49ers or Raiders? Closer than you might think

This is my Sunday column. Better team right now: Raiders or 49ers? Serious question. Less than a year ago it would have been a joke question, but the Raiders are on the rise. And the Niners have plateaued – that’s the nicest thing you can say about them. A harsh observer might say the 49ers have gotten worse. There’s truth to that. The Niners won 12 games in 2013 and…

May 9, 2015

NFL draft waiting game: 49ers running back Carlos Hyde happy to be in red and gold

Here’s a story I wrote for the Press Democrat’s Thursday sports section. Carlos Hyde didn’t even watch. He was the Big 10’s third-leading rusher in 2013, the most talented running back in last year’s draft, and he chose not to watch the first round of it. “I just went out to dinner,” said the 49ers’ second-year running back Wednesday afternoon as he bounced a basketball inside the 49ers’ locker room….

April 29, 2015

49ers’ 2015 mock draft 1.0

This is my first 49ers’ mock draft of the year, but it won’t be my last. Feel free to make your own and post it below. Round 1. La’el Collins, OG, LSU. Trent Baalke says he wants the 49ers to run the ball, but Mike Iupati is a free agent and Alex Boone has just one more year on his deal. Collins is the best run blocker available at the…

March 1, 2015

Trent Baalke’s pattern with running backs

Trent Baalke has a pattern when it comes to drafting running backs. One year Baalke spends a second-round pick on a running back, and the next year he spends a fourth round pick on a running back. Then he repeats the pattern. In 2011, Baalke drafted Kendall Hunter in the fourth round. In 2012, Baalke drafted LaMichael James in the second round. In 2013, Baalke drafted Marcus Lattimore in the…

February 25, 2015

Tomsula: “I take full responsibility for the results of the coaching staff.”

This is the transcript of Jim Tomsula’s press conference from the NFL Combine, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department. Opening comments: “Good afternoon and we’ll try this again. Go ahead and shoot. I’m really happy to be here and I’m excited to see you all and looking forward to the questions.”   You seemed to just reference your introductory press conference, which was criticized in some circles, you may have…

February 19, 2015

49ers face key decisions in free agency

This is my Sunday column. Is it too early to predict which free agents the 49ers will re-sign this offseason? The 49ers still haven’t announced the hiring of Eric Mangini as the defensive coordinator or Geep Chryst as the offensive coordinator, and we still don’t know what schemes they plan on using. On defense will they use a Tampa-2 scheme or a single-high safety scheme, a three-man defensive front or…

February 7, 2015

49ers and Adam Gase — good match or bad idea?

This is about gravitas and Adam Gase. Gase is the favorite to be the next head coach of the 49ers. Gase is the only coach the 49ers have interviewed twice so far this offseason — they interviewed him for a second time Tuesday, according to reports. Gase is 36 years old. He looks like a teenager. He has been an offensive coordinator for two whole seasons and has done impressive…

January 13, 2015

49ers 7, Seahawks 17: Grades

SEATTLE – Trent Baalke folded his arms and hung his head in shame. The 49ers’ season was over. The Niners and Seahawks were shaking hands at midfield and Baalke was staring at his desk in the press box. Bad look, Trent. Time to face the failure you created. KAEPERNICK: C. Played like Alex Smith. Didn’t turn the ball over – a first for Kaepernick against the Seahawks. Yes, he scored…

December 14, 2014

49ers 13, Raiders 24: Grades

OAKLAND – Before we get to the grades, let’s have a moment of silence for the Jim Harbaugh Era.       That’s enough. KAEPERNICK: Ω. He gets an omega, the last letter in the Greek alphabet, because English just won’t do. An ‘F’ isn’t low enough. A ‘Z’ isn’t low enough. This was the worst performance of Kaepernick’s career, the kind of performance that gets a quarterback benched and…

December 7, 2014

49ers 3, Seahawks 19: Grades

SANTA CLARA – Jed York can’t blame Vic Fangio for this one — the 49ers’ defense gave up just one touchdown. It was the offense that failed to show up for the third game in a row. Here are the grades. KAEPERNICK: Z. Worst game of his career. His passes were inaccurate, his downfield vision was poor and he forced passes to covered receivers. Is there any doubt which team…

