Unhappy Endings

Yesterday was a very bleak day for Bay Area sports teams…a day marked by several unhappy endings.

Both NFL teams lost in the final seconds after holding two possession leads late in the fourth-quarter. The playoff-bound 49ers fell to the “lowly” Atlanta Falcons. The Las Vegas-bound Raiders blew their final game at the Coliseum to the "lowly" Jacksonville Jaguars.

Elsewhere, more Stanford football players became transfer-bound. And multiple sources announced Giants’ icon Madison Bumgarner is Arizona Diamondbacks-bound after agreeing to a five-year, $85 million contract.

Where to start…

Madbum Departs: I'm not sure what's going on at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, home of our San Francisco Giants, but it isn't good.

Giants' president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi isn't making himself any friends among Giants fans. With other clubs picking up excellent free agent talent at the baseball meetings, the best Zaidi has been able to do is sign a pitcher, Kevin Gausman, who was 3-9 with a 5.72 ERA last season.

I’m sure there was a long line of suitors for Gausman, who the Giants will pay $9M this year. That’s right, 9 million bucks for a guy who won three games and gives up six runs per nine innings.

Yet Zaidi couldn’t muster $17M a year to keep the 30-year old Bumgarner, one of the greatest post-season pitchers in baseball history. (Note that $17M is less than half what superstar pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg signed for last week).

Earlier, Zaidi decided to let go outfielder Kevin Pillar, who was far and away the Giants’ best player last season.

Incomprehensible. So far, Farhan is far from getting the job done in San Francisco.

Raiders Exit: Continuing the sad script of the last month, the Raiders led 16-6 with five minutes left in the game, but couldn’t hold on. Loyal fans were booing and throwing things onto the field after the game ended.

I can’t blame them. Owner Mark Davis has betrayed his fans, and coach Jon Gruden may prove to be a $100 million mistake.

Replay Madness: I doubt we'll ever see this again. But the 49ers-Falcons game yesterday ended with back-to-back replays involving potential game-winning touchdowns, with both original calls getting overturned.

The first play—a pass from Matt Ryan to former Stanford tight end Austin Hooper in the end zone—was first called a touchdown, then over-ruled. The second play—a pass from Ryan to Julio Jones—was originally ruled a stop just short of the goal line, then reversed to a game-winning touchdown for the Falcons.

Both reversals were correct. Hooper's "catch" was not a catch, but Jones’ catch definitely crossed the plane of the end zone.

For the 49ers, it was a tough loss in a game they were expected to win. All three of their losses have come in the final seconds—in overtime to Seattle, as time expired to Baltimore, and on the next-to-last play to Atlanta.

Some are calling this an awful, ugly, embarrassing, inexcusable loss. Get real folks. This is the NFL. “On any given Sunday" isn't a cliche. It's reality.

The Falcons, although they came into the game 4-9, have a lot of talent. Ryan, Jones, Hooper and Devonta Freeman are all outstanding offensive players. Atlanta beat New Orleans earlier this year. And San Francisco was without several defensive starters.

The 49ers are in the playoffs and all their goals are still achievable. If they finish with wins over the Rams and Seahawks, they’ll own home field advantage throughout the playoffs and earn a first-round bye.

Stanford Transfer Epidemic: As of today, 12 Stanford players have entered the NCAA transfer portal, far and away the most of any team in college football.

All of the players will be fifth-year seniors who have graduated, and a few may have failed to gain grad school admission at Stanford, but any way you cut it, this is not a good sign for coach David Shaw’s program.

Four of the players were starters this year and would’ve been key members of the 2020 Cardinal—offensive guards Devery Hamilton and Henry Hattis, defensive tackle Michael Williams and defensive end Jovan Swann.

They will leave big holes that will not be easy to fill.

To make matters worse, Stanford was already operating without a full compliment of 85 scholarship players (the exact number is unclear, but is believed to be around 75). So these losses will make a thin squad even thinner.

Given the fact that Oregon is loaded, Washington has a lot of talent and a new coach anxious to prove himself, Cal and Oregon State are on the rise, and Stanford has been unable to beat Washington State, next season could be a very challenging one in the Pac-12 North.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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