday. He was 66.

Fahnhorst was among a large group of players from the 49ers’ first Super Bowl championship team that gathered at Levi’s Stadium in October in a celebration of Dwight Clark. Fahnhorst and Clark were teammates for the 49ers’ Super Bowl-titlle teams of 1981 and 1984. Clark passed away on June 6 from ALS.

Fahnhorst, who was in a wheelchair during his trip to the Bay Area last season, battled many physical ailments since his career ended in 1987. He was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and underwent a kidney transplant in 2002. Fahnhorst was also later diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

A second-round draft pick of the 49ers in 1974 from the University of Minnesota, Fahnhorst was a mainstay at right tackle as the organization struggled in the mid-to-late 1970s, then found success in the 1980s under coach Bill Walsh.

“Everybody knew they could count on Keith,” Walsh said in the 2005 book, “San Francisco 49ers: Where Have Gone?”

Fahnhorst appeared in 193 regular-season games, ranking behind only Len Rohde among offensive linemen in 49ers history. He started 170 games, including all 10 postseason games in which he appeared. He was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team and was selected as a first-team All-Pro after the 1984 season. He was a two-time winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award for best representing the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the longtime 49ers offensive line coach.

Keith Fahnhorst and his younger brother, Jim, were 49ers teammates for the final four years of Keith’s career. Jim Fahnhorst, a linebacker, played for the 49ers from 1984 to 1990. Neither Keith nor Jim Fahnhorst played for any NFL team other than the 49ers.

Jimmy Garoppolo focuses on 49ers' red-zone efficiency

Jimmy Garoppolo focuses on 49ers' red-zone efficiency

SANTA CLARA – In Jimmy Garoppolo’s first three starts last season, the 49ers’ won games in spite of a lousy red-zone offense.

The 49ers were 0-for-5 in converting possessions inside the Chicago Bears’ 20-yards line into touchdowns. They were 2-for-4 against the Houston Texans, and just 1-of-4 against the Tennessee Titans.

That would explain why Garoppolo singled out the team’s red-zone offense as an area he would like to see the team continue to improve.

“I think a big part for us, as a whole, offensively is just finishing in the end zone,” Garoppolo said Wednesday on the final day of the team’s offseason program.

“Last year we got stopped short a couple of times, more than we’d like to. And I think we’ve done a good job in OTAs and minicamp of finishing in the end zone, for the most part. Finishing drives and stuff like that.”

The 49ers finished the season strong in the red zone, converting 11 of their red-zone trips into eight touchdowns in games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams.

In 24 red-zone trips in the five games Garoppolo started, the 49ers scored 11 touchdowns and settled for 12 field goals. He also threw one interception. Garoppolo said the 49ers have enough weapons in the passing game to account for the added difficulty of scoring on those possessions.

“Those are point plays,” Garoppolo said. “They’re either seven-point plays or three-point plays. You know what I mean? Those are the ones that really matter.

The competition between offense and defense has led to some spirited matchups in practices. Garoppolo has routinely looked to tight ends George Kittle and team favorite Garrett Celek to get the touchdown celebrations going.

“It’s hard to complete touchdowns, especially in the red zone like that,” Garoppolo said. “Windows are tighter. Not as much room. So especially when Celek gets one, it gets everyone going.”