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  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Feb 5, 2019 at 8:02 PM
    "February is always a bad month for TV sports. Football is gone, basketball is plodding along in the annual mid-season doldrums, and baseball is not even mentioned." – Hunter S. Thompson Welcome to the slow season. The confetti that fell from the robotic roof of Mercedes-Ben Stadium may mean joy to our new NFL champion, but to me, it's the dawn of people pointlessly predicting win-loss records and ESPN defrosting Mel Kiper from his cryogenic freeze to build 438 mock draft boards. Last season, the San Francisco 49ers were riding high on the hype train as they entered the 2018 season. A plague of injuries and a lack of overall ability with the second- and third-team resulted in a rough four-win season. General manager John...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Jan 15, 2019 at 11:34 AM
    Last week during our virtual writer's meeting, fellow Webzone creator Chris Wilson mentioned the San Francisco 49ers' overreliance on second-year tight end George Kittle. That caught my attention and I thought Chris' position needed an opposite reaction. He kindly agreed to let me counter his argument and to show the internet that two people who've only met in a Slack forum could hold a civil debate on sports. First, Chris did a tremendous breakdown of the 49ers' reliance on Kittle, crunching numbers and using the Fibonacci sequence to compare Kittle's statistics to other receivers. Please take a moment to read his column. Before the 2017 season,...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Jan 8, 2019 at 6:36 PM
    Another San Francisco 49ers football season is complete, and the offseason is still in its infancy. Though, it feels as if we haven't seen the 49ers play in a thousand years. The playoffs may be going strong, but for 49er junkies, we may as well be standing on the edge of an event horizon watching the seconds tick by like centuries. I'm never happy to see football season leave, especially when the 49ers picked up more of a competitive edge during the second half of the season. The four-win 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks at home, held the Chicago Bears to 14 points and had a second-year tight end set the NFL single-season record for receiving yards. However, a sliver of me is happy to have my Sunday afternoons back. After completing two seasons in the Kyle...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Dec 13, 2018 at 11:08 AM
    Among topics I never thought I'd wake up to read this year was a hollow argument about the play of San Francisco 49ers' defensive lineman Arik Armstead. When it comes to politics and sports, flash opinion, belief without evidence and 'my feelings' rule the day. Facts are scoffed at and ignored like Grannie Annie's mincemeat Christmas tarts. In May, I asked how Armstead fits on this year's defensive line. Armstead wasn't a big success as an edge defender last season, and I wanted defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to move Armstead inside. However, the 49ers lacked any real talent at the edge coming into the 2018 season. It was clear Armstead would remain as an...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Dec 1, 2018 at 6:15 AM
    During previous San Francisco 49ers football seasons, the thought of hope would shrivel up and die before the brain's neurons could even conjure the electricity necessary to think. The 2018 season had experts and fans sure the 49ers would be at least a .500 team, but those utopian fantasies were built upon an unstable foundation of overhype. In spite of injuries and thin roster depth, the 49ers have had moments that reignited hope in the fan base even with continued struggles to put points on the board, hold the lead or cover even a simple dig route. Film examination shows there's more to the 49ers than the sum of its failures. Last Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was ugly, but once the dumpster fire cooled, there were handfuls of diamonds...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Nov 11, 2018 at 8:08 PM
    Eighteenth and nineteenth-century sailors setting forth on a global voyage faced plenty of peril: scurvy, pirates and mythical sea monsters. But getting stuck in the doldrums, where the trade winds die, left boats floating aimlessly under a scorching sun and cloudless sky. After days or weeks of a slow meander, the breeze would finally return and filled the sail with enough air to push the men back on course. Last week, the Bay Area wind blew into Santa Clara, and riding its back was an undrafted quarterback from Southern Mississippi. Some may discount quarterback Nick Mullens' huge victory because the Oakland Raiders currently reign atop a mountain of industrial waste, but that's a hollow argument. Mullens' leadership reenergized a...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Oct 27, 2018 at 10:16 PM
    It's safe to say that almost no football fan or expert predicted a complete regression of the 2018 San Francisco 49ers. After closing out the 2017 season on a high wave, the expectation for the first .500 season since 2014 felt inevitable. Unfortunately, due to multiple injuries and a roster that lacks depth, the team is plagued with fundamental errors on both sides of the ball. Today, Pro Football Focus ranks the 49ers' defense dead last with a 53.5-grade. Last season, the team finished with an overall 70.9 defensive grade, though it ranked 29th overall. The blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams added more fuel to an already raging inferno, and lead to more questions about if and when defensive coordinator Robert Saleh would be handed his walking...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Oct 20, 2018 at 4:54 PM
