Monday, March 23, 2015

UCLA Coach Steve Alford, Good or Lucky?

All UCLA fans aren't cheering about Steve Alford coaching the Bruins into the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row with a convincing 92-75 win over Alabama-Birmingham. The detractors are the legion of Alford haters. They're bitching and moaning because he now boasts two Sweet 16 appearances in two years at UCLA. Alford, whose job was in danger just weeks ago, now has two years of job security at least. That's the last thing Alford haters want to hear.

Until last week, this had been a horrible UCLA season, including a grim five-game losing streak, listless, undisciplined play by some of the starters, lazy second-half defense in way too many games and an embarrassing 7-point half against Kentucky on national TV. The general feeling was that the Bruins were a lousy team. There were rumors that some fat-cat boosters were pooling funds to pile up the $10 million needed to buy out Alford's contract.

Here's why the Alford haters, and there lots of them, hate him. They insist he's a crappy coach, that the Bruins are often out-coached and unprepared. They hate how he uses players, how he develops players--or doesn't develop players. They grouse about his misguided offensive sets and contend that he's a bad bench coach. They hate that he starts his son Bryce, barely average most of the season, at point guard. The haters weren't even impressed by the Bruins 28-9 record last season. Considering that great pool of talent, featuring a bunch of NBA draftees, that record, argue the haters, indicates gross underachieving.

When the Bruins were bounced out of the Pac12 tournament a few weeks ago, it seemed like their season was over since the experts didn't think they were good enough to make the NCAA tournament. The consensus was that Alford had better come up with at least a Sweet 16 team next season or he was through.

Alford haters were rejoicing. Then....

All of a sudden, against all odds, the Bruins get into the NCAA tournament--and as a surprisingly high No.11 seed at that. That was Break #1. Then they beat SMU via a controversial, rule-stretching basket-interference call on Bryce Alford's game-winning three-pointer. That was Break #2. So they advance instead of going home. Then there was Break #3. Their second-round opponent, 14th seeded Alabama-Birmingham, knocked off powerful Iowa State, which would have been a much tougher opponent for the Bruins. So all the Bruins had to do to make the Sweet 16 was beat UAB, a team they had easily whipped in preseason.

Presto, riding a string of breaks, the Bruins cruise into the Sweet 16. On the ropes just a few weeks ago, the same guy who was being called a bum and a loser, Alford is now being hailed as a great coach. Suddenly he's the next Wooden.

Alford haters are fuming about this turnaround, contending that Alford did no exceptional coaching these last two games, that the Bruins simply took advantage of a string of breaks and he was just along for the ride. The haters contend that, long term, the program still isn't in good hands, that Alford will continue with his subpar coaching and questionable decisions.

What would silence the haters and make them eat a heavy dose of crow? A win over Gonzaga, a team the Bruins lost to in preseason, that would elevate the Bruins to the Elite Eight. Beating a team with superior talent and exceptional coaching would show that Alford has something special.  

This Gonzaga game is the biggest of Alford's career. He needs a win or a very, very close loss. A Gonzaga rout would be fodder for the haters, who would go after him mercilessly, citing that berth in the Sweet 16 as a fluke. How will Alford respond? By this end of this game we'll have some idea what he's made of.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Denver's Dumb Decision To Keep Peyton Manning

Back in the 1800s, hard-boiled cynic P.T.Barnum, convinced that most people are gullible birdbrains, made his famous declaration, that a sucker is born every minute. Unfortunately for Denver Bronco fans, some of those suckers wound up running their team. The management was just suckered into signing QB Peyton Manning for another season.

Talk about your monumental blunders. Talk about guys wearing blinders. Talk about guys with their heads in the sand.

It was clear at the end of last season--that Manning is finished as a starting QB. He has a dead arm. He blamed his horrible second-half tailspin on a bum leg, but that was nonsense. He's now saying his injury has healed so he'll be the old Peyton again this season. Bull crap. He may have just passed his physical, but they're not going to measure his arm strength. After all those years of bullet passes, his arm has simply died.

He ended last season with a whimper, leading Denver to a playoff loss to the Colts, registering a mere 4.59 yards per catch in that game, one of the worst ypc tallies of his career. He was throwing more picks than TDs and couldn't throw with any accuracy beyond ten yards. His long passes had zero zip. What killed their offense is that linebackers and secondary players on opposition defenses were crowding around the line of scrimmage, playing medium and deep passes casually because they knew Manning was lofting easy-to-defend floaters in those areas. That crowd around the line of scrimmage also decreased the effectiveness of the excellent RB C.J. Anderson.

