Tag Archives: 49ers

The NFL’s Quarterback Problem

So in old news,  NFL quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo signed a five-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers for $137.5 million, with about $74 million of that guaranteed.  In the quarterback “free agency” market, Garoppolo was the most attractive option (pun-intended) because of his age and ceiling.  The 49ers decided to tie up a big chunk of their money to the quarterback they believe is going to be the key to their success because that’s what you’re “supposed to do.”


Eh. Who knows really.  In the case of Garoppolo he went 5-0 in the five games he played.  He also threw seven touchdowns and five interceptions in those five games – but, for what it’s worth – the 49ers were convinced that was their guy to give this massive contract too.

For the record, I like Garoppolo and hold no ill-regard toward the 49ers organization. I really don’t care what they do, and if Garoppolo can get paid – props to him.  This isn’t even about Garoppolo, it’s about the quarterback position and how ridiculous the pay-grade is for that position.

Everyone will tell you until they are blue in the face – you need a quarterback in today’s league.  Sure. Who can argue that? The league has changed in ways that they want you to throw the ball more.  What has over-paying a quarterback really gotten anybody though?

Ask the Detroit Lions, who paid “their guy” Matthew Stafford a five year deal amounting up to about $27 million a year. That contract was given to him in August of 2017 and in July of 2017 Stafford’s record against winning teams was 5-46.  That’s not a typo – FIVE and FORTY-SIX.  Stafford has been the starting quarterback for the Lions since 2009 and they’ve had three playoff games with three playoff game losses.  Sure he puts up great garbage time stats for fantasy football geeks – but all in all, it hasn’t worked.

Ask the Seattle Seahawks, who were loving life when they found a diamond in the rough who they drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft.  Most teams don’t find their starting QB in the third round.  They did.  They rode it out – made him a star, he performed well and they even won a championship out of it.  After 2014 and a new contract the Seahawks realized they needed to trim corners.  They couldn’t keep offensive linemen, secondary players etc — and because of that the team has suffered.

Ask the Baltimore Ravens, who were the greatest victim of the “okie-doke” as Joe Flacco played the best stretch of games in his life when he was nearly perfect on the Ravens playoff / Super Bowl run in 2012.  Lucky for him he was in a contract year and the Ravens “HAD TO” keep their Super Bowl QB.  So they paid him $120 million over the next six years.  That $120 million has gotten them average to below average play from the QB position since then. (Side Note: It’s difficult to even watch Ravens games with him at quarterback).

There are a whole list of others – just look around the league.  Eli, Cutler, Romo, Cam, Luck, Matty Ice, Dalton – all aren’t terrible – some are actually the reason for any success that their team has had – BUT – was the money that was tied into that position really worth it for the teams mentioned?  Eli kept getting paid when he was passed his prime, Cam might’ve already peaked – as well as Matty Ice and Luck. . .

Folks, we just saw a back-up quarterback, who was nearly done with the game of football – win the Super Bowl.  And for all things considered – the injured starter, Carson Wentz, probably would’ve had the same results and he is in his second year of his rookie contract.

General managers have collectively shown that they do not care for long contracts with running backs. . . and often with wide-receivers and corner backs they tell the player “test the market and come back to us.”  With quarterbacks though, it’s always “What do you want?  Here it is.  Sign this.” (Unless you’re Kirk Cousins, of course)

Maybe I’m old fashioned but these games are always won in the trenches.  If you are not stocking up an above average offensive line, or an above average defensive line, then what are you – as a G.M. really doing?

Nick Foles showed in the Super Bowl, if you’re a competent quarterback who is comfortable with the system you’re in – you should be fine — especially if the pieces around the offense have bought into the system.  This is what you see every year from the Saints, Patriots, Kansas City and L.A. (Rams) – we also saw it for two of three years with Kirk Cousins in Washington.

The truth is, until a general manager and coach have the “you-know-whats” to tell a “star” quarterback “no” and that they believe in their system and finding a player who can run the system as effectively – these ridiculous contracts will never stop.  Fans will complain and you’ll get killed by the talking-heads on sports television but financially it’s a great move, if you really know you’re job.   Finding a starting quarterback is hard  – yes – but these quarterbacks have to realize how fortunate they are to find systems that are working for them.  Look at “great” wide receivers, corner backs, running backs – even line backers – who leave for a pay-day, find themselves in a system that doesn’t fit into their skill set and are released.  What usually happens to those players?  They look to find the system that got them that big money deal and try to prove they are still “great.”

Quarterbacks are special, but not special enough to hamper a team moving forward, financially.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Looking Passed Alex Smith

When people hear the name “Alex Smith,” there are usually two reactions: “game manager” and “meh.”   He is not the NFL quarterback who scares fans of opposing teams and when fans rank the top starting quarterbacks in the league, names like Stafford and (Eli) Manning come before his. . . and that’s just ridiculous.

Smith’s journey started at the University of Utah, while being coached by Urban Meyer – he put up impressive numbers after starting just two seasons: 66% completion percentage, 48 TDs, 8 Ints, 1072 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns.   Those numbers make it obvious why he was taken first overall in the 2005 draft by the 49ers. . . at least at the time it was obvious.  Who knew that 23 picks later the Green Bay Packers would snatch up Aaron Rodgers?

