More Mouse Davis Than Bill Walsh

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 1.10.2017

Over the years we’ve written quite a bit about Chip Kelly. We’ve written how he wasn’t right for the NFL and we’ve written that he could be the next Bill Walsh. With many things, the truth falls somewhere in between.

Chip Kelly 49ersChip Kelly was fired from two NFL jobs in little over a year. The second wasn’t his fault as he was dealt an absolute oil spill but the first was his fault. More importantly there has been some talk out there that Kelly wasn’t able to adjust to the NFL. He didn’t disguise his looks and become, in a word, predictable.

NFL defenses may have figured out a way to stop Kelly’s ‘blur’ offense but the NFL also adopted some of his ideas and methods.

While at Oregon, Kelly made trips to New England to talk about the hurry-up offense with Bill Belichick and his staff. Belichick and Kelly have become good friends and there is a possibility, however remote, that Kelly could slide into the OC spot if current Patriots OC Josh McDaniels gets another head coaching gig with, ironically enough, the San Francisco 49ers.

The fact is that a lot of teams, college and pro, use some of Kelly’s principals in their offenses. It’s a lot like how every one criticized Mouse Davis’s Run’N’Shoot offense when it debuted in the NFL way back in 1989.

Many criticized the offense and in it’s purest form wasn’t very successful at the NFL level. However aspects of the offense have made it into just about every current NFL offense. Using the pass to set up the run, single back sets and having wide receivers read the coverage along with the quarterback.

Kelly’s offense and training methods are seeing a similar bubbling up across the league. Kelly embraced sports science and employed a ‘sport science coordinator’ while with the Eagles. Other NFL teams have begun to embrace the idea of maximizing athletes performance after Kelly blazed the way.

Teams have also incorporated some zone read plays, allowed their quarterback to run more often, and of course using the hurry-up or no huddle offense throughout the game instead of just at end of a half.

While Kelly may not have revolutionized the game like the late Bill Walsh did so many years ago, he did influence it significantly like Mouse Davis did back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Kelly’s NFL career will be judged by wins and losses but he has contributed much more than that.

 

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SF 49ers: Digging To The Bottom of the NFL

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 1.3.2016

The San Francisco 49ers will be on their fourth head coach in as many years and the first team in almost 40 years to fire coaches in back-to-back years after just one season. The Cleveland Browns haven’t even done that. Add to it that the owner, Jed York, said in his press conference on Monday, ‘I own this football team. You don’t dismiss owners.‘ The 49ers were once the envy of every North American sports organization. Now, they are a laughing stock and paying millions of dollars to their former coaches with little hope for a winning team anytime soon.

Jed YorkIt’s almost scary what’s happening to the 49ers. They seemed to be on the right track when Jed York and then GM Trent Baalke convinced Jim Harbaugh to take over as head coach. He had immediate success and was within an inch of winning a Super Bowl. But Harbaugh and Baalke clashed and York, essentially, sided with Baalke which led to the dismissal of Harbaugh after an 8-8 season.

The 49ers have yet to win 8 games total since letting Harbaugh go.

To add insult to injury, the organization is going to have to pay between $30 million to $70 million to former coaches to not coach. This includes having to pay the next three years of former head coach Chip Kelly’s deal. Kelly never had a chance with the hand he was dealt but no matter, he’ll get paid handsomely for his one year with the team.

The fact is that Jed York should be fired. Can you imagine running a company where you have fired the leadership over the last years and will lose at least $30 million to pay former employees to not do their job?

It would be nice to say that there is some hope for the 49er faithful. The fact is that there isn’t. They have had multiple terrible drafts, lost potential hall of fame players to retirement or injury and have arguably the worse roster in the league. It will take several solid drafts, free agent signings and a lot of luck for the 49ers to make the playoffs again. So strap in 49er faithful, this is a long term plan.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Easier To Use and Follow Ups

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.19.2016

As we all know, Twitter is live streaming the NFL’s first 10 Thursday Night games. A couple of games in, you are starting to see some to of the changes that needed to be made not only for the games but for Twitter’s live strategy.

twitterads-they-started-mondayBefore the Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers game I saw more advertisements within the Twitter application further out from the game. I also received an email with a straight forward graphic reminding me about the game. These are both things that Twitter didn’t appear to be during Week 1.

 

twitterliveBy the time the Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers game rolled around the next Thursday, there was a video player inside the desktop application right next to the ‘Trends’ section.This is a big and necessary change especially for new users of the platform. Granted this is only on the desktop/laptop view and not the mobile view but it’s a start.

