Before we get to the game itself, a couple notes. First of all, Jed York everyone:
We just found out; the 49ers have picked former safety John Lynch as their new GM, and let’s just politely say that, until we learn more, he doesn’t quite fall in the “very plausible” side of the spectrum.
Yes, this got weird–through all the 49ers’ PR announcements about interviews, re-interviews and those who no longer would get interviewed… and through all the guys who said no thanks.
We found out that all the normal candidates either wanted no part of this search or didn’t fit with Shanahan or somehow didn’t meet York and Marathe’s standards, whatever they might be.
So the 49ers shocked the NFL world and pulled off one of their most surprising hires in years–they’ve reportedly given Lynch a six-year (!) contract despite Lynch having zero personnel or NFL management experience… after Lynch himself reportedly called up Shanahan a few weeks ago to volunteer for the job.
Comparisons to the Trump cabinet are obvious, although to be Scrupulously Fair to Jed he apparently did try to get multiple people actually qualified for the job to take it before offering it to Lynch. Well, as any Lions fan can tell you when you hire a broadcaster with no personnel experience as your GM, nothing can possibly go wrong. As for the head coach, I’m disappointed they didn’t hire Cable for self-interested reasons, but I do like the fact that Shanahan will give us a controlled experiment. Some of the people arguing that Matt Ryan wasn’t the MVP although he was very obviously the MVP argued that Ryan benefited enormously from the play-calling wizardry you may remember from such unstoppable juggernauts as the 2014 Cleveland Browns and 2013 Washington Redskins. Myself, I’m sure Shanahan is a perfectly cromulent playcaller, and I’m also sure plenty of guys would look good calling plays for Matt Ryan and a pile of outstanding talent. He’s about to move to the opposite end of the talent spectrum, and good luck with that. Although, hey, Matt Schaub, tanned, rested, and just threw another pick-six!
On this year’s Hall of Fame inductees — well, Tomlinson is a solid selection, Taylor postmature, and Easley very postmature. Warner is an interesting case, but 3 genuinely great years and several more good ones at the highest impact position for a guy who started at 28 is a solid if not overwhelming cv. The writers apparently see Davis as the RB equivalent of Warner, but I don’t buy it: 71 starts of above-average but only great in 2001 play at a low-impact position is really not Canton caliber, plus way too many replacement-level running backs can get 4.5 yards a carry in Shanahan’s scheme (while conversely we certainly know that it wasn’t Martz or Everybody Beats the Whis that explain Warner’s success.) Nothing against Davis and he was a good player, but I just don’t see the Hall of Fame case given the shortness of his career. And, to state the obvious, excluding the overwhelmingly qualified Owens because writers don’t like him is grossly unprofessional behavior.
Team Trump (-3) over Falcons I think the Falcons offense is absolutely for real, and they’re a very live dog. The Pats defense is subject to some dispute. Perpetually aggrieved Pats fans were offended that I cited their mediocre DVOA (16th) rather than their better weighted DVOA (11th). My obvious response is that prior to that last week the weighted rating came from good performances against Brock Osweiler, Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trevor Siemian, Jared Goff, and Colin Kaepernick, plus OK performances against Flacco and Fitzpatrick. I mean…congratulations, but I don’t see this as much evidence that the defense is better than OK. The performance against the Steelers is more impressive, despite the injury to Bell. But, still, I think Atlanta will be able to move the ball on them fairly effectively. The problem for Atlanta is that while Atlanta’s defense is also improving that improvement was from “bad” to “below average,” and it’s very hard to see Brady not carving it up. And while I like Quinn and I’m glad to be wrong when I wrote him of as a head coach prematurely, it’s hard to bet on a second-year head coach against Belichick for all the marbles. Should be a fun game, but I unlike their close personal friend I don’t think New England will need the Electoral College or the FBI to pull of a win.