Bret Rumbeck's Latest Articles

  • By Bret Rumbeck
    May 31, 2019 at 8:00 AM 2 comments
    Philosophically, has your defense changed at all with the change at defensive line and the talk of more wide-nine? Has anything changed from your standpoint about what you want to get accomplished? "No. We might look different, but philosophically, the overall foundation of the defense hasn't changed." Robert Saleh. May 29, 2019 Since the San Francisco 49ers hired defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, the rumblings of a "new" wide-9 defense have been floating through the sports page and Twitter timeline. The wide-9 technique is not a new addition to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's defensive...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    May 24, 2019 at 8:00 AM 4 comments
    Organized Team Activities (OTAs) mark a significant shift on the professional football calendar. The draft feels like it was months ago, and teams have moved beyond over-hyping the 2019 schedule. The San Francisco 49ers enter the 2019 season with five offensive linemen who played the bulk of the 2018 season together, building a bond and learning how to communicate in loud, raucous stadiums. There's no point in the coaching staff creating artificial position battles; last year's first-team earned the right to come back and start this fall. Here are my projections, including the back-up linemen. First-Team Left Tackle: Joe Staley At some point in the distant future, someone will write a comprehensive history of the 49ers...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    May 4, 2019 at 7:45 AM 24 comments
    Four years ago, former San Francisco 49ers' general manager Trent Baalke selected punter Bradley Pinion in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The 49ers already had a capable punter in Andy Lee on the roster, but Baalke decided Lee's services and his 46.4 average yards per punt were no longer needed in the Bay. Just when the groans about the Pinion pick had been lost to the memory hole, general manager John Lynch selected punter Mitch Wishnowsky from Utah in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. Most fan and expert reactions were a justified balance between angry and confused. It was as if Lynch forgot the 49ers' defense struggled to remain consistent and healthy in 2018,...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Apr 15, 2019 at 7:00 AM 1 comment
    If we distill down the complicated nuances of building a professional football roster, it may look something like this: Identify where the roster lacks talent or depth. Meet with a potential player to fill the void. Offer a hefty paycheck. Sign said player; pose for a photo giving the new player a laurel and hearty handshake. See the improvements in September. When stripped down to its bare essentials, it appears as if anyone with a Twitter handle, and an opinion could find success as a professional football general manager. It does feel a bit like the new regime at 4949 Centennial Boulevard has made building a championship roster a lot more difficult than necessary. Rather than find...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Mar 24, 2019 at 1:21 PM 5 comments
    Sometimes it's hard to tell when fan anger reaches its zenith, but it's a dead heat between two situations. The first is after a bad San Francisco 49ers' loss. The second begins as a slow, building wave in late December and crashes down with rage and violence immediately after free agency opens. In the age of the internet, anyone with a dial-up modem is now qualified to be a pro football general manager or a coordinator. I'm just as guilty as the next fan for being overly critical of specific plays, players and team transactions. Since Christmas, 49er fans have been sharing loud opinions on who the team should sign once free agency officially opened. We all found ourselves in different camps supporting different star players, (read: Odell...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Mar 7, 2019 at 5:15 PM 3 comments
    We are just mere days away from the start of NFL free agency. If you're not excited about it, be happy some of the endless guessing and wild fantasies that each free agent is the supposed savior of the San Francisco 49ers will soon cease. As stated in two previous commentaries, the 49ers need high-end free agent talent to fill gaps in nearly every position group. Again, an edge rusher is the first priority, though it seems more likely general manager John Lynch will fill that need through the draft rather than skim the free agent pool. Two years ago, the 49ers began to rebuild the linebacker...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Feb 21, 2019 at 9:28 PM 0 comments
    Maybe I buried the lead in my previous commentary about why the San Francisco 49ers need to begin rebuilding the secondary. Much like a fifth-grade essay, I will put my main thought up front. I am in full support of the 49ers drafting or signing a highly talented edge rusher. There are 152 articles each day stating the 49ers' need for an edge rusher. I have no interest in finding new nouns and adjectives to describe why Nick Bosa should become a 49er. Fortunately, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan are not myopic and realize they have other position groups to build, including the interior offensive line. Tackles Joe Staley and...
  • By Bret Rumbeck
    Feb 5, 2019 at 8:02 PM 22 comments
    "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 2 comments
    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 5 comments
    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 3 comments
    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 2 comments
    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 2 comments
    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 10 comments
    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 0 comments
    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 7 comments
    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 7 comments
    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 1 comment
    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 3 comments
    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 1 comment
    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...
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