    Tomorrow, the San Francisco 49ers face an undefeated, high powered Los Angeles Rams team averaging 32.7 points per game. The oddsmakers, so-called experts, and cosmic football fates have abandoned the 49ers and are heavily in favor of the Rams. If it's an even game you seek, then find it in that brief moment as the opening kickoff sails through a hot Santa Clara sun. Those are the seconds when the tide can shift in either direction, proving mere mortals and football spirits wrong. This season, these longtime rivals are opposite sides of a coin. While the 49ers struggle to remember pass coverage assignments and have an offense that's as consistent as a 1967 Mustang in cold weather, the Rams are proving that it's effortless to buy a championship roster, even if...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Oct 8, 2018 at 9:15 PM
    The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins? "The Premature Burial" (1844). Edgar Allan Poe. The line separating the 2018 San Francisco 49ers from average and dismal is becoming brighter. Before a Week 5 collapse against the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers flirted with being a mid-level football team. Today, the 49ers are getting closer to an inescapable event horizon. For reasons unknown, the 49ers are unable to put together quality, consistent play from all three phases of the game. After an eight-play, 75-yard opening drive to score a touchdown, the 49ers' defense decided to show local high school teams how not to run a cover-three pass...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Sep 25, 2018 at 8:53 PM
    Often, it feels like the last bit of luck graced upon the San Francisco 49ers was the moment the lights went out during Super Bowl XLVII. In the Superdome's darkness, the team regrouped and almost overcame a 22-point deficit. Years later, after firing a few coaches, a general manager, and conducting a sage burning ritual, the prayers of a soul-crushed fan based were rewarded with John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan, and Robert Saleh. Even under new leadership, the 49ers' locker room is still haunted by an evil spirit hungry for knee ligaments, hamstrings, and damaged soft tissue. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's injury crushed any hope for a .500 record. It's bad enough now that some fans are talking about tanking to land another high draft...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Sep 13, 2018 at 8:09 PM
    Fortune may favor the bold, but it does not often guarantee David beating Goliath. Last Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers' offensive line failed to create running lanes or protect quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers averaged 3.6 yards-per-carry on 25 attempts, for a low sum of 90 yards rushing. The 49ers' pass blocking looked more like a pasta colander, allowing four hits, 16 hurries, 21 pressures, and one sack. Indeed, the 49ers' offensive line received poor marks from Pro Football Focus. The team was dead last in pass blocking efficiency with a 71.1 grade and ranked 26th in run blocking with a 52.3 mark. Keep in mind the Vikings' run defense and pass rush are among the best in the NFL....
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Sep 6, 2018 at 7:32 PM
    San Francisco 49er fans across the globe have suffered an arduous nine months. The team finished the 2017 season winning five straight games, giving the Faithful an injection of pure hope into the main arterial. The 49ers made a series of moves to improve on offense and defense, with the goal of extending last year's winning streak, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's undefeated record, well into the 2018 season. Indeed, this year's team has the tools and talent to post a winning record. The group that's been overlooked is the men who make up the defensive line. After the roster moves, it's clear the 49ers do not have a weak link among these warriors. I'm also happy to see rookie Mike linebacker Fred Warner get his first NFL start this Sunday. With the defensive...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Aug 29, 2018 at 3:46 PM
    The third preseason game is when we get more than just a glimpse into the looming regular season. Starters play more snaps, which means we get to watch 30 minutes of quality football. Plus, we discover the players who may have a significant role for the team this fall. Rookie linebacker Fred Warner had an excellent first start at linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers last Saturday and ended the afternoon with a team-leading five tackles. Good linebackers have aggression weaved into the microscopic strands of their DNA. Great linebackers, on the other hand, balance the rage with grace, patience, and brains. Fred Warner has the tools to be an exceptional linebacker for the 49ers, and he displayed the gifts he brings to the defense and the team on the...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Aug 21, 2018 at 8:34 PM
