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Failing 49ers; Classless Gruden; Late Season Cupcakes; Big Game Preview

In 2017, with great fanfare, the 49ers hired Kyle Shanahan as their new coach and John Lynch as their new General Manager. Both men were given six year contracts in an attempt to provide the necessary time to build a winner and to lessen the "win now" pressure associated with most NFL jobs.

Well, five years in, the experiment is failing.

Shanahan has a record of 32-40 and only one winning season, 2019, when the 49ers reached the Super Bowl. And in that Super Bowl, as he had done once before as the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, Shanahan blew a fourth quarter lead.

Other than that one successful season, Shanahan's record is 19-37. The 49ers can't win at home, having lost five straight and compiled a 23-34 record at Levi's Stadium, among the worst home records in NFL history. (Perhaps it's negative karma from the shabby, unethical treatment the 49ers have given the city of Santa Clara, their partners in building the stadium).

They've also drafted poorly, with almost nothing to show for their recent drafts. They traded away their best defensive player, DeForest Bucker, in a horrible, ill-advised move.

In this year's draft, instead of more proven quarterbacks, Justin Fields or Mac Jones, they chose Trey Lance, a player with only one year of college experience against lower division competition. Then they needlessly created a quarterback controversy by anointing him as the future and emasculating the current QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, by announcing that his sole function was to keep the seat warm until Lance was ready.

Despite all this, the 49ers last year extended Shanahan's contract through 2025.

They might be having second thoughts. Halfway through the season, the 49ers sport a 3-5 record (soon to be 3-6 after tonight's game with the Rams). They are likely to finish with another losing record for the fourth time in five years.

The heat is on.

Classless Act: Former Raiders' coach Jon Gruden is suing the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell for "a malicious and orchestrated campaign" to destroy Gruden's career by leaking emails that exposed him as a racist homophobe.

According to this disgusting and shameless lawsuit, the defendants utilized "Soviet style character assassination" and leaked the correspondence to "harm Gruden's reputation and force him out of his job."

Sorry, Jon, what assassinated your character, harmed your reputation, and forced you out of your job was the content of that correspondence.

Goodell isn't the one who said NFLPA director DeMaurier Smith had "lips like Michelin tires," or called various NFL officials "faggots" and "p****ies" or denigrated female game officials.

Gruden preaches toughness, owning mistakes and correcting them. But he's proven himself to be a bigot, a coward and a hypocrite.

Late Season Cupcakes: I apologize to regular readers of this blog, as I write about this every year. So I'll make it quick. Saturday's schedule featured Alabama vs. New Mexico State, Clemson vs. UConn and Florida vs. Samford. Next week No. 1 ranked Georgia plays Charleston Southern.

How does this happen so late in the season, you ask?

The SEC and ACC are 14-team leagues that play only eight league games. They play three non-conference games early in the season (at least two of which are gimmes) and save one cupcake for late in the season, when their teams could use a break. The Pac-12 and Big Ten, meanwhile, play nine league games, not to mention that they also schedule much tougher non-conference opponents.

This is one of the inequities of the current system, which gives those two conferences a big advantage in the College Football Playoff rankings.

The playing field needs to be leveled. Every conference should play nine conference games, and the number of cupcakes against lower division opponents needs to be regulated (maximum of one). With the CFP format being expanded, in all likelihood, to 12 teams, this might be a good time to also standardize scheduling.

Costly Mistake: Texas paid $24 million to buy out coach Tom Herman and his assistants, then brought in Steve Sarkisian, also known as "Seven Win Sark," for $5.2M per year. Sarkisian was a failure in head coaching jobs at USC, where he was fired for showing up drunk at alumni functions and team practices, and Washington, but rehabbed his reputation as the offensive coordinator at Alabama.

But good coordinators often do not make good head coaches. Witness the Jimmy Lake disaster at Washington.

Somehow Sark has managed to lose three games in which his team had double digit second half leads. But last Saturday, the Longhorns hit a new low, losing 57-56 at home to 1-8 Kansas, a pathetic assemblage that hadn’t won a Big 12 game on the road in 13 years. Sark’s first Texas team has now lost five straight to fall to 4-6.

Big Game? It's been a bad year for football in the Bay Area. The 49ers and the recently departed Raiders are struggling mightily, as outlined above. And the two college teams, Stanford and Cal, are both having down years.

So nothing is at stake in the 124th Big Game, scheduled this Saturday at Stanford, except local pride and possession of the Axe.

The Cardinal comes in with a 3-7 record, five straight losses, and an injury list longer than a hardened criminal's rap sheet. The Bears stand at 3-6, the victim of some close losses they should've won and COVID complications that cost them what would've been a sure victory over Arizona.

It's anyone's guess who'll play quarterback for Stanford. Tanner McKee has missed the last two games with an undisclosed leg injury. Jack West, who actually started the season opener, has been banished because of poor play. Freshman Ari Patu, given a shot on Saturday in Corvallis, spent the last part of the game in the medical tent with an apparent shoulder injury. Transfer Isaiah Sanders is a decent runner, but the forward pass was a foreign concept at his previous employer, the Air Force Academy. And walk-on Dylan Plautz is, to be charitable, in way over his head.

If Chase Garbers and the rest of the COVID compromised Bears return, Cal should win by 10.


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//

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