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First and Goal: The ‘O’ is for Outstanding!

May 31, 2015 at 7:39 AM

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Welcome to 'First and Goal'. A lot has happened since I saw you last. Tom-Tom got in trouble for his balls. Ray-Ray got arrested again. And again. But the biggest news of all has to be the official start to Ron Jimsula's coaching career. Or is it Steve Bobsula? Hold that… that can't be right. Let me check the media guide here… ah yes, the official start to Jim Tomsula's coaching career!

It doesn't matter anymore how the national press thinks about us; hint-not very impressed. It doesn't even matter what our own fans think anymore, good or bad. OTA's have begun and all we have to judge is what actually happens on the field. And on that note, what I've heard so far is outstanding.

As always, be sure to check out our Hero of the Week.

Let's get to it!

BLUDGEON! But do it Faster!

Ever since we lost Mariucci, the 49ers have not looked like themselves. A collection of coaches on both sides of the ball have brought us some amazing things but none of it looked like the 49ers that we all grew to love in the 80's and 90's. The attention to detail. The pace. The ability to outsmart our opponents on all levels from game days, to practices, to travel plans. And most of all, the scoring of the damn football. I hate field goals, I really do. MY Niners score TD's, not FG's.

Tomsula has been watching and learning for a good bit now. All he has to do is have some recollection about what worked and what didn't work these last 7 years and he's already ahead of the game. Every keyboard GM out there knew what had to be fixed. My high school team had attention to detail. We had pace. To know that these most basic fundamentals are coming back to practice is music to my ears. You cannot have success unless you master the details. You also cannot have success unless you know how to step on the gas. Tom Brady threw two 4th quarter TD's to beat the Seahawks. Our starters didn't even have one last year.

Remember, Tomsula doesn't have to be an innovator. He just has to be the repair man… which brings us to another thing we're fixing during these OTA's. SCREENS!! Swing passes to RB's! Attacking all areas of the field! The 49ers had the least amount of RB catches last year and the least amount of deep passing attempts. I'm so excited to see Reggie take a screen to the house I'm having dreams of his USC days. It also looks like we're getting to the line of scrimmage with time on the play clock. I can't tell you how happy that makes me.

Another thing we're fixing these days is a vital aspect of being on a team. The vibe. By all accounts the vibe has been great. I know what you're thinking… what else are the players supposed to say? I think people that say that are failing to understand the circumstances. People are crapping all over us. In-house, the feelings are quite clear. We're a loaded team that people are vastly underrating. We have solid competition at all positions, including multiple pro-bowlers all over the roster. We have a massive influx of youth. Players are finally getting their chance to shine and people are getting after it. You better believe that Kap and Bowman are taking the reins of this team and pulling us up to new places. I think everyone should be excited.

Not Quite Fixing, but Right up my Alley

Our defensive game has been stellar for years now. We've had some pretty good coaches on the defensive side of the ball, but I think the real credit goes to Baalke. He knows defense like Bo knows everything else. We've been blessed with stellar DB play, sideline to sideline LB play, run game domination play and some good pressure by Aldon and Lynch with a sprinkle of Brooks. But we never had a pressure defense, even though I think we have the talent for it.

The main reason people run a 3-4 defense is because the extra rusher can be coming from anywhere. Except our team. We ran stunts and things but you pretty much knew who was rushing the passer. I wasn't really a fan of Fangio; I thought he did ok. But he never struck me as creative, though the secondary coverage schemes were certainly complex. Fangio relied on the talent of our front 7 to create pressure, which is fine when they're playing well. But this is the same complaint I had about our offense under Harbaugh. When your regular game plan isn't working, how do we adjust? When we need pressure, how are we going to do it after not playing that way for most of the year?

The reports from defensive players about 'confusion' are exactly what I've been waiting to hear. I'm a huge fan of the amoeba defense where players are moving around in undefined roles prior to the snap. I think we have great personnel for this, including our two pro-bowl safeties. This kind of defense, while risky, is worth it in my eyes. It puts pressure on the offense on ever snap and can lead to more game-breaking plays. Unleash the hounds!

Guys I'm Excited to See

The continued development of Kap.

The depth, youth and explosiveness of our stable of RB's.

The depth, youth and speed of our WR's.

The return of our TE game.

The return of our OL play—we have crazy depth and I think the ZBS will do wonders.