    It's a stretch to take the first preseason game and make gross assumptions on the final state of the San Francisco 49ers' roster. Week 1 of the preseason is akin to syllabus day in college; show up for class, get an outline of the semester, and leave to go grab a chicken sandwich. After a short series, one can always hear the collective sigh of relief from team management when the star athletes are relegated to the sideline to chew sunflower seeds. But after two games, and starters seeing a four-to-five-fold increase in snap counts, it becomes easier to evaluate individual improvement or decline. Arrow Up: First-Team Offensive Line The 49ers' ground attack is struggling, but let's first focus on the positive. In Week 2...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Aug 12, 2018 at 1:23 PM
    The San Francisco 49ers returned to practice following a preseason comeback win against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night. Unfortunately, the team was without second-year players George Kittle and Matt Breida; both suffered shoulder injuries in Thursday's contest. Kittle and Breida will miss the remainder of the preseason but should be ready to play starting Week 1. Also, not practicing today were linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring), tackle Garry Gilliam (concussion), and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (concussion). Gilliam and Thomas were both in the concussion protocol. Head coach Kyle Shanahan provided the 49ers' lengthy injury list on...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Aug 7, 2018 at 7:23 PM
    It's indeed refreshing to read about the San Francisco 49ers dealing with positions other than quarterback during training camp. Since July 26, the battle for left and right guard has dominated my attention. It didn't take long for veteran Laken Tomlinson to secure the left guard position; right guard, however, has turned into Shakespearean tragedy. Third-year guard Joshua Garnett hasn't practiced since July 28 due to another knee injury and will not participate in the August 9 preseason game. His absence has allowed Jonathan Cooper, Erik Magnuson, Mike Person, and JP Flynn to compete for the first-string spot. Even though it's the first preseason game, there are plenty of factors to observe and evaluate with the offensive line. Here are four...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Jul 31, 2018 at 6:03 AM
    Each year when the San Francisco 49ers begin training camp, I often feel like a kid standing outside the toy store watching others cram video game systems and new bicycles into large shopping carts. The fortunate, the fans with practice tickets and the 49er beat reporters, can observe and watch the team grow. For a football junkie without a way to attend practice, I feel empty and unfulfilled without being there to make a proper evaluation. I can't, in good conscience and fairness to readers, watch sporadic tape of practice and provide a fair analysis of the competition. Watching highlights isn't the same as taking notes during a live game or crunching film. I can, however, note the continuing metamorphosis that is happening at 4949 Centennial...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Jul 19, 2018 at 9:25 PM
    Why not? Why not? What a spectacle it would make. Two tidal waves of male passion dashing their fury against two timeless rocks of love! Who will be the first to yield? Who will be the first to break? Oh, why, it would be unprecedented… to set the universe ringing to the cheers of the gods. - I, Claudius. "A God in Colchester." November 29, 1976 Each training camp, teams have known and unknown roster fights. This year, Jonathan Cooper, Joshua Garnett, Laken Tomlinson, and Erik Magnuson are fighting to play left and right guard for the San Francisco 49ers. Rather than try and convince readers who will make the roster – my opinion isn't necessary – I'll lay out fact and let you decide. Jonathan...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Jul 14, 2018 at 9:23 PM
    The days between the Super Bowl's final gun and the start of training camp are filled with a multitude of emotions: sadness, denial, anger, excitement, loathing, and confusion. My patience for win-loss speculation, especially in the middle of April, quickly wears thin. Now, the NFL is so hungry to stay relevant that it has resorted to airing flag football games and making World Cup line-ups with current NFL players. Rejoice, Gentle Reader! The humid, scorched air of July is upon us; the lack of substance has reached its crest and is subsiding. In fewer than two weeks, the San Francisco 49ers open training camp and we can prepare ourselves for six months of football. If you're still looking for a few reasons to be excited for the start of the 2018...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Jun 15, 2018 at 1:32 PM
    The evolution of football has always been intriguing. What's old, like a veer run, can get a fresh coat of polish and a place in 21st-century professional football playbook. The elements and scheme of a play may remain the same, but players and positions are always in a state of metamorphosis. The days of a slow quarterback with little ability to rush have died a slow death. The fullback is almost non-existent in most offenses, and a shorter slot receiver running slant and choice routes is all the rage. During the 1980s and 1990s, tight ends were lighter tackles who could catch. Today, tight ends have taken on a new look, and a new role as offenses spread out and push the ball vertically with higher frequency. NFL head coaches and offensive...
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