For the rest of their careers, Smith and Rodgers have been linked and it’s not in the most complimentary of ways.  Football pundits scoff at the Niners – in hindsight – saying that the 49ers passed up on an all-time great and for who?  Alex Smith.

Never does anyone say “What if Aaron Rodgers got drafted by the 49ers?  Would he still be the Aaron Rodgers we all know now?”  The answer is: “Probably not.”  You see, Alex Smith was thrown into the fire – literally.  He was expected to pull off miracles with a below average roster, a clueless front office and had to deal with this stellar list of head coaches: Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary and Jim Tomisula.   Aaron Rodgers?  He got to sit behind a hall of fame quarterback for three years and when his time came to start, he was the face of a franchise that is one of the best run in the league, with a mastermind of an offensive head coach in Mike McCarthy.

Fate was made so that Alex Smith would have to struggle.

As we all know, it wasn’t until Jim Harbaugh became the head coach of the 49ers that we finally saw  a coach build an offense around Smith’s strengths and we finally got to see what he could do. Nobody is saying that it was the most ridiculous season a quarterback could have, but what it did was give Smith back his confidence.  Smith led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and became the NFL textbook definition of what a “game-manager” is.  Then something weird happened.  The phrase “game-manager” had been around for  awhile, but now that it was tied in with Alex Smith – it now gained a negative aura about it.   Being a quarterback who moved the chains and didn’t turn the ball over became seen as “meh.”

Fast forward and we come to Alex Smith getting injured and losing his starting job to the young quarterback with promise Colin Kaepernick.  After nine games, Smith threw for 13 touchdowns with 5 interceptions at 70% completion rate – but after seeing  how electric of a player Kaepernick was at the time – there was no going back.

Smith now found himself in Kansas City with Andy Reid.  For five years in Kansas City, Smith showed the best version of himself.  Smith threw for 102 touchdowns, 34 interceptions and posted an average of about 3400 yards a year.  Reid was not only able to use Smith’s accuracy (finished the five years with a completion percentage of 65%) he also made good use of his legs which opened up the Kansas City offense.  With Kansas City, Smith became a three time pro-bowler and had the highest passer rating in 2017 with a digit of 104.7.  What did all of that get him?  Traded at the end of 2017, to once again – make way for another young quarterback.

Fate now finds Alex Smith, who is now 33 years of age and will be 34 by the season opener, with a pretty good offensive coach in Jay Gruden, but with a team in the Redskins who are very. . . “meh.”  Washington is where Alex Smith’s career may very well end and although this franchise has historically been one to make questionable decisions on both sides of the roster and has an owner who sometimes gives the impression that he lives in another world – SOMEHOW – it will fall on what Alex Smith “failed to do.”  At this point, Alex Smith has heard it all – “draft bust” – “game manager” and now “passed his prime.”  A good chunk of Smith’s career hurt him and it’s due to nothing else but bad luck and situations that he could not control.

Would he be an all-time great if he had a better situation?  Nobody is saying that.  Smith definitely has his limitations. He just deserved better is all.

Beating Vegas: So What If I’m Petty?

New York Jets +15.5 at New Orleans Saints

Yes, you read it right the Saints are a fifteen point favorite in a professional football game.  This is not a college spread, this is an actual professional match up.  It won’t look like one though, as the Jets are now forced to go with back up quarterback Bryce Petty, in place of the injured Josh McCown.  McCown was having a career year and was the main reason this Jets team has been able to compete week to week when many doubted they could.  What the Jets lose with McCown goes beyond the stat-line though.  He was building a rapport with the wide receiver talent around him (even making Robbie Anderson emerge as a true number one), made up for a lack of a running attack and was the calm, confident leader this team needed.  Bryce Petty’s short career numbers are: three touchdowns, seven interceptions and a completion percentage of 54%.  The Saints pass defense is mediocre, allowing 60% completion percentage but can get to the quarterback (34 sacks) and against this offensive line, they’ll be bringing the heat.  The last time we saw the Saints, they lost in embarrassing fashion to the Falcons on National Television, now they get a mentally defeated Jets team without their leader and on their home turf.  Considering the Jets defense put absolutely zero pressure on the frantic and easily frazzled Trevor Siemian last week, I’m sure the veteran Drew Brees will be someone’s MVP in fantasy football this weekend.

The Pick: Saints -15.5

Tennessee Titans +2 at San Francisco 49ers

With all things considered, and when all the numbers and analytics are figured out – Marcus Mariota is the 34th best road-quarterback in the NFL.  Remember, there are only 32 teams so that means – well you get it. . . Mariota has 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions on the year and although this team is 8-5, word on the street is – they play like they’re 5-8.  This is a team that is in La-La-Land because they are three games over .500 and just don’t want to rock the boat.  Their only source of offense that teams should concern themselves with is running back Derrick Henry who is averaging five yards a carry and has really emerged as the go to guy in the backfield with Demarco Murray. The San Francisco 49ers rush defense is hard to figure out because they’ve allowed over 1500 rushing yards but they have an impressive 3.9 rush on average by the opposition.  Offensively, this offense have been pretty adequate all season long.  They are on a two game winning streak since putting in Jimmy Garoppolo at starting quarterback.  In his two games he’s posted a completion percentage of 67% and is grasping the offense more and more with each snap.  Garoppolo racked up wins against the Bears and the Texans, but the road gets tougher at home this week against the Titans, followed by the Jags and the Rams.  The 49ers fan base and organization as a whole have something to root for in a losing season as they all see the future in Garoppolo.

