By Mychael Urban
Special to The Examiner
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see a wide receiver barely get his toes down in-bounds? A millisecond before dramatically falling out of bounds in slow motion?
If you’ve ever played a down of street football, what comes to mind is how sweet it felt when you were 12 or 13 years old, using the neighbor’s inoperable, parked-here-since-’77, dusty VW van as a rub screen of sorts, cleverly shedding the D of your weird and overly aggressive step-cousin Edgar – all mere milliseconds before walking that imaginary sideline tightrope and hauling in one of the 17 Nerf footballs circulating through the neighborhood since Christmas.
If you watched much football last weekend, college or pro, you saw at least five or six incredible toe-tap-and-drag plays. Deebo Samuel of the Niners seems to make at least one such play every week. If it’s not the tap-and-drag, it’s the fingertip snag, the bread-basket cradle, or the take-this-face-full-of-palm as part of one of the most vicious stiff-arms the Niners have had since Terrell Owens.
Call it what you want, but this much is indisputable: It’s all “Good for Ball.” As many of you know, everything in life can be labeled one of two ways: “Good for Ball,” or “Bad for Ball.” And we do mean everything.
To wit: Chocolate-chip cookies are Good for Ball. No need to even elaborate. Chocolate-chip pancakes? That’s just overboard. Pancakes don’t need you, chips. Back off. Bad for Ball.
Got it? Of course you do. GFB/BFB has been around for some 20 years. So let’s see what’s what, with Sunday’s Niners vs. Aaron Rodgers as our focus.
No, we’re not clowning the Packers as a team by saying Sunday boils down to the Niners vs. Rodgers, but let’s be real: If you’re a Niners fan, the Packers are Rodgers, and Rodgers is the Packers.
It was the same deal when Brett Favre was under center for Green Bay. As far as Niners fans were concerned, Favre was all that mattered, the lone Packer to fear.
And that was back when the Pack was loaded, on both sides of the ball. Reggie White, Antonio Freeman, etc. Green Bay was deep, and Bay Area boy Mike Holmgren was the perfect coach for that crew.
The head man now? Can you answer that without a search engine? Probably not. It’s Matt LaFleur.
Or is it Aaron Rodgers? If you think one of the conditions of him returning to Green Bay wasn’t getting some form of power that puts him on LaFleur’s level, you haven’t been following very closely. Verdict: Bad for Ball.
It’s not a shock, a surprise, or anything suggesting this wasn’t apparent from miles away: Samuel is an All-Pro waiting to happen.
A second-rounder out of South Carolina, Samuel immediately established himself as one of what I call “Glow Guys.” They’re the guys you have a very hard time looking away from once you’ve gotten that first gander.
Jerry Rice was a Glow Guy. Hate him if you want, but T.O. was a Glow Guy, too.
Michael Crabtree? Nah. Anquan Boldin? Not by the time he got to San Francisco.
This isn’t a label you slap on just anyone. We’re talking about Antonio Brown, OchoCinco, The Playmaker, Swannie. The best of the best.
Samuel belongs in that group. Verdict: Good for Ball.
Parity or putrid?
Have you checked the NFL standings? Three unbeatens in the NFC West, two in the rest of the conference, and a total of two unbeatens in the AFC. And one of them is the Raiders, so … you know. Don’t make me spell it out.
Besides, the point here is that there’s legit parity early on. Leagues like to tell us that parity is good. Then why does it just feel like nobody’s all that good? Verdict: Bad for Ball.
And finally …
Do you miss Trey Lance? I think we all do. Fret not. He’ll be back Sunday, and he’ll be Good for Ball no matter how he’s used.
Shhhhhh. He’s kind of a Glow Guy himself.
Mychael Urban is a freelance writer covering the 49ers for The Examiner.