Jim Harbaugh, Ahmad Brooks, Colin Kaepernick; Matt McGloin, Rashad Jennings; Tim Hudson/Tim Lincecum; Todd Christiansen/Marcus Allen; Bob Sarlatte
by Glenn Dickey
Nov 19, 2013

JIM HARBAUGH was badly outcoached in the 49ers disastrous loss to the New Orleans Saints, and he has a struggle on his hands if he’s going to right the ship and get the 49ers into the playoffs.
Harbaugh put his team in a hole in the first half on Sunday when he lost two time outs with failed challenges. The first was especially futile because the replay clearly showed that Saints quarterback Drew Brees was not over the line of scrimmage when he passed the ball. Usually, Harbaugh gets word from coaches upstairs who can watch the TV replays, and I’m sure he would have been told that. Either he ignored it or didn’t even ask. That’s the sign of a coach whose ego is out of control.
That also brought about a penalty when quarterback Colin Kaepernick tried to call a time out when he couldn’t get a play off on time. He had done the same thing earlier, which was the first of the three allowed in a half. Officials announced after Harbaugh’s second failed challenge that the Niners had no more time outs left. Either Kaepernick wasn’t listening or he can’t count to four.
Then, in the last two minutes of the game, Saints coach Sean Payton conducted a coaching seminar, letting the clock go down to two seconds so, when Garrett Hartley kicked a 31-yard field goal, the game was over and the Saints had won.
There were other examples of Harbaugh not being in control. When Ahmad Brooks was called for a personal foul for wrapping his arm around Brees neck in tackling him, which negated a Brees fumble, Brooks protested that it was just “a bear hug.” Yeah, that’s why Brees was spitting blood.
I’ve got news for the 49ers and their fans: That’s the way officials are calling the game now, to protect quarterbacks. It was the right call. Harbaugh knows that, but he made no attempt to talk to Brooks after the play or in the locker room, where Brooks was going on and on about it being a bad call.
That’s how losers talk, and right now, the 49ers look like a team on its way out of playoff contention. At best, they’re facing a situation where they open with a wild card game on the road, but the way they’re playing against good teams, even that is a long shot.
Forgotten in all this talk about the Brooks penalty is that the Niners had another chance to win the game – but once again, their offense failed them. It was three-and-out and Kaepernick did the Saints a favor by running out of bounds, which stopped the clock.
Kaepernick was mediocre in this game, which is an improvement over the way he’s looked against quality opponents this year. He threw two touchdown passes, one to an open Vernon Davis and the other his best throw of the day by far, when he hit Anquan Boldin perfectly with a back shoulder throw.
Otherwise….not so good. He threw for only 127 yards, the lowest of the 18 NFL quarterbacks who attempted at least 30 passes. The quarterback who is supposed to be throwing deep passes is dinking and dunking. He threw an interception but hustled over to make the tackle and when the ball was fumbled through the end zone, it was ruled a touchback and the 49ers got the ball on their 20. Actually, the play should have been called dead on the 35 earlier because the defensive back who intercepted the ball was knocked down immediately. That was just one of the breaks the 49ers got in the game, which they conveniently forgot in their whining.
Worse, Kaepernick’s problems have allowed defenses to bunch up to stop the 49ers running game. The key to the 49ers success under Harbaugh has been their ability to control the game with a tough defense and potent running game. They’re still doing that against weaker teams but against teams that look like playoff teams, they’ve been exposed.
But, I’m sure Harbaugh will find some way to blame the media for their troubles. He’s already told his players to stay away from the social media networks. Athletes can put some silly things about there on Twitter, Facebook, etc., but that’s not the 49ers problem. Harbaugh needs to look in the mirror.
MEANWHILE, THE Raiders had a feel good story as rookie quarterback Matt McGloin threw for three touchdowns as the Raiders beat the Houston Texans, 28-23.
The Texans, of course, have been rancid of late, but the Raiders were facing some demons of their own, having lost eight in a row on the road. And, they had to come from behind after the Texans had taken a three-point lead in the first half.