There are two parts of streaming NFL games that Twitter needs to nail. First show that the platform is stable enough to have the capacity that the NFL and others are going to need. They’ve done that.

The second part is to get users, new and existing, to watch and you can only do that through advertising inside and outside of Twitter.

With the combination of ads within the application running further out from the game and the email campaign, Twitter is getting the second half of this right because the stability and quality of the live stream is great.

Follow Up:

Last week I posted about the low hanging fruit that Sling TV and other OTT providers could pick. Those are the league channels like MLB Network, NBA TV and NHL Network among others. Well in a blog post on Sling TV’s website on October 19th announced that the NHL Network was now available in the sports package.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Unavailable on iPhone

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.14.2016


I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

Unavailable On iPhone

Sports fans, especially Pac-12 fans, got an unexpected gift last Thursday. Sling TV announced a deal with the Pac-12 Network to get all of the Pac-12 channels which are split up into regions (Mountain, Arizona, Washington, etc). However the victory was short lived as the pop up ‘Unavailable on iPhone’ appeared during Monday Night Football.

pac12The Pac-12 deal is big for a couple reasons. First, the Pac-12 has some pretty darn big media markets including Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland, Denver and Phoenix. Second, DirecTV doesn’t have the Pac-12 Network which means about 25 million people. The cost savings an opportunity to watch your Alma Mater could be enough to chip into that number for Sling TV.

Then Monday happened.

imageEvery now and then I have to travel for business. This trip just so happened to land on the season premiere of Monday Night Football. While bandwidth on the Southwest flight is good enough to get a medium to low quality stream of Sling TV (which I found out a day later by streaming the US Open Cup Final on ESPN), it was shocking to see the ‘Unavailable on iPhone’ when I got off the plane and tried to watch the Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers game on ESPN.

That’s right. I can watch via a Roku on my TV, my laptop or tablet but I cannot watch on an iPhone. That’s some 63 million Americans who, in theory, could not watch Monday Night Football on their phone.

That’s kind of shocking.

Now I did not try the WATCH ESPN app. I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t watch on Sling TV that I totally forgot about the WATCH ESPN app. I was also going to be at my hotel in a matter of minutes and the game was at halftime.

I am sure that there is some contractual or technical reason why I couldn’t watch one of ESPN’s most popular programs on my iPhone but as a user I don’t really care about the reason. Part of the reason for cutting the cord was so I could watch anywhere I wanted to, on any device. How can I watch any TV, tablet or computer but not on the device that is with me 24/7? It’s like the content is available ‘almost anytime on almost any device.’

Sling TV is still winning as far as I am concerned. Two weeks into the college football season and I don’t feel like I am missing any of the action. Not being able to watch Monday Night Football on the device I have with me all of the time is odd but something that I am sure that will be fixed.

That Didn’t Last Long

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Jaryyd Hayne’s venture into the NFL didn’t last long. In fact it lasted only one full season. Hayne ‘retired’ this past week to return to the world of rugby. Specifically he is playing with Fiji Rugby Sevens team in the Olympics this summer. Does this effect future non-football athletes from getting a shot in the NFL?

When Hayne left the Parramatta Eels he said, ‘I’m always telling people to chase their dreams and follow their hearts, if I don’t live by that I’m not being honest with myself.’ Now instead of sticking to that dream he is giving up on it to pursue another one.

While his circumstances have changed with the San Francisco 49ers as they changed out head coaches this off-season (Jim Tomsula is out and Chip Kelly is in). Kelly said that he was ‘surprised’ by Hayne’s decision but that he understood it. This leads one to believe that Hayne did have a shot at the 49ers roster with the new coach and that continuing his dream of playing the NFL was still a viable option.

It was less than a week a go that the 49ers were talking about how they expected Hayne to make a ‘major impact’ with the team in 2016.

Hayne could have been a solid NFL player. A great player? Maybe but the percentages of that were probably low and maybe that was a deciding factor is his decision to leave and pursue yet another dream. The fact is is that only Hayne knows for sure. What we do know is that Hayne had a legitimate shot at becoming a solid NFL player and I wish him the best of luck in the Olympics.

Like Family

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


‘Like family’ is a phrase you hear thrown around a lot in life, sports and business. While we await Super Bowl 50 at the home of the five team Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers, it’s only appropriate to look back at the owner during that time, Eddie DeBartolo Jr. Aka, Eddie D.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News wrote arguably the best article on Eddie D that has ever been written. While not a saint, Eddie D is the closet thing to one. He is there for his players and his players families now and for as long as he will be on this Earth.