I'll say it again, like I did in a recent post. Manning's arm is dead. He'll be 39 later this month. Age is not only catching up with him, it's kicking his butt.

Manning took a pay cut, from $19 million to $15 million. That's supposed to be a bargain? Well, it's really robbery. He's worth maybe a third of that right now. At this point Manning is merely a decent back-up QB, nothing more.

The boneheads in the Broncos front office will learn the hard way. Here's how this drama will play out--guaranteed. Manning will look OK, with limited work and coddling, in the preseason and maybe in the first few games. Then that arm will flame out, just like it did last season, but only much sooner this time, since he's older and the arm is weaker. He'll start throwing picks and powder puff passes and the Broncos will start losing. Backup QB Brock Osweiler, who's underdeveloped because control-freak Manning was hogging all the playing time, is not ready to be a starting QB. The revamped offensive line will be a negative since it won't have had time to jell. The defense is very good but not good enough to carry a team with a wilting offense. That extra burden will break the defense.

New coach Gary Kubiak will wonder what the hell he got himself into. New Chicago Bears head coach John Fox, who coached Denver last season but was fired after the team tanked in the playoffs, will be snickering and relieved that he got out of that Bronco mess.

The front-office folks who signed Manning to another year will finally fess up and admit: "We got suckered."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kobe Bryant Is a Thief, Robbing The Lakers

LA Lakers' star Kobe Bryant is a thief.

He's not wearing a mask or carrying a gun or doing anything covert or sneaky but what he's doing is still plain old robbery. The Lakers are paying him a fortune--$23.5 million annually, the highest NBA salary--for what? What are they getting in return?. Next to nothing. He's so injury-riddled he played just 6 games last season and struggled through 35 this season before being forced, once again, to end it prematurely. At 36, his body is simply broken down. Each of the last few seasons different parts have failed--first an Achilles tendon, then a knee, then a shoulder. Next season, probably some different body part will flame out. He'll be a year older and even more vulnerable to breakage.

Yet, he did an interview on the NBA network recently announcing he's coming back next season, the final year of that insane two-year contract. He even confessed having doubts about what his body can endure now. And he's still going to show up to collect another $23.5 million?

What??!!! Is he kidding? Another year of this robbery?

Bryant is barely worth one quarter of that monumentally inflated salary. It'd be different if the Lakers were an excellent, well-stocked unit that didn't need that money to hire better players. But they're a rotten team, staffed with untalented nobodies. They desperately need Bryant's salary to rebuild.

It's the Steve Nash fiasco all over again. The Lakers stupidly paid Nash, who had one foot in the NBA grave, millions and millions, only to watch him play, not very well either, a handful of games. They're still suffering from that blunder. Clearly they didn't learn from it. They signed Bryant to a fat, equally dumb contract instead of offering him a much smaller amount, in keeping with his production. If he had refused that reduced-salary contract they should have showed him the door. The NBA is a business. There's no room for sentiment.

There's another reason Bryant is a liability. Because he has a reputation for being a selfish, difficult egomaniac, free agents have avoided this team like the plague. Do you think Kevin Love or Kevin Durant or any other big-time player wants to play for a Laker team anchored by an aging superstar with a diva-like mentality? The quicker Bryant is gone, the faster the team can start some serious rebuilding. They sure can't do it while he's still on the team.

The Buss family, which runs the Lakers, gave Bryant, despite his age and injuries, that huge two-year contract to repay him for what he's done for the team all these years. It was a nice gesture but, man, has it ever backfired. They figured he'd be healthy and at least be a box-office attraction. But it hasn't turned out that way. This is the reality. Bryant is playing--when he can play--like an old man, the team stinks and attendance is way down.

If Bryant really cared about the Lakers, who've been good to him, he'd walk off into the sunset, void the final year of that contract, save them a fortune and let the rebuilding get underway. But, unfortunately for the team, he's returning next year. Bookies are already taking bets on how long he'll last. The over-under is one month.

It's time for Bryant to go away. He doesn't need the Lakers' money. He's ridiculously rich, having enough money to live lavishly for several lifetimes.

The Lakers showed him love and respect by giving him that two-year contract, which has hurt the team..He could show them some love and respect by retiring--now.