The youth and depth of our DL.

The return of Bowman, Aldon and Brooks to All-Pro status.

The young bucks at DB, including Ward, Reaser, Acker, Johnson and Brock.

The continued excellence of our safeties, and new guy Tartt.

The return of our special teams dominance.

When you add all this up, and realize how injured we were all of last year, I think anything less than 11-5 will be a major disappointment.

Hero of the Week

It's hard to make Joe Montana look any better than he is, considering he is the Greatest QB of All-Time. That's why this HOTW goes to Jim McNally, Patriots locker room attendant… also known as, 'The Deflator'! This is one more strike against the Pats for continuously trying to push the boundaries. The funny part is, if they were honest from the start about trying to keep the PSI as low as legally possible, then having a few balls be under that limit would be understandable. But honesty is not the 'Patriot Way'. They denied and denied, they were angry, they were defiant. They were also stupid. It's not only that they cheated, it's the fact that others knew they were doing it. Remember, this whole mess started because the Colts GM told the referees that the Patriots were cheating. I'm sure he wasn't the only one in NFL circles that knew, either.

Tom Brady can throw with any ball, he's pretty good. But the Pats didn't have many TO's during their Super Bowl years. I remember one of their RB's, Green-Ellis, never fumbled as a Pat but he had 5 fumbles in 2 years with the Bengals. When the ball has a lower PSI it's easier to catch and it's easier to hold onto. Brady is especially good in cold weather/snow games. Usually a football feels like a brick in cold weather. Everywhere except Foxborough I guess.

The cheating by Tom Brady would have stayed in a grey area without the substantial texts by McNally to friends of his. So for this Jim, We Salute You! Your Hero of the Week, Jim McNally!!

Quick, someone check the PSI on that thing! (Marcio Jose Sanchez-AP)

