Who were 49ers' MVPs? One man's opinion


Who were 49ers' MVPs? One man's opinion

The postseason honors are rolling in, but the 49ers have yet to disclose any of their team awards for the 2011 season. The guess is that coach Jim Harbaugh does not consider this season concluded, so he doesn't want to start looking back on the team's accomplishments quite yet.
So here is one man's opinion of the team MVPs on the day the 49ers impatiently await the outcome of Saturday night's Detroit-New Orleans game.If the Saints win, the 49ers will play host to New Orleans in a divisional round game at Candlestick Park next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. If the Lions win, the 49ers will play the Sunday's winner of Atlanta and the New York Giants.Defensive MVP: Justin Smith became the first player to be voted first-team All-Pro at one position (defensive tackle) and second-team All-Pro at another position (defensive end) in the same phase of the game. He was second on the team in tackles and sacks (7.5). His play was a great benefit to rookie Aldon Smith, who led the team with 14 sacks. And he made the play of the year -- the chase-and-strip of Philadelphia speedster Jeremy Maclin to preserve a Week 4 win against the Eagles. Also, chalk up Justin Smith as the overwhelming choice for team MVP.
Honorable mention: Cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Dashon Goldson recorded six interceptions apiece; inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the team in tackles; Aldon Smith set a team rookie record with 14 sacks and gave the pass rush some much-needed spark; and Patrick Willis was typically outstanding when he was on the field. Offensive MVP: Looking back on what the 49ers' offense did better than any team in the league, and most of the credit goes to quarterback Alex Smith. Sure, he was 19th in the league in passing yards. But of the 33 qualifying quarterbacks, Smith led the league in fewest interceptions. He was sacked 44 times, but he lost only two fumbles. The 49ers tied an NFL record for fewest turnovers (10) in a season. He showed calm under pressure during the regular season, in helping direct the 49ers to four fourth-quarter comeback victories on the road. The biggies were the 20-point, second-half rally against the Eagles and the fourth-down scoring pass to Delanie Walker to defeat the Detroit Lions.
Honorable mention: Running back Frank Gore has the second-most rushing yards in his career with 1,211 yards; wide receiver Michael Crabtree emerged into the go-to guy with team-highs of 72 catches for 874 yards; and left tackle Joe Staley graded out as the team's best offensive lineman.Special teams MVPs: This is impossible for me to call, so I wimped out and went with two winners: Punter Andy Lee and kicker David Akers. Lee set an NFL record for net punting average at 43.99. Lee punted 78 times on the season, and when he was called into action, the 49ers averaged a 7-yard gain with a flip of the field. His performance helped the defense pin teams back, and no offense in the league started with better field position than the 49ers because of Lee's performance. Often, the 49ers were almost already in field-goal range when the offense took over. The 49ers relied on their kicker more than they would've liked, but Akers routinely came through. He set NFL records with 44 field goals and 166 points (most for a player without any touchdowns). And, for good measure, he also tossed a touchdown pass on a fake field goal against the St. Louis Rams in the finale. What made Akers' season all-the-more impressive is that he made 7 of 9 attempts from beyond 50 yards.
Honorable mention: C.J. Spillman and Blake Costanzo were outstanding on the coverage units; and long-snapper Brian Jennings was again bordering on perfection.

Shanahan wins NFL Assistant Coach of the Year


Shanahan wins NFL Assistant Coach of the Year

Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the presumptive 49ers' next head coach, was announced Thursday as the NFL’s Assistant Coach of the Year.

Dallas’ Jason Garrett was selected as NFL Coach of the Year and Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie was chosen as NFL Executive of the Year in voting conducted by the Professional Football Writers of America.

The 49ers are not allowed to officially hire Shanahan as head coach until the Falcons’ season has concluded. Atlanta plays host to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship game.

Shanahan interviewed with the 49ers on Jan. 5 during the Falcons’ bye week in the playoffs. He is scheduled for a second interview with the club next week, regardless of the outcome of the Falcons’ game Sunday.

Under Shanahan’s direction, the Falcons scored an NFL-best and franchise record 540 points, which tied the 2000 St. Louis Rams for eighth-most in NFL history. Atlanta’s 6,653 total yards ranks No. 13 in NFL history.

The Falcons finished as champions of the NFC South with an 11-5 record and the NFC’s No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

Quarterback Matt Ryan, who was announced this week as the PFWA NFL Most Valuable Player, thrived in Shanahan’s offense. Ryan threw touchdown passes to a NFL-record 13 different receivers and led the league with a 117.1 passer rating.

Source: Packers executive Wolf withdraws from 49ers' GM race

Source: Packers executive Wolf withdraws from 49ers' GM race

Executive Eliot Wolf has agreed to a new contract to remain with the Green Bay Packers and has pulled out of the running to become the 49ers’ next general manager, a league source confirmed.

Wolf’s decision to remain with the Packers, as first reported by USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, leaves the 49ers with three known candidates for the job to replace Trent Baalke as general manager.

The 49ers this week informed a handful of candidates they would not be given second interviews for the position. Wolf and Brian Gutekunst, also of Green Bay, George Paton of Minnesota and Arizona’s Terry McDonough remain under consideration for the job after the initial list was pared down.

The 49ers are expected to involve presumptive coach Kyle Shanahan in the process to name the next general manager. Shanahan, Atlanta's offensive coordintor, is prohibited from officially becoming the 49ers' next head coach until after the Falcons' season is over. The Falcons play the Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.

Wolf, 32, is in his first season as Green Bay’s director of football operations after receiving a promotion after being denied an opportunity to interview with the Detroit Lions last year. Wolf is widely considered the heir apparent to Packers general manager Ted Thompson.

The 49ers interviewed Wolf on Jan. 5, along with Gutekunst, the Packers’ director of player personnel. Wolf is the son Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf.