49ers a study in Management 101

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49ers a study in Management 101

Andy Dolich
CSNBayArea.com

OK, time to settle down and gently lower yourself off the ceiling. The Giants are coming to town with their late-season star, Mo Mentum. Ill leave it up to my fellow CSNBayarea.com 49ers Insiders to weigh in on how team ho-hum became team transcendent on its way to a possible sixth Super Bowl.

The leading business turnaround experts are looking at the wondrous work done by Jim Harbaugh, the coaches, players and football operations staff to discover the secrets of their stunning success. These management mavens should come equipped with microscope, telescope and stethoscope to figure out how this revolutionary resurrection took place.

Even first-year MBAs learn there are a few bedrock principles that lead to business success. The 49ers coaching staff used them to perfection on their joyous journey this season:

Narrow your focus:
One of the glaring errors of failing businesses is that they try to be all things to all people. Im sure you were in the group of about five fans in the free world that thought Alex Smith would be discussed in the same sentence as Joe Montana and Steve Young at the end of the season. This reminds me of a scene from "The Patriot," starring Mel Gibson. He is with his two young sons trying to overcome a British platoon that had captured his oldest boy. The instructions to his gun-toting kids, Aim small, miss small. Of course they overcame a superior force and freed their brother by narrowing their focus -- as the coaches did with Alex at the beginning of the season.

Expect to win:
I want winners, sounds great but You are winners resonates at a higher level with players. From day one the staff assembled by general manager Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh laid out a logical, consistent, step-by-step plan on how this team was going to win. No five-year plans here, lets try five months instead.

Encourage riskPromote trust:
The 49ers had been a team more predictable than a Lindsay Lohan meltdown. The coaches gave the players a mentality that taking chances was OK. We are not going to be who they thought we were going to be. When was the last time that you saw the kicker fake a field goal and hit the lonesome Michael Crabtree for a surprise TD? If I told you that Joe Staley and Isaac Sopoaga were going to channel their inner Jerry Rice and turn into pass catchers you would have spit up. Great managers promote trust in their workforce by supporting risk even if it fails.

Define a winning culture:
Companies in need of a turnaround usually have a poorly defined culture. In failing enterprises employees will not be able to answer what their company's culture is with a unified response. Its imperative that players embrace a single culture, one that will define success. The core values taught by the 49ers' football management experts defined that the organization is about winning football games. Anything else will be minimized.
Manage people:
Entrepreneurs dont invest in companies; they invest in people. When you look at the long-term picture, it isnt so much who you fire as who you hire or keep. Harbaugh has been there and done that when it comes to knowing every part of football culture. The immediate and total support and buy-in to Alex Smith was an early sign that this wasnt going to be business as usual. This decision was met with significant derision by fans and the media but the coaching staff knew how to manage Smith and the offense coming out of the gate. There was no ready-fire-aim in their approach. Their plan gradually took shape and built system-wide confidence in the quarterback and his leadership qualities. It has paid off beyond any ones wildest expectations.

See what no one else sees:
Trent Baalke is a football lifer who has spent hours on the practice fields of colleges and universities all over the country. There were many questions about how he and Harbaugh were going to mesh. Baalke is a completely focused professional who correctly envisioned the huge upside of Aldon Smith and the fill-in puzzle pieces of Kendall Hunter, Bruce Miller and Chris Culliver. The free agent acquisitions of David Akers, Jonathan Goodwin, Carlos Rogers and Donte we speak with our shoulder pads Whitner proved that Baalke has second sight, which is critical in making successful player personnel decisions.

Get rid of status symbols:
The work shirts early in the season gave the team a new vision of its future. It helped define the mental toughness we saw against the Saints. Everyone was part of the assembly line. Alex Smith appeared at the conference championship postgame press conference with his name stitched on his mechanics shirt. Who would have blamed him if he had showed up with with a T-Shirt cannon and blitzed the media with tees that were emblazoned with How do you like me now?

Share the rewards:
Wednesday, before the Saints game, QB coach Geep Chryst drew up the Vernon Post. He had coached for the Carolina Panthers and saw New Orleans twice each season. He knew there was a soft Red Zone tendency that the Niners could take advantage of. The Vernon Post became an instant classic and Chryst was given the credit. Great leaders always take the negative hits and give the credit to their colleagues.