This is definitely a team on the rise. Their defense has played well, with the notable exception of the game against the Philadelphia Eagles, when they couldn’t do anything right. (It’s of note that Nick Foles, who had his coming out in that game, has continued to play well in subsequent games.)
Now, the Raiders stand at 4-6 and those numbers could easily be reversed because they probably should have beaten the Indianapolis Colts in their opener and the Giants in New York the previous week.
The last loss was attributable in large part to the problems that quarterback Terrelle Pryor had with his knee, which he had not told coaches about. Coach Dennis Allen kept Pryor home – he had also been sick, and Allen did want him giving other players what he had – and was almost gushing about McGloin after the game.
It’s hard to say what this means for the future. Pryor is a much better all-round athlete – McGloin certainly isn’t going to open a game with a 93-yard run, as Pryor did in the win over the Pittsburgh Steelers – but he hasn’t been as consistent as Allen would like. Part of that is because he hasn’t had confidence in his offensive line, with reason, and has left the pocket early. Because running is not an option for him, McGloin stayed in the pocket and threw some very nice passes.
At the very least, the Raiders know they have two good quarterbacks, which is more than the 49ers can say. Harbaugh has shuffled potential backups in and out all season because he doesn’t have confidence in who he has.
The Raiders have also come up with a reliable running back, Rashad Jennings, who is more of a power runner than Darren McFadden but also showed that he has breakaway speed with an 80-yard touchdown run. McFadden is a great broken field runner but he can’t stay healthy. His contract is up this year and, with his injury history, the Raiders would be foolish to resign him.
I’ve said all along that next year will be the breakout year for the Raiders but I believe they’re showing this season that they’re moving in the right direction.
IT WAS sad to hear of the death of former Raider Todd Christiansen, who was only 57. Christiansen held club records for catches and yardage by a tight end, a remarkable feat on a team which also has had Raymond Chester and Dave Casper.
I barely saw Christiansen play because the Raiders were in Los Angeles during his career, but I spoke extensively to him in 1990 when I was in Los Angeles researching my book on the Raiders, “Just Win, Baby.” He was very intelligent and candid about the problems Marcus Allen had with Al Davis. The main problem was that Davis thought he’d be the main figure when he moved the franchise there but Allen had been a Heisman Trophy winner for USC and the MVP of the one Super Bowl the Raiders, so he got all the attention. Davis got his revenge by benching Allen, who waited out the time when he could become a free agent and joined Kansas City, where he resumed his Hall of Fame career.
THE BAD news just keeps coming for the Cal football program. A study done by former chief of staff John Cummins and a graduate student showed that a sizeable number of football players have been admitted with much lower grades than non-athletes, which is probably a reason for the shockingly low graduation rates.
Cummins, whom I first met when he was working with then chancellor Robert Berdahl in the ‘90s, has a great interest in football, currently working on a history of the Cal program. He interviewed me last year for my views on that part of the program I’ve witnessed. But he also believes, as I do, that the football program should be a legitimate part of the university, not a separate entity, as it usually is for the big football powers.
In the ‘80s, when Michael Heyman was chancellor, a program was begun called the “Blue Chip” program which brought in students who were somewhat below the usual Berkeley standard because of inadequate high school preparation and put them through an intensive summer program to bring them up to Berkeley standards.
This was not an athletic program but coaches could submit as many as 20 names for consideration. The overall number was 80.
Since then, the program has been expanded to 300, with 80 possible spots for athletes. Four categories of academic risk have been assigned, and it seems that many of the athletes are in the lowest category.
Cummins believes that this is a systematic failure, and I’d agree.
The faculty is ultimately in control of admissions, and a member of the admissions committee admitted to him, “We are all complicit.”
Beyond that, football programs across the country have gotten out of control, with too many coaches making too much money. It’s the arms race that Andy Geiger warned about nearly 30 years ago taken to the extreme.
But both athletic director Sandy Barbour and former coach Jeff Tedford share in the blame.