I used to admire and respect Bryant, but not any more. I don't like thieves.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Seattle Coach Pete Carroll Is An Idiot

About two years ago I posted a story calling Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll an ass.
That charge now requires an amendment. Carroll is not only an ass but he is, without question, also an IDIOT.

What he did at the end of Sunday's Super Bowl is the definition of idiocy. It certainly cost his Seahawks the game. With about thirty seconds left, trailing by 28-24, and Seattle with a second down at the one yard line of the New England Patriots, Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson threw an interception to safety Malcolm Butler on a quick pass over the goal line. Wilson, of course, screwed up but he should never have been placed in that high risk situation, having to squeeze a pass over the middle in among several players..

But, first of all, what in the hell was he doing passing in that situation? Everybody in the stadium, including the Patriots defenders, thought he was going to hand off to RB Marshawn (Beast Mode) Lynch, who hits the line like a runaway tank. He had just battered the Pats for four yards and was salivating for another carry or two, to try to score the winning TD. So just give him the damn ball and let him do his thing.

But Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had other ideas. They decided to fool the Pats and throw a short pass instead of turning the ball over to Lynch, a play that's as close as possible to a sure thing.
Here's another reason not to call a pass in that situation. Let's say the pass had been successful and the Seahawks were ahead 31-28, there was enough time, about 20 seconds, for the Pats, whose offense was in high gear, to get the ball and move into position for a tying field goal.

Bevell may have called that boneheaded pass play but Carroll shoulders the blame because he obviously had been informed of the call and had the power to overrule it. That play had disaster written all over it. If they had to try a pass they could have at least tried one less dangerous, like a corner route or one deep in the end zone. But over the middle? That's like jumping into quicksand.

That idiotic play call will haunt Carroll for the rest of his days. Here's hoping he has many, many sleepless nights and, over and over, wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, screaming the name of Patriots' safety Malcolm Butler. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

49ers Hiring Lane Kiffin As OC? Big Mistake

The 49ers have gone stark raving mad. They're making boneheaded move after boneheaded move.

First they fire one of the best coaches in the sport, Jim Harbaugh, not because he's lost his ability to coach but because of personality conflicts with the top brass--CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke  Then they replace him with an inexperienced nobody, their defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula. Not only does he have no significant head coaching experience, but he wasn't on any body's must-hire list. No other teams with coaching vacancies were interested. That's a monster red flag. Will he comfortably fill Harbaugh's shoes? No way. Not only is Harbaugh gone, but so is most of that great coaching staff. So Tomsula, while learning how to be a big-time head coach, has to recruit and break in a whole new staff--no easy task.

Which brings us to boneheaded move No.3.

Reportedly the Niners are considering replacing offensive coordinator Greg Roman, just hired by the Bills, with--and this is no joke--Lane Kiffin. There are so many reasons why this is a stupid move. First of all, if he's hired, he's not likely to stay very long. Inside the football world they've nicknamed him the jackrabbit, because he jumps from job to job. Kifffin is always looking for his next position. His current job, whatever it is, is just a stepping stone to the next one. He's had some great head coaching jobs--Oakland Raiders, Tennessee, USC--but left them all on bad terms. For a while, after he bailed out on the Volunteers, he was the most hated man in Tennessee.

Right now he's OC at Alabama. Head coach Nick Saban hired him last year to infuse some PAC 12 zip into Bama's stodgy offense, which he did. However, he and Saban were reportedly at odds because Saban felt Kiffin was mismanaging the running game. Bama, as usual, had a great season but you can't give Kiffin much credit for that. Any OC could have done that. Bama has a stable overflowing with some of the best players in college football. With all that talent, even an incompetent couldn't miss.

No question Kiffin is a whiz at game-planning and play calling. That's why he keeps getting jobs. But that's not all an OC does. He has to smoothly interact with players, coaches and fans, and Kiffin is notoriously awful at that.. He has limited people skills. Players and coaches tend not to like him because he's abrupt, self-absorbed, single-minded and a lousy listener. When he was at USC, one of his assistants punched him out at a bowl game. Wherever he is there's underlying animosity against him and behind-the-scenes melodrama. Yes he has high-level OC skills but they're far outweighed by all that baggage.

Is this the kind of guy--a known disruptive force--you want on a staff full of mostly new coaches guided by a novice leader, a situation that can easily plunge into chaos? Is this the kind of guy you want dealing with QB Colin Kaepernick, who's fragile after coming off a season in which he clearly regressed? Kaepernick needs a wise, stable OC to guide and retrain him. No way is that Kiffin.

