49ers key matchup No. 1: Colin Kaepernick vs. Jason Campbell

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49ers key matchup No. 1: Colin Kaepernick vs. Jason Campbell

This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Bears matchups to watch Monday, 5:30 p.m. (ESPNCBS 5), at Candlestick Park.49ers QB Colin Kaepernick vs. Bears QB Jason CampbellTale of the tape
Kaepernick (7): 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, second season, Nevada
Campbell (2): 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, eighth season, AuburnJason Campbell has 70 career starts on his resume in six previous seasons with the Washington Redskins and Raiders.Colin Kaepernick is slated to make his first NFL start.MAIOCCO: Key matchup No. 2 -- Crabtree vs. TillmanWhen the 49ers face the Chicago Bears on Monday night, it will likely be a game that comes down to the quarterbacks. It might be the quarterback who makes the most plays. Or, more likely, the difference could come down to the quarterback who simply avoids the major mistake.In what figures to be a low-scoring game, it might not take much to turn the game. The 49ers own the league's third-ranked defense, while the Bears' defense is No. 5.The 49ers' defense leads the NFL with just 14.1 points allowed per game. The Bears are generating turnovers at a rate of 30 takeaways in nine games."Obviously, they're a great defense," Kaepernick said last week when it appeared as if Alex Smith was on track to make the start after being asymptomatic and taking part in four days of practices."I think they're No. 1 in the NFL right now," Kaepernick added. "A lot of turnovers, a lot of great players on that side of the ball who have a lot of Pro Bowls, as far as (Brian) Urlacher, (Lance) Briggs, (Julius) Peppers. They have a lot of great players over there. We're going to have our work cut out for us."Campbell takes over for Jay Cutler, who was ruled out of action on Friday due to a concussion he sustained Nov. 11. Kaepernick is scheduled to start in place of Smith, who sustained a concussion in the second quarter of last week's game against the St. Louis Rams.MAIOCCO:Key matchup No. 3 -- Justin Smith vs. Chilo RachalThe 49ers announced Monday morning that Smith has been declared out for Monday's game after being evaluated by team medical director Dr. Dan Garza. Smith had been cleared to participate in practices Wednesday through Saturday.Second-year player Scott Tolzien, who has suited up for just one game in his career, will serve as the 49ers' backup quarterback.Campbell enters Monday's game with a lot of NFL experience. In 19 starts with the Raiders the past two seasons, Campbell posted an 11-7 record as a starter. He sustained a broken collarbone last October, leading the Raiders to trade for Carson Palmer. Campbell did not play again last season, and he signed with the Bears in the offseason."We felt like we needed to improve our backup quarterback position in the offseason," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "So we felt real good about being able to convince Jason to come here and be Jay's backup."This season, Campbell has completed 12 of 20 passes for 94 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He entered last week's game against the Houston Texans at halftime. Campbell led seven possessions, during which time the Bears managed only four first downs, one field goal and one missed field goal.Kaepernick has seen action in six games this season, including consecutive games against the New York Jets, Buffalo and New York Giants as a change-of-pace quarterback. He has completed 16 of 26 attempts for 206 yards. He is the 49ers' third-leading rusher with 177 yards on 21 attempts.Lovie Smith said last week that his Bears defense would prepare for both Alex Smith and Kaepernick."Colin has been playing some anyway, so we've been preparing for that anyways," Lovie Smith said. "Again, we don't change what we do an awful lot based on change in the quarterback. Both of those quarterbacks have played some for them."

Colts fire GM Ryan Grigson after five seasons

Colts fire GM Ryan Grigson after five seasons

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Grigson spent tens of millions in free agency, trying to turn the Indianapolis Colts into a Super Bowl contender.

When most of those big investments went belly up, the first-time general manager paid the price.

On Saturday, Colts owner Jim Irsay fired Grigson after five up-and-down years that ended with Indy missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98.

"It was a tough decision, well thought out and in the end the right decision for the Colts," Irsay said.

Initially, Grigson looked like a genius.

He hit it big on his first four draft picks - quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and receiver T.Y. Hilton - and used a series of shrewd, cost-effective moves to deliver one of the greatest turnarounds in league history.

But when Grigson's costly misfires like first-round bust Bjoern Werner in 2013, trading a first-round pick for Trent Richardson in 2014 or loading up on a group of aging, high-priced free agents to make a Super Bowl run in 2015 and an anxious fan base, Irsay had no choice.

The timing, almost three weeks after the season ended, was strange - and comes after many thought the delay meant Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano were both safe.

Each agreed to contracts last January that was supposed to keep them together through the 2019 season.

Thirteen months later, Grigson is gone and Pagano's fate may rest in the hands of a new GM.

Grigson, by trade, was a gambler who refused to play it safe.

