49ers

Watch how 49ers have unleashed Deebo Samuel perfectly with this run play

Watch how 49ers have unleashed Deebo Samuel perfectly with this run play

Now that the 49ers have gone from 12 losses last season to Super Bowl LIV in Miami, it's time for some reflection. This franchise essentially has pulled a complete 180-degree turn in one calendar year. 

One year ago, the 49ers were in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl as San Francisco held the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Kyle Shanahan was coaching the South squad in the Senior Bowl while general manager John Lynch had his eyes all over the talent of the showcase. 

The 49ers embraced the mantra "Mobile to Miami," looking to go from the top of the draft to the top of the league. There in Mobile, they also coached Deebo Samuel all week and played against linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Samuel has turned into a dangerous weapon in Shanahan's offense while Greenlaw's game-saving tackle against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17 won the 49ers the NFC West and was a huge key to them reaching the Super Bowl. 

Samuel, a receiver out of South Carolina, impressed teams all week in practice, putting himself high on the 49ers' draft big board. 

And while the rookie has been one of the 49ers' top receivers this season, Shanahan has unleashed Samuel with a devastating run play in recent weeks. Since Week 14, San Francisco has given the ball to Samuel with this run play and it has resulted in 31 yards per carry. 

This is Example A of Shanahan's brilliant blocking schemes. He uses a fake counter to running back Raheem Mostert while Samuel comes around for a handoff. The key is the lead blocker, though. In the first case, tight end George Kittle spins back around and clears the way for the rookie. 

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk takes Kittle's place in the next two instances and is a devastating blocker down field. 

The first play shown came in Week 14 against the Saints with 4:22 left in the 49ers' 48-46 win. San Francisco led 42-40 at the time and Samuel ran down the left sideline for 31 yards. Two minutes later, a Robbie Gould field goal put the 49ers up by five points. 

Samuel scored a key 30-yard touchdown on the run against the Seahawks and rushed for 32 yards on the play in the NFC Championship Game, two plays before a Mostert TD. The run call has gone for 93 yards on three carries. 

Samuel finished the regular season with 159 yards rushing and three TDs while averaging 11.4 yards per carry. In two playoff games, he has three carries for 49 yards -- good for 16.3 yards per carry. 

Over his four seasons at South Carolina, the stout 5-foot-11, 215-pound Samuel, ran the ball 25 times and scored seven touchdowns. He reached the end zone every 3.6 carries. 

[RELATED: Sanders offers advice to 49ers playing in first Super Bowl]

Shanahan has optimized Samuel's skill set throughout the receiver's first season as a pro. Including the playoffs, Samuel has totaled 1,098 yards in 17 games -- 890 receiving and 208 rushing. When the 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, Samuel certainly will be used in multiple ways to get the ball in the playmaker's hands. 

What started in Mobile could end with the 49ers hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Miami.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

How George Kittle's 49ers contract hurts another NFC contender's future

How George Kittle's 49ers contract hurts another NFC contender's future

Much like 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz's top receiving threat on the Philadelphia Eagles happens to be a tight end. But while the former two got great news Thursday with the announcement of George Kittle's and Travis Kelce's respective contract extensions, the latter's future outlook became even darker than it was before.

At this point, it's very difficult to see how Wentz will have Zach Ertz to throw to beyond this coming season. And even if he does, that likely means the Eagles won't be competitive to begin with.

Kittle and Kelce unquestionably are the two premier tight ends in the league -- in that order -- and they're now paid accordingly with the two highest annual salaries ever at the position. There's a shortlist of players in discussion for the next-best tight end in the NFL, and Ertz is on it.

Like Kittle and Kelce prior to signing their extensions, Ertz is under contract beyond the upcoming season. And like Kittle and Kelce rightfully were, he reportedly is seeking a raise commensurate with his production.

However, that's unlikely to come from Philadelphia. The Eagles already were going to be in salary-cap hell next season, and that was before Kittle and Kelce obliterated the previous tight end market.

