49ers key matchup No. 2: Brown vs. Fitzgerald


49ers key matchup No. 2: Brown vs. Fitzgerald

This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Cardinals matchups to watch Monday, 5:30 p.m. (ESPNCBS, Ch. 5), at University of Phoenix Stadium49ers CB Tarell Brown vs. Cardinals WR Larry FitzgeraldTale of the tape
Brown (25): 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, sixth season, Texas
Fitzgerald (11): 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, ninth season, PittsburghThe Arizona Cardinals do not feature a one-man offense.But, certainly, sometimes it seems that way. And the fact of the matter is the Cardinals' offense is geared around wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald."He's one of those guys that's a big part of that offense even when the ball's not being thrown to him because the defense is always aware of where he's going to be," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said."He draws a lot of attention from everybody they play. So even when other guys are catching the ball, he has an indirect effect on that. So he's a huge part of their offense, even if it's not getting thrown to him."Covering Fitzgerald is not a one-man chore, but 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown figures to be matched up on him more than anyone else Monday night."He's the X receiver, so I think I'll get him most of the game," Brown said.MAIOCCO's MATCHUP NO. 3: Iupati vs. Campbell
Brown plays solely on the right side. Carlos Rogers is the cornerback on the left side. When the opposition goes with three receivers, Rogers covers the slot, with Chris Culliver playing left cornerback. The Cardinals will be able to dictate which cornerback Fitzgerald faces.Brown is giving up 5 inches to Fitzgerald, who has 40 receptions for 459 yards and three touchdowns this season. Brown knows from experience Fitzgerald offers a unique challenge."He has great body control and he uses his hands well," Brown said. "He gets in and out of breaks, and he always competes for the ball, regardless of whether it's a well-thrown ball or an average-thrown ball."There are likely to be many average-thrown passes on Monday, as Cardinals quarterback John Skelton is a 55-percent passer who has thrown three interceptions on 74 attempts this season after taking over for injured Kevin Kolb.The 49ers own the No. 1-ranked pass defense in the NFL, which begins with a pass rush that forces opposing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly. How the 49ers defend Fitzgerald should go a long way in determining who wins on Monday.The 49ers held Fitzgerald to three catches for 41 yards in a 23-7 victory over Arizona last November. Three weeks later, Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 149 yards as the Cardinals defeated the 49ers 21-19."We have to keep the deep balls off us and concentrate on our open-field tackling," Brown said.Free safety Dashon Goldson will also have a busy day, as he will often supply help against Fitzgerald over the top.
"No 1, when you think of the Cardinals you're going to think of Larry Fitzgerald, obviously. He's one of the top receivers in our league, if not the best receiver in the league," Fangio said. "(He's a future) Hall of Famer and justifiably so. He's a tough guy to handle. He's big. He's fast. He's strong. He's tough to tackle after he catches it. So, him in and of himself is a tough chore."

Tom Rathman to be inducted into 49ers Hall of Fame

Tom Rathman to be inducted into 49ers Hall of Fame

Former 49ers fullback Tom Rathman, who was not retained this season on Kyle Shanahan’s coaching staff, will be coming back to the organization in a permanent fashion.

Rathman, 54, who spent a total of 23 seasons as a player and coach, will be inducted into the 49ers Hall of Fame, CEO Jed York announced on Tuesday.

“Tom Rathman embodies everything this organization wants in its players, coaches and staff,” York said in a statement. “Throughout his more than two decades with our team, Tom set a tone for the 49ers both on and off the field. As a player, he was selfless, hard-working and dedicated to bringing his best every single day. Tom coached very much the same way.

"It was his mission to help every man he coached realize his full potential, as both a player and a man. Tom is family and we are so thrilled to induct him into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame, where he will take his place among the all-time greats in our team’s history.”

Rathman discussed having a role on the 49ers’ coaching staff after the hiring of Shanahan. But Shanahan had already promised the position of running backs coach to Bobby Turner.

“It was all positive,” said Rathman told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “I have no hard feelings. It’s just the nature of the business. Everybody just has to understand that. In pro football, coaches get fired and new guys come in and they bring their guys. I totally understand it. I don’t have a problem with it. Being in the business for 28 years, playing and coaching, you understand what it is. You can never take anything for granted.”

Rathman played for the 49ers from 1986 to ’93. He was a starter on two Super Bowl-winning teams and seven NFC West champions. Used mostly as a lead-blocker for Roger Craig, Rathman’s best season came in 1989, when he caught 73 passes for 616 yards.

After his playing career concluded with the Los Angeles Rams in 1994, Rathman entered into a career in coaching. He coached under Steve Mariucci from 1997 to 2002. He returned to coach with the 49ers in 2009, serving on the coaching staffs of head coaches Mike Singletary, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.

“I’ve always considered myself a 49er and I always will consider myself a 49er," Rathman said in a statement. "I’ll take that brand with me wherever I go because that’s who I am. It feels great to be with the guys who are already in the 49ers Hall of Fame. Dating back to Joe Perry, it’s an honor to be associated with the likes of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark.

"That’s a lot of history right there. To be able to say that you’re in a fraternity with those guys so to speak, the 49ers Hall of Fame fraternity, says volumes. It’s pretty special.”

49ers draft board consists of nearly 200 prospects

49ers draft board consists of nearly 200 prospects

The 49ers new draft grading system is inspired by the New England Patriots, but their draft menu consists of a lot more options.

“We’ve got just under 200 players on our draft board, that we see as draftable players on our board,” 49ers general manager John Lynch told reporters Monday at team headquarters in Santa Clara.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time in here and it was needed this year because I had a lot of catch-up to do. I can tell you that just (Sunday) night I finally got to the point, I always knew as a player like, ‘OK. I’m ready.’ That moment was (Sunday) for me where I said, ‘OK. I’m ready. I’m ready to go on this thing.’ That’s a good feeling.”

The 49ers have 10 draft picks scheduled for the three-day draft, including the No. 2 overall selection. With 73 players under contract, the 49ers figure to add approximately 17 rookies through the draft and as free agents. The NFL's seven-round draft will result in 253 players being selected.

Lynch was hired out of the FOX broadcast booth a week before the Super Bowl. The following week, Lynch assembled all of the team’s scouts for meetings in Santa Clara.

“When we first brought scouts in right after the Super Bowl we were kind of working off the old grading system,” Lynch said. “But what helped was the grading system that they use in Denver, which kind of derived from one that was developed in New England.”

One of Lynch’s first hires was former Broncos college scouting director Adam Peters as 49ers vice president of player personnel. New coach Kyle Shanahan was also familiar with the system because, like Peters, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff worked in the Patriots’ scouting department.

“In these last three weeks of draft meetings we moved over to that grading scale,” Lynch said.

“I’ve always been someone who thinks you should listen to multiple opinions and we’ve been very collaborative. I believe in strong opinions. Someone once told me, ‘Strong opinions, weakly held.’ So are you open to different thoughts and someone makes you think? But ultimately someone’s got to make decisions.”

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio recently told Boston-area reporters that New England's draft board consists of only 50 to 75 players who fit as draft picks for their team. The Patriots have seven scheduled draft picks but none in the first two rounds.

"I would say it varies year to year, but I would say our draft board is smaller than most," Caserio said. "We are trying to find players that we feel comfortable with on all levels that we would actually draft -- not that are going to get drafted.

"It's players that we would draft, that we would actually feel comfortable with in our program in some capacity."

1. First round: No. 2 overall
2. Second round: No. 34 overall
3. Third round: No. 66 overall
4. Fourth round: No. 109 overall
5. Fourth round: No. 143 overall (compensatory)
6. Fifth round: No. 146 overall
7. Fifth round: No. 161 (pick acquired from Washington in 2015 trade for TE Derek Carrier)
8. Sixth round: No. 198 overall (from Baltimore in trade with C Jeremy Zuttah for No. 186)
9. Sixth round: No. 202 overall (pick acquired from Denver in 2015 trade for TE Vernon Davis)
10. Seventh round: No. 219 overall (pick acquired from Cleveland in 2015 trade for Andy Lee)