November 27, 2014

Redskins 13, 49ers 17: Grades

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers defied the odds and beat the first-class Redskins 17-13 Sunday afternoon. Here are the Niners’ grades. KAEPERNICK: B. Unusually efficient. Completed 20-of-29 pass attempts (69 percent) for 256 yards (8.8 yards per attempt). Three of his nine incomplete passes were dropped. He threw a long, beautiful touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin on the first drive of the game, but he never came close to throw…

November 23, 2014

Quality control: Week-11 run plays

Here is a breakdown of Frank Gore’s and Carlos Hyde’s rushing production against the Giants: Frank Gore Counter: 10 carries, 54 yards (5.4 yards per carry). Inside zone: 5 carries, 23 yards (4.6 ypc). Power: 3 carries, 16 yards (5.3 ypc). G Lead: 1 carry, 2 yards (2 ypc). Carlos Hyde Outside zone: 4 carries, 16 yards (4 ypc). Counter: 3 carries, 4 yards (1.3 ypc). Inside zone: 2 carries, 5 yards (2.5 ypc).

November 18, 2014

49ers 27, Saints 24: Grades

They aren’t dead yet. The 49ers beat the Saints 27-24 in overtime Sunday afternoon, handed Sean Payton his first loss in the Superdome since 2010. Now the 49ers are 5-4. Here are their grades. KAEPERNICK: B+. It was fourth-and-10 from the Niners’ 22-yard line, one minute and 34 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Niners’ down by three. Kaepernick had to save the game. He rolled to his right. Nowhere…

November 9, 2014

49ers doomed by play-calling

This is my Tuesday column. The Bears and the Cardinals and the Broncos and the Rams are not defeating the 49ers. Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman are defeating the 49ers. Before the season started, if you had known the 49ers’ defense would rank second after eight games without NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, what would you have expected the Niners’ record to be? 7-1? 8-0? If anything diminished the Niners…

November 4, 2014

49ers 10, Rams 13: Grades

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers just gave away a game to the Rams, a dreadful team that was trying its best to lose. Here are the 49ers’ grades. KAEPERNICK: D+. Was that him? Didn’t look like it. Whoever was wearing the red No.7 jersey looked timid, tentative, not explosive at all. Averaged just 7.18 yards per pass and 2.8 yards per carry, converted 3-of-12 third down and scored no touchdowns…

November 2, 2014

Grading 49ers at the break

This is my Sunday column. The 49ers just finished dead week. These are their midterm grades. COLIN KAEPERNICK Pocket proficiency: B. Was a C-minus last season. Completed just 57 percent of his passes and posted an 81 passer rating inside the pocket in 2013. Has completed 69 percent of his passes and posted a 90 rating inside the pocket this season. He’s finding the open receiver quickly and throwing the…

October 27, 2014

49ers 17, Broncos 42: Grades

The Broncos eked out a 42-17 win over the 49ers Sunday night. Here are the Niners’ grades. KAEPERNICK: D. Carried the team in the first half. Posted a 140 passer rating in the second quarter. Would have been a 156 rating if Anquan Boldin hadn’t dropped a touchdown pass on third-and-goal from the 4 yard line. Kaepernick led a 7-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that took 2 minutes and 58 seconds…

October 19, 2014

49ers 31, Rams 17: Grades

The 49ers dismissed the Rams 31-17 in St. Louis Monday night. Here are the 49ers’ grades. KAEPERNICK: A. His best game this season. The Rams stopped the 49ers’ run game and forced Kaepernick to win with his arm. He did. His deep 80-yard touchdown pass before halftime hit Brandon Lloyd in stride. On the opening drive of the second half, Kaepernick converted a third-and-12, anticipated an opening downfield and fired…

October 13, 2014

Greg Roman on Frank Gore: “We don’t want to just ride that stallion all day everyday.”

SANTA CLARA — Here is the transcript of Greg Roman’s Friday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department. Opening comments: “Afternoon. We’ve got a division game against the Rams. We know them well, they know us. [Rams defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams is back there as the d-coordinator. We have a lot of respect for him. He’s doing a great job with that defense. And, it really starts up front…

October 10, 2014

How the 49ers mauled Josh Mauga in the second half

Did you notice how well the 49ers ran the ball inside in the second half against the Chiefs? Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton primarily used a two-gap scheme without a strong safety in the box to play the eighth gap. Chiefs’ linebacker Josh Mauga often lined up in front of a guard and was responsible for two gaps. Mike Iupati and Alex Boone mauled Mauga, and the 49ers gouged the…

October 7, 2014