Super Bowl 54
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  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Feb 12, 2017 at 4:16 PM 13 comments
    It all began with Shanahan. He'd just finished directing one of the greatest offenses in the history of the game, taking it all the way to the Super Bowl. More importantly, he'd done so by taking the West Coast Offense—the Niners' glorious identity—to heights that Bill Walsh would've never imagined. He thus was the perfect choice to lead the Niners into the future. He'd stand on the shoulders of his predecessors, but with the innovative vision he'd need to surpass them. He was the perfect choice to lead the Niners. But Shanahan got away, and the Niners were never the same again. With all due respect to head coach George Seifert, it was Shanahan who'd led the Niners to their fifth Super Bowl title, a league record to that...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Jan 5, 2016 at 3:09 PM 95 comments
    I've got to admit it, Jed. You almost had me going there. Nice touch, that "apology" of yours. "This past year was frustrating on many levels for 49ers fans," you wrote. "For that, I want to apologize to you and everyone that cares deeply about this team." And then, at the podium, you stepped right up and doubled down: "This season wasn't fun. It wasn't fun for me, it certainly wasn't fun for the fans, and I truly am sorry that we had to go through this year." Even some of your harshest critics were impressed. "He acted with contrition and humility," said one. "He acted the right way. He acted like the man he needs to become." And even I myself was tempted. As I said, you almost had me going there. But then I realized, we've...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Feb 16, 2015 at 7:19 AM 91 comments
    Despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, Jed York really isn't an idiot. He was smart enough to know, for example, that Jim Harbaugh's departure would be wildly unpopular with his faithful customers. After all, Harbaugh had done more than drag the Niners out of the wilderness. In a way, he'd also sold—at outrageous prices—the seats in York's new stadium, a sterile roasting-pan in a suburb of San Jose. If the faithful paid for Harbaugh's Niners, and if York delivered something less.... Well, like I said, Jed York really isn't an idiot. So he wanted to make it crystal clear: this wasn't merely his decision. "This was a mutual decision between Jim and I," he said, exasperated by the persistent doubt. "I don't know...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Jan 17, 2015 at 7:31 AM 205 comments
    "All of this is part of why I'm so proud to be a part of this and what's built. Joan in payroll. She's not only in payroll, Joan's my financial advisor. Joan's making sure I've got enough money in my 401K. You go on and on and on. Vilma at the front desk. You've got all of these wonderful people in the building. The boys downstairs making that great Mexican feast at Christmas. There's a whole lot that goes on inside this building that nobody knows about. So, with that, you really get an understanding and we all get an understanding of what we're a part of. So, I'm going to tell you, with me, with the football, I take all that." I've told this story before, of course. But if you'd indulge me, I'd like to tell it one more time. I don't think I'll ever tell it...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Dec 24, 2014 at 7:00 PM 39 comments
    Dear David: As one of your humble employees, I'd first like to wish you a merry Christmas and thank you for another great year here at 49erswebzone. Maybe I don't tell you enough, but this is truly a wonderful job. I can work from home, my hours are flexible, and the dress-code...well, you wouldn't believe what I'm wearing right now! (Okay, maybe the salary isn't so great. But that'll be between you and my agent.) Anyway, I just got your latest memo, the one entitled "Letting Go of Jim Harbaugh so Quickly Is a Big Mistake." And since this was my boss speaking, you can bet that I gave it my faithful attention. (I don't mean to suggest that I'm more...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Nov 30, 2014 at 9:04 AM 85 comments
    I still believed. Despite what I saw, I truly believed. Against the Giants' abysmal D, we'd scored 16 points despite 5 interceptions, only the last of which put it away. Against the Redskins' demoralized D, we'd scored 17 points, needing another near-miracle finish. And Seattle's D, having survived the first round of HGH testing, had quietly regained its place at the top of the league. But damn it all, I still believed. Because I believed in Jim Harbaugh. I'd made a promise, you see. Nearly three years ago, we talked about faith. We talked about how certain figures—especially sports figures—have a superhuman aura about them, an aura that simply compels your belief. It's not that they truly do win all the...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Nov 11, 2014 at 1:31 PM 10 comments
    Once again, Ahmad Brooks sacked Drew Brees. Once again, Brooks went high, grabbing Brees around the shoulders. Once again, Brees fumbled. Once again, the Niners recovered, clinching the game. And in that split-second, you had to wonder if once again, the refs would agree, as Brees whined last year: "That's got to be a flag." But this time, they didn't. And to Brees's credit, he didn't whine; the whining, instead, was Jimmy Graham's. After catching Brees's Hail Mary at the end of regulation, Graham insisted that he hadn't pushed Perrish Cox out of the way, apparently unaware that NFL games are videotaped. And despite the footage of Graham's two-handed shove, Cox had to defend himself against charges of flopping, as if any player would...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Nov 4, 2014 at 11:12 AM 32 comments
