Monday Morning Jones: 49ers' Super Bowl odds, DeMarcus Cousins' reputation and Tim Tebow's future

Stephen Brashear

What looks worse after the weekend -- the 49ers' Super Bowl chances, DeMarcus Cousins' reputation or Tim Tebow's future? Merry Christmas from the Monday Morning Jones!

I thought about telling my bosses that, since I won't be doing an episode of "Bomani & Jones" on Monday, then don't ask me to do anything else. Then I remembered how much I like getting paid. And just like that, my dreams of being like Tim Tebow were dashed. On to the weekend ...

Are the 49ers gonna be OK? A bit of a letdown after last week's win at New England was expected -- that game seemed to stick with the Patriots, too -- and Justin Smith missing Sunday's game against Seattle was a big deal for the Niners. But the Seahawks destroyed San Francisco, 42-13, emphatically stating its case as the best team in the NFC. San Francisco, however, looks vulnerable.

An MRI will tell the story, but everything about Mario Manningham's knee injury screamed out "major." Colin Kaepernick, in the league's most hostile environment through a storm, suffered for his inexperience. And the defense many think is the best in the league was, again, taken to the woodshed (73 points allowed in the past six quarters). Some of that will be fixed when Justin Smith returns (his presence helps make Aldon Smith the force he is), but so much about the Niners looks questionable. That seems strange to say about the one team that seemed the steadiest for most of the season, but what will they be over the next month? They need to get better, because the team we've seen for the last six quarters won't be long for January.

The bubble burst for the ‘Boys. It's hard to figure out how the Cowboys managed to pull out its last three wins, and it looked late as if they'd find a way to do it again. But their defense ran out of gas, allowing the Saints to pull out a 34-31 overtime win at Cowboys Stadium. Even while winning, the Cowboys defense was gashed in one way or another. The Bengals and Eagles -- yes, the Eagles -- ran for more than 140 yards against Dallas, and the Steelers threw for over 300. Drew Brees torched the Cowboys secondary for 446 yards and three touchdowns. Next week? A newly-flexed Sunday Night matchup against Robert Griffin III and Washington, who did whatever they wanted to Rob Ryan's defense on Thanksgiving. If Dallas' defense doesn't stand up, this season marked by both magic and tragedy will end with disappointment.

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Of course Tim Tebow felt entitled to tell Rex Ryan he wouldn't run the Wildcat. While Cam Newton was at Florida, Tebow wasn't the most talented quarterback on