Here's hoping the Niner brass wises up and doesn't make Boneheaded Move No.3.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Message to Peyton Manning: Please Retire!

Peyton Manning is like Willie Mays. That's not a good thing.

While watching the Broncos' QB stumble through Denver's 24-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, center fielder Mays, one of baseball's all-time greats, came to mind. In 1973, he was 42 years old, a member of the New York Mets, pathetically stumbling through his last season. I recall seeing him in a game in New York, playing center, fielding a single, with a slow runner on second. Mays botched the play, taking forever to pick up the ball, bobbling it, and finally throwing a wobbler over the catcher's head. The runner lumbered home safely. In his prime, Mays would have routinely swallowed up that grounder and gunned down that runner at third base. In 1973, many years past his prime, he shouldn't have been playing.

Manning, one of the all-time great QBs, is ancient, broken-down Mays all over again. He's as sad and as painful to watch as Mays was during that pitiful last year, when he hit .211 and had a fraction of his phenomenal skills. Nearing 39, Manning has lost it. He and Denver are feeding us some line about him struggling because he's suffering from a torn quad. Hah! That's pure bull.

Manning's problem is obvious. His arm is dead. It has been that way since late in the season. His passes, once laser-like, now flutter. He can't throw long or medium-length passes with zip or accuracy any more. After an OK start, he slowly tailed off. His aging arm couldn't stand the wear and tear of a long season.

Defenders figured him out. They were no longer afraid of being burned by his long or medium-range passes, so they just crowded around the line of scrimmage, waiting for those dinky little passes and screens, which didn't pick up much yardage. Denver was forced to rely more and more on its running game. However, as the season wore on, it was tougher for chief RB C.J. Anderson to gain yardage because defenses were expecting the run. Once its strength, Denver's offense became a liability. Once Denver's strength, Manning became a liability.

That loss to Indianapolis was a factor in head coach John Fox being canned not long after the game. The blame for that loss is largely on Manning, who played badly. Now he's about as effective as a so-so second-stringer. The old Manning would have pulverized the Colts, who aren't that good. With little help from the offense, Denver's much-improved defense had to shoulder the entire load in that crucial game, which it wasn't able to do successfully.

Here's a message to Manning:

Dump that phony torn-quad excuse and get real. You'll never approach your old form again. Don't drag your team down because your ego can't stand facing the hard, cold, ugly fact that your arm is dead. It's never coming back to life. Deal with it. Don't be selfish. Don't stain a great career with a sad, stumbling exit. It's time to retire. Find a comfy rocking chair and settle in it. Whatever you do, please don't wind up like Willie Mays.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Gamblers Talk About Fixing the Lions Game.

Conspiracy theorists, you're barking up the wrong tree.
That ref's call in the Dallas 24-20 win Sunday was a travesty, but it wasn't part of a fix.

A controversy is still raging about a call on a third-down play in the fourth quarter that led to a Detroit defeat. With his team leading 20-17, Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw an incomplete pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who was mugged by Dallas' LB Anthony Hitchens, clear pass interference. An official walked off the penalty, which would have set up the Lions deep in Dallas territory. But, shockingly, ref Pete Morelli announced, with no explanation, that there was, after all, no penalty. It was a game-changer. Instead of  keeping the ball and increasing their lead, the Lions, after a horrible punt, surrendered the ball to the Cowboys, who scored the winning TD. Many Detroit fans screamed foul, contending the fix was in, that the TV network preferred that Dallas advance, because its huge fan base would mean higher ratings.

But.according to two sources, both veteran professional gamblers, who know something about fixing NFL games, there was no way that call was part of a fix. Said one source, who we'll call Rex: "When a ref is fixing a game, the number one thing he does not do is make it obvious. Fixing a game is subtle. The refs look for plays that could go either way in crucial situations and then rig a call. That pass interference against Dallas was flagrant. A fixer wouldn't go near that play. Reversing it was insane. Reversing it without an explanation was more insane. You might as well be screaming, 'Hey look at me, I'm fixing the game.' When a ref is fixing a call, if it's done right, you don't know it. Refs who fix games are also watching out for league investigators. They have to be subtle. Nothing about that call in the Dallas game was subtle. "

Added another source, who we'll call Joey A: "First of all, there were too many refs involved in that call. You don't fix a game by committee. When a game is rigged, there's one guy working alone, looking for small windows of opportunity throughout the game. There were a bunch of people involved in screwing up that call. That's not fixing. No way."

Explained Rex:  "Rigging for gamblers and rigging for networks are two different things. Refs working for gamblers are working against a point spread and usually work low-profile games. Rigging for networks is trickier and tougher because it's making one team win and it may be a high-profile game. When you're under a microscope in a high-profile game it's tougher to rig without tipping your hand."

Concluded Joey A: "The key to rigging is getting good refs in your pocket. Some refs are so good they can fix a game and you won't even have a hint of rigging. The refs in that Detroit game are clowns. They bungled that play. That was just rotten officiating, not rigging. People looking to rig games know which refs to trust. They would never hire those idiots. There's a list of bad refs. Some are downright incompetent and should be kicked out of the league. I haven't seen the list but I bet some of the crew that worked the Detroit game are on that list."

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Defending Dirty Ndamukong Suh

Mammoth Detroit Lions' defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, notorious for his dirty play, is usually the one who is stepping on people. This time he got stepped on, by the mighty NFL. Incensed, he cried foul.

Suh is usually in the wrong, but not this time. He'd gotten a raw deal. But justice eventually prevailed.
Here's what happened:

On Sunday, in the Lions' 30-20 loss to the Packers in Green Bay, Suh twice stepped on the leg of prone Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers after a fourth-quarter play. He was on the ground behind Suh, who stepped back twice to move out of the way of a crowd. Suh's movements could have been interpreted as accidental but, because it was Suh, they were deemed intentional. Rodgers, who took an angry swipe at him, definitely thought Suh had evil intentions. NFL official Merton Hanks, who judges such matters, agreed. So Suh was suspended for the next game, a playoff contest against Dallas.

A horrible decision. Suh is a crucial cog in the Lions' battering-ram defense. There's not a better defensive tackle in the NFL. Without him, the Detroit D slips a notch, maybe even two.

The Hanks' punishment far outweighed the crime. Watching the tape of the offense over and over, it's not totally clear that it was intentional. Even if it was, it's not the kind of violation that warrants forcing a player to miss something as important as a playoff game. Suh's behavior was borderline dirty but definitely not vicious enough to merit a one-game suspension.

Fortunately, hearings officer Ted Cotrell, after examining the appeal, overturned Hanks' decision, revoking the one-game suspension and replacing it with a $70,000 fine.

What's blatantly unfair is that, clearly, if another player had stepped on Rodgers, it would not have resulted in such a severe punishment. But because of Suh's reputation as a dirty player, the penalty was magnified. Over the years Suh has paid over $420,000 in dirty-play penalties. The NFL's policy is simple--if it's a Suh violation, it has to be dripping with malicious intent. No question, the league loves penalizing Suh.

Another element of the punishment is that it happened against Rodgers, one of the league's golden boys. If Suh had done the exact same thing to a third-string nobody QB, there's no way it would have resulted in a one-game suspension. The whole incident, in fact, would hardly have been noticed.

I'm not an advocate of dirty play. Suh is often in the wrong, crossing the line from tough play to dirty play. But nobody should be punished unfairly--even a perennial violator like Suh.

Glad the NFL got it right this time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lakers' Upset of Warriors Means Nothing

Whoa Laker fans, Whoa!

You're reading a lot into their 115-105 upset of the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Yes it was the shocker of the NBA season. How often do you see one of the worst teams clobbering the best? But the Lakers didn't suddenly morph into the San Antonio Spurs. They're still a crummy team boasting a lone star--Kobe Bryant.

Few are looking at what really happened. This, for the Warriors, was the ultimate trap game. For them, the big game is the Christmas night national TV game, the NBA's showcase event, against their hated rivals, the rugged Clippers, in LA's Staples Center. The Tuesday Lakers game? A mere afterthought. Normally, the Lakers couldn't even seriously challenge the Warriors' second unit. As a road team, Golden State was a whopping 11-point favorite.

The big story of the game was that Lakers' coach Byron Scott had finally decided to rest Kobe who, lately, seemed to be suffering from fatigue. So the Warriors didn't even have to contend with the Lakers' best player. Minus Kobe, the consensus was that the Lakers were dead meat in that game. The Warriors shared that attitude despite, according to several sources, Warrior coach Steve Kerr's relentless efforts to convince his players that they couldn't relax, that they were walking into a buzz saw.

