Don't crown Moss top receiver yet

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Don't crown Moss top receiver yet

Programming note: Ann Killion appears on the Chronicle Live Blitz at 5 & 11 p.m. with KNBR Morning show host Brian Murphy and columnist Lowell Cohn -- tonight at 5 & 11 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!
Tonight on the Chronicle Live Blitz, one of the topics I will be discussing with my esteemed panel members is the validity of this statement:Randy Moss is the 49ers' best wide receiver.This topic popped into the early July conversation because Rich Gannon said on SiriusXM that Jim Harbaugh had told him, Gannon, that Moss is our best receiver right now.RELATED: Gannon: Harbaugh says Randy Moss 'our best receiver'
Harbaugh says a lot of preposterous, over-the-top things, from describing himself as having a humble heart to insisting that he never was flirting with Peyton Manning. Anointing Randy Moss the teams best receiver in July is one more to add to the list.Not to give away the content of the fabulous Chronicle Live show, but Ill give you a preview of my answer: Are you kidding me?Of course, on paper Moss is the 49ers best receiver. He has Hall of Fame credentials. But to say that hes the best receiver on the team right now is an insult to players like Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Everyone is fabulous in June and July. But Moss has not played a meaningful down of NFL football since January 2, 2011. He has not scored a touchdown since a week before the Giants won the World Series.Moss hasnt played since the 2010 season. And in that he played sparingly, bouncing between three NFL teams. He was both a weird pain-in-the-butt (ripping the caterers in Minnesota) and a malcontent (demanding a trade in New England and stabbing Brad Childress in the back). But mostly he was agonizingly unproductive. The word in Tennessee was that Jeff Fisher didnt mind having him around except that Moss couldnt get any separation. That was 18 months ago.The Moss saga reminds me of the Manny Ramirez story we just witnessed with the As. It was a no-risk signing if you dont care about credibility. On paper, Ramirez was by far the most accomplished player at spring training. Of course there were great expectations.But they never materialized. The expectations fizzled. The legend basically couldnt play any more. And the risk would become high-risk if the team tried to force him onto the roster.Moss is great when everything is going well. When hes the star and catching tons of balls and the team is winning. Thats what happened in New England in 2007. He was Mr. Everything. But would Bill Belichick really get rid of a player that he thought could still play, just a few games into the 2010 season?When things arent going well, Moss is terrible. He complains. He quits. He makes life for coaches and coordinators miserable. We witnessed it first hand here in the Bay Area when Moss was with the Raiders.Who knows what its going to be like with the 49ers and their aging, mercurial receiver. Will Alex Smith be able to feed Moss enough passes to keep him happy? What about the other receivers? What about the fact that the 49ers are really a run-first, defense-reliant team? How long might it take before the malcontent Moss appears? And, more importantly, can the 35-year old actually still be productive on the field, after a prolonged absence?Is Moss the 49ers best receiver? Sure. On paper. In early July.Thats not where the NFL is played.

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end Vance McDonald became aware of a report the 49ers had engaged in trade talks involving him at his brother’s wedding in Austin, Texas.

But McDonald said he did not give it much thought because he had another immediate priority.

“I still had my best man’s speech to do,” McDonald said.

Later that evening during last month's draft, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called McDonald to keep him in the loop. There was no trade, and McDonald returned to Santa Clara on Monday to continue participation in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“The first thing I told him was, ‘Man, there aren’t a lot of coaches that would do this,’” McDonald said of his talk with Shanahan. “He just wanted to fill me in.”

Nearly four weeks later, it is as if nothing ever happened.

“The only trade discussions we had was when another team asked us about Vance on draft day,” Shanahan said this week. “And after a team asked us about Vance then we asked other teams if they’d be interested in that same thing.”

McDonald said he completely understood why the 49ers would check with other teams around the league to see what they could acquire in a trade.

“Basically, it’s just like any other team in the NFL would do,” McDonald said. “If you’re a 2-14 team, obviously, there are a lot of things you can improve on, a lot of spots that need to be filled. There are a lot of things you need to improve upon in the offseason. So if teams are going to call and inquire about you, then obviously the next step is to … call around to every other team.

“So that’s exactly what happened to me. It isn’t like they don’t want me here. There was never a lack of communication on any level.”

Even before he knew his immediate future with the 49ers, McDonald said he tried to maintain the proper state of mind.

“I had the mindset this isn’t going to change anything,” McDonald said. “I’m going to end up where I end up and I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, which is do everything to be a better football player.”

McDonald enters the fifth year of his NFL career after signing a new deal in December that amounts to a three-year, $19.7 million extension. Three days later, the 49ers placed McDonald on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McDonald was on pace for his best season as a pass-catcher. In 11 games, he had 24 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he is competition for a spot in the 49ers’ offense, along with fifth-round draft pick George Kittle, undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

McDonald said he likes what Shanahan has brought to the 49ers, including added responsibilities of the tight end position.

“Last year, all we talked about was how fast our pace was,” McDonald said. “With Kyle, it’s insanely quick. He’s a very detailed guy. It’s interesting to hear him present information. You try to apply it and play with the same mindset that he has. It’s a task that we all enjoy doing.

“We (tight ends) are the end of the line. There’s communication with us and the wide receivers and running backs. We’re also in command with receiving corps. There are a lot of things on our plate. Hopefully, this doesn’t get back to the wide receivers, but we’re supposed to be smarter than them. It’s a fun job to have. We don’t try to rub it in too much.”

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”