The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Dallas Niner Fan
    Phil, It seems that every article you write turns into a Trent Baalke love fest. Baalke is an average GM at best. I challenge anyone to tell me how the Niners roster has improved from last year? The secondary and offensive line was hardly addressed in the off season. Improvement at WR? We traded one WR for another, there is still no one who can step in to be a productive secondary receiver. Improvement at the QB position, Blaine Gabbert? You kidding me? So exactly how has this teams lineup gotten better? Maybe at defensive line and linebacker, but we have lost some key players at those positions. I understand that a new regime can spark some enthusiasm at first, but its unlikely that it will be enough. Maybe the new coaching staff can be successful, but looking at their track record and experience its just simply not probable that they will succeed. Also, I get frustrated when fans say that Harbaugh was let go because of the offense and the way he coached. Harbaugh was fired for political reasons plain and simple. It was because Baalke, and Jed York's egos could not stand that Harbaugh had become the face of the franchise. That's why they hired no names to replace him.
    Jun 2, 2015 at 1:07 PM
    Response: I agree there's room to be skeptical of the depth and talent that we have, since most of these players haven't gotten the chance to shine. We had proven, veteran depth for years. Now we have young, hungry to make a name depth. I'm bullish on this depth across all areas. We'll have to wait till halfway through the season to tell if Baalke is as smart as I think he is.
  • Darrell Brantingham
    Super good article! I sympathize with you on the errors which were not many. Many blog sites and technologies don't take the Word formatting as good as they should. I agreed almost 100% and I love your optimism for our new players, new coaches and those returning from injury. I am so tired of reading the media's negative comments and the so-called fans that agreed with them. This will likely be one of th deepest teams in 49er history as we are stacked with talent at almost every position. Still we have to win the games but for now we can have a lot of excitement! Thanks again for the great article. I hope you write more and ignore the naysayers that will undoubtedly attack you.
    Jun 1, 2015 at 3:04 PM
  • Deacon
    Ah, the offseason. Ya gotta love it. Every team has guys writing columns like this one. Reality sets in when the real games start in Sept. I'm happy for your enthusiasm and hope you are right but honestly feel like you're dreaming in so many ways.
    Jun 1, 2015 at 5:46 AM
    Response: It is the job of the writer to dream.
  • matt
    Loved the article. Nice to read something positive about my niners for a change. Our team is loaded w both young and veteran talent. I think we take back our division this year. 11-5 or better. GO NINERS!
    May 31, 2015 at 9:22 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Are you saying that "Hero Of The Week" wasn't meant to be a gag!? $hit, this commentary is worse than I thought... That's a joke. Just thought I'd speel it out (another joke). Some people have a stronger sense of smell than a sense of a direction. In the words of the early, burly Shaq O'Neil, "Can Yoou Smeeeeeeell It"!
    May 31, 2015 at 6:41 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    I could tell Tom Brady's balls weighed less from here.... It's obvious... And he knows it! Jim McNally has been handling Tom's balls for years. The guy's a F#@$%ing magician! Everyone in town thought, "Tom Brady that guys got some Big Ass Balls out there!" Little did we know, but little do we know now... This just in, the NFL will decrease the suspension of Brady to three games. However before every home game the lead official will squeeze Tom's ball bag ... firmly and without prejudice, to check for ..... shit I don't know. Goodell just wants to sell tickets.
    May 31, 2015 at 4:32 PM
  • Gerry D.
    I'm confused...first and foremost, your take on Fangio. Let me just say..SERIOUSLY? ?? Before him the 49ers D was mediocre. The man's Defensive scheme was great last year considering what he had to work with. Many of the players wouldn't have even made rosters elsewhere. So with out saying and clearly stating more of the obvious, Eric Mangini has huge shoes to fill. On the other side of the ball, I too am excited to see what this pool of talent can do. However consecutive years of total underachieving has anybody with a real football mind skeptical. I could go on and on with rebuttals to your assessments but I will only touch this...crediting Baalke for everything makes me question your knowledge of the game. You are a fan and that's obvious and I admire your attempt to be so positive, but your assessment of coaches, owners and players along with your punctuation, misspellings and inability to break down this team from a true football analyst's point of view has me wondering what the webzone is thinking. No offense, just calling it as I see it
    May 31, 2015 at 3:32 PM
    Response: There were some errors, which is weird it didn't look like that in my word doc I assure you. Word would have seen the errors. Something happened in the upload I presume. As far as my football intellect, let's be clear on Fangio. You love him. Fine. The fact that he had multiple pro bowlers on every level of the defense over the years and did well doesn't impress me. He absolutely did a great job last year I agree, though our division is pretty bad offensively, so again I'm not overly impressed. I also thought Donatell had a strong hand in the DB play. Fangio is good not great to me. His record speaks for itself. Before landing the talent we had, his teams played progressively worse every year he coached them. Multiple teams too. I think Mangini will be better. We'll see. As far as overvaluing our offense, just because I see a team ready to play at a high-level doesn't mean that opinion was given without rational thought. You're excited about the offensive talent but you don't like how much credit I give to Baalke. Ok. You say the team underachieved for years and now that they're making changes to get better, including firing the old coach, that makes you a skeptic and therefore a better football mind? I'm not seeing the rationale there. If you want analytics, go see Bill Barnwell or FiveThirtyEight. The only stats I care about are game stats and there are no games. We're commenting on commentary, regurgitating the few snippets of action that practices offer. I promise to step up my game come September though and I appreciate your comment.
