Manning vs. Smith -- a franchise statement


Manning vs. Smith -- a franchise statement

The troubling nature of the 49ers flirtation with Peyton Manning begins and ends here, with this thought:That Alex Smith has never been Mr. Right. That he is simply Mr. Right Now.But that is the nature of football, and not only as Jim Harbaugh perceives it. It is the nature of football, period. Organizations marrying themselves to one player is so contra-indicated as to border on the foolish, as Mannings separation from the Indianapolis Colts reminds us.So Harbaugh turning up to kick the tires on Manning, as the saying goes, is merely one more reminder not to Smith alone but to all of us that nobody is safe in the sport built on the most primal laws of Darwinism. Break a player, get a new one. See a drill in the window that works better than your, get it.Put it this way: If Harbaugh thought there was a better linebacker than Patrick Willis, hed seek that out, too.
Harbaugh is a pragmatist with a reptiles blood temperature. He always has been. The great quarterback mastermind won at Stanford with Toby Gerhart as his centerpiece before he won with Andrew Luck. It is why he has a reputation out of size with his deeds to date because he doesnt mind tweaking his system to fit the players in his command.Manning, of course, is a different matter because he plays quarterback, which is the only position many 49er fans acknowledge at all. It is this teams great cultural flaw that it obsesses on its quarterbacks in ways that more traditional markets do not.Thus, Smith was the embodiment of evil when he was quarterbacking a bad team for more coaches than Manning has ever seen, the representative of truth and beauty when the team finally got good last year, and after not winning the NFC title game to a superior New York Giants team, he became Public Enemy No. 1 again.In fact, Smith is and has always been a serviceable quarterback who found a coach who could give his gifts voice in his seventh year. He is not Dan Marino. He is also not Charlie Whitehurst. He is, and take this any way you like, an okay quarterback with a range of results.And take this, too. He did not cost the 49ers the Giants game. The Giants took it. Period.All that said, Manning is worth a free look. The problem becomes in projecting what Harbaugh saw this week with what he would see with angry mesomorphs beating on him relentlessly in the fall and early winter, and at what cost that vision demands.As Comrade Maiocco, a troublesome brute in the best of days, has told us, Denver has more than 40 million in cap space, and the 49ers less than 20 million. Manning has apparently been offered a five-year, 90 million deal from Denver that would essentially Zito-ize the 49er payroll if Manning isnt all that.Thats your downside right there. Its no more elegant than that. The 49ers cannot afford to be wrong with Manning because of the collateral damage. Being right with Manning, of course, speaks for itself, but the question remains a dangler suspended from the front of Harbaughs omnipresent ball cap is there enough Manning for the quick strike that nets a ring?This is, then, a strategic rather than a tactical decision, one that seems financial but in fact is a football call at its most elemental. Jed York seems clearly like the sort who would do and pay anything Harbaugh requested, so hes going to follow the coachs lead, and Trent Baalkes specialty remains the draft.Harbaugh, though, has the decision that makes, breaks or just dents the franchise. The quick hit that is Manning who may or may not be the perfect stroke for the here and now, against the safer and more financially prudent choice that is Smith who, in any event, would always be auditioning for his job no matter what his contract reads.So forget loyalty. Loyalty is always a one-way street in the NFL, and always has been. Players who expect it end up being devastated by its absence. Alex Smith is nobodys yutz he knows the game; he has no right not to know it. So does Peyton Manning, who unlike the 49er fan base is looking at his decision in a far more clinical light, with no interest in or concern for Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Matt Hasselbeck or, if it came to that, Darian Durant of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.But for a change, the down side of keeping Smith is minimal, whether you want to believe that or not. So this decision becomes the essential Harbaugh tell does he like to go all-in with ace-four unsuited (Manning), or play the percentage with jacks paired (Smith)?The answer will tell you what kind of football executive (as opposed to coach) he is pragmatist with a hint of gambler, or gambler with a hint of pragmatist. Its his call, and his franchise statement.

Al Madrigal: Levi's Stadium 'so much better' than Candlestick


Al Madrigal: Levi's Stadium 'so much better' than Candlestick

Comedian Al Madrigal, whose family has owned 49ers season tickets since the days of Kezar Stadium, does not use Levi’s Stadium as a punch line for any of his material.

Madrigal spent countless games in the upper deck at Candlestick Park above the Jumbotron, which was visible to nearly everybody outside of Section 62. Because Madrigal might have thought he was dying up there at Candlestick, he has a largely positive opinion of the 49ers’ current home.

And – before you ask – yes, Madrigal’s seats in Santa Clara are on the east side, where it seems as if the customers might as well be wearing eclipse glasses for a safe view of the action on the field.

