Jarryd Hayne was one of the few good stories in Santa Clara this season. He was known as the Hayne Plane, the former rugby star who came from Down Under to land a spot on the 53-man roster.
But the sad-sack 49ers don’t believe in good stories any more. On Saturday, they released Hayne in favor of somebody named Kendall Gaskins, which pretty much told you what their coaches thought about Hayne’s longterm potential.
Some were surprised by the move, but we should have seen this coming a while ago. For weeks, Hayne was a man without a role. He didn’t help his case with two fumbles on punt returns, but on a team this godawful, one would think he could have contributed somehow, some way.
By most accounts, Hayne was popular among his teammates, but if you read between the lines, the coaches had some concern about potential unrest in the locker room. Hey, if you had played football for years, then all of a sudden, some foreigner with no football experience is brought in to compete at your position, how would you feel?
One play stood out more than any. After a long punt return, which turned out to be his one shining moment in the regular season, Hayne clearly was stoked on the sideline. At that point, one expected somebody to come over and pat him on the fanny at least. Except that his teammates ignored him.
The truth is, this may be the best thing that happens to Hayne and his football career. The 49ers could re-sign him to their practice squad, but too many teams are interested for him not to be claimed. The NFC West rival Seahawks are said to be one of them. He piqued their interest in a visit to Seattle late last season.
As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said recently, “We thought he really could be a highlighted player. And we had a lot of thoughts about how we were going to use him.”
If Hayne lands with a real playoff contender with real coaches, then we may not hear the last of him.
SAME TIME, LAST YEAR: As much as Cal has improved this season, a 27-21 loss to USC on Saturday underscores how much further it has to go to be a Pac-12 contender. The setback was its third in a row with dates at Oregon and Stanford remain on the schedule.
“It’s very frustrating, yeah,” said quarterback Jared Goff, who threw a pair of touchdown passes and as many interceptions.
Whereas unbeaten Cal lived off turnovers in their first five games, winless Cal has died with them in the last three. It coughed up the ball three games against the Trojans and didn’t force any at the other side of the ball.
“Our schedule has been back-loaded the past two years,” said Bears coach Sonny Dykes, whose team dropped six of its final seven games a year ago. “We have played really good people this year, and we are trying to get to the point that we can beat those really good people.”
Now we’ll see if Dykes’ team packs it in like its indifferent fan base. On a glorious day for football, 52,060 tickets were sold for the biggest game on its home schedule, 11,000 short of capacity, and that included the upward of 10,000 USC fans in attendance.
NATIONAL ADDICTION: Are you ready for some football? Check that — are you ready for some bad football?
Of course you are, America. Face it, you have an NFL addiction. Whether you play it, bet on it or are just a fan of it, you can’t get enough of it. Doesn’t matter if it’s Thursday night, Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, Sunday night or Monday night.
Yet very little, if anything, has been golden about this golden anniversary season of the Super Bowl.The athletes are as good as ever, no doubt, but the quality of play has rarely been worse in recent years. From a lack of fundamentals to an endless stream of short passes, penalties, injuries and average teams, the product leaves a lot to be desired.
Remarkably, the fans don’t seem to care much. For all the flaws, CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN ratings have held steady in the first half of the season. Because if the NFL shows up, you’ll be there.
LIKE A FINE WINE: The Raiders’ Charles Woodson was selected Player or the Month, but why stop there? At 39, he’s a candidate to be the Defensive Back of All Time.
When Balls asked whether he could play another year or two or three, Charles the One-Armed Safety said he was certain only to play this weekend.
“I don’t know,” Woodson said. “I know that I can play this week. That’s all I’m worried about right now.”
But if Woodson didn’t play football, what would he do?
“Uh, I’d be drinking a lot of wine probably,” Woodson said with a laugh.
“Yeah, I just answered it — drink a lot of wine.”
HOW LUCKY CAN THEY GET? Incredibly, the Warriors continue to get every break in the book.
On Saturday, Stephen Curry had one of those lucky 53-point games of his, this one in a 134-120 victory over New Orleans Pelicans. He scored a career-high 28 points in the third quarter, two more than the home team as a whole. He joined Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Barry as the only Warriors to score 50 or more in a game at least three times.
Curry missed 10 of his 27 field goal attempts, though, which meant he had a lot of work ahead of him.
One night earlier, the Warriors eked out a 112-92 victory over the Rockets in Houston. If they hadn’t drained so many shots, the score would have been a whole lot closer.
Anyway, the Warriors are off to a 3-0 start, which makes Luke Walton the early favorite for Interim Coach of the Year honors.
NO KISSIN’ COUSINS: Write down this date. Balls and TNT jokester Charles Barkley agree on something.
If the Sacramento Kings blow up this season — and it’s even money that they will — then Barkley says DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo should be blamed for it, not coach George Karl and his staff.
“If they don’t get (a playoff berth) this year, they’ve got to quit saying it’s the coach,” Barkley said. “Because George is gonna get it done. He’s a helluva coach. I’m a George Karl believer. So there’s a lot of pressure on DeMarcus and Rondo to get their (bleep) done.”
As for Cousins, Barkley said, “He’s really talented. Can he figure it out — that’s the question. Because at some point, you’ve got to quit blaming coaches. At some point, you can’t keep firing coaches. And let me tell you something — I’m a big believer in George Karl. But George has his hands full with DeMarcus and Rondo.”
But can’t somebody talk some sense into Cousins before it’s too late? Anybody?
“We’ve all tried that,” Barkley said. “We’ve all tried that.”
THE LIST: Balls’ best bets against the spread in Week 8 of the NFL season:
Arizona Cardinals (-4 1/2) at Cleveland Browns: And to think the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel ahead of Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr …
49ers at St. Louis Rams (-7 1/2): No Carlos Hyde, maybe no Anquan Boldin. Say a prayer for Colin Kaepernick, won’t you?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-7): Matt Ryan and company get well on home turf.
Minnesota Vikings (-2 1/2) at Chicago Bears: Note to fantasy players: Claim Stephon Diggs if he’s available. Immediately.
Seattle Seahawks (-6) at Dallas Cowboys: Nice to see that owner-general manager-coach Jerry Jones has his house in order as usual.
Last week: 4-1. Season: 25-10 (.714).
YOUR TURN: “I have listened to (49ers general manager) Trent Baalke a couple of times, and there is no question that he is a mean-spirited corporate type, short on professional football knowledge and long on back-door dealings and classic duplicity. . . . I don’t think there is any question that Baalke and probably Jed York need to leave. Sadly, the damage they have caused will take a tremendous effort to fix. Perhaps Eddie D. (DeBartolo) can return?” — Paul Bishop, Millbrae.
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