The football world lost two special people in the past 36-ish hours. Former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Fred Dean passed away Wednesday night at the age of 68. A Pro Football Hall of Fame selection (2008) and Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame inductee (2009), Dean helped the 49ers capture the Super Bowl XVI and Super Bowl XIX Championships. On Thursday morning, one of the most lovable personalities, Vaughn McClure—who covered the Falcons for ESPN—passed away at the age of 48 at his apartment in Atlanta.
Speaking of Atlanta....
ESPN’s Domonique Foxworth floated a more enticing reunion on ESPN’s “Get Up,” however, projecting that Falcons QB Matt Ryan will rejoin Shanahan next year in San Francisco.
“Yes it’s his last season in (Atlanta) and next year will be his first season in San Francisco,” Foxworth said of Ryan. “Obviously he has a relationship with Kyle Shanahan, that was Matt Ryan’s best season of his career back when he was an MVP. The 49ers are not committed to Garoppolo going forward, there’s just about $2.8 million worth of dead money on his contract next year.
“I think that we could see Matt Ryan out west, and the Falcons trying to rebuild around the draft picks they get for that trade.”
Very, very intelligent breakdown of the situation,” NFL analyst Dan Graziano said in response to Foxworth. “Because as we’ve talked about many times on this show: It’s a year to year commitment with the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo contractually, and Matt Ryan doesn’t make a whole lot more money than Jimmy G does. Makes a lot of sense.”
Making a move for New England Patriots EDGE Derek Rivers, whom the Pats picked up in Round 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft, likely wouldn’t take much. Rivers is a situational pass-rusher out of a small school, Youngstown State, and he hasn’t quite cut it enough to be a regular member of New England’s defense.
His 2.5 career sacks tell the story.
But the Niners could use supplementary pass-rushing depth behind Bosa and Ford, once those two return, especially with Hyder and fellow defensive lineman Ronald Blair (also on injured reserve) pegged to be free agents next season.
Rivers, assuming he capitalizes on the tutelage from SF 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, could help bolster what’s been an anemic pass rush so far while providing some solid depth in 2021 if retained on the cheap.
Shanahan, as a head coach, doesn’t seem to have that standard, or can’t convey that standard. So he needed Staley and Sherman to embody the standard and remind people of it the way Young did, the way Joe Montana did, the way Jerry Rice did, the way Bill Walsh did.
This team not only doesn’t have the standard, it lost track of it. Misplaced it.
If Staley and Sherman had been on the field last Sunday, there’s no way the 49ers would have gotten out by the Miami Freaking Dolphins. Those two wouldn’t have allowed it.
“I was really proud of how people reacted to that,” Thomas said. “This is why mental health is a stigma. What Skip said was so dangerous and so wrong. It was so strong for people to defend Dak in that moment. He was a leader for saying he (struggled).
“It’s so powerful for Dak to let people know that the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team, struggled with depression. That outreach he has is huge. He helped change so many people’s lives that he doesn’t know about, that he will probably never know about.”
Thomas hasn’t been diagnosed with depression or an anxiety disorder, but he said it makes no difference. People experiencing mental health struggles in any capacity need to be taken seriously, and it’s those to whom his heart goes out the most.
Can the 49ers offense improve in a similarly complementary way by this weekend? That’s the operative question. Without a properly functioning attack, the 49ers — especially considering the questions surrounding Garoppolo’s ankle — will likely struggle against All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and a Rams unit that ranks No. 3 in pass defense DVOA.
It took the Rams offense a full offseason to fully correct course, and the 49ers may not be able to fix issues any more quickly. That’s a big reason why they’re home underdogs to the Rams this weekend.
“As the 49ers marched through the NFL, often having opponents on the ropes early in games, Fred was referred to by his teammates as ‘The Closer’ for his ability to deliver the knockout blow to opposing offenses,’’ the statement read. “One of the most feared defenders in the game, he is remembered as a quiet, fun-loving, sincere, country gentleman. Fred’s accolades were numerous, but his love for the game, his teammates and those close to him are what endeared him to so many.”
Former 49ers teammates considered Dean to be the missing piece for a budding dynasty and his arrival still stands as one of the greatest mid-season trades of all-time. His instant impact was felt with every thud to the ground by an opposing quarterback. Sacks weren’t counted as an official stat until 1982, but unofficially Dean had 12 sacks in his first 11 games with the 49ers.