I’m reminded of something former faculty advisor Jack Citrin told me when Cal was put on NCAA probation during the Tom Holmoe years because two wide receivers were given credit for a class they didn’t even attend. “People think it’s the big programs that are cheating but it’s usually the programs that are failing that cheat.”
Tedford ran into serious recruiting problems in his last few years, mostly because the Cal administration didn’t have the guts to break up the ridiculous tree-sitters. When parents of potential recruits came with their sons for the Cal visit, they were horrified – and the recruits did not come to Cal. It also hurt when the chief recruiter, Tosh Lupoi was lured away by Washington at the height of the recruiting season, January 16, 2012.
So, Tedford was going after more academically questionable athletes.
Barbour apparently wasn’t paying as close attention to the problem as she should have, but she was looking at a big problem: financing the renovation of Memorial Stadium. A winning football team was essential. She didn’t get it in Tedford’s last year and she’s really not getting it this year.
This team may be even worse that the worst under Holmoe. They struck an absolute nadir in the loss to Colorado, which had been winless in conference play, and one play is the symbol of that: The Bears tried an onside kick which was recovered by a Colorado player who saw a clear path and returned it for a touchdown. In all the football games I’ve seen over the years, I had never seen that play.
The Bears are headed for another beating in the Big Game Saturday, and what I hear is that Barbour will be fired after the game. I don’t envy her successor but these poor academic performances have to stop. That comes before winning football games.
TIM HUDSON will be joining the Giants as a free agent next year, which is a very good signing for him and the team, not just for what he can contribute himself but what he can do for Tim Lincecum.
Several years ago, I noted that Lincecum had much the same type of body as Hudson, which I thought might be a problem. Both pitchers are relatively slight and use an enormous amount of effort to throw excellent fast balls. Hudson has been injured frequently, though he’s also had considerable success. Lincecum hasn’t suffered any serious injuries but the velocity on his fast ball has dipped.
Now, I think Hudson can probably give him some good advice on how to pitch with a fast ball that is no longer overpowering. Lincecum has already changed some but Hudson’s advice could still make a difference.
And, of course, the Giants need another quality starter, to fill in the gap before the young pitchers from their minor league system are ready, probably in two years.
DAMON BRUCE is back at work at KNBR after a two-day suspension and a not-to-be-believed public apology for talking about sports as an arena for men and boys, not women and girls, nor women sportswriters.
Bruce was clearly just trying to get attention for himself, and the fact that he did it this way tells you all you need to know about his intelligence. And, the fact that KNBR brought him back so quickly shows you that all they want is shock jocks on the air. Station execs know their audience.
The most amusing part of this episode was Bruce’s claim that he knew the locker room culture. Maybe he read about it somewhere because he hasn’t experienced it first hand.
Over the years, I’ve known very few TV and radio sports guys who have spent much time in locker rooms. In the ‘70s, Gary Park did that for Channel 2, though he tired of it as he got older. Gary Radnich was really on top of the scene when he took over at Channel 4 in the ‘80s, but he became so successful, with a KNBR show along with TV, that he no longer had time to do that. Of the current TV guys, former player Mike Shumann probably spends more time in locker rooms than anybody.
I was in locker rooms regularly, starting with my stint on the Raiders beat, 1967-71, through all my years with The Chronicle. Since then, I’ve spent much less time there, for a variety of reasons. But, unlike Bruce, I’ve never bragged about knowing the culture.
THOUGH IT’S hard for me to get excited about the Big Game, knowing that Cal will get crushed, I am going to the one festivity I never miss, the Guardsmen’s Luncheon at the Fairmont tomorrow.
I’ve been very close to this function for a very long time. I was even an MC for a couple of years. Bob Sarlatte does it much better.
In the mid-‘80s, I thought I’d try some other functions. Dave Maggard got me into the Bond Club, which was terminally boring. Bill Brennan, a close friend, got me to the Bohemian Club celebration, always the week before. That time Stanford rooters serenaded me with their version of the song, “You’ve got to have heart.” Aimed at Cal, they sang, “You’ve got to have Glenn.”
Great fun, but the Guardsmen’s luncheon is better, and that’s the one I’ve stuck with.

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