49ers Mailbag: What's the impact if Justin Smith can't play?

smith_justin_smith_aldon_49ers_v11.jpg

49ers Mailbag: What's the impact if Justin Smith can't play?

The next Biggest Game of the Year is coming up Sunday in Seattle. Let's open the 49ers Mailbag to see what's on the minds of readers . . .

How negatively will the defense be affected if Justin Smith can't play? (@jw49ers)
Ricky Jean Francois did just fine while filling in for Smith on Sunday night against the New England Patriots. But let's not forget that after Smith left the lineup, the Patriots -- after an interception -- scored touchdowns on drives of 73, 86, 66 and 92 yards.

Smith does not have the flashy stats, but don't let that mislead you. He is still the player on the 49ers that the opposition accounts for more than anyone else. He pushes the pocket in the passing game, and he keeps interior offensive linemen from getting to the second level to put bodies on NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis.

The specifics of Smith's left elbow injury are not known. But, clearly, this is something more serious than a bump or a bruise. After all, Smith's elbow injury kept the toughest, most-durable 49ers player on the sideline during a time that the team saw its four-touchdown lead slip away.

If Justin Smith doesn't play, do you think Aldon will be as effective? (@AndrewM49ers)
No. It's as simple as that. Without Justin Smith on the field, the Seahawks can place more focus on Aldon Smith, who can expect to see nothing but double-teams on Sunday night. Aldon Smith can still have a good game, but it'll be a lot more difficult.

Is there any chance Manningham plays Sunday night? (@branteboy49)
Mario Manningham has been practicing on a limited basis, and he looks a lot better. But he didn't even make the trip to Foxboro, Mass., last week. His availability for Sunday night is questionable.

Is Moss finally comfortable with his subtle playmaking role? No longer the center of attn even while the media thrust him there? @MiriYum
Who said Randy Moss wasn't comfortable in the first place? Early in the season he told me that he was having a great time with the 49ers. His teammates really seem to enjoy his company. He and Colin Kaepernick have developed a nice rapport, too. I haven't heard even a whisper of dissatisfaction with anything concerning Moss.

What are the chances David Akers is still on the roster come playoff time? (‏@GodsSonNasir)
The chances are very, very good. Have you seen Mason Crosby with the Green Bay Packers? His kicks look horrible, and the Packers have held onto him because they don't believe there's anyone better out there. Akers is striking the ball very well, but he's been missing. The 49ers have come this far, so I think they'll keep Akers around. The alternative is to bring in a veteran -- either Nate Kaeding or Billy Cundiff -- known for huge playoff failures.

NOTE: The Miami Dolphins signed Kaeding on Friday and placed kicker Dan Carpenter on injured reserve.

Jaguars retain offensive coordinator, pass on Chip Kelly

Jaguars retain offensive coordinator, pass on Chip Kelly

It appears the Jaguars have passed on Chip Kelly for a second time this month.

After reportedly not getting their head coaching job, Kelly reportedly interviewed for their offensive coordinator position on Monday.

But two days later, Jacksonville announced that Nathaniel Hackett has been retained as offensive coordinator under head coach Doug Marrone.

Kelly told CSNBayArea.com recently he would take his time to determine his next career move.

“I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” Kelly said two days after his firing. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”

The 49ers fired Kelly with three years, $18 million remaining in his contract. The 49ers hired Kelly just two weeks after the Philadelphia Eagles fired him. Kelly went 26-21 with the Eagles after leaving his successful program with the Oregon Ducks after the 2012 season.

Report: Shanahan announced as 49ers' coach to Falcons' staff

Report: Shanahan announced as 49ers' coach to Falcons' staff

The 49ers feel certain they have landed their head coach, according to sources.

And the Atlanta Falcons are reportedly convinced offensive Kyle Shanahan will be entering the head-coaching ranks with the 49ers next season, too.

Atlanta coach Dan Quinn made an announcement to coaches that Shanahan would be the 49ers’ next coach, Mike Silver of the NFL Network reported Wednesday, adding everyone in the room was “super supportive.”

On Wednesday, Quinn was asked at a press conference about Shanahan and the 49ers.

“I know it’s for sure out there, (but it’s) definitely not our story to tell,” Quinn said. “They (the 49ers) will for sure reach out to (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) and to the organization and there will be a window for them if they’d like to visit with him for next week. But that’s really where it’s at, and there’s nothing left to do until then."

The Falcons will face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship game. The 49ers will have a second interview with Shanahan after the game. Shanahan will also become involved in the process to hire the 49ers’ next general manager.

The 49ers are checking with the NFL to determine what is allowable under the league’s anti-tampering policy, according to a league source. If the Falcons win on Sunday, the 49ers would not be able to officially hire Shanahan until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

According to sources, the 49ers have narrowed their initial search for the next general manager to four candidates: Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst of Green Bay, Minnesota’s George Paton and Terry McDonough of Arizona.

The general manager candidates are expected to meet with Shanahan, but it’s unclear whether Shanahan can interview the candidates if the Falcons advance to the Super Bowl and he is not officially the 49ers’ coach. The 49ers are expected to hold a second round of general manager interviews early next week and could fill the position by the end of next week.