Maiocco: 2011 Super Bowl, MVP predictions

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Maiocco: 2011 Super Bowl, MVP predictions

Sep. 5, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

AFC

East
1) New England Patriots
2) New York Jets (Wild card)
3) Buffalo Bills
4) Miami Dolphins

North
1) Pittsburgh Steelers
2) Baltimore Ravens (Wild card)
3) Cleveland Browns
4) Cincinnati Bengals
South
1) Houston Texans
2) Jacksonville Jaguars
3) Tennessee Titans
4) Indianapolis Colts

West
1) San Diego Chargers
2) Oakland Raiders
3) Kansas City Chiefs
4) Denver Broncos

Wildcard round
Steelers over Jets, Chargers over Ravens

Divisional round
Texans over Chargers, Patriots over Steelers

AFC Championship Game
Texans over Patriots

NFC

East
1) Dallas Cowboys
2) Philadelphia Eagles (Wild card)
3) New York Giants
4) Washington Redskins

North
1) Green Bay Packers
2) Detroit Lions
3) Chicago Bears
4) Minnesota Vikings

South
1) Atlanta Falcons
2) New Orleans Saints (Wild card)
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4) Carolina Panthers

West
1) St. Louis Rams
2) Arizona Cardinals
3) San Francisco 49ers
4) Seattle Seahawks

Wildcard round
Saints over Cowboys, Eagles over Rams

Divisional round
Saints over Packeers, Falcons over Eagles
NFC Championship Game
Saints over Falcons

Super Bowl XLII
Saints over Texans

Regular Season Awards

MVP: Houston Quarterback Matt Schaub
The Texans are set up to experience success for the first time in their history, and the quarterback will lead the way. Schaub threw 24 touchdowns and 12 interception last season, and his production is going way up this season. Houston is not lacking for talent around Schaub, either. Andre Johnson is one of the top two receivers in the game. Running back Arian Foster, when he gets healthy, is a dual threat out, and Owen Daniels will be one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the league.

Offensive player of the year: Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Generally, the MVP and the offensive player of the year are the same person. Just consider this as a chance to hedge my bet. The Chico native entered the conversation as one of the top five quarterbacks in the league last season while leading the Packers to the Super Bowl title. And he is still getting better.
Defensive player of the year: Dallas Linebacker DeMarcus Ware
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has one of the game's great players, and he's going to use him at every position in the Cowboys' front seven to generate heat on the quarterback. And that's something Ware knows how to do. He has 80 sacks in six NFL seasons, including 46.5 in the past three years. He'll single-handedly neutralize Philadelphia's Michael Vick and bring a division title to the Cowboys.

Offensive rookie of the year: New Orleans Running Back Mark Ingram
He'll begin the season sharing time with Pierre Thomas, but Ingram will gradually get more and more action as a major part of the offense. Ingram will take the heat off quarterback Drew Brees, as the Saints will feature a well-rounded offense. And he'll be money in short-yardage situations. Go ahead and ring him up for 16 touchdowns and a little more hardware to go along with his Heisman Trophy of a couple years ago.

Defensive rookie of the year: Houston Defensive End J.J. Watt
At 6-5, 290, he's a great fit for Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme. His adjustment has been remarkable smooth, as he quickly nailed down a starting job. He probably won't be a double-digit sack artist, but the push he provides will open things up for his teammates. The Texans' pass defense will improve dramatically, and Watt be a rock against the run.Comeback player of the year: Minnesota Quarterback Donovan McNabb
Yes, McNabb is still in the NFL. And while the Vikings are going to fall on some hard times, McNabb will post solid numbers and rebound from an embarrassing one-year fiasco in Washington under Mike Shanahan. McNabb's play will make it difficult for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder to get onto the field.

Coach of the year: Houston Texans' Gary Kubiak
Move over Colts, there's the makings of a new dynasty in the AFC South. Kubiak has himself an MVP candidate at quarterback (Schaub), an outstanding wide receiver (Johnson) who's not a diva, and a league rushing leader (Foster) who did not hold out for a new contract. In other words, he's done a great job of keeping this team focused on winning games and getting to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”