With Kaepernick at helm, 49ers still a 'team of grinders'

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With Kaepernick at helm, 49ers still a 'team of grinders'

BOX SCORE

Colin Kaepernick faked an inside handoff, broke left on an option run and kept running, and running, and running, and he didn’t stop until he had obscured the events of Sunday’s 49ers-Dolphins game.

Not the result, of course. His 50-yard touchdown run with 2:10 to play was the coda in San Francisco’s 27-13 victory, one which advanced them one game closer to Atlanta in the National Football Conference, kept them at arm’s length from the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, and in general did them no appreciable harm.

On the other hand, it didn’t make anyone feel appreciably better about them, either. This game wasn’t meant to reveal much about the longer term. It was meant to be what Jim Harbaugh said it was.

“These are really hard games to play,” Harbaugh said. And it showed.

Miami is not a good team, but it plays hard, and it defends the run well. Indeed, until Kaepernick sprung himself free for the spread-covering score, the 49ers were averaging a desultory 3.9 yards per carry, and converted only 1 of 9 third downs. In fact, they had the ball for only 55 offensive plays, and are tied for last in the league in that arcane statistic.

In other words, they do not have an easy time impressing people with their overall offense. They have their moments – the Kaepernick run, Frank Gore’s catch-break-five-tackles-and-run, Michael Crabtree’s 25-yard reception to set up the 49ers’ go-ahead field goal at the end of the half – but for the most part, they are under Kaepernick what they were under Alex Smith.

A team of grinders. Grinders do not wow casual fans.

Grinders also do not beat the New England Patriots in Foxborough, so Sunday’s game really didn’t help anyone more fully understand the way next Sunday night’s game will play out. 49ers-Patriots is the game that will tell us just how Super-Bowl-able the 49ers actually are in the Kaepernick Era.

But they don’t let you play games out of order, at least not without the benefit of more universes than the one in which we dwell, so we take what we are given and try to make sense of it.

Kaepernick did grind the 49ers through 10 possessions, of which only two were three-and-outs. He missed only five of 23 passes, threw neither a touchdown nor an interception, and other than a fumble on the game’s fourth play (that was recovered by tackle Anthony Davis) and four sacks, he did your standard credible quarterback’s job.

Again, a lot like Alex Smith’s standard credible quarterback’s job.

And we don’t bring that up to try to fan the dying embers of a quarterback controversy that died three weeks ago. We bring it up only to remind you that the 49ers are at their very essence a flash-free football team. They do not spice the game with exotica, nor do they win the day for fantasy leaguers. That is not who they are offensively – not through 31 games of the Harbaugh dynasty, anyway.

And since that is what Miami strives to be once its roster gets a few more miles on it, Sunday’s game did not promise a lot of entertainment. So when it did not deliver a lot of entertainment, few were surprised.

You want the game explained? Okay. Donte Whitner took down Reggie Bush with a full-on Cael Sanderson one-armed amateur wrestling takedown in the third quarter. Bush got up and gestured that he was too mighty to be hurt, Whitner got up and swaggered like he knew better, and they were both right. Only Whitner was righter, because the 49ers were up 13-3 at the time and were never threatened thereafter.

This was, put bluntly, a game the 49ers had to get through without mishap, blunder or injury. They succeeded at all three, and Kaepernick’s moment made it look slightly more one-sided than it was. In the style-points era of 49er football, this would have been a disappointing afternoon. These days, it is (and God help us for going this way) only what it is.

But New England in Foxborough . . . ahh, that will give us more of a lead-in to January. The Patriots are real, they amass points in vast bins, and they want you to try and score with them. The 49ers are their polar opposite. Styles, as they say, make fights.

“We’re going to be able to see where we are as a defense,” Whitner said. “We understand who’s going to have to win that football game, and we think it’s going to be the defense. And they understand that their offense is going to try and control the ball and get some big plays and put some points on the board. And we can’t allow that, so we’ll be ready.”

This game didn’t have much style. So it wasn’t much of a fight. It didn’t have to be. Next week’s does.

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

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USATSI

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

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Geology.com

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

The Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors have always had a casual attitude about their home court, even by the once-flexible standards of the National Basketball Association.

Thus, it should be only slightly amusing but not actually surprising that Warriors chief arenologist Rick Welts is now waffling a bit (courtesy Comrade Poole) on whether the team will change its name to San Francisco Warriors when it moves across the pond in 2019-20, or retain its current geographic association with Narnia.

I mean Golden State. I often confuse utterly fictional locales – when I can be bothered to give a toss either way.

But the Warriors, whether they play in Oakland, San Francisco, Pier 30, Pier 32, Westeros, Hobbiton, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Curryvania, the Klingon Empire, the Death Star or Planet Nine, are relocating, and once they break the seal on the earth in 12 days, Welts and his fellow elves will almost surely play the team’s future name as a mildly tedious cliffhanger.

Hey, fun is where you find it.

The matter of the team’s relocation will be a sore subject among lifelong East Bay residents, who have put up with the Warriors for 45 years in various stages of development, including the current “We Almost Never Lose” stage. They regard the Warriors’ transplantation to San Francisco to be an unspeakable crime given the high level of fan allegiance afforded them in Oakland.

And yes, they regard Oakland and San Francisco as very real places, as opposed to Golden State, Freedonia, Vulgaria or the Nexus of All Realities.

It is not yet fully known what San Franciscans think of this development, but that’s the nature of the gamble here. They may embrace the Warriors as the new toy in town and then lose interest, and frankly, neither Welts nor anyone else knows the answer to that.

Either way, their die is cast, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are now future former Oakland fixtures. Yes, they are quite fond of the exciting new real estate values and their exciting new unobstructed view of the bay, but it has long been assumed that the move would also entail changing the name back to “San Francisco” for the snob appeal.

Now Welts, who has overseen both arena projects (including the one at Piers 30 and 32 which ended up with the piers beating the Warriors in a rout), tells Comrade Poole that the San Francisco Warriors might not end up as the San Francisco Warriors after all.

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that yes, we should attach a city name to the team, then it becomes a more global franchise,” Welts marketing-gobbledy-gooked. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world. What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

In Oakland.

Now, the mic drop.

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” he added. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made. But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

Of course. Why not stay fictional when specificity might move fewer hoodies?

Then again, this is a team that in its 70 years has played home games in Philadelphia (the Arena, the Civic Center, Lincoln High School and Convention Hall), Hershey and Bethlehem PA, Atlantic City, Trenton, Collingswood and Camden NJ, and Saratoga Springs NY . . .

(a moment’s rest here to catch our breaths)

. . . and then after moving west in 1962, the Cow Palace, San Francisco Civic Auditorium and USF’s Memorial Gym, the Oakland Auditorium, San Jose Civic Auditorium, San Jose Arena, Richmond Auditorium, then Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Diego, Eugene, Seattle, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

In fact, and you can swindle the gullible at your neighborhood tavern with this one, the Warriors’ first game in San Francisco occurred almost three years before the team left Philadelphia. The Warriors played the visitors to the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles a year later and had already played a regular season game at the Cow Palace earlier in the year, so this game, January 31, 1960, could have been considered a civic scouting trip for both teams as they sought new homes.

In other words, the Warriors are almost surely the most geographically vague team in the history of North American sports. Moreover, they are about to become the first team in sports history to go home for the third time under three different city names – Philadelphia, San Francisco and Krypton, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves this time.