The Pick: San Fran -2

San Diego Chargers -1 at Kansas City Chiefs

Do people realize that the San Diego Chargers are on a four game winning streak?  Have people realized that if not for some bad kicking in their first two weeks, this is a team that could easily be 9-4 instead of 7-6 ?  The Chargers are right now looking to take control of their destiny as the final three games of their season are against a Kansas City Chiefs team that seems to have lost their identity, a  below average Jets team and a Raiders team that is just lost.   Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is well on his way to a 1000 yard season, and back up running back Austin Ekeler has been adding in a punch late this season with 5.5 yards a carry.  This backfield has helped give balance to this offense which is lead by quarterback Philip Rivers and his 3600 yards passing.  The last time these two teams played the Chiefs won 24-10, but this is back in week three when the Chiefs looked like the best team in the AFC, Alex Smith looked like the MVP and Kareem Hunt looked like the Rookie of the Year.  Times have changed and since they started out 5-0, they have limped since October 15th with two wins and six losses. The Chiefs control their destiny as well in this division, but you have to ride the hot hand in this situation.  Chargers are hitting their stride and the Chiefs are grasping at straws.

The Pick: Chargers -1

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

New Niners Era

When John Lynch was introduced to the world as the new general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, most of the world kind of shook their collective heads, or just let out a collective “huh?”  There was good reason for that at the time.  When he retired from the game that saw him as a nine-time Pro-Bowler in 2008, we saw him for just about the next nine years being a color commentator for FOX.   Last time we saw somebody do something similar to this was the disastrous Matt Millen to the Lions ordeal.   Matt Millen was viewed much like Lynch is – a smart player on and off the field, has an eye for talent, so on and so forth. . .

Lynch is different though.  For the 49ers sake, he must be. 

Lynch knows what it takes to build a Super Bowl team because he was on one in 2002 with the Bucs.  He knows what kind of personalities will work with each other, the necessity of comradery in the locker room and of course, the kind of coach needed.  This is why the hiring of Kyle Shanahan should have come as no surprise.  Much like John Gruden, Lynch’s head coach during his day’s in Tampa Bay – Gruden is an offensive minded coach, who is a “quarterback – whisperer” of sorts – much like Shanahan.  Shanahan’s demeanor can at times remind folks of Gruden as many have mentioned how Shanahan’s ego is a bit, well – out there.

The “Great Heist of the 2017 Draft” was a perfectly drawn up by Lynch and his associates, who pretty much “hood-winked” the Chicago Bears into trading then two third round picks (one of which is for 2018) and a fourth round pick – and only moved down one spot.  Lynch was able to get the player he wanted originally in Stamford defensive linemen Solomon Thomas.  They also traded back into the first round to select Alabama line backer Reuben Foster.  His initial draft was a success with a focus on the defense – Ahkello Witherspoon is an athletic 6’3″ cornerback out of Colorado and in the seventh round they may have found a steal in safety Adrian Colbert, who ran a 4.38 in the combine.  If Colbert, may be a steal, Lynch’s fourth-round pick, running back Joe Williams out of Utah is definitely a steal. 

Remember, this is only the draft.

Lynch, decided to keep a focus on the side of the ball he’s most familiar with. .  Lynch, 45, years old isn’t too far removed from a “rougher” NFL but has also seen the transition of, let’s just say a “different” NFL.  Shanahan has developed successful offenses in this NFL and truth be known, it’s easier to get an offensive system in put then it is for defense.  Sure, this season is pretty much a wash for San Francisco – you’ll see a lot of Carlos Hyde and you should see a lot of the rookie Williams as well.

Let’s look at the rest of this division for a second.

The Cardinals: They have talent, but last year was a bit scary to see if you’re a Cardinals fan.  Things just weren’t working out well for them and it’s apparent Carson Palmer is on the wrong side of 37. . .

The Rams: Are terrible.

The Seahawks: Let’s be honest.  Aren’t they just a ‘tad-bit’ over-rated these days.  Nobody is scared of the Legion of Boom like they used to be, and with rumors circulating that Richard Sherman was on the trading block, it seems Seattle isn’t too fond of it either.  All of their young talent that helped build that team up under Pete Carroll (including coordinators) have gone off for bigger paychecks.  The NFC West is their division by default.

Okay, back to the Niners.

Looking ahead to 2018, the 49ers will have money to spend and there are free agents who might find it intriguing to land in San Francisco.  It’s already been mentioned that Kirk Cousins will run to San Fran once his time is done in Washington, but another option might be New England’s Jimmy Garappolo.  Wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Terrelle Pryor are both playing on one-year “prove you’re real” deals and they could both be pleasant options as well.  There are a couple of veteran offensive linemen available in 2018 who might want to play in a Shanahan offense  – Johnathan Cooper, Nate Solder and Greg Robinson to name a few.

Remember, in the NFL, fortunes can flip within a year in any given division.  Seeing already how the 49ers are positioning themselves, it would not be hard to believe, if in three years – maybe even two – the NFC West belongs to the gold-diggers out of San Fran.

G.W. Gras


NFC West: First Round Mock

It was just less than five years ago that the NFC West was thought to be the toughest division in football.  Every team had a tough defense, and the division games were grueling matches, usually decided at the line of scrimmage.  Now a days, it’s more like a Seahawks team with a lot of bark, an under achieving Cardinals team and two of the most poorly run franchises in the league in the Rams and the 49ers.

Here we will discuss the best option for these squads and what they should do with their first round pick.

San Francisco 49ers: 2nd Overall Pick
Finished 2016 with a 2-14 record
Def Yards: 32nd Off yards: 31st

Talk about a complete disaster.  The San Francisco 49ers were once considered one of the most cherished franchises in the league, but last year further cemented the “bottom feeder” persona that they really are.  The team’s best player is an above average running back in Carlos Hyde and a veteran left tackle in Joe Staley.  They went out and signed wide receiver Pierre Garcon but at quarterback they are looking at Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.  The “woes” don’t stop there either.  Defensively they are led by two veteran linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Navorro Bowman – but as 2016 showed, that isn’t scaring anybody. . .

Automatically, people may say: “You need to build this team around a quarterback,” and if that’s the case, have your pick with these “maybe-average-at-best” options, in Deshaun Watson and Mitchel Trubisky.   But just what can a rookie quarterback do with this team?  Exactly.  The only real option for the 49ers here is to auction off this pick to the highest bidder.  There is no shame in trading back and getting more picks, when you have one of the worse rosters in the NFL.  Since nobody has been able to get a clear feel on how teams feel about these quarterbacks, trading back may still ensure the Niners securing Watson or even maybe a Pat Mahomes or Brad Kaaya (Kaaya in maybe the 4th round).  But aside from the quarterback position, the Niners can benefit by getting multiple picks in rounds as last as the 4th or 5th and start plugging in players in positions of need. . . which will be easy because the 49ers need everything.

Los Angeles Rams: 5th Overall Pick
Finished with a 4-12 record
Def Yards: 9th    Off Yards:32nd

The draft helps bad teams like the Rams, get a good early pick to bolster areas needed.  Defensively, they were in the NFL’s top ten of yards given up, but finished dead last in offensive yardage.  They have a potential bust in their quarterback selection last year, have a weak offensive line and no real receiving threat.  .  . They most likely would’ve went on the offensive side of the ball, but unfortunately this pick is owned by the Tennessee Titans, so. . . that’s it for the Rams, who will continue to be a brutal on the offensive side of the ball.

Arizona Cardinals: 13th Overall Pick
Finished with a 7-8-1 record
Def Yards: 2nd    Off Yards: 9th

This Arizona team confused just about everybody.  Even I touted them as the best team in the league last year and was left looking as if I had no business talking football ever again. . . keeping that in mind, let me continue to talk about this sport of football. . .  The Cardinals lost two safeties in the off-season, but at the start of 2017 they’ll have a healthy Tyrann Mathieu back there, and he is possibly the best at the position.  Patrick Peterson is the lone corner on this team, so expect the Cardinals to go after Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey. BleedingGreenNation.com referred to him as “a tone setter in the secondary,” and his aggressiveness proves this to be true.  The issue is, he’ll probably be scooped up by Buffalo with the tenth pick, because they just lost Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots in free agency.  This leaves them with options though at corner, and the versatile  Adoree’ Jackson of USC comes to mind.  Not only is he a great athlete at the position (11 passes defensed and five interceptions) – his versatility as a kick returner and a wide receiver can open the door for a mad-scientist-head-coach like Bruce Arians.

The Cardinals, lacked a “spark” or “energy” last season, Jackson is the kind of electric player who can provide that to this franchise. It may be a bit of a stretch at the 13th spot, but I just believe he’s a better corner than Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore and way better than Washington’s Sidney Jones.  Jackson is a player, who loves the spotlight and his kind of attitude would fit in great with Mathieu and Peterson.

Seattle Seahawks: 26th Overall Pick
Finished with a 10-5 record
Def Yards: 5th  Off Yards: 12th

The Seahawks are the one team in this division that seem to take winning seriously.  Even with that being understood, their franchise quarterback Russell Wilson has a tough go the last few years when it comes to not being sacked.  Some of it may be attributed to his inability at times of trying to do more than he can, but the sack numbers since 2013 to 2016 are: 44, 42, 45 and 41 — and last year he coupled that forty-one with his lowest number of touchdown passes, 21.  Seattle “helped” Wilson by signing tackle Luke Joeckel to a one year deal. . . Joeckel has been more of a “joke-el” after being selected with second pick overall in the 2013 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Seattle will most likely address this offensive line issue, although this draft doesn’t really have any standouts – at least not too many ‘first-round’ standouts.  The minds at Pro Football Focus ranked this unit as the worst in the league, and although my pick for them is somewhat of a gamble, the selection here is LSU guard Ethan Pocic. He can play both center and guard, but it is likely when drafted he would start out at guard.  LSU’s offensive line is one of the more dominant in college football, it didn’t matter if Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice ran the ball – the ground game was able to pick up yards in chunks.  He is a patient player, who was trusted to make adjustments from the line.  He finished 2016 as a First-Team All American and SEC player. Some folks have him as a late second round talent, but I have him as one of my top three offensive linemen in the draft.

G.W. Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Tricky Times

Last week we went a respectable 2 out of 3 but the one we lost was supposed to be the lock of the year – thanks Michigan.  As you can tell from last weekend, this is the time of the year in college football where it’s risky business laying it down on teams many expect to be “power-houses. ” We’ve been consistent here at “Beating Vegas” though and we will continue that trend no matter what is going on in the world of football!


Virginia Tech +1 at Notre Dame


We’ve stood away from the Fighting Irish all year.  Basically  because it’s Notre Dame and they are the most fickle team when looking at them against the spread.  This week though, they play host to a Virginia Hokies team that is 7-3.  Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer is doing all he can in a season where all is lost for the Fighting Irish.  Kizer has NFL aspirations next year and most see him as a first round talent – but hold up.  Low on the radar of many is Virginia Tech’s quarterback  Jerod Evans, whose numbers are very similar to Kizer’s except that he throws at a higher completion percentage and has thrown fewer interceptions (four to Kizer’s eight).  When looking at team defense and team offense, the numbers are nearly identical.   The only difference that stands out is the Virginia Tech pass defense. The Hokies hold opponents to a 49% completion percentage and have picked off the opposition ten times so far this year.  This puts everything on Kizer, as it’s been all year, and when lining up a healthier Virginia Tech against a beat up Notre Dame team that hasn’t been in sync all year, it’s kind of easy to lean on the side of Tech for this one.

The Pick: Virginia Tech +1

Arizona State +27  Washington

A lot of folks predicted Washington being upset by USC last week before it happened.  It was a shame, they were having a magical season, but in the world of college football – some will fall.  Washington’s loss came at the hands of a newly rejuvenated Trojans team, who are looking to gain respect back in the conference they once owned by default.  In no way, shape or form did the Trojans “expose” a weakness in Washington – they just beat them flat out.  With that in mind, Washington will be looking to impress the “committee” by putting on a show against the lowly Arizona State Sun Devils.  We told you last week that Utah would cover that -5.5 spread against Arizona State and they did it with the greatest of ease.  This time around, Arizona State plays a more talented and pissed off Huskies team with something to prove.   As reported on YahooSports.Com “The Sun Devils have allowed 64 plays of 20-plus yards (tied for 121st out of 128 teams nationally), 34 plays of 30-plus yards (123rd), 24 plays of 40-plus yards (127th), 16 plays of 50-plus yards (127th) and 11 plays of 60-plus yards (tied for 126th).” This is music to the ears of Washington quarterback Jake Browning who already averages 10 yards per pass and the running backs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman who average 6 and 9 yards a carry respectively.  In short, the spread is huge, but Arizona State is too one dimensional on offense and too below average overall to compete against a loaded Washington team that is out to prove something to the world this week.

The Pick: Washington -27

Patriots -12 at San Francisco


The 49ers are killin’ it right now, riding an eight-game losing streak and much like the previous post about a “pissed off Washington Huskies” team — the Niners welcome the New England Patriots to San Fran, after they just lost on national television to the Seattle Seahawks.  You think those kind of things don’t matter?  Think again.  The Patriots were favored by seven points in that game and then before kick-off the line moved – in their favor – to NINE points. . . and they lost.  Something got terribly lost in translation between the football-gods and the wise-guys in Vegas.  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick must be foaming at the mouth to get an opportunity to go against one of the NFL’s most putrid teams in the league.   The Niners give up the most points per game in the NFL at 31, and give up the most yards per game in the league as well (5.1 yards a carry / 180 rushing yards a game).  And although their pass defense isn’t dead last, and instead somewhere in the middle of the pack – they still give up nearly 250 passing yards a game at a completion percentage of 62%.   This is just bad news for the Niners, who are coming off an impressive loss at the hands of the Cardinals, only losing by a score of 23-20 to the Cardinals.  Yeah, when you start giving credit to teams for “impressive losses” it’s safer to go the other way. . .

The Pick: Patriots -12

Four Game Teaser of the Week:  Patriots to win;  Boston College/UConn under 49; Nebraska -2.5; Utah -2.5


Good luck and wager wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Three Potential First-Round Busts

It’s never nice to predict which of these kids will become a “bust.”  It’s a harsh title to bequeath upon a youngster who has his entire future/career ahead of him, BUT – it happens.  Some are noticeably horrendous like Jamarcus Russell, while others suffer injuries and personal setbacks like Brian Bosworth.  Whatever happens in the future, let’s just make it clear – I’m not wishing for the worse, just predicting it.

DeForest Buckner, DE,49ers, Seventh Overall Pick:


This isn’t even Buckner’s fault as much as it where he came from (Oregon) and where he landed (San Francisco).   There are only two names that come to mind when one thinks of successful Oregon Ducks selected in the first round, Haloti Ngata and Kyle Long (and Long, at the time, was a real reach for Chicago in the first round. . .).  Dion Jordan proved to be a bust in Miami and the 49ers drafted Arik Armstead out of Oregon last year . . .  it’s apparent they were so impressed by Armstead’s mediocrity that they decided to roll the dice on another Oregon Duck in DeForest Buckner.  Buckner is a “stiff” player with very little fluidity in his game.  He lacks that aggressive nature you’d want from the edge and his instincts are a second too slow or just wrong altogether.  His potential will rot away on a team that is currently a sinking ship.

Eli Apple, CB, New York Giants, Tenth Pick Overall:


The Giants appeared to be a mess on the first day of the draft.  They acted as if they didn’t have time to plan, or the date just “snuck up on them.”  The Bears jumped in front of the Giants and took OLB Leonard Floyd from Georgia, who was someone the Giants had their eyes on and then something weird happened.  The Giants decided to draft a corner back and instead of going for Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves, they went with Ohio State’s Eli Apple.  I get it, from a public relations standpoint it’s cute to say things like “Another Eli in the Big Apple” but in the football world, this was a confusing pick.  Eli Apple was second-team all conference.  He plays in the Big Ten.  He went up against maybe 3 good quarterbacks all year and plays on one of the best defensive units in college football. . . and with all that, this first round pick was “second-team” all conference.   He has slow reaction times, and gets beat a lot.  He’ll have his hands full with the Redskins and Cowboys receiving cores — he’ll even struggle with the likes of Jordan Matthews of Philadelphia.  This is a situation where the Giants went for need and not best player available.  Although the best player available was probably Vernon Hargreaves who plays the same position.  There is a good chance that on the night of the draft, general manager Jerry Reese was drunk.

Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams, First Pick Overall:


First pick overall Jared Goff has some interesting foot-notes on his resume: In the 2015 season he struggled against Washington, struggled against USC and looked pitiful against Utah.  What do those three teams have in common?  They all have athletic, talented defenses with NFL-ready guys on them.  Something else that hits a nerve when looking at Goff’s resume – he never beat Stanford.  Now, I’m far from the guy who puts wins and losses on a quarterback, but the bottom line is, Stanford is a very blue collar and aggressive team – and he couldn’t figure them out.  He holds the ball for too long if you watch his tape;  and he benefited from the world of college football where you can zip a pass right off the snap from the shotgun/pistol.  He has “the look”, has the strong arm and talks a good game but the Rams didn’t draft their franchise quarterback this time around.  They drafted a guy who can “fill in” at best – until a better option comes along.  Having Todd Gurley in the backfield should help him out, but teams are going to stack the box all year and force him to come out from under center and deliver passes to, what is, a below average receiving core in Los Angeles.  Truth be told, his best option may be fellow rookie Tyler Higabee out of Western Kentucky – but he’s a rookie, who’s off the field decision making is a huge question and will have to prove himself against veteran tight end Lance Hendricks.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio



San Francisco 49ers 2015 Preview

*Editor’s Note: This article was written two days before the retirement of offensive lineman Anthony Davis and the arrest of Aldon Smith.

Forget everything you thought you knew about the San Francisco 49ers of recent history.  No more Jim Harbaugh. No more Frank Gore.  Patrick Willis is gone and so is Chris Borland.   How could things go so downhill so fast?  Ego, may have played a part in it, but now it doesn’t matter.  The 49ers find themselves in an unwanted position in the most physical division in football.


Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has supposedly worked on his mechanics in the off-season and let’s all hope this is true.  At times Kaepernick looked like he was engaged in a shot-put competition when he was throwing a football.  Kaepernick is not the quarterback you want under center if trailing by double digits in the fourth quarter and last season he seemed to either second guess his dual-threat ability or not know how to use it to his advantage.  The 49ers need to remain focused on running the ball this year but without Frank Gore in the backfield, the assumption is that second year man Carlos Hyde becomes the guy.  People expected more from Hyde (albeit in a backup role) but four yards a carry isn’t too shabby and it’s something he can build on.  The 49ers didn’t show much faith in Hyde being the next Gore – as they will most likely have a running back committee.  They signed the versatile Reggie Bush, who for all things considered is on the downside of his career and they drafted South Carolina running back Mike Davis, who might end up stealing the number one spot on the depth chart by mid-season. Davis is a patient runner, who has big play potential as well as three-down-back potential.

The offensive line took a loss with Mike Iupati departing via free agency, but their tackles Joe Staley and Anthony Davis are the oxen on the o-line and love being physical.  This is a team that will depend on the interior of the line more than the outside of it, if they do intend on using a power-run-attack, relying on the presence of their guards which is where the Niners have nothing spectacular.


The same can be echoed, with all due respect, to the wide receivers on the 49ers.  They signed Torrey Smith to reunite him with former Ravens wide out Anquan Boldin, but this isn’t 2011 so there isn’t much to get excited about it.  Smith provides the deep threat, but how will that work out with “Ol’ Shot-Put Colin” tossing the pigskin?  Boldin is a man’s man.  He’ll do the dirty work, and even in his 13th season he still managed 1,000 yards receiving.  Smith may be more flash than anything else though as he never became what they wanted him to be in Baltimore.  At tight end, Vernon Davis was downright dreadful last year but he’s all they got at that position.  It’ll be rare to see the Niners go Three-Wide, but if they do expect Bruce Ellington or Quinton  Patton to catch feelings as one will be the odd-man out.

This defense used to be a monster – and the 49ers coaching staff will need Aldon Smith to return with a clear head and become one of the elite pass rushers in the league again.  Aldon is a ticking time-bomb though and it’ll be interesting to see how free he gets off the edge without Justin Smith there to clear him a path.   The 49ers drafted Arik Armstead out of Oregon in the first round to help beef up the line – but it’s their second round pick Tank Carradine out of Florida State who will make more of an impact.  Carradine has a non-stop motor and power that you just can’t teach – while Armstead is the type to get stood up more often than not and kind of gives up if his first attempt is stopped.


The return of NaVorro Bowman will be a nice sight as he is returning from the game after being sidelined for over a year after a grotesque knee injury.  This used to be the best linebacker group in the NFL with Bowman, Willis, Smith and Ahmad Brooks – but Willis is gone, Smith is a certified nut-job and Brooks might lose his job to Aaron Lynch if he doesn’t show better production early.  Not the softest of landing spots for Bowman, who will be depended on to direct a defense that will probably be on the field a lot. . .

The 49ers secondary seems to get destroyed by free agency every year and this year was no different.  There is a lot of youth and inexperience at the corner back spots, but at least the safeties Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea are still there.  Reid and Bethea will probably be taken out of their comfort zone and asked to do a lot more one on one coverages because of the lack of experience at corner – it could get ugly.

Predicted Record: 4-12

Predicted Pro Bowlers: None

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Who’s Left to Challenge the Seahawks?

Pound for pound, the Seattle Seahawks have been viewed as  the most balanced and deepest team in the NFL.  It’s rare to see a team get built from the ground up and have more than formidable depth on both sides of the ball.  The Seahawks get the best out of every team that they face every week, but no team has been a bigger thorn to their side than the San Francisco 49ers.


The NFC West used to be decided by these two squads who basically were mirror images of each other.  They both had offenses that lived off the running game, while their defenses were aggressive and in some ways paid tribute to the style of defenses played in the NFL of yesterday.

For the 49ers it was almost literally yesterday that they were a team that could go toe to toe with Seattle.   After the much publicized breakup between head coach Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers – things started to fall apart with this roster.  Running back Frank Gore signed an off-season deal with the Indianapolis Colts and with that the 49ers all time leader in rushing yards and attempts is gone.  Long time defensive linemen Justin Smith retired from the game of football,  linebacker Patrick Willis retired at age 30 and that loss wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t for the following retirement by much heralded rookie linebacker Chris Borland announcing his retirement for fear of long term brain damage.  For the same reasons, 25 year old right tackle Anthony Davis has retired as well.

Add to the fact that last season tight end Vernon Davis didn’t look the part of the pro-bowl caliber tight end he is paid to be and that now there are trade rumors circulating quarterback Colin Kapernick – the 49ers are simply not the same.  And won’t be for a while.

So who in this division will step up and challenge the Seahawks?

The options are the St. Louis Rams and the Arizona Cardinals.  Let’s start with the Rams.

Head coach Jeff Fisher knows how to coach teams well enough to hang around in games they have no reason hanging around in.  That’s a testament to his coaching ability and how he tends to get players to play for him.  Fisher will most likely look to protect newly acquired quarterback Nick Foles with a punishing running attack from rookie Todd Gurley and second year man Tre Mason.  They have a head case at wide receiver in Kenny Britt and the two West Virginia wideouts who can’t seem to get anything right on the field in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin – defensively though – they are solid. With Chris Long and Robert Quinn applying pressure from the end positions and second year defensive tackle Aaron Donald coming through the middle – it makes life easier for this talented secondary and linebacker group.   Their secondary isn’t as talented as Seattle’s but they are talented enough for Seattle’s wideout group.  St. Louis needs to put this all together though.  With all of this talent they have on the defensive side of the ball the Rams were still “middle of the pack” in terms of rushing and passing yards given up per game.


Everyone’s darlings of last year, the Arizona Cardinals are a team that’s easy to like because they don’t come with the “rah-rah” mentality that the rest of their division opponents have.  They also have (arguably) the best coach in the NFL in Bruce Arians.  One can make an easy argument that Arians has been the best coach in the NFL in the last three years.  He seemingly resurrected Carson Palmer’s career – then Palmer got hurt.  No problem, the team and Arians were confident with Drew Stanton under center. . . then came the injury to Stanton and even the amazing coaching of Arians couldn’t lift the below average talents of Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas at quarterback.  Never-the-less, at full strength the Cardinals are a team that can put up 10 wins in a season AND give Seattle trouble for the division.

Defensively Calais Campbell is one of the best defensive ends in the league that nobody talks about but it’s their hybrid-like 3-4 defensive scheme that drives offensive coordinators crazy.  Arizona’s defense only averaged about 18 points a game to opponents and a lot of that was based more on a bend and don’t break (before the 20 yard line) mentality.

So when the question is posed : “Who will challenge the Seahawks in the NFC West?,” — there is one obvious answer: The Arizona Cardinals.


They have the talent on offense to at least spread out the Seattle defensive attack and minimize their blitzing abilities.   With Harbaugh out of this division and with Jeff Fisher’s best coaching days seemingly behind him – Bruce Arians is the one in this division with the savvy and intellect to top Seahawks coach Pete Carroll in a game of X’s and O’s.

Let’s be honest, if Bruce Arians was coaching the Seahawks in the Super Bowl – he would’ve handed the ball off to Marshawn Lynch. . .


G.W. Gras

twitter GeeSteelio

Grading Free Agency, Pt. 2

*You can find Part 1, here: http://geesteelio.com/?p=369 – detailing the free agent signings of Ndamukong Suh, Frank Gore and Byron Maxwell, Rodney Hudson, Stephen Paea and Jeremy Maclin.


Ryan Matthews – Philadelphia Eagles

Naturally, we start with Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles.  It seemed as if the Eagles were locked in with Frank Gore at running back until Frank Gore backed out to sign with the Colts.  Ryan Matthews seems to be the guy who will replace the void left by Lesean McCoy.  Matthews’ history shows that he doesn’t fair well when replacing a fan favorite – as he was supposed to be the one to carry the load in San Diego after Ladanian Tomilson.  Matthews has shown flares of being a capable back, but injuries have derailed his career for the most part.  Questionable signing here by Chip Kelly considering the rigorous practices and uptempo play-style of this Eagles offense.  It will be a miracle if Matthews lasts 10 games this year.

Grade: C-

Torrey Smith – San Francisco 49ers


While most are looking to leave San Fran, Torrey Smith has decided to sign a 5 year, $40 million contract to play for the Niners.  Smith has incredible speed and good size at 6’0″, 200 pounds.  While in Baltimore, Smith totaled over 1000 yards once in four seasons which was also his highest reception total in his career at 65.  He makes the most with every catch and is able to average about 16 yards per catch each season – which is the stat that makes him attractive to the 49ers.  Nobody really knows if Colin Kaepernick will take another step in the positive direction, but Smith can only help.  This move also reunites Smith to play alongside Anquan Boldin (Ravens teammates in 2011).

Grade: B

Julius Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville, for as bad of a football team as they are, somehow they pulled off a free agent surprise by netting a deal with Thomas.  This is a risky move on both parts.  Thomas is entering a situation with an unproven quarterback entering his second year in Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars are paying a guy who’s toughness has been questioned and who’s stats can be mostly attributed to playing in a great offense with one of the best ever throwing him the ball. . .  Playing with Peyton Manning makes any wideout / tight end, more in tune to route running and communication but is Jacksonville really the place where that can be exhibited?  Denver also wasn’t too happy with Thomas only wanting to play at 100% and never wanting to “give it a try” when coming back from injury.   Jacksonville could’ve spent the money they spent here on an offensive linemen.

Grade: C

Jeremy Parnell – Jacksonville Jaguars

Oh, excuse me Jacksonville – you are putting money to the offensive line.  Nice to see.  Jacksonville has money and they probably over-paid for a guy who split time in Dallas on the offensive line, but considering the success of the that O-Line, Jacksonville figured they had to make a move at some point to bolster this unit. Five years and for $32 million might seem a bit high for a guy nearly 30 years old who’s been a part-time starter but hey – guess you gotta start somewhere. . .

Grade: C-

Derrelle Revis AND Buster Skrine – New York Jets

The Jets were an absolute joke in the secondary last year as every young corner on the roster never panned out and every signing appeared to be the wrong one.  Buster Skrine was signed to a 4 year $25 million dollar contract and there is no doubt he is elated to leave the mess that is the Cleveland Browns.  Skrine is a heavily penalized corner, but the Jets like his aggressiveness and figure him to be a perfect nickel man for this defense.  Although the Skrine signing is okay , the crown-jewel is the Jets getting back their guy in Darrelle Revis.  When the Jets traded Revis in 2013, the fan-base couldn’t comprehend how it could trade away it’s best player in years.  It was business. . . and nobody conducts business better than Revis, who signed back to the Jets for a five year, $70 million contract with nearly $40 million guaranteed.  The Jets front line is still a force in the league and having bolstered their corner position will only help.  Safety is still a question-mark and there is still a possibility of them signing  Antonio Cromartie as the number two corner.  Sure they over-paid for Revis, but Revis makes sure that everybody does. 

Grade: A

Andre Johnson – Indianapolis Colts


In Part One, the Colts were given an “A” for bringing Frank Gore on board and now the Colts have gone out and acquired former Texans wideout Andre Johnson.  Johnson is the Texans all time receiving leader but now leaving on bad terms with the team, the veteran has decided to pony-up with the division rival Colts.  On paper this looks like a massive upgrade to the Colts receiving core and although Reggie Wayne showed last year he wasn’t the Wayne of yesterday, Johnson is almost in the same boat.  Wayne had to make way for T.Y. Hilton, while Johnson had to make way for Deandre Hopkins.  Three years and $21 million seems a bit too steep for a team that has an intriguing young wideout in Donte Moncrief to go along with T.Y. Hilton.  This team has a stud in Andrew Luck, the running game help should’ve been enough.  They need to focus on defense or it will be the same story as last year.

Grade: D

Orlando Franklin – San Diego Chargers

The Chargers are now acting like a shark smelling blood in the water.  Maybe the Chargers see that the Broncos are vulnerable and they can still make enough moves to be better than the Chiefs and Raiders.  If Peyton Manning’s late season performance was a preview to how he’ll play this up-coming season, that would make Rivers the best quarterback in the division.  The Chargers decided to protect one of the least mobile QB’s in the league by acquiring former Bronco, Orlando Franklin.  Franklin plays guard but is versatile all through the line of scrimmage and in his four seasons with Denver he has only missed one game.  The Chargers also re-signed King Dunlap so it seems that protecting Rivers for this year and beyond is (and should be) a team priority.

Grade: B+

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio