Entries in 49ers (146)


S.F. Examiner: DeBartolo’s contribution to football immortalized

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

CANTON, Ohio – He knew the shortcuts. Edward DeBartolo Jr. says he could travel the 65 miles from his home in Youngstown, Ohio, to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in maybe 45 to 50 minutes on the back roads.

The real journey, however, would take years.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: Big night for Eddie D, Stabler, Boldin

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner

He was the stranger from Youngstown, the little guy who had to earn his spurs and, more importantly after some missteps owning the 49ers — “This team is not a toy,” he grumbled at the media so critical of his mismanagement — earn the cheers. They were there at Super Bowls in past years. And they were there Saturday night, when Eddie DeBartolo was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So timely. So appropriate that DeBartolo, now 69 and far away in time and distance, having moved to Tampa, Fla., would be one of the chosen few when the Super Bowl, the Half-Century Super Bowl, No. 50, would be played in the area where he built a champion in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Read the ful story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


An omen for Chip Kelly? Wait and see

By Art Spander

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — So you leave Chip Kelly’s days-late introduction as Niners coach — “I didn’t have any clothes,” was his explanation — get into the car and the first thing you hear on the radio, if by Nancy Wilson rather than Tony Bennett, is “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Has to be an omen right? Never had that sort of positive feedback the day they introduced Jim Tomsula.

Kelly is the Niners’ third coach in five seasons. Went from the forceful (and successful) Jim Harbaugh to the accidental tourist, Jim Tomsula, and now to Mr. Kelly, who team president Jed York contends will be here for a while. 

Nothing wrong with being confident. Nothing wrong with being arrogant.

Plenty wrong with an offense that not only doesn’t keep the other team guessing but doesn’t keep the home fans at Levi’s Stadium from an early departure.

The history of pro football in San Francisco is that of great chunks of yardage, of people from Frankie Albert and John Brodie to Joe Montana and Steve Young throwing long — and short — and people such as Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry, Jerry Rice and Roger Craig either running with the ball or catching it. Sure, the guys like Ronnie Lott and Keena Turner were a major part of the Super Bowls, but it’s the Niners moving the ball that became their legacy.

“If there’s something synonymous with San Francisco,” said York on Wednesday after the official press conference Wednesday had terminated, “it’s offense.” And if there’s something the Niners didn’t have last season, when they went 5-11, it was offense. Touchdowns were a rare commodity.

The teams of Charles Edward “Chip” Kelly, 52, at University of Oregon, then the past three uncomfortable years with the Philadelphia Eagles, could get touchdowns. Often too quickly, so the defense barely had time to get off the field before it was back on the field. And football mavens say it’s just as important, if not more so, to keep the other team from scoring as it is to score yourself.

Still, the NFL is entertainment, and the bottom line is there’s nothing worse than the fans, the so-called faithful, being bored — which they were under Tomsula. Sundays at Levi’s were anything but enjoyable.

The decision to hire Kelly, apparently by both York and general manager Trent Baalke, was made a week ago. But days went by until the formal presentation in the auditorium at Levi’s. Yes, Kelly’s attire had something to do with it. When he came out last week from his home in New Hampshire it was without a coat and tie. Also, said Kelly, he wanted to attend the 87th birthday celebration of his father.

The Niners are only four seasons distant from a Super Bowl appearance. Then everything began to come apart at the seams. The Seattle Seahawks improved. NaVorro Bowman was seriously injured. Harbaugh, Baalke and York stopped working with each other. Wham, from top to bottom. And no less pertinent, tumbling so far into irrelevance that a scheduled Sunday night, nationally televised game, was replaced by NBC.

There’s a line from a decades-old song that the late Bob Hope used as his theme, “Thanks for the Memory,” to wit, you might have been a headache but you never were a bore. Headaches can be eased by pain relievers. There’s no cure for boredom, other than bringing in a new coach.

“I want to be fearless,” said Kelly when asked what the identity of the team might be. “It’s pretty straightforward not to be afraid of any situation that you’re put in. There are going to be times it’s difficult, that it’s adverse, but you have to have confidence based on preparation that you’ll see it through.” 

There’s a history of college coaches going to the pros and, with rare exception, Paul Brown back in the 1950s and Jimmy Johnson in the early ‘90s, failing in the pros. Maybe Kelly didn’t exactly fail — he was 10-6 his first two seasons with the Eagles — but neither did he earn plaudits. So, at the end of the 2015 season he was fired.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” said Kelly, addressing the issue in a generic sense. “And you learn from mistakes.”  No, he didn’t say what the mistakes were, the up-tempo offense that worked in college, the apparently inability to communicate with some African-American players, the determination to be involved in the acquisition and trading of athletes. Whatever, he was out in Philly, and now he’s in with the 49ers.

“One of the neat things when I was let go in Philadelphia,” said Kelly — “and to be able to get a call from Bill Belichick, or from Tony Dungy or Jon Gruden or Bill Parcells or Bill Polian — it made me feel good there are people in this game that truly care where this game is going and what direction it’s headed. They were telling me, 'I hope you stay in the NFL.' That meant an awful lot to me.”

Will Niners fans have the same positive message? That is the major question.


S.F. Examiner: John York: ‘We are disappointed’

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

He used to be the guy who took the media pounding and more. At one 49ers game, during a halftime presentation, John York — Dr. John York using his well-earned title — was booed by the fans at Candlestick Park, where the Niners then played. Got a little angry, too, even blaming a journalist for the treatment.

York knows tough times, and as the Niners owner, along with his wife, Denise, knows what they’re going through, and what the Yorks’ son, Jed, the team CEO, is going through. John can read. John can hear. The fans and media are unhappy. So too is John York.

Read the full story here.

© 2015 The San Francisco Examiner


Niners have reached the fringe of irrelevancy

By Art Spander

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Intimate is how one could describe the Jim Tomsula day-after media conference on Monday. The 49ers head coach was there, in body if not spirit, and so were a mere eight journalists, written or electronic word.

Sure, the main group, the people who covered the game for the Northern California dailies, still was en route home from Cleveland, and there indeed was a representative from both of the two large Bay Area publications. But only one each. No columnists.

It was as if everything about these Niners is irrelevant, so let’s concentrate on the high-profile teams, the Warriors, the Raiders, the Sharks.

If the fans don’t show up for home games at Levi’s Stadium, then why should the papers or radio and TV stations show up for yet another presser that, given Tomsula’s uninspirational style, figured to be the repetitive questions and unfulfilling responses to which we’re now accustomed?

NBC television caught on to the defections soon enough, and as allowed under the flex format, switched this Sunday’s 49ers-Bengals game from prime time, evening, to afternoon. How embarrassing.

You almost feel sorry for Tomsula, who does his best to avoid explanations why his team is not doing its best — or, gracious sakes alive, indeed may be doing its best. Some speakers, Donald Trump for example, are full of words and emotions, popular or unpopular, and capture our attention. But ask Trump to explain Cover Two, well, you can imagine how bad the Niners might be were The Donald coaching them.

Tomsula doesn’t rant and rave, doesn’t crack wise, doesn’t berate his athletes, doesn’t make fun of those from foreign lands. He gives us clichés, which certainly doesn’t make him alone in that category, but in his lackluster phrases there’s a disassociation from what actually took place.

“You said the effort was there,” a questioner posed to Tomsula, “but the execution wasn’t. Given 24 hours and given some time to look at the film, why do you think that was the case? What caused that?”

Execution is a football term that enables coaches to avoid responsibility, as in “I gave them a game plan so well-designed any dolt could understand, but these guys are so uncoordinated they couldn’t tackle a kid from Pop Warner, never mind an NFL running back.”

As is well known, the late John McKay handled the subject brilliantly and pointedly. Asked, when he was the Tampa Bay Bucs' head coach, about the team’s execution, McKay responded, “I think it would be a very good idea.” He knew how to fill a notebook.

Oh, if Tomsula only had that skill. Oh, if Tomsula didn’t look so forlorn standing on stage in the Niners’ auditorium, facing all those empty chairs. Maybe with a couple dozen radio, TV and press people, he’d give us the David Letterman routine. Instead, undoubtedly believing it would be absurd to waste his best material, Coach Jim, sticks to basics — name, rank, serial number.

“The execution,” Tomsula told us about last Sunday. “The fundamentals. Blocking up front. Tackling. Wrap-tackling. Just wrapping up when you tackle. You can’t do that.”

You shouldn’t do that, is what he meant. The 49ers did it, and Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, who had lost seven in a row, the Niners were losers, 24-10. Twenty-four hours later, with Tomsula and staff having studied the video, the Niners’ incompetence became no more or no less apparent. Yawn.

Blaine Gabbert, having taken over for Colin Kaepernick, who twice was sacked six times in games this season, against Cleveland was sacked nine times. “We missed an opportunity for ourselves,” said Tomsula. Only a coach would phrase it that way. An opportunity? To do what? Go to the Super Bowl?

Tomsula, the ultimate company man, was asked how, perhaps against all odds, the Niners could improve in their last three regularly scheduled games. McKay or Bill Walsh might have quipped, “Trade for the Carolina Panthers' offensive line,” but Coach Jim never would say anything like that. You wonder if he even thinks of anything like that.

“Well, to me,” said Tomsula, “the first thing is we try to make sure the same guy comes to work every day. We think our way through things, and we adjust what we feel we need to adjust. We (are) taking a look at where those things are and the heavy connections. And making sure that we have our young guys and older guys working together and finishing each other’s sentences.”

Better they finish each other’s blocks.

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