There were two pieces of 49ers-related news today, and neither were all that positive. Actually, the 49ers probably think this first tidbit is fine and dandy, but Ahmad Brooks is probably more than a little upset about this:
According to an NFL source, Brooks scheduled 2013 base salary of $4.3 million was lowered to $2.7 million because he did not meet certain requirements. His salary cap figure falls from $6.65 million to $5.05 million. Even with the money saved from Brooks’ deal, the 49ers are currently bumped up against the projected 2013 cap of approximately $121 million.
Hey, them’s the breaks. Brooks signed the contract, he didn’t live up to the requirements. And the Niners need that cap space.
The “de-escalator” would have voided if the 49ers had won 12 games in the regular season and Brooks had played 93.2 percent of the 49ers’ defensive snaps. The 49ers finished 11-4-1, and Brooks took part in 92.2 percent of the play time.
Still beats digging ditches, but … ouch. Double ouch. If my calculations are correct, Brooks would’ve needed to play 1,198 snaps to meet the 93.2% requirement. He was on the field for 1,185. If Akers had made that field goal at Candlestick against the Rams and Brooks averaged one more snap per contest, the outside linebacker very well could have made $1.6 million more in 2013.
When I interviewed Brooks before the Super Bowl, he talked about the decision to come back to San Francisco instead of testing the market before the 2012 season.
“Money isn’t everything and money doesn’t move me,” Brooks said. “The state of California, they tax you like crazy. But I think I made a good decision.”
He also told me how he spent the entire offseason telling himself he was going to go to the Super Bowl (and getting there provides players with a little extra spending money). Brooks also played well enough to be named second-team All-Pro, so his season was a successful one by any measure. But $1.6 million lost over a half a win and 13 snaps. The salaries are much higher, but in certain ways the NFL approximates the “real world” like no other league.
The other newsworthy item today was Tom Gamble, the 49ers director of pro personnel, leaving San Francisco to become the vice president of player personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s not a horribly surprising development, as Gamble was rumored to be in line for a GM job with the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets in recent weeks. Trent Baalke’s statement on Gamble’s departure (seen by many as a lateral move that allowed Gamble to go back to his hometown) read as such:
“I would like to thank Tom for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the past eight seasons. He has played an instrumental role within our personnel department, and is a true professional in every sense of the word. As a friend, I will always appreciate the relationship we have, and wish him and his family all the best.”
I don’t know a lot about Gamble other than his resume, and the 49ers were probably well-prepared to wish him well and find someone else to fill his shoes. However, he was a man who provided value.
That story got me thinking (the Gamble news, not the numbers game that turned out poorly for Brooks). The 49ers lost a guy they thought they’d lose, but a lot of other guys many thought they’d lose are still here. That list includes the entire coaching staff, including Greg Roman.
The columnist who will from now on be known as “Miss Manners” in this space once called for Roman to get his walking papers because he is a “football sinner”, and popular opinion on the 49ers offensive coordinator seemed to range from genius to doofus depending on the final score of the previous game. The Super Bowl was no exception. While the 49ers outgained the Ravens by 101 yards and averaged an impressive 7.8 yards per play, Roman will forever be remembered for four plays inside the Ravens’ 10-yard-line.
Roman wasn’t available to the media after the game, or two days later when the players cleaned out their lockers and Jim Harbaugh spent 20 minutes answering questions in the defensive meeting room. Roman recently talked to Peter King, who did a strong job breaking down the variety of formations the 49ers used against Baltimore.
King described how Roman deceived the Ravens with different personnel packages and motions. The Sports Illustrated writer ran a little misdirection himself by kinda/sorta pointing at the play that might have been.
Third-and-goal from the 5. As the play clock runs down to zero, and just a tick beyond, Kaepernick takes the Pistol snap and takes one step back, then forward, as if to run left, with Gore as his escort. Gore was about to smash into safety Bernard Pollard when the officials all stopped the play.
I’m sure it would have been a run. And I’m almost as sure this play could have come down to left tackle Joe Staley getting a block on the only free Ravens defender in the picture. Ray Lewis.
So what if the play runs? What if Staley gets past the line and hits Lewis but doesn’t finish him, and what if it’s Lewis, on the last and arguably most important series of his 17-year career, having to stop this new phenom, the way he’d stopped so many young phenoms in his past. Stop him and the Ravens win. Don’t stop him, and the Ravens lose.
We’ll never know.
But watch that dead play and you can dream of the drama. The only other thing better than that play running would be the play running with the late Steve Sabol able to cut the piece for NFL Films two days later, and the late John Facenda there to narrate it.
The next two plays, stereo incompletions to Crabtree, inflamed Niners fans for their lack of imagination. So ironic given what the Ravens had had to defend all day. I almost wish Kaepernick had gotten the delay of game penalty, so he could have had more room to maneuver from the 10-yard line on the last two plays. But he didn’t.
“That’s life,” said Roman. “That’s sort of the life of a coach. Will it eat at me? Of course it will. But I’ll use it as motivation going forward. To dwell on something that’s over is so utterly pointless. Anytime you make a call and the play doesn’t work, you think of another play that might have worked. We had a valiant effort, a great comeback, and it wasn’t enough. That’s life. It’s the game we love, the highs, the lows. But it doesn’t take away from what we did this year, and how excited I’m going to be to coach these guys next year.”
I’d love to hear Harbaugh’s (honest) thoughts on King’s speculation that the third down play that wasn’t would’ve been a run, and that the crux of that play would’ve been a battle between the 49ers’ longest-tenured lineman and Ray Lewis. It seems too simplistic, too made-for-TV with the Lewis angle. But that timeout seemed like a gift to the Ravens at the time. Did Colin Kaepernick take too much time? Did Harbaugh, a control freak to his core, panic at the last second? Did Roman take too long getting the play in?
We’ll probably never know for sure, but Roman appears to be returning. And that’s a great thing for the 49ers and Kaepernick. The 49ers’ climb has been so steep that it’s hard to remember where they started, but Roman has only had one true offseason to configure an offense around a quarterback who didn’t get the starting job until the middle of year two. If the players didn’t make so many mistakes in the first half, Roman’s offense conceivably could’ve surpassed 40 points against Baltimore. And while the 49ers’ personnel is impressive, the innovative offensive schemes cannot be overlooked. Maybe it’s because I have only vague knowledge of what Gamble did that Baalke could not in his years with the team, but losing Gamble and keeping Roman seems better than vice versa.