"I think the guys that sit on their hands, they've got to live with themselves and look in the mirror and realize they didn't take any chances," he once said. "They've got to look at themselves and say, 'Did I even deserve this opportunity?' If you just sit on your hands and say, 'I'm going to play it safe all the time,' you might be middle of the pack. But if you don't take a swing, you're never going to hit it out of the park."

Irsay appreciated Grigson's unconventional style and penchant for taking chances.

What he didn't like was the underwhelming payout.

In five seasons, Grigson made 15 trades for players and only one, Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis, played in Indy's season finale. Grigson also drafted 38 players - 18 of whom finished the season with the Colts. Eleven were out of the NFL.

Then there was free agency, where Grigson signed dozens of expensive players. Only 11 were still on Indy's roster when the season ended, 18 others were out of the NFL.

With an estimated $60 million to spend in free agency this year and a chance to get the Colts righted for the prime years of Luck's career, Irsay couldn't afford to roll the dice again with Grigson so he made the change.

The 44-year-old Purdue graduate's blunt personality didn't always mesh with coach Chuck Pagano. Irsay even acknowledged last summer that the two men needed to resolve their differences before he gave them the extensions.

Players didn't always get along with him, either.

"Thank God. 'Unwarranted Arrogance' just ran into a brick wall called karma," Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee posted on Twitter after word first leaked.

Grigson also drew the wrath of Patriots' fans by tipping off NFL officials that Tom Brady was using improperly inflated footballs during the 2015 AFC championship game. The Deflategate controversy eventually led to a four-game suspension for Brady as well as a fine and the loss draft picks for the Patriots.

And despite Irsay's repeated pleas to better protect Luck, Grigson, a former offensive lineman, never quite figured it out.

Luck missed 10 games because of injuries over the past two seasons and was sacked 41 times last season. The first real glimmer of hope appeared in December when the Colts held Minnesota and Oakland without a sack in back-to back games - the only times all season they didn't allow a sack.

When Grigson arrived, the Colts were coming off a 2-14 season and were about to release Peyton Manning and several other aging veterans in a salary cap purge.

So Grigson cleaned house.

He fired Jim Caldwell, hired Pagano and revamped the roster with low-budget free agents to work with the cornerstone of the future, Luck.

It worked. The man once dubbed by a previous boss as a "great" expansion team general manager, turned the Colts into a surprising 11-5 playoff-bound team.

Indy finished 11-5 each of the next two seasons, too, and advanced one step deeper in the playoffs each season.

The steady progression turned the Colts into a trendy Super Bowl pick in 2015, a trek that was derailed by a litany of injuries that forced the Colts to use five different quarterbacks just to finish 8-8.

Waiting for Shanahan could be a good thing for 49ers

Waiting for Shanahan could be a good thing for 49ers

The 49ers were willing to be patient in securing their next head coach.

Depending on the outcome of the Atlanta Falcons’ game Sunday against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, they could be required to wait another two weeks.

The other five organizations with vacancies after the regular season have filled their head-coach positions with four assistants from teams that did not qualify for the playoffs and former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, whom the Denver Broncos hired after his team was bounced in the AFC wild-card round.

Early in the 49ers’ search to replace Chip Kelly, the top targets appeared to be Josh McDaniels and Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinators for two of the top-three scoring teams in the NFL.

The coach-general manager team of McDaniels and New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was the runaway favorite to be the package deal, according to sources close to the 49ers’ coaching search.

But when Caserio chose to remain as Bill Belichick’s top personnel lieutenant – just has he has in the past when other opportunities presented themselves – the job became less attractive to McDaniels, according to those sources. McDaniels announced on Monday he would remain with the Patriots for at least another year.

With McDaniels out of the picture, Shanahan became the clear favorite over Seattle assistant Tom Cable. And once Cable publicly stepped aside due to suspicions he was only being used to secure a commitment from Shanahan, only one candidate remained for the job.

Since the middle of this week, Shanahan has been the presumptive coach of the 49ers. Falcons coach Dan Quinn was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator two years ago when he was officially hired just hours after the Super Bowl. He knows he drill. And this week he announced to the Falcons staff that Shanahan would be the next coach of the 49ers, according to the NFL Network.

Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game, the 49ers will be allowed to interview Shanahan next week – most likely, Tuesday in Atlanta. Shanahan will be involved in the process to hire the next general manager. Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton appears to be the favorite. The 49ers expect the general manager position to be filled early in the week.

If the Falcons lose, the 49ers would be able to hire Shanahan on their own time frame. It would not be expected to take long.

But if the Falcons win, the 49ers would have to wait until after Feb. 5, when the Super Bowl will be played in Houston, to hire Shanahan.

There is an advantage to being forced to wait. In the long term, the 49ers could benefit from their next head coach gaining the experience of a Super Bowl week and calling a game on the biggest stage in all of sports.