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

The Eagles currently are projected to have over $262 million in cap liabilities for next season. Last month, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed that the 2021 salary cap wouldn't drop any lower than $175 million due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But regardless of whether the 2021 cap decreases or remains flat at $198 million, Philadelphia is going to have to cut costs to a significant degree.

Though Ertz carries a $12.4 million cap hit in 2021 in the final season of his current contract, he already seemed to be one of the most likely candidates to be cut by the Eagles, as doing so would create an additional $4.7 million in cap space. Not to mention, they already have a younger, cheaper and arguably better tight end in Dallas Goedert who makes Ertz somewhat redundant.

Assuming the Eagles actually do sign Ertz to an extension, though, that would in all likelihood increase their 2021 cap liabilities and remove their ability to create immediate cap space by cutting him. They're already going to have to part ways with some of the best players on their roster, and signing Ertz to the kind of deal he is looking for would further deplete their depth.

[RELATED: Kittle's record 49ers contract still a huge steal]

Now, the Eagles definitely could lower their 2021 cap liabilities with some creative maneuvering. Look no further than the Chiefs, who managed to sign Mahomes, Kelce and star defensive tackle Chris Jones to humongous contract extensions this offseason despite having exactly $171 in total cap space on March 30. That said, Kansas City was nowhere close to the kind of 2021 cap trouble that Philadelphia already finds itself in, and no matter how creative the Eagles get, it's not going to change the reality of the situation.

That reality would appear to be quite dark whether or not they keep Ertz around.

Tom Brady told Joe Montana Patriots didn't value input enough to stay

Tom Brady told Joe Montana Patriots didn't value input enough to stay

Perhaps nobody can relate to Tom Brady better than Joe Montana.

That might be as weird for Brady to read as it was seeing Montana play for Kansas City, considering Brady, a San Mateo native, grew up idolizing the Hall of Fame quarterback and rooting for the 49ers. But Brady has supplanted Dan Marino as sports radio callers' alternative to Montana in age-old "Which QB is better?" debates, and arguably has surpassed Montana as the greatest quarterback ever.

Brady, like Montana, will begin the twilight of his career in a uniform other than the one most associated with his journey to greatness. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency after spending two decades with the New England Patriots, and Brady told Montana he didn't think his input was valued enough by the Patriots.

"I think that was one of his beefs up there," Montana recalled to USA Today Sports' Mackenzie Salmon in an interview published Wednesday. "He told me, 'They ask my advice, I tell them and then they don't take it.' So, I think he would like a little bit of input and I think they'll probably let him have that, especially with the success he's had."

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

Montana's two-season tenure with Kansas City is a blip on the NFL's historical record, but he wasn't a bust. Before Patrick Mahomes led the team to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances during the 2018 and '19 seasons (as well as a win in Super Bowl LIV), Montana was the only QB to lead Kansas City to an AFC Championship Game appearance since the first moon landing. Were it not for a concussion in the '93 conference championship, Montana might've helped Kansas City end its Super Bowl drought a quarter-century before Mahomes did. 

The Buccaneers would almost certainly take that, considering the franchise's anonymity since winning Super Bowl XXXVII. Montana thinks trading Foxboro's frigid winters for Tampa will do wonders for Brady's psyche.

"I think he's gonna have fun," Montana said. "He'll be in a better place for him mentally, he'll be happier and if you look at what they did offensively last year, they threw up some crazy numbers. So you add Tom into the mix and the big knucklehead tight end (Rob Gronkowski), and they'll be fun to watch."

[RELATED: Why Kittle's record 49ers contract still is a huge steal]

Brady, 45, is signed for as many years with Tampa Bay as Montana played with Kansas City. He already has two more Super Bowl rings (six) than his idol, and Brady will aim to top Montana once again by doing what he couldn't and winning a title with a second franchise.

If that happens, Brady and Montana might not end up with much left to relate to after all.