Montana and Eddie DWhile Eddie D is no longer the owner of the 49ers (his nephew Jed York runs it now) he is still widely respected in NFL circles. The way he ran the team during his 23 years at the helm were impressive. From players getting their own room on the road to players wives being sent flowers when their husbands signed as a free agent. Eddie D changed the way NFL owners run a franchise.

Eddie DeBartolo, A Football Life

Bob KraftThe closest thing we have today to an Eddie D is the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. He treats players like Eddie D did, like family. That’s sayin something in this modern era of football where players rarely play their entire career with one team.

 

Like Eddie D, Kraft has hard some issues on and off the field but through it all both men are widely respected and are two owners that players want to win for. Owners who don’t see their organization as a company but as one big family.

Harbaugh: Doing It His Way

Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Jim Harbaugh has been anything but boring since returning to the collegiate ranks. He brought Michigan back to the double-digit win mark in his first season and is now making headlines with his antics on the recruiting trail. Some are not happy about Harbaugh’s recruiting methods but there is precedent for what he is doing.

During this last recruiting push before national signing day (February 3rd) Harbaugh has done just about everything one could imagine.

He’s tried to climb a tree

Had a ‘Netflix & Chill’ night

and even sleepovers.

While the jury is still out on if these tactics worked (getting a recruit to commit doesn’t mean he’ll be a contributing player) it has ruffled some feathers especially to those recruits who’s scholarship commitments he pulled.

 of the Detroit Free Press wrote a great piece about how recruits, opposing coaches and even writers are upset about Harbaugh pulling scholarship offers from long standing commitments.

While it appears harsh it is not without precedent. Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville literally walked out of dinner with recruits while at Texas Tech to take the job at Cincinnati. Later, he and his staff pulled scholarship offers once they arrived.

And this is at a non-Power five school!

While some recruits should be angry about the how they were treated by Harbaugh, Tuberville and others, this is a cutthroat business after all. Coaches get paid millions to win NOW. While we’d like to think that coaches are there to educate and develop young men, bottom line is they have to win to keep their jobs and sometimes even that isn’t enough.

Is a coach going to pull offer from kid A and give it to kid B if he feels kid B gives him a better chance of winning? Damn right he is. There are only so many scholarships to go around after all. Let’s also not forget, these scholarships are for a year and can be revoked. It’s cold blooded but it’s the system that has been allowed to grow due to the money that is involved with college football.

The good side, it’s life lesson kids are learning early. Just because you are qualified doesn’t mean you get the job. Just because everyone likes doesn’t mean you won’t be let go in a round of layoffs. Just because you have an offer doesn’t mean that the you are set for the next four years.

Harbaugh has a track record of winning in college and in the NFL. He clearly knows what he’s doing and the type of player he believes will help him win at Michigan. Like it, don’t like it but you see how the San Francisco 49ers did after he left. At the very least he’s entertaining and giving us something to write about besides “what school will this “5 star” kid select?” when we all know that this kid may never make any kind of impact for the school he signed with.

 

Bay Area Oil Spill

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

(Full disclosure, I was born & raised in Northern California and raised a 49ers fan.)

The San Francisco 49ers could be one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2015. They have pretty much blown up a team that was in the Super Bowl three seasons ago and replaced just about everything but the janitorial staff (they even traded the All Pro punter). It could be worse but not by much.

49ER DEPARTURES

Jim Tomsula is the new 49ers Head Coach. While he is a well respected defensive line coach, he has never been a coordinator or a head coach at the NFL level. He replaces Jim Harbaugh who while successful (44-19-1 with three NFC Championship appearances and one Super Bowl appearance) was also abrasive. So he is out and the player friendly Tomsula is in.

Somewhere after Harbaugh’s departure over 16 players from the 2014 team moved on. This included the retirement of three main pieces to the defense, chief among them was future Hall of Fame linebacker Patrick Willis. His replacement Chris Borland retired shortly there after and then All Pro defensive lineman Justin Smith. This preseason rising star defensive end Aldon Smith was released after yet another DUI arrest, All Pro punter Andy Lee was traded and the teams all time leading rusher Frank Gore was allowed to sign with the Indianapolis Colts.

