Patrick Willis leaves the game happy and that makes me happy

Patrick Willis, in his retirement press conference, said that he leaves the game happy without any regrets. He said he gave the game everything he had but looking towards his future, he knew health was very important to him. Having issues with his feet, Willis cited that he was going to leave the game for that primary reason. Willis said that he won’t have an itching to come back later on because he leaves the game with closure.

I remember the first time I met him. What a joy it was for me and he was so respectful in answering all my questions. A few months later, he signed a 49ers mini helmet for me during training camp. It still remains as one of my most prized memorabilia possessions.

Willis was a very respectful man and a man with a huge heart in his time with the 49ers. He remained honest every day and I am happy that he’s happy. He gets to enjoy life.

Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick Willis, Frank Gore and Justin Smith are all leaving the 49ers?

Patrick WIllis and Frank Gore were two very important players for the 49ers in the past decade. Now both are no longer going to be with the team.

I remember when I first met Patrick Willis. It was the summer of 2009 and I had just begun my first season covering the 49ers for several months earlier. It was a screening for “The Taking of Pelham 123″ and Willis was hosting the screening with Alex Smith. I was invited to attend the screening and had a chance to interview both players. Willis was entering his third season with the 49ers and had already been selected to two Pro Bowls — he would make the Pro Bowl for seven consecutive years to start his career.

At the time, the 49ers were still struggling to become a winning team but Willis was still excited about the possibility of the team being better and the defense being one of the best in the league. Willis was optimistic and had always been that way his entire career. In the three seasons I got up close with the team, Willis was always great to be around.

He wasn’t the best in terms of giving very elaborate interviews, but as a team leader, he knew that his words carried a lot of weight. Knowing that, he remained professional in every way shape or form with the 49ers. And aside from that, one of the best things about Willis was that he was a genuinely good person. There is no other example you need to read than this story of Willis spending time with a young cancer patient. I remember that day very well and it is one of my favorite highlights covering the team.

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So what does Jed York know?

The 49ers signed Jerome Simpson. Yes, that guy who has gotten in trouble for marijuana in the past and has been arrested three times. That doesn’t seem to mesh well with York’s proclamation that the team has to “win with class” when you’re bringing in players that don’t really embody that.

So, when asked about it, he gave a very poor answer.

“You have to ask [G.M.] Trent Baalke,” York told Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t know what the thinking was.”

He doesn’t know why a certain player with a troubled past was signed. And the ignorance of not knowing doesn’t really keep him accountable to the standard he claims to have set for the team. This is not a good sign. So is York all talk but really not in the loop of what’s going on within his own franchise?

Jim Harbaugh’s departure from 49ers wasn’t really mutual

Here it is. In a podcast with the Mercury News, Jim Harbaugh revealed how his departure from the 49ers came to be. If you don’t want to listen to the entire podcast, here is the most notable point courtesy of his transcript.

“I was told I wouldn’t be the coach any more,” Harbaugh said. This came after the team’s Week 15 loss to Seattle. “And then… you can call it ‘mutual,’ I mean, I wasn’t going to put the 49ers in the position to have a coach that they didn’t want any more. But that’s the truth of it. I didn’t leave the 49ers. I felt like the 49er hierarchy left me.”

Then Harbaugh then talked about why he didn’t leave at that point in the season.

“I wanted to finish what I started–what we started. And I have great fond memories of it. It’s not going to be… I’m never going to take the position to trash something that I was a part of, and the memories that I have, the wins, the championships, the titles… those may be forgotten as time goes on…”

Check out the entire transcript or listen to it. it is worth your time.

49ers will go with Jim Tomsula as new head coach

I remember when I met Jim Tomsula for the first time. I had seen him on the sidelines and did stories on him, but it wasn’t until an impromptu meeting with the media in the 2011 season. At the time, the media had some limitations to their access to the players under Jim Harbaugh. It was Harbaugh’s first season and understandably, he was trying to ensure that his first season went well without distractions.

However, the 49ers’ defensive line was excelling that year. Rookie Aldon Smith and fellow pass rusher Justin Smith were both making big waves. Aldon was starting to gain traction in the rookie of the year discussion and Justin was a serious candidate for defensive player of the year. (Tomsula was a major advocate for Justin Smith when the pass rusher was a free agent after the 2007 season.) We in the media wanted to speak with the coach behind the resurgent defensive line and Tomsula obliged with an almost hour-long discussion with the media in December.

Here is the piece I wrote following the discussion.

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My first ever game at Levi’s Stadium

My first time at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers won the game 20-17.

Since I live in LA, I rarely have time to come up to the Bay Area. Even though I was there for the construction of Levi’s Stadium, I had never actually step foot inside the building. Yesterday I finally did that to catch the 49ers’ season finale. How appropriate that I was at Jim Harbaugh’s first ever game and now I attended his last game.

The stadium itself look gorgeous from the outside. I was smart enough to take Light Rail to the stadium and I got there early so I didn’t have to worry about getting too packed in trying to get inside. The area right outside the entrance with all the booths was really nice. Great way to keep people occupied as they wait. Once inside, I was amazed at how nice it looked. There doesn’t seem to be a bad view from any spot. I like that once up the stairs, you get a nice view of the field.

It was spacious. This was something Candlestick never had and it was a huge improvement. I didn’t eat everything but I did try a torta and a seafood chowder bowl. Not bad. One thing that I wish I had done was go to the museum, but I didn’t have time for it. Instead I just walked around. There wasn’t a lot of things to occupy me when I walked around. It just seemed very big. But I guess that’s fine.

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Jim Harbaugh’s final farewell after a wild four-year run

We saw this coming. Now it has come.

I’m not going to blame or point fingers as to why the 49ers failed this season and all this unraveled. There is blame to be put on both the front office and Harbaugh himself. I don’t even know how much influence the players had in the season-long struggle. But both were unable to resolve their issues and now we’re here.

But even with Harbaugh leaving, the 49ers should be thankful for what he did. Three straight winning seasons, all with trips to the NFC title game. The team’s first Super Bowl appearance in 20 years and great fan interest rejuvenated after nearly a decade of futility.

Does one bad season diminish his accomplishments? Of course not. But this bad season is the reason why this four-year era is over. There was a clear discord between Harbaugh and the front office. Despite three years of great success, it ended up being a battle of power and this is where most problems in the NFL originate. When the two most important sides don’t see eye to eye, then the foundation becomes shaky.

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