  • Lucky Phil
    First of all, I'd like to say I like Phil Walsh, I think he is a funny guy and I love reading his commentary. Second, when it comes to the Dave Letterman comment, I just like guys pushing themselves when it comes showing some creativity. When Dave did the top ten each week, it was just a mail it in joke. The Hero of The Week was funny as hell the first two weeks, I just want Phil to mix it up a bit. If the comedy gets predictable it just feels old. Which brings me to the Niners. I love my Niners but I'm going to be vocal about my team, whether it's good or bad, I'm going to speak my mind. Because that's what a Real Fan does, he just doesn't sit on the band wagon while the owner is taking the wagon down the trail full of mud and $#!&. That being said I'm still on the bandwagon with all the rest of you. I will be grumbling this year when this team takes a step back to the Cardinals and Seahawks but it should be an interesting season none the less. I agree with Phil, a new Kap, a young stable of RB's, the addition T. Smith and subtraction of Craps, I think this offense should be leaps and bounds better next year. However, The defense will struggle without Willis and J. Smith. notext
    May 31, 2015 at 3:23 PM
    Response: We're either getting better or getting worse, right? I didn't mean for the HOTW to be a gag, so that's why I continue to run it.
  • don
    Great read.. A couple of thoughts.. First; there was such a huge turnover of players and coaches on this team post last season, it's not reasonable to believe a cohesive, consistent team will be able to take the field and compete successfully week in week out.. Second; the 49ers were 8-8 last season-some argue 10-6 if you factor losses to teams they should have beat.. It will not take much improvement to get to 10-6/11-5 this season if the reason was bad coaching and those coaches are now are gone.. For me this will be the most interesting season I can remember. How will the decisions York and Baalke made play out?
    May 31, 2015 at 2:23 PM
    Response: This will definitely be the most interesting season.
  • mbniner
    This has been my feeling since Tomsula was hired. The media, and a lot of Niner fans, seem to feed off each others negative comments and paint a dire situation ( I think that one of the commentators dubbed them "Suicide Fans"). Can anyone truly replace a Justin Smith or Patrick Willis in their primes? Of course not, but they weren't in their primes the last couple of years. We have great young talent behind them who are so-far unknown to the media. The coaching is showing much more innovation in the way they approach forming the team, both in physical and mental aspects. I don't know what our record will be but I know that this team will be right in it at the end.
    May 31, 2015 at 11:51 AM
    Response: We're headed in the right direction.
  • KezarVet
    Another positive article, Phil. Your writing is an island of sanity in a sea of insanity (Cohn, Cohn, Ratto, Kawakami, etc.). Lucky Phil: take your meds.
    May 31, 2015 at 11:33 AM
    Response: There's a really good story brewing here and people shouldn't miss it just because there has been so much change. All fear is irrational. We will be good.
  • LasVegasWally
    Fine article and I'm w/you. NOT a fan of Fangio and I thing Mangini will attack from play1. I think we will be 11-5. Hey Lucky Phil - Go read something else.
    May 31, 2015 at 10:20 AM
    Response: 11-5 or better.
  • Grusenachen
    I agree with much in the article, especially about the offense. Much has been made about what a great coach Harbough was but the offense which he was more responsible for than the defense (that was Fangio's responsibility) was atrocious. It was unimaginative and Harbough stubbornly stayed with the same approach. The delay of game penalties and the lack of play-calling imagination when inside of 10 yards drove me crazy. I know Harbough turned the team around with his intensity but last season's 8-8 record was indicative of the direction the team was headed in my opinion.
    May 31, 2015 at 10:15 AM
    Response: No adjustments over years is a reason to lose your job.
  • Shane
    Lucky Phil, Im not picking a fight with you, Im actually curious, what didn't you like about the article? I don't understand your comment. Do you just hate this guy, is that an inside joke or something? what is your take on the team? again im not arguing with you, Im interested in having dialogue
    May 31, 2015 at 9:43 AM
  • Lucky Phil
    Fuck ............ Did you go to sleep with the vibrator on, Phil? Not a big fan of this weeks commentary. Can we mix up the format. This is getting to be worse than Letterman's Top Ten List. Phil, Whats your opinion on the U.S mailing antharax to the South Koreans? And hows your Gonorea looking? And the kids? ... Great! And Here's My Hero Of The Day ......
    May 31, 2015 at 9:26 AM
  • Shane
    What a fantastic article! It's nice to read something with some depth and positivity. People are getting down on this team like we are the raiders! Unfortunately, with the national media when you replace star names with players that your average guy doesn't know you get 5-11 predictions. Biggest example was the DL. With cowboy retiring and us dumping McDonald every national article was basically how screwed we are at D line. Meanwhile we have a second rd pick ready to go, Dial played great last year, Dorsey, Williams, we signed dockett, we have TJE for depth, we are loaded at d line. And it was like that with Rb, wr, ect. The changes are awesome as well. Things I'll never know why they weren't changed sooner. If Kap plays well, I agree 11-5 at worst. Great article man, great take. It's time to start being more positive around here
    May 31, 2015 at 9:23 AM
    Response: While there is a lot to love, we go as Kap goes.
  • Stonecold590
    I really agree with your excitement over the changes being made and shown during OTAs. Our Offense has been solo vanilla for the past couple of years. The swing passes and bubble screens have been absent forever and are just a small piece of the Offense but will be very much needed. Added with actual deep throws and Kaps running abilities (which were also not in the play book last year) should help move the chains. Map only took off last year on broken plays when defenders were surrounding him. Plays made just for him to run will also help. Ie Green Bay in playoffs 3 years ago.
    May 31, 2015 at 8:58 AM
    Response: ZBS will help Kap tremendously by getting defenses rolling side to side.

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