Everyone is a leader:
The 49ers trail 24-23 with 2:18 left and have the ball on the Saints 28, 3rd-and-8. Harbaugh is talking to offensive coordinator Greg Roman in the coaches box. Roman suggests a play in which Alex Smith takes a shotgun snap and heads to the end zone. Twenty-eight legendary yards later Smith crosses the goal line. This wasnt a case of the smartest-guy-in-the-room syndrome but leaders working together to get the job done. The coaching staff assembled by Harbaugh and Baalke were all leaders. Without the following coaches this season would not have come together the way it did:
Brad Seely
Vic Fangio
Greg Roman
Michael Christianson
Geep Chryst
Reggie Davis
Ed Doantell
Tim Drevno
Bobby Engram
Peter Hansen
Greg Jackson
Jim Leavitt
John Morton
Tom Rathman
Mike Solari
Jim Tomsula
Mark Uyeyama

Dont worry be happy:
There isnt a 49ers team in nine years that wouldnt have folded being down 20-3 at the half in Philly or anywhere else. The coaches kept it cool, calm and collected in the locker room. The team knew through its coaches' confidence that it was possible to get back in the game. In the middle of adversity calmness is the ultimate cool. This was a happy team in the manner of Bobby McFerrin.

TEAM, TEAM, TEAM:
How did Harbaugh create this time warp to greatness from a decade of mediocrity?

Planning a turnaround takes an intimate understanding of a business or a team including its players, coaches, management, ownership, fans, training programs and processes. Powerful leaders define the culture and vision and communicate these directly to gain employee support. To have accomplished this turnaround in a nano-second is something that management consultants and the sports media will be deconstructing for a long time. The Management on the 101 is worthy of a Stanford Business School case study.

Over his 40-year career, sports executive Andy Dolich has held positions at the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland A's, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers. He is the Sports Business Insider for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

49ers offense: Top competitions entering training camp

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AP

49ers offense: Top competitions entering training camp

The 49ers open training camp next week in Santa Clara with a number of competitions going on simultaneously on both sides of the ball.

Coach Kyle Shanahan did not hire an offensive coordinator. He will assume the role of running the offense, as he atempts to remake the 49ers' offense to his specifications.

Brian Hoyer is set at quarterback. Joe Staley will line up at left tackle. Kyle Juszcyzk was signed as the highest-priced fullback in the NFL, and the starting wide receivers figure to be Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin.

After that, things are a lot less certain.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ top four training camp battles on offense...

INTERIOR O-LINE
The tackle positions appear straight-forward with Staley and Trent Brown – though Brown will have to hold off Garry Gilliam to retain his starting job.

But there are a lot of options for the 49ers at the three interior positions. Zane Beadles started all 16 games last season at three different positions. He enters camp as the front-runner to start at left guard.

Jeremy Zuttah, who was added to the Pro Bowl roster at center last season, came to the 49ers in an offseason trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Zuttah and Daniel Kilgore will compete for the starting job. Tim Barnes, who started 32 games the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, is in the mix, too.

If Zuttah is not the starting center, he can transition to either guard position to compete with Beadles on the left side or, more likely, the right side.

Joshua Garnett, whom former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke traded up to select in the first round of the 2016 draft, will have to show dramatic improvement over his rookie season to return as the starter at right guard.

Brandon Fusco, who spent his first six NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, started 16 games at left guard in 2015 and 14 games last season at right guard.

TIGHT END
It is within the realm of possibility the 49ers could have a complete overhaul at tight end, as none of the five players who finished the season with the team is a lock to win a roster spot.

The 49ers selected George Kittle in the fifth round. He showed a lot of promise with the best showing of any tight end during the team’s offseason program. The 49ers this offseason also added blocking tight end Logan Paulsen, who has experience in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, and undrafted rookie pass-catcher Cole Hikutini.

Vance McDonald was the subject of trade talks during the draft – just months after signing a contract extension with $9.1 million in guaranteed money. Garrett Celek and Blake Bell also face stiff competition in order to be back on the 53-man roster.

RUNNING BACK
Carlos Hyde is entering the final year of his original four-year contract, and he has competition for the first time since Frank Gore’s exit cleared the way for him to be the featured back.

Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner handpicked former Utah running back Joe Williams for their scheme. Williams got off to a slow start after joining the offseason program, but he eventually put himself into a position to compete for a significant role in training camp.

