49ers, Raiders, Cal Hoops - and More
by Glenn Dickey
Feb 10, 2006

THERE’S A power struggle going on in the 49er front office. Better hope that Mike Nolan wins it.

Nolan went public at the Super Bowl with his hopes that a “football man” could be found to head up the front office.

Meanwhile, Paraag Marathe went public in a much smaller venue, the SF Weekly, in an interview in which he claimed discrimination because of his Indian background and his youth; he is only 28.

That story was remarkable because the writer derided the emphasis on “football people” by ignoring inconvenient facts. He noted that Rich McKay, general manager of the Atlanta Falcons, was praised though he came to the NFL after being an attorney. Of course, McKay’s father was the legendary John McKay. To the best of my knowledge, Marathe’s father has never strolled an NFL sideline.

The writer also made a comparison between Marathe and A’s general manager Billy Beane, who uses statistical comparisons in his job. But of course, Beane was both a major league player and a scout before becoming GM. Nobody could accuse Beane of not being thoroughly grounded in his sport.

Statistical information is a valuable tool in evaluations. The 49ers were one of the pioneers in this field, with the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams, in the ‘60s. (I wrote a story on this for The Chronicle around draft time last April if you want to check it on SF Gate.) The Cowboys used it most effectively, setting up models for players through the computer, just as the A’s do today.

But those models are of no use unless they’re accompanied by good scouting and evaluations of the players, which is why it’s necessary to have people with a football background in the front office.

The 49ers also need that kind of person to have contact with the other decision-makers around the league. Nolan doesn’t have the time for that; he’s a coach. The 49ers need a man with a solid NFL background to do that kind of work, as John McVay did it for Bill Walsh.

Marathe’s statistical evaluations are important, but unless the Niners get the kind of football man Nolan seeks for the front office, they aren’t going anywhere.

SURPRISE: Ken Whisenhunt, whom the Raiders had waited two weeks to interview, turned down the job after one day – and on advice from Steelers head coach Bill Cowher. ESPN also reported that Louisville coach Bobby Petrino also turned down a Raider offer.

What’s next for the Raiders? Maybe Al Davis should scour the high school ranks. What difference does it make, anyway? Davis selects the rest of the coaching staff, makes decisions on the roster, has veto power on game plans. Anybody who takes the job will be a conduit for Davis’s decisions, not a coach.

CAL HOOPS: Cal’s basketball future has brightened considerably for three reasons:

1) The Bears have learned how to close out games. They’ve won the close games they’ve lost in the past because they’ve been strong at the end, as they were again last night against Stanford.

2) They’ve finally realized they have to get the ball into Leon Powe’s hands. The earlier strategy of having Powe pass out so one of the guards could shoot a three-pointer had an inherent flaw, because three-point shooters can take a team right out of the game when they turn cold. Powe is virtually an unstoppable force down low. Of course, he’s double-teamed. So was Ike Diogu when he was at Arizona State and pretty much the Sun Devils whole offense. Diogu still got his points, either on field goals or free throws. Powe did the same last night, hitting 10-of-21 from the floor and 12-of-15 from the free throw line. The Bears should make sure he continues to get those chances.

3) Ben Braun has eliminated a significant Cal defensive flaw, their inability to defend perimeter shots. That first showed when they neutralized Oregon State's Nick DeWitz, who had set records for three-pointers against them previously, in a game at Corvallis. Last night, they swarmed over Stanford’s Chris Hernandez, double-teaming him every time he got the ball, right up to Stanford’s last play, when Powe jumped in to intercept a Hernandez pass. Stanford’s three-point shooting was never a factor, only three made in 10 attempts.

Now, the Bears are well-positioned in the Pac-10, especially with four of their remaining six games at Haas Pavilion. Because the conference is so weak this year, just seventh in the national RPI rankings, I doubt that more than three teams will make the NCAA tournament this year – but the Bears should be one of the three.

NFL OFFICIATING: With the rash of questionable officiating calls in the playoffs, including the Super Bowl, it’s time for the NFL to seriously consider John Madden’s suggestion for change in the way officials are named to these games. The NFL rates officials during the year and selects an “all-star” group for playoff games. Madden wants them to name crews of officials who are used to working together. Makes sense to me.

BASEBALL LUNCH: The annual Fox Sports Bay Area baseball luncheon had some interesting moments, some serious, some comic, yesterday.

Among them:

Billy Beane thanked speaker Donald Fehr, executive director of the Players Association, for his work. “I realized what a good job you’ve done when I started getting pension checks this year. I thank you, my wife thanks you – and my ex-wife thanks you.”

Fehr said that there would be no consideration of a salary cap in the negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, which expires in December. No surprise there. More significantly, Fehr said they’d be looking at the revenue-sharing plan because, he said, some clubs were getting more from revenue-sharing than their actual payrolls. Supposedly, the purpose of revenue-sharing is to make an effort to level the playing field. There should be a stipulation that the money goes into payroll, not just into an owner’s pocket.

A’s TV broadcaster Glen Kuiper noted that Giants manager Felipe Alou had also played for the A’s. “In fact,” he said, “all three Alou brothers played for the A’s, and they have three World Series rings. They didn’t get them from the Giants.” Ken Korach, now the lead radio announcer for the A’s, said, “You must have been talking to Fosse.” Ray Fosse, who missed the luncheon, always points out that the A’s have won four World Championships in Oakland, which is four more than the Giants have won in San Francisco. “Ray told me, ‘If you run out of material, fall back on the rings,’” said Kuiper.

PARTING SHOT: The Super Bowl promoters continued their Golden Oldies halftime program this year, with the Rolling Stones following Paul McCartney the pevious year. How long can it be before they exhume Bing Crosby? He’d probably look better than Mick Jagger.


LETTERS: I’ll be updating this section by late tomorrow.

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