PROGRAMMING ALERT: 49ers Central featuring Michael Crabtree airs on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
As Michael Crabtree walked off the field in Seattle after the 49ers secured a 19-17 win on Dec. 24, he stopped near the entrance to the tunnel, took off his cleats and gave one shoe each to separate fans in the crowd who happened to be wearing his jersey.A Christmas present, Crabtree was heard to say. The receiver then proceeded to the locker room in his socks.A dynamic receiver on the field, Crabtree's game day attire is grabbing almost as much attention as his play. The three-year veteran closets an extensive shoe collection which includes a season's worth of new cleats.He'll often tweet out photos of his favorite custom cleats, like the pink and white pair he sported in October during the NFL's campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer. He chooses a new pair for every game which he complements with a matching pair of gloves. He never wears the same cleats twice.Crabtree explained to me his thought process when it comes to selecting his ensemble during a sit down interview in which he's the focus of the player profile for this week's 49ers Central."With the Niners, I really can't do too much. So I'm thinking you got black, you got your white and red, your white and black, your black and red. It depends on how you're feeling," Crabtree said. "If we're playing on Sunday, I'm picking Sunday morning right then and there. Right before the game I lay my outfit out. You know how you've got the first day of school? You lay your outfit out, put the shoes right there. I pretty much do that on Sunday morning."This week, Crabtree will make that decision on Saturday morning, as the 49ers play the New Orleans Saints at 1:30 p.m. in an NFC divisional playoff game.Most telling of Crabtree's mindset is that he did not have a special pair of cleats designed for the game, even though it's San Francisco's first playoff appearance since the 2002 season.Crabtreee says the game is not big enough to warrant a custom pair. He's waiting for something bigger. He's waiting for the Super Bowl.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins is, perhaps, the top NFL player scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March.
But if Washington is unable to sign Cousins to a long-term contract before the start of the free-agent signing period, the club appears likely to place the franchise tag on him for the second year in a row.
Washington coach Jay Gruden appeared to confirm that suspicion on Tuesday while speaking to reporters at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
"We totally anticipate Kirk coming back to (Washington)," Gruden said via CSN Mid-Atlantic. "We're excited about parlaying two very good years as the starting quarterback with a third year and continue to watch him grow."
But does Gruden anticipate another team willing the pay the price it would take to acquire Cousins?
If Washington places the franchise tag on Cousins at approximately $24 million for one season, another team could sign him to an long-term offer sheet and pay the price of two first-round draft picks as compensation.
The 49ers – and presumptive head coach Kyle Shanahan -- are expected to be interested in acquiring Cousins. If the cost of two first-round draft picks is considered exorbitant, the 49ers could attempt to negotiate another deal with Washington.
Washington can end any possibility that the 49ers or any other team could acquire Cousins this offseason if they tag him as an exclusive franchise player at a cost expected to be slightly higher than $24 million.
Cousins, who turns 29 in August, started every game the past two seasons for Washington. In 2015, he completed 69.8 percent of his pass attempts while throwing 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a passer rating of 101.6. Last season, he finished third in the NFL behind Drew Brees and Matt Ryan with 4,917 yards. He averaged 8.1 yards per attempt and had a rating of 97.2.
The Atlanta Falcons had the highest scoring offense during the 2016 regular season, averaging 33.8 points per game, and they racked up 6,653 total yards.
In two playoff games, they've scored a combined 80 points.
The architect of that high-powered offense is Kyle Shanahan, who is the presumptive head coach of the 49ers.
So what makes Shanahan's scheme so effective?
Falcons starting center and former Cal Bears star Alex Mack answered that on ESPN's Mike and Mike show on Tuesday.
"He does a really good job of just having a very balanced offense. We want to run outside schemes. we want to run outside zone, we want to be really effective at doing that. And when a team stops you from doing that, when they put people over there, or they slant out or whatever they do to stop that, he has the backup plan," Mack said.
"He knows exactly when they bring that safety down to make it really tough to run outside zone, well that's going to open up some throws later down the field. And then when they put someone out there on the throws, well, there's a bigger cutback lane, so he calls a different run for that. So our offense is really built around being balanced and having an answer for what the defense wants to do to stop us," Mack continued.
Mack, Shanahan and the Falcons are set to put their No. 1 scoring offense to the test against the Patriots' No. 1 scoring defense in Super Bowl 51 in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017.