Urban: Sunday was microcosm of Giants' season


Urban: Sunday was microcosm of Giants' season

September 5, 2011


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Mychael Urban

Whomever is charged with putting together the DVD highlights of the 2011 season can save themselves a lot of time and editing by simply copying Sunday's death knell of a loss to the Diamondbacks.It was the season in a nutshell in virtually every way.It started with a little magic, just as the season did, what with all of those riveting comebacks and tense triumphs. Cody Ross' leadoff homer in the first inning put a charge into sellout No. 72 for the year.It featured, as has the season as a whole, more than little brilliance on the mound, and it was fitting that on Sunday it was supplied by the surprising Ryan Vogelsong. He was terrific for seven innings.Eventually, though, every one of the Giants' problems this season came to the fore. RELATED: Nail in coffin? Giants crumble, D'Backs win series
The failure to advance runners, to cash in those rare opportunities to give the pitcher some breathing room.The same stubborn refusal to sacrifice an out with a bunt, one of the game's most basic but vital skills and largely ignored all year.
The inability to come up with the kind of defensive play that separates champions from also-rans.And finally, the pitching buckling late under the pressure of having to be perfect. Arizona's four-run uprising in the eighth inning was almost comically predictable, turning what should have been a victorious and uplifting afternoon for Vogelsong into yet another disheartening loss.Just like that, less than 48 hours after Matt Cain had given the Giants a glimmer of hope with his latest I'm-the-man masterpiece, the season felt as though it had ended.It isn't officially over, of course. Twenty-two games remain. Yet as badly as their fans would like to point to historical precedents, and to the 2010 season as an example of this team's unwillingness to fold like pup tents, the Giants are at least pouring water on the campfire and packing their trash.Seven games back? Might as well be 17. There's been nothing in the past two months to indicate that the defending champs won't soon be putting that well-traveled trophy back into its case once and for all, and start facing facts.These are the facts: You can't sustain the kind of magic they enjoyed in April, May, June and part of July through the end of July, August and September.
August was not an aberration. It was the month in which the injuries and age finally caught up, and September is the month in which the focus must shift to how to get younger, healthier and better in 2012.October? Likely to be spent at home, staring at that unopened DVD, wondering how badly it's going to hurt to see it all boiled down to that one ugly game when the season effectively ended.

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is reportedly “almost certain” to accept the 49ers’ offer to become head coach.

Shanahan is the lone remaining candidate among the six individuals who interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe. The 49ers plan for a second interview with Shanahan and a job offer, a source told CSNBayArea.com. Shanahan is expected to accept the 49ers’ offer, reports Michael Silver of the NFL Network, citing sources familiar with both parties.

The 49ers continued to work Tuesday evening on the process of narrowing down the general manager choices, a source said. Shanahan is expected to play a role in the select the team’s next GM, sources said.

On Tuesday, Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner removed their names from consideration for the vacant coach and general manager positions. The 49ers fired Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke after the 49ers' 2-14 season.

One source said Cable and Kirchner believed the 49ers were using them as leverage to hire Shanahan. Cable interviewed with 49ers co-chair Denise DeBartolo York over the phone on Tuesday, NFL Network reported.

The 49ers are allowed to interview Shanahan for a second time after the Falcons’ NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The 49ers are prohibited from hiring or making a formal contract offer to Shanahan until the Falcons' season has concluded.

The top remaining candidates for the general manager job are believed to be Green Bay executives Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf, Arizona's Terry McDonough and Minnesota's George Paton.

Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field


Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field

BERKELEY — With more than a half-century without a Rose Bowl berth, tougher academic standards than most Pac-12 schools and lackluster fan support in a pro-sports focused market, there are plenty of hurdles for a football coach at California.

Coach Justin Wilcox took the job for the Golden Bears because he embraces those obstacles and he wants players who feel the same way as he seeks to rebuild a program that has one winning record in the past five years and no conference championships since 1958.

"When you come here, there are challenges," Wilcox said at his introductory news conference Tuesday. "You don't come here and go through school and just go through the motions. You'll be challenged in the classroom, challenged on the football field and learn to interact in a dynamic society. I believe in that and that helps guys grow."

Wilcox faces many hurdles in his new job replacing the recently fired Sonny Dykes less than three weeks before national signing day. He has to put together a coaching staff, evaluate the players already on campus and try to keep together, and even add to, a recruiting class that committed to a different staff.

Athletic director Mike Williams fired Dykes after four seasons on Jan. 8 because he wanted a coach committed to Cal instead of flirting with other jobs and needed someone who could excite a fan base that often stayed away from Memorial Stadium in recent years as the Bears teamed porous defenses with sometimes exciting offenses while posting a 19-30 record.

Williams had five finalists for the job but chose a former Cal assistant with a defensive background and familiarity with the Pac-12 as an assistant for seven years at three schools in the conference.

"He truly gets this place, he truly gets coaching in the West," Williams said. "He came in and was very organized and thoughtful. He knew what he wanted to do and who he wanted to hire. ... It's a special place and I think he'll treat it as a special place."

While Dykes flirted with job openings at Houston and Baylor this past offseason in part because of his concern about increased academic standards for recruits, the Bears hope Wilcox is someone who wants to stick around after more than a decade of being on a self-described "windy" path as a top defensive coach.

The former Oregon defensive back began his coaching career in 2001 as a graduate assistant at Boise State. He spent three years as linebackers coach under Jeff Tedford at Cal from 2003-05 when the Bears nearly ended their Rose Bowl drought during a 10-win season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback in 2004.

Wilcox has spent the past 11 years as a defensive coordinator with stops at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, Southern California and finally Wisconsin, where he helped the Badgers field a top 10 defense and win the Cotton Bowl.

Wilcox has worked and played for many successful coaches, including Tedford, Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkins, Mike Bellotti, and Paul Chryst.

"I've been extremely fortunate to work for and with people I learned so much from," he said. "Each step along the way, I've seen it done a lot of different ways. I'm not trying to be any of those people. I always try to take pieces and make it my own."

Wilcox has begun putting together his staff, having hired former Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator and longtime Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood to fill that role on the Bears.

The Bears will look very different under Wilcox than Dykes. Wilcox said he will recruit tight ends as Cal moves from the spread "Bear Raid" offense that relied on four receivers almost exclusively to a more balanced offense with tight ends and more power concepts.

While he will delegate most of the offensive responsibilities to Baldwin, Wilcox said he will be more involved on defense where he wants to find players who can fit into his base 3-4 system.

Cal ranked 125th in total defense, 127th in scoring defense and 122nd in yards per play out of 128 FBS teams last season on the way to a 5-7 record.

"Every second is critical right now," Wilcox said. "I will not sacrifice the long-term good of the program for what everyone wants which is certainty. Things will happen quickly. I understand the recruits have some anxiety about the situation and there's emotions involved. That's totally understandable. I'd feel the same way."