    You promised, Coach. You promised to end this. Four years ago, the Niners had thrown a game away, in an avalanche of what Mike Singletary called, poetically, "dumb stuff." And this, I argued, was precisely how Singletary had severed the ties to our glorious past. Sure, the Niners were losing, of course. But worse was that the Niners were dumb, and if one thing marked the Niners of old, it was the absence of even a trace of dumbness. "Walsh's teams were disarmingly intelligent and curious," a writer remarked when the great coach died, "from Hall of Famers such as Young and Lott to lesser-knowns such as guard Guy McIntyre and tight end Jamie Williams. The Niners surely had a dope here and knucklehead there, but they were obscured by the...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Oct 25, 2014 at 3:50 PM 27 comments
    Oh, I was tempted to say it, of course. After we overwhelmed the Rams, I wanted to join the cavalcade. After all, Colin Kaepernick had thrown for nearly 350 yards—not to mention three beautiful scores—and when we open things up and go pass-first, I'm usually leading the cavalcade. Add the fact that our largely second-string defense had squelched the Rams in the second half, and these were the Niners of my wildest dreams: aggressive and dominant on both sides of the ball. Sure, our late fourth-down follies were infuriating, keeping the Rams in it 'til the final seconds. But winners now of three in a row, the Niners looked to be on their way, thanks in large part to their quality depth, and I was awfully tempted to say it. But something...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Oct 7, 2014 at 11:56 AM 11 comments
    Hey, man, it was great to see you. There you were, the latest ex-Niner to QB the Chiefs. No, you weren't Joe Montana—though Colin Kaepernick wasn't Steve Young either—but there was still some serious history here. And as soon as you started driving the field, dinking and dunking as only you can, it all seemed to come flooding back.... It all started with Gil Brandt, remember? "I've been coming to private workouts for decades," he said, "but this is the first time I can remember a player receiving a standing ovation from the audience. He was lights out." Brandt saw you "make all the throws—three-step drops, five-step drops, play-action passes, deep passes .... In fact, Smith threw 62 yards to a receiver standing on the goal line, and the...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Sep 30, 2014 at 1:12 PM 25 comments
    There was just no doubt what would happen here. Having gifted the Eagles with three non-offensive touchdowns, we'd battled back to take the lead. Our O had looked good, our run-game especially, but the comeback belonged to a truly amazing show by our D. Facing a timely mix of rush and coverage, the Eagles' O hadn't crossed midfield. And now, desperately needing to finish this game, we were all set up to put it away. Third-and-three, from the Eagles' 11. When the Niners broke the huddle, the play-clock showed about 10 seconds left. They spent half that time getting set at the line. With three seconds left, Colin Kaepernick tapped his helmet to signal an adjustment. And he called for the snap, a half-beat after the clock ran...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Sep 23, 2014 at 12:32 PM 22 comments
    "Okay," I said. "Now I'm mad." Five years, a virtual lifetime ago. The week before, Alex Smith had returned from a two-year hiatus, and we'd shocked the Texans—though we didn't quite beat them—by abandoning the head coach's outdated offensive approach. We stretched the field, we threw every down, and out of the blue our offense exploded. And I naturally assumed that the coach would be perceptive enough to realize the obvious: Hey, this works. Maybe we'll try to keep this up. Instead, the next week, we abandoned it. We resumed the coach's boneheaded plodding, which produced a home-run and nothing else. But then, with our two-minute drill at the end of the half, we did it again. We spread out the D, put Smith in the 'gun, and marched...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Sep 16, 2014 at 6:30 AM 16 comments
    Did I ever tell you about my first (and only) Niner game at Candlestick Park? I lived 2,000 miles away, so seeing a game required a special trip. And though NorCal is one of this country's most worthy vacation spots, I was never quite willing to make the (mostly financial) commitment. Finally, I got the kick in the pants I needed. A family friend planned a Bay Area wedding for a fall Saturday, and the Niners would be playing at home the next day—September 22, 2002. That did it. After stopping at Santa Clara to see the trophies (and to park for a while in Bill Walsh's spot, much to the ire of some mugshottish security guys), I headed up to the 'Stick. I found my seat in the very top row of the ugly hulk, and under a typically perfect sky,...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Sep 9, 2014 at 1:07 PM 46 comments