The most notable addition is someone who has never played a down of collegiate or professional football. Jarryd Hayne was NRL Superstar in Australia (that’s rugby for those of you keeping track at home) who played his first pro football game in the 49ers preseason loss to the Houston Texans. Hayne impressed but it’s still one game and we didn’t even see if he could pick up a blitzing linebacker.

Then there is the quarterback position. If 49ers have pinned there hopes on Colin Kapernick. If he doesn’t turn the corner and become a top line NFL signal caller than it could be a long couple of years for the 49er Faithful.

All these questions can be traced back to GM Trent Baalke. We criticized his strategy during the draft and firmly believe that if the 49ers finish in the NFL West basement then blame falls squarely on his shoulders.

And let’s not even talk about the field they play on. It’s possible the worst in all of sports.

Time will tell if the moves the 49ers made will pan out. Consensus is that they will not and the 49ers will be worse than the Oakland Raiders. If that happens you can probably expect a long road to recovery with a new GM at the helm.

 

 

 

The Difference In The End

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

There were several surprising retirement announcements in the last few days. First, the San Francisco 49ers Patrick Willis followed by Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker, former Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds. Common factor, all under the age of 31 and could still command top dollar. It came as a surprise but it shouldn’t be, especially in the age of CTE.

Patrick Willis could, and probably will, be considered for induction into the pro football hall of fame. He’s been that good. In fact he’s been the cornerstone of the 49ers for the eight years that he’s been in San Francisco. Through thick and thin, he’s been the constant.

Patrick Willis

Willis said goodbye to the 49ers and the NFL on Tuesday in a surprise to just about everybody. Reason, his feet and not being able to play at a high level. Later in the day came news that Jake Locker was walking away from the game, only four years removed from being a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft. Locker, like Willis, had been suffering from constant injuries. Unlike Willis though, Locker played 30 games and never lived up to the franchise quarterback tag that people branded on him when he was drafted.

Finnegan and Worilds are two more players who could have commanded top dollar on the free agent market but chose instead to walk away. Finnegan after a nine year career and Worilds at the age of 27. Worilds reason is a bit more interesting, he wants to devote more time to his religion (he is a Jehovah’s Witness). Finnegan did leave us with a great / not-so-great moment, when he and Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson got into a fight during a game.

While each player has their own reason for walking away from a high profile, lucrative career you have to believe that the reports about CTE had to play a part in their decision. What is all the money and glory for if you can’t remember what you did and enjoy your life after football?

Other players have retired at a young age such as former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. He wrote an interesting piece for the Huffington Post last year as to why he left the game at the age of 26. He is currently pursuing a screenwriting career in Southern California.

Could this be a new trend in the game? Players leaving after five, six, seven years? Cashing out while they are up? Convincing themselves that to go any longer would cost more than it’s worth? Time will tell but it is a distinct possibility.

From NRL to NFL?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Jarryd Hayne is getting his shot to make an NFL roster. Hayne was the best rugby player in Australia before he retired to chase his dream of making it in the NFL. This spring he will get his chance when he shows up for camp with San Francisco 49ers.

We haven’t covered here at Sideline Signals and we’re not going to pretend that we know anything about this guy. What we do know is that he has been working out in the US in an attempt to make a roster and that he has the size and speed of an H-Back or possibly a return specialist. In other words, stranger things have happened.

Hayne went to the right place though. New 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula coached in NFL Europe and has experience working with international players. While Tomsula will have his plate full with his first NFL head coaching gig, he obviously has the patience to teach and motivate someone like Hayne.

The 49ers organization also has a track record of moving players to other positions (fullback Bruce Miller who was CUSA Defensive Player of the Year as a defensive end or former running back Michael Robinson who was a quarterback at Penn State). The 49ers are also one of the few teams out there that need an utilize their fullback position. It was a big blow to the team a few years ago when Miller went down before the playoffs. Hayne could fill a backup fullback role if everything goes really well.

Hayne’s biggest issue may just be the numbers. Is there a roster spot for a guy with such a big learning curve? Obviously his best chance is going to be on special teams. First as a gunner on punt cover and possibly as a returner. If he tackles and learns to block effectively then he has a shot to sway the numbers in his favor. At the minimum, he could make the practice team.

The fact is this, Hayne has got as good of shot as anybody. Injuries are a part of football and if someone goes down here or there and Hayne proves that he is a quick study then he could make the active roster. It’s a long shot this season but it’s still a shot. Give the 49ers credit for taking a chance and believing that someone can transition from one sport to another.