Kerr was on the money.

Treating it like an exhibition game, the Warriors' players had their heads in the clouds, bringing only their C game. They weren't mentally ready to play. They thought a casual effort was enough. It wasn't. Any coach will tell you that shifting gears during a game, from lackadaisical to intense, is nearly impossible. Once you go in mentally unprepared you're stuck with that attitude.

What the Warriors didn't count on was that the Lakers were sky high, determined to make a statement that they could be very competitive without Bryant. Usually he hogs the ball, forcing his teammates to stand around and watch him work for shots, which he usually doesn't make. So the first time this season he sits out a game they were anxious to show how they could play without him. The Lakers turned into a textbook team-game unit, passing constantly and sharply and waiting for the best open shot. Playing Spurs-style ball, they were able to bury a lazy Warrior team that was looking ahead to the Clippers.

But that's something that works just once. When Kobe returns, his teammates will, no doubt, retreat into their shell and passively defer to him. Once again, they will stand around and watch him work, watch him be his old selfish self. Also, opposing coaches, from scouring film of this game, will know what to expect when Kobe sits out games and how to combat the Kobe-less Lakers. They won't surprise any team again.

In other words, Laker fans, Expect your team to slink, rather quickly, back into mediocrity.
Tough, new, winning Lakers? No way.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why 49er QB Colin Kaepernick Has Spiraled Down the Drain

In one of the most shocking events of the NFL season, 49ers' QB Colin Kaepernick has spiraled down the drain, taking his team with him.

A super scrambler and supposedly an elite QB, he was recently overwhelmed by the awful Raiders and bested by their so-so QB David Carr. One of the preseason Super Bowl favorites, the Niners won't even make the playoffs. While they have a top-notch defense, thanks to Kaepernick, they have a putrid offense, which stunk, once again, in their loss in Seattle. Their offense is so bad, lately, they can't even score more than one TD per game. That's largely on Kaepernick.

The golden boy is severely tarnished. What happened? It can be narrowed down to five problems.

First of all, his confidence is shot. Second, he has two killer performance flaws--holding the ball too long and reading defenses too slowly. Third, he's playing behind a deteriorating offense line. Fourth, he's getting lousy coaching and is the victim of rotten play calling. Fifth, there may be substance abuse issues.

First of all, based on insiders reports, Kaepernick is clearly a mess of self-doubt. This is the same guy who used to ooze confidence. But he's lost his swagger. He's traded that I'm-the-greatest, can-do-anything attitude for a deer-in-the-headlights look. He used to be able to dance and dodge and skillfully elude blitzers. But now defenders know he's rattled and uncertain and have turned him into a tackling dummy, the most sacked QB in the league. No longer a skilled scrambler, he's just running scared.

Once a wizard behind the line, he has become maddeningly indecisive. These days, when he drops back to pass, he looks lost and confused. It's taking him a second or two too long to figure out how to attack a defense--even a mediocre unit like the Raiders.'  Instead of throwing the ball away, too often he'll take a sack. Sometimes he has time to find a receiver but he'll squander much of that time and.wind up throwing an errant pass.

Kaepernick's descent to the NFL QB basement isn't all his fault. Some of the blame belongs to his offensive line. Once one of the NFL's best, one that gave him all kinds of time to dissect defenses, it's declined drastically, partly due to injuries that have caused extensive reshuffling.  The middle, now manned by inexperienced centers, is particularly vulnerable. It doesn't help Kaepernick that the formerly fearsome running game, which used to be a staple, is now wildly inconsistent and more of a liability.

Given all the Niners' offensive talent, the coaches should be able to come up with creative adjustments, in formations and play-calling. But that hasn't happened. That's partly why head coach Jim Harbaugh and much of the offensive staff will be job-hunting in a few weeks.

Finally, the substance abuse rumors, which began as whispers early this year, have become a loud buzz. According to several sources, Kaepernick has been dabbling in assorted drugs, resulting in a slacker's mentality, which has clouded his game preparation. His work ethic, report the sources, isn't what it used to be. So part of his decline may be due to lack of hard work and focus.

One of the big questions in the NFL is who, next season, will be coaching the Niners, one of the league's premier franchises. Whoever it is, his No.1 project will be halting Kaepernick's skid and heading him back down a positive path.

 Is it too late to resurrect Kaepernick? That's another big question.