New 49ers, Raiders leaders have their work cut out 

click to enlarge 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will have a tough task of having to familiarize his tea with a new game plan after an offseason shortened by labor negotiations and the NFL lockout. (AP file photo) - 49ERS COACH JIM HARBAUGH WILL HAVE A TOUGH TASK OF HAVING TO FAMILIARIZE HIS TEA WITH A NEW GAME PLAN AFTER AN OFFSEASON SHORTENED BY LABOR NEGOTIATIONS AND THE NFL LOCKOUT. (AP FILE PHOTO)
  • 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will have a tough task of having to familiarize his tea with a new game plan after an offseason shortened by labor negotiations and the NFL lockout. (AP file photo)
  • 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will have a tough task of having to familiarize his tea with a new game plan after an offseason shortened by labor negotiations and the NFL lockout. (AP file photo)

New coaches and old stadiums. The Black Hole and holes to fill. Pro football is back by the Bay — dare we say welcome? — and now that the talk has shifted from lockouts to wideouts, the major questions are whether there will be a last hurrah for Al Davis and the Raiders and a first hurrah for Jed York and the 49ers.

Hue Jackson didn’t slip in unannounced as the coach of the Raiders, but after the headlines about the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh a week earlier in January, the naming of Jackson, especially since he already was on staff, had an anticlimactic feel.

Although certainly not to Davis, at age 82, patriarch of the Bay, and in some respects, the NFL.

“I’m proud as hell,” was Davis’ declaration on elevating Jackson from offensive coordinator. “Because we have an opportunity to bring you someone who has made a tremendous impression on the organization.”

Harbaugh, departing Stanford and taking over as appointed genius-in-residence with the Niners, made a tremendous impression on everyone, especially York, who believes the renaissance can be viewed from his second-story office in Santa Clara.

Not to doubt young Jed’s optimism, but last season, when the Niners were 0-5 he told ESPN, “We’re going to win the division.” What they did win the next time out was a game against the Raiders, giving the Niners hope, misplaced as it was, and Al Davis dyspepsia.

Months later, in his State-of-the-Al news conference when Jackson conveniently was introduced, Davis endorsed Jason Campbell as the team’s franchise quarterback and insisted the Raiders have the players to be great.

In replacing Tom Cable, who managed in the 2010 season to become the first Raiders coach not to have a losing record (Oakland was 8-8) since 2002, Jackson said, “There is no question we’re going to win this division.”

He must have read York’s mind.

Harbaugh simply read the plays of the late Bill Walsh, among others. “Maybe I’m a little biased,” Harbaugh said before the lockout dropped a veil of silence on every issue which counts, “but I think the quarterback is the most important position on a football team and the most difficult position in all of sports.”

Yes, he played quarterback in college and the pros, and yes, presumably he and the Niners start camp with Alex Smith at that position. As far as the first part of the quote, the most important position in football, the man is on target.

Which the Niners can only hope Smith and the Raiders hope Campbell will be.

The NFL has evolved into a passing league, and although a team cannot neglect the run, and often may emphasize it, you’ve got to throw the ball to your own receivers. Right, Mr. Smith?

But let us exhibit patience. Raider Nation wasn’t built in a day. Or was that the Roman Empire?

The Raiders at least are familiar with the Hue Jackson offense, an advantage of sorts, albeit players win games, not schemes.

The Niners and Smith must learn Harbaugh’s system, the West Coast, which does have a distant history of success in San Francisco.

The season finally is on the horizon, and to paraphrase a Chuck Barry lyric, our curiosity’s running wild. Snap, on the count of two.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

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Art Spander

Art Spander

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Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.
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