Veteran additions Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs will be competing for roles in the backfield, as well. Undrafted rookie Matt Breida had an impressive offseason during the non-padded practices.

SLOT RECEIVER
Jeremy Kerley was one of the few free agents from last year’s team that the 49ers had any interest in re-signing. Kerley was the best receiver on the team a year ago -- and it wasn’t even close. He caught 64 passes for 667 yards for the league's least-productive passing game.

The 49ers selected Trent Taylor in the fifth round, and he made an immediate impact during the offseason program after catching 136 passes for 1,803 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior at Louisiana Tech.

A year ago, Bruce Ellington was the 49ers’ best receiver during training camp before his season came to an abrupt end with a torn hamstring in an exhibition game. The onus is on Ellington to remain healthy and prove himself to the new coaching staff.

O.J. Simpson a free man, granted parole in Nevada

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AP

O.J. Simpson a free man, granted parole in Nevada

UPDATE (11am on Thursday) -- O.J. Simpson is a free man. The San Francisco native was granted his parole on Thursday by the Nevada Parole Board with a unanimous 4-0 decision. 

Simpson, who turned 70 this month, can be released from prison as early as Oct. 1 after armed robery charges put him away for almost nine years -- the minimum of a 33-year sentence. 

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LOVELOCK, Nev. -- O.J. Simpson once thrilled crowds as he ran for touchdowns and hurdled airport seats in car rental ads to achieve Hollywood celebrity before he was acquitted of murder in the 1995 "trial of the century" in Los Angeles.

Now, an aging Simpson will appear as inmate No. 1027820 in a starkly plain hearing room in a remote Nevada prison Thursday to plead for his freedom. He's spent more than eight years behind bars for armed robbery and assault with a weapon after trying to take back sports memorabilia in a budget hotel room in Las Vegas.

Simpson, 70, will ask four parole board members who sided with him once before to release him in October, a likely possibility with his clean prison record.

It will be a stunning scene for a charismatic star once known as "The Juice" who won the Heisman Trophy as the best U.S. college football player in 1968 and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

He appeared to have it all.

He went on to star in Hertz commercials and movies like the "Naked Gun" comedies and do sideline reporting for "Monday Night Football" before his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were slain in 1994.

Simpson is expected to reiterate that he has kept a promise to stay out of trouble, coaches in the prison gym where he works and counsels other inmates.

"I guess, my age, guys come to me," Simpson told parole officials four years ago.

The same commissioners granted him parole on some of his 12 charges in 2013, leaving him with four years to serve before reaching his minimum term.

At Simpson's side in his bid for freedom will be lawyer Malcolm LaVergne, close friend Tom Scotto, sister Shirley Baker and daughter Arnelle Simpson.

O.J. Simpson is expected to explain what he would do and where he would live if he is granted parole after reaching the nine-year minimum of his 33-year sentence.

He was convicted in 2008 after enlisting some men he barely knew, including two with guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier.

"My crime was trying to retrieve for my family my own property," Simpson told the parole officials in 2013 before apologizing.

"Make no mistake, I would give it all back," he said, "to get these last five years back."

The items disappeared after Simpson was found not guilty in the 1994 killings of his ex-wife and her friend and before he was found liable in 1997 in civil court for the deaths.

He was ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors including his children and the Goldman family.

A Goldman family spokesman said Ron Goldman's father and sister, Fred and Kim, won't be part of Simpson's parole hearing but that they felt apprehensive about "how this will change their lives again should Simpson be released."

"They will remain patient and optimistic that the system will do what is necessary to ensure the public's safety remains a priority and that proper justice will be served," spokesman Michael Wright said this week.

The Goldmans believe Simpson got away with murder in Los Angeles, and many people felt the stiff sentence handed down in 2008 in Las Vegas wasn't just about the robbery.

Now, even the retired district attorney who prosecuted Simpson for the heist acknowledges that Simpson has a good chance to go free. But David Roger denied Simpson's sentence was "payback" for his acquittal in the Los Angeles slayings.

The former prosecutor said Simpson took a gamble when he rejected an offer to avoid trial by pleading guilty to a felony that could have gotten him 2½ years in prison.

"He thought he was invincible, and he rolled the dice," Roger said.