Dominoes

January 5

The first week of the new year has been marked by a rousing game of dominoes for local football fans. On Tuesday night, several of those dominoes fell, but this game actually began the day after Christmas.

December 26 — The 49ers fire Mike Singletary after losing to the Rams and getting bounced from contention in the NFC Waste.

December 27 — Jed York announces an “exhaustive” search for a General Manager with experience, who will then hire the head coach.

December 28 — Trent Baalke emerges as the “clubhouse leader” for GM, despite no previous experience ( except for being quasi-GM for eight months on the interim ). Fans flood sports talk phone lines in anger at what they perceive as a “sham.”

December 28-January 2 — As York continues his “exhaustive” search, it’s clear the end game is to hire Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh. Some see a connection between Baalke and Harbaugh, although it doesn’t appear to be automatic.

January 2 — The Raiders rip the Chiefs to finish .500 for the first time in eight years, and finish 6-0 in the AFC West, all of which is not good enough to make the playoffs. Tom Cable’s job status is uncertain with Hue Jackson waiting in the wings.

January 3 — Harbaugh and Stanford swat down Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, and Harbaugh swats down Michelle Tafoya’s questions about his future.

January 4, 11am PST — Detroit media reports that Harbaugh’s alma mater, Michigan, is going to fire Rich Rodriguez. Then it’s reported that the first reports are premature. Did Michigan get the word Harbaugh wasn’t coming ?

January 4, 1pm PST — The 49ers get permission to speak to Hue Jackson. Reports also emerge that Mike Lombardi talked to Jed York again about the GM opening.

January 4, 6pm PST — In a hurry to find a head coach, the 49ers reportedly name Baalke the GM. The official word comes down a short time later. Baalke and Harbaugh have the same agent, David Dunn, and Harbaugh reportedly signed off on hiring Baalke or Lombardi. The “Mercury News” reports the 49ers are willing to give Harbaugh “significant” power over personnel decisions.

January 4, 6:30 ish — The Raiders decide not to extend Tom Cable’s contract. Their “search” for a new coach will likely be similar to the 49ers’ “search” for a new GM. They’ll probably go all the way down the hall to hire Jackson.

For Baalke, the main job is to deliver Harbaugh, but don’t fool yourselves: while Baalke is nominally the GM who is supposed to hire the coach, Jed is pulling the strings. This was the plan from the beginning, and it sounds like Harbaugh is ready to play along — if he gets enough power over the roster.

Fans will rightly observe that the whole process was a smoke screen from the beginning, and some will be upset because Baalke is part of the past regime of failure. They’ll forget all that if Harbaugh is hired — that WILL excite the fan-base and most importantly, season-ticket holders, even with the possibility of a lockout.

An inexperienced head coach who will have more juice than the inexperienced GM, and will have at least significant power over personnel matters. A former Bears player with no NFL head coaching experience becomes the face of the franchise. A star-struck team president quickly preparing the red carpet. Does all this sound familiar ?

It should, but here’s the difference: Harbaugh knows NFL offenses, knows quarterbacks, and understands the need for a mixture of toughness and trickery. If hired, his first personnel decision will be to choose new quarterbacks, and you can bet they’ll be an upgrade from the Erickson-Nolan-Singletary eras.

The question is, how much will it take to reel him in ? This part of York’s pledge may come true — he may have to “spare no expense.”
And he may be doing so as the NFL teeters on the verge of a lockout.

The other question is, do the 49ers really have a Plan B if Harbaugh falls through ? Is Harbaugh simply cozying up to the 49ers as a way to force another team to up their offer, or does he really cherish the ‘Niner history, and a chance to revive a once-great franchise ?

As for the Raiders, you ALWAYS pay attention to the man behind the curtain — or overhead projector. Although Tom Cable deserved a shot to continue based on the 2010 improvement, it can be argued that Hue Jackson shared in the uptick, as the offense doubled its scoring output. That’s like saying you’re twice as fast as a three-toed sloth, but there was improvement nonetheless.

It didn’t help Cable that he favored Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback over the guy Al Davis signed, Jason Campbell. Although they went 6-0 in the AFC West the Raiders didn’t play well enough against teams outside the division, and let a couple of key games slip away, knocking them out of playoff contention. In Al’s world, that’s failure.

It didn’t hurt Hue Jackson that Jamarcus Russell was no longer around. But it’s also true that guys like Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece and Jacoby Ford flourished under Jackson’s play-calling.

Once it became clear that Jackson would get other job offers, Davis had to cut Cable — also knowing he might be able to sign Jackson for less than Cable’s extension. Also, Davis won’t have to worry about the Rooney Rule.

There’s been some speculation that Davis could be clearing the decks for Harbaugh, but I don’t think that’s happening. Davis doesn’t like to pay coaches anywhere close to the amount Harbaugh will command.

By the end of the week, Harbaugh may be the one shouting, “Domino, mother —-er !! ”

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One Response to “Dominoes”

  1. auto cars Says:

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