Pro Bowl: George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk to represent 49ers in Orlando


Pro Bowl: George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk to represent 49ers in Orlando

Tight end George Kittle’s breakout season landed him a spot in the Pro Bowl.

Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk were the only 49ers named to the Pro Bowl team. Juszczyk is a starter, while Kittle is a reserve.

Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, kicker Robbie Gould and special teams player Mark Nzeocha were selected as Pro Bowl alternates. Buckner is the 49ers' only first alternate, a league source told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kittle, a fifth-round 2017 draft pick from Iowa, earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after being the 49ers’ top offensive player through 14 games. With 72 receptions for 1,154 yards and four touchdowns, Kittle has already set the 49ers’ club record for receiving yards from a tight end.

Juszczyk, a sixth-year pro, made the Pro Bowl for the third time. He made the all-star team in his final season with the Baltimore Ravens and his first two with the 49ers. He has caught 29 passes for 309 yards, while carrying six times for 21 yards.

Buckner is putting together his best season of his three-year career, but it was not good enough to be selected to the Pro Bowl when the team was announced on Tuesday. His 11 sacks are a career-high, and the most for a 49ers player since Aldon Smith recorded 19.5 sacks in 2012. Aaron Donald (Rams), Fletcher Cox (Eagles) and Akiem Hicks (Bears) made the NFC team at defensive tackle. If any of those players does not attend, Buckner would be invited to participate in his first Pro Bowl.

[RELATED: Buckner's 11 sacks puts him in elite 49ers company]

Gould, 36, has made the Pro Bowl once in his career. Earlier this season, he set the 49ers’ record for most consecutive made field goals with 33. He has risen to No. 2 all-time in NFL history field goal accuracy at 87.62 percent. Baltimore's Justin Tucker leads at 90.55 percent.

Nzeocha was the top vote-getter among fans, as his native Germany turned out in high numbers to support him. Fan voting counts one-third toward selection into the Pro Bowl, with players and coaches consisting of the remaining two-thirds.

Left tackle Joe Staley -- who made the Pro Bowl six of the past seven seasons -- and four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman were not selected.

The Pro Bowl will be held Jan. 27, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

49ers' Kyle Shanahan ranked as 23rd-best veteran head coach by NFL.com


49ers' Kyle Shanahan ranked as 23rd-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

The first two years of 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan's tenure has been light on wins, yet expectations remain high. 

San Francisco was 10-22 in Shanahan's first two seasons at the helm, searching for a quarterback before acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017 and scrambling to replace him after he tore his ACL last year. There have been some promising moments, but not enough to move the 49ers out of the top 10 of the NFL draft in either of the last two years. 

Because of that, NFL.com's Elliot Harrison ranked Shanahan 23rd out of the 26 returning NFL head coaches. 

This might not be a fair ranking for a guy who kept the 49ers competitive in the second half of the season while having to play musical chairs at quarterback," Harrison wrote. "The problem here is that Shanahan hasn't really accomplished anything yet as a head coach, which makes the criteria for evaluating his performance somewhat narrow."

To his credit, Shanahan coached up two rosters short on talent. The 49ers finished in the top half of the league in total offense in each of the last two seasons, despite Garoppolo only making eight starts. 

But the 49ers have not had the same success on defense, and heavily invested on that side of the ball over the offseason. The potential for improvement is there in 2019, but San Francisco enters the year having won fewer than a third of its games under Shanahan.

[RELATED: Why Peter King thinks Jimmy G is key to 49ers' playoff hopes]

"That [10-22] record isn't masked by the obvious upside of the roster, or the potential many see in Shanahan," Harrison continued. " ... Shanahan seems to be a good communicator, and is both confident and comfortable with himself. Whether that will translate into contention in the NFC West remains to be seen."

A 2019 turnaround should move Shanahan up Harrison's rankings. After his first two seasons coaching the 49ers, there isn't much room anywhere else. 

Jimmy Garoppolo calls learning from Tom Brady on Patriots 'invaluable'


Jimmy Garoppolo calls learning from Tom Brady on Patriots 'invaluable'

Jimmy Garoppolo spent three-and-a-half seasons as Tom Brady's backup quarterback in New England. Over that span, the 49ers' current QB appeared in only 17 games, starting two. 

Still, he learned plenty behind the six-time Super Bowl winner. 

More than anything, Garoppolo witnessed the immense amount of preparation Brady put into his game every day.  Garoppolo recently told The Ringer's Kevin Clark that it was "invaluable" to watch the legendary signal-caller as his backup.

"I can barely put it into words. What you learn is playing the game within the game, that’s a big part of Tom," Garoppolo said. "I don’t even know if he told me that [directly], but he would always talk about the game within the game." 

The story has been told time and time again. Brady beat the odds years ago as a sixth-round draft pick who ran the 40-yard dash in quicksand. Garoppolo emphasized that sweating the small stuff made Brady a Patriots legend and an all-time great. 

"The little details and how he ties them all together -- that’s what separates you," Garoppolo said. 

[RELATED: Why Peter King thinks Jimmy G is key to 49ers' playoff hopes]

The two QBs have remained friends after Garoppolo was traded to the 49ers on Halloween in 2017. They were even seen together at the Kentucky Derby this year.

As much knowledge as Garoppolo soaked up from Brady, the 49ers hope it shows in a healthy year this season.