49ers

York takes what-the-hell gamble on tandem of Lynch, Shanahan

York takes what-the-hell gamble on tandem of Lynch, Shanahan

Evidently Brent Musburger’s retirement caused the 49ers to get off the dime on their general manager hire and select former Stanford, Tampa Bay and Denver safety and now former Fox No. 2 analyst John Lynch.

And no, we didn’t skip over any steps. That’s the resume, kids. We’d throw in his front office or coaching experience as well, but he has none. He’s been a player and a broadcaster, and that’s it. Hell, except for the player part, Musburger’s seen more football than Lynch.

And while we’re at it, York jumped over Fox’s analyst hierarchy by not taking it’s No. 1 sidekick, Troy Aikman, instead, so even broadcasters think this is a breach of sanity. The only way he would have been further outside the norm is if he had hired Katie Nolan of Garbage Time, whose resume includes bartender, wit and on-air raconteur, though she might have gone to Jaguars camp one summer.

In short, York went so far out of the box that he didn’t even bother to send away for any boxes at all. Lynch and Kyle Shanahan with their zero games of experience in their present positions here to save the 49ers from their essential . . . uhh, is Yorkery a word?

This is the most bizarre example yet of York’s innate desire to break normal hiring protocols by finding people without typical experience patterns. He apparently distrusts traditional football trees, and likes planting his own untested shrubs instead. So, okay there.

There isn’t even any value in guessing how this will work because frankly, nobody has even the slightest idea. Not any York, not any Marathe, not any pundit, nobody. Not even Mike Shanahan, for whom Lynch once played. And if anyone says they do know, they are lying liars lying for the sake of lying.

What is interesting here, though, is the fact that York and Paraag Marathe thought that experience is so overrated that they decided to opt for none at all in their two most important football jobs. It’s not like they’re so thick in football education that they don’t need all the wisdom they can get in all the positions they have.

Maybe York and Marathe feel their ability to read men’s minds is unparalleled, and then that what they read is readily available to them. That takes a level of bravery that their resumes do not in any way support.

But they did it anyway, and in fairness they could be right where everyone else is wrong. Lynch and Shanahan could be the combination that solves all the evils of this dysfunk-chise. After all, Trent Baalke had only been a pro scout before he got hired, and Jim Harbaugh had only coached college football before he got hired – and that worked harmoniously for about six weeks or so.

So maybe Lynch and Shanahan are just agreeable conversationalists, able to find a comforting chemistry with York and Marathe that they value more than experience. And if that was the litmus test, then any success Lynch and Shanahan have will be very much against the run of logical play.

This, in short, is an amazing gamble that if it goes well is an act of stunning genius (or blind-dog-finds-Westminster Dog Show luck), and if it doesn’t pushes the 49ers another three years behind the relevance curve.

Minimum.

In other words, this is a what-the-hell tandem of hires that may not have any precedent in any sport, save perhaps for an expansion team. This is York the Gambler rearing his head again, the one who went for Chip Kelly after failing with the comforts of Tomsula, and the one who went for Harbaugh after the radical choice of Mike Singletary.

What is more, the 49ers haven’t hired a general manager with any prior NFL executive experience in 16 years, and only one (Bill Walsh) since John McVay retired in 1996. Evidently they don’t believe the job can’t be handled by whomever happens to be handy.

Well, okay then. If he’s right, he’s the smartest guy in football. If he isn’t, or if he is insufficiently patient, then the odd plane over his stadium will become an entire air force, and the Kelly and Tomsula eras will be known as “The Golden Years.”

And people will ask themselves for decades to come why he didn’t see the wisdom in Aikman. Or for that matter, Musburger.

 

49ers' Arik Armstead faces make-or-break stretch after bye week

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AP

49ers' Arik Armstead faces make-or-break stretch after bye week

Editor’s note: The 49ers break for the bye week with a 2-8 record. This is part of a series that recaps the first 10 games with an eye to the future. In this installment, we look at the player whose future with the 49ers could be determined by his play in the final six games.

The 49ers are in search of closers.

Protecting a three-point lead with just under three minutes remaining in regulation on Monday night, the 49ers put the four defensive linemen considered their best pass-rushers onto the field to snuff out quarterback Eli Manning and the New York Giants.

Defensive end Arik Armstead did not play a snap for the remainder of the game. He had a spot on the sideline as a spectator, along with Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft.

“I would have liked to see them in there more on the last drive,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “They didn't get in there enough.”

Thomas is going nowhere after two seasons. But the 49ers have to make a decision with Armstead, who is completing his fourth NFL season.

Armstead was the No. 17 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In April, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option for the 2019 season on Armstead. As a defensive end selected from picks 11 to 32, the option for Armstead is $9.046 million.

But the money does not become fully guaranteed until the start of the 2019 league year in March. Up to that point, the money is guaranteed for injury only. So the 49ers will have a window of more than two months after this season to decide whether Armstead is worth keeping around as the team’s highest-paid defensive player for next season.

[CHAN: Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner lead 49ers' defense through Week 10]

Does Armstead fit the 49ers’ defensive scheme? Does he provide the club with an element that general manager John Lynch cannot get at a less-expensive cost in free agency?

Armstead has already played more games (10) than he did in each of the past two seasons, when he was relegated to just eight and six games in 2016 and 2017 due to shoulder and hand injuries.

Armstead has nine sacks in his 40-game NFL career. On Monday, he was used primarily on run downs.

He is tied with Cassius Marsh for second on the 49ers (behind DeForest Buckner) with 26 total quarterback pressures – consisting of three sacks, six hits and 17 hurries on 220 pass-rush snaps this season.

Armstead has yet to find his niche in the 49ers’ scheme on those all-important nickel pass-rush situations. Against the Giants, Sheldon Day and Ronald Blair were the players selected to join Buckner as interior pass rushers during crunch time.

He will get opportunities in the final six games, but Armstead may have to prove to the 49ers he is worthy of that hefty price tag for next season to still have a spot on the team.

49ers' Joe Staley loves Frank Gore just as much as Jim Harbaugh does

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AP

49ers' Joe Staley loves Frank Gore just as much as Jim Harbaugh does

Close your eyes, erase the nightmares of torn ACLs for Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon and remember the good old days. 

Jim Harbaugh was leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Frank Gore was carrying the rock like he will until the year 2034. And Joe Staley was leading the way with blocks for Gore. 

That trio certainly misses those days, just like you do. 

[CHAN: Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner lead 49ers' defense through Week 10]

On Tuesday, Harbaugh, now the head coach of the University of Michigan, congratulated Gore, now with the Dolphins. Gore has now rushed for at least 500 yards in 14 straight seasons.

"I would also like to congratulate Frank Gore," Harbaugh said to the media unprompted. "The record he set this past Sunday -- and Frank is my favorite player of all time that I've ever coached. Fourteen years of each year rushing for over 500 yards, passing Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith is incredible. ... All respect to that accomplishment by Frank." 

Gore, who has rushed for 528 yards this season at 35 years old, took notice to the kind words from his old coach. 

Staley spent eight seasons blocking for Gore and the veteran misses his old friend. Time to remember the good times again. 

And now we get to the Spider-Man meme version of this story. 

Can it be 2012 again?

[JOHNSON: Patriots owner Robert Kraft addresses previous Colin Kaepernick rumor]