    Naturally, I spoke too soon. When I wrote on the eve of training camp that all the offseason "noise" was gone, I couldn't have known that the worst was ahead. After a preseason that was drab by even preseason standards, the noise got almost deafening. Desperately seeking to make amends for fumbling the Ray Rice scandal, Roger Goodell lowered the boom on Aldon Smith, who deserved a suspension but nothing like that. And then, only hours later, Ray McDonald became the face of the league's enlightened post-Rice world. And now we lead the league in arrests, over the course of the last three years. The last three years. Basically, Jim Harbaugh's reign. As I've said, I don't care how "classy" the Niners are. I don't like their crimes any more than...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Jul 19, 2014 at 7:52 AM 13 comments
    I mean, seriously. You'd think that the Niners, after their third straight gut-wrenching playoff defeat, would do us the courtesy of taking the offseason, you know, off. Stopping the madness, and thereby stopping our collective face-palming. But no—the offseason turned out to be as crazily dramatic as anything they've done on the field. Purely for the sake of preserving the record, I hereby present this timeline of events. This is what happened, or at least it's how I remember it.... In February, the Niners came this close to trading superstar coach Jim Harbaugh to the Browns, in exchange for draft picks. "I love Jim Harbaugh," general manager Trent Baalke said, "but I love my mom too, and you can bet I'd trade her for a first and a...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Apr 17, 2014 at 6:28 AM 12 comments
    Around the turn of the century, when the Internet was still taking its first timid steps, a website was launched. With so many sites already having cornered the market on fake Rolexes and natural male-enhancement, a site was launched with a promise to be different. It promised to explore its subject with greater depth than any other site on the web. It promised to pull back the curtain and tell the whole story, which the subject's followers needed to know. The subject was the San Francisco 49ers. And the site was Oh, I know, 49erswebzone was starting up at just about the same time, with just about the same promise (which, of course, it has kept, to the max). But the haters' site was interesting too. The work of a shadowy cabal...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Feb 3, 2014 at 12:04 PM 63 comments
    When the Seahawks, whom we should've beaten, went on to just destroy the Broncos, it was easy to think, for the third year straight, just how close we seem to be. But as I review these last two weeks, I wonder just how close we are. Two decades ago, Joe Montana sat in a meeting room, watching film with his receivers and an offensive coach. The coach was focused on getting the receivers to run their routes with total precision, making the play look the same on the field as it did on the chalkboard. For example, the coach noted an issue with the way they were running a double-post; the receivers were getting too close together, allowing one corner to cover them both. Finding a play where they were able to keep the proper distance, the coach nearly...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Jan 21, 2014 at 7:14 PM 32 comments
    As a Niner fan, I love a good game. But as a writer (of sorts), I love a good story. Tonight, I'm mourning the losses of both. I think back to Jim Harbaugh's arrival. What excited me wasn't his coaching credentials, as exciting as those credentials were; what excited me, much more, was his story. If you've read me a while—and if you have, thanks, by the way—you saw me spin it, immediately. Bill Walsh's final protégé comes to the rescue of his woebegone franchise, restoring its glorious roots and then leading it back—to glorious victory. It was a plausible tale, if maybe a little bit over the top. And I loved it. I loved it because it spoke to who the Niners are. The Niners, see, are very special. We...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Jan 14, 2014 at 1:25 PM 44 comments
    Go ahead. You can admit it. No one's going to judge you here; your feelings make all the sense in the world. Only a few short weeks ago, the Super Bowl looked like an absolute lock. And now you're feeling it slipping away. You're being totally reasonable; any observer would understand. So go ahead. You can admit it. You can admit, that you are afraid. Please, trust us, we know how it went. During wild-card week, you rooted like mad for the Packers to beat us. You probably felt pretty confident, that the subzero wind-chill would put us away. After all, having barely escaped road-games against lowly teams like the Texans and Rams, that trip to Lambeau would've destroyed you. And the officials certainly gave you a tease,...
  • By Jeff Kaplan
    Jan 7, 2014 at 9:23 AM 21 comments
    When it was over, the story basically wrote itself. Despite playing in a frozen hellscape, the Niners simply did it again. They overcame their usual face-palmings—poor red-zone execution, even worse time-management—and won just like the Niners do. Their defense kept Aaron Rodgers in check, and Colin Kaepernick continued his Michael-Crabtree-charged resurgence, throwing and running all the way to the end, where he led a seventh game-on-the-line-in-the-fourth-quarter scoring drive, winning the game as the clock ran out. That was the story, the official one anyway. Another dramatic victory for a franchise that seems to collect them like stamps. But as Phil Dawson's kick sailed through a Packer's arms—and, only then, through the frozen...
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