Football season never really ends. It has supplanted baseball as our national pastime because over the years it’s morphed into a 24/7/365 enterprise.
Literally. There isn’t a day of the year that you can’t tune into ESPN on your television screen and not, at some point, be treated to an episode of “NFL Live.” Whether you want it or not.
But today does bring, for Bay Area die-hards, an end of sorts. The end of the regular season means the end of the 2014 49ers and the 2014 Raiders.
For one team, the end is welcome. It brings to a conclusion a season in which issues with the head coach dominated headlines from the outset, soul-crushing losses piled up, and everyone had the feeling all along that it was going nowhere, anyway.
But who, in their wildest dreams, could’ve figured that team would be the Niners? The above description certainly fits what happened with the Raiders this year. Dennis Allen was a dead man walking before training camp, the losing streak eventually reached 16 games — over two seasons, but still — and even the most optimistic preseason prognosticators had the Silver and Black bagged and tagged, with no more than five wins.
But if you think anyone associated with the Raiders is stoked about today’s game against the Denver Broncos being the end, you might want to lighten that pour on the holiday eggnog. In a remarkable reversal of fortune rarely seen outside the realm of professional sports, suddenly the Raiders appear to be the team with a bright future while the 49ers appear on the verge of slipping into the type of malaise that features guys like Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan, and Mike Singletary.
Raiders fans would give anything for a few more weeks of watching Derek Carr develop, of watching Kahlil Mack wreak havoc, of interim coach Tony Sparano injecting energy and purpose into a squad that so painfully lacked it under Allen.
Niners fans? They’ve got to be thinking, “Oh, God, please just make it all stop. Just put us out of our misery and tell us where Jim Harbaugh is going to be next year, already. Let us move on, hope the defense gets healthy, Frank Gore comes back and Colin Kaepernick finds some sort of TRUE guru to get his career back on track.”
And while we’re here, can we please stop referring to Harbaugh as a quarterback guru? Helping Josh Johnson tear up the Pioneer League really isn’t all that impressive when you consider Johnson was an NFL talent playing at the University of San Diego and the Pioneer League was a glorified junior college conference. Andrew Luck was, well … Andrew freaking Luck! And Alex Smith wasn’t the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft because he showed up to practice on time. He’s incredibly talented, and his development under Harbaugh was as much about finally getting some stability and continuity as it was anything Set-Jaw Jim did.
You can’t even really give Harbaugh much credit for what Kaepernick did in his first few years. He wasn’t doing anything that he didn’t do in college. He was playing on talent alone. It was Harbaugh who tried to turn him into something he’s not, and look where that got everyone.
Remarkable what five or six weeks can do to change perceptions, isn’t it? The Raiders are on fire, relatively speaking, and the Niners are a mess.
Nobody saw any of that coming, but it’s been fascinating as hell to watch unfold. And that’s probably why the NFL is 24/7/365.
Mychael Urban, a longtime Bay Area-based sportswriter and broadcaster, is the host of “Inside the Bigs,” which airs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on KGMZ “The Game” (95.7 FM).