“I’m on the microwave side,” Madrigal said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “I’m on the walk-away-ten-shades-darker side.”

Madrigal did refer to the “sun issue” as a major problem, but he said he has no other significant complaints about Levi’s Stadium after experiencing the deteriorating conditions of Candlestick, as well as the lengthy hikes along a cramped concourse just to find an edible burger.

“I hear people complain about Levi’s – and there are complaints – but it’s just so much better than The ‘Stick,” Madrigal said.

Madrigal recalled the 49ers-Raiders game in 2011 that ended the annual preseason series.

In the Candlestick parking lot after the game, one man was shot in the face. In a separate incident, another man was beaten unconscious and when his friend tried to rescue him, he was reportedly shot four times. Madrigal witnessed another incident in the restroom that night.

“I saw a guy, huge man, smash another guy’s head against the bathroom sink,” Madrigal said. “I’m escorting my father out – a little old man. And I’m acting like I’m Secret Service. Mayhem everywhere.

“You want to be able to take your kids to the game. I’m a big Levi’s guy. There was a bad element at Candlestick after a while and it needed to go.”

Madrigal is a San Francisco native who grew up in the inner Sunset District and attended St. Ignatius High and the University of San Francisco. He now lives in Southern California and travels to the Bay Area for as many 49ers games as possible.

Madrigal, who spent six years as a correspondent on “The Daily Show,” might miss more games than usual this season. He was cast for a role in Kevin Hart’s movie, “Night School,” which is scheduled for an upcoming 30-day shoot in Atlanta with a release scheduled for next year.

Showtime recently renewed “I’m Dying Up Here” for a second season. Madrigal is a regular on the series.

He does his best to make sure business does not get in the way of his passion for the 49ers. Madrigal, an accomplished stand-up comedian, will appear at Kennedy Center in Washington on Nov. 18. It’s no coincidence the 49ers have a bye that weekend.

“It is insane, but it is by design when I get offered work, I do check a (49ers) schedule to make sure,” Madrigal said.

Madrigal said his distaste of the Seahawks has also prompted him to take a stand on ever again visiting or performing in Seattle.

“I will not go to Seattle under any circumstances,” Madrigal said. “I don’t care how much money people offer me. I will never, ever go to Seattle. . . . I will never perform in Seattle, and I will never go to that place.

“I used to go when they were not in our division. I think they’re horrible people. They paint their faces with neon when they added neon to their uniform. I think the whole 12th Man is bulls---. I just think it’s one of the worst fan bases in sports. I just can’t stand those people.”

Maybe our wanting him to play isn’t the best thing for Colin Kaepernick


Maybe our wanting him to play isn’t the best thing for Colin Kaepernick

The National Football League’s 32 overlords have been made increasingly uncomfortable by the pressures between its now dual purpose – putting on demonstrations of entertainment and being a prop for patriotic symbolism. It is a dance that rich men in their upper 60s and beyond aren’t really very well equipped to do.

But that’s what happens when you try to be all things to all people – at least all people who have the money to afford it. Eventually you find yourselves staring back at yourselves and wondering what the hell you’ve done to yourselves.

Put another way, this has gotten a lot bigger than Colin Kaepernick not having a quarterbacking gig. In fact, it has probably made the minimal notion that some owner would consider doing so that much more remote. Putting aside the rightness or wrongness of signing him, no owner in these profoundly uncertain times for the business is going to take on a new “burden.”

And there’s a part of me that wonders whether that is actually a bad thing in the end.

Not because he shouldn’t have the opportunity. If football is a meritocracy, and nobody can explain why he isn’t one of the 64 best quarterbacks in the nation, he should have a place somewhere. If he wants to play, and there is no evidence that he doesn’t, and the need for his talents is there, and it seems to be, any owner whose team needs a quarterback and chooses to avoid Kaepernick because of his uppity knee is committing a political act.

But we also know that football is essentially a dangerous pastime for people with heads and brains, and there is something slightly off-putting about us wanting that level of long-term danger for someone else. As we learn more about the cost of playing the sport, maybe our wanting him to play isn’t the best thing for him.

In other words, Colin Kaepernick should be someone’s quarterback by virtue of the level of talent at the position. He should chase his football desire without having to abandon his conscience.

But the essential lunacy of him having no quarterbacking job is, at least for me, balanced by the knowledge that football is in large part not good for a human head. And I kind of like where his head is at these days.

So if he never plays again, I will shake my head at the absurdity and rigidity of the people who run the sport, and revel in their ongoing discomfort because they conflated economics and politics and paid the price for that misjudgment.

And I will feel okay with him never playing again, just because if I have to choose between brain health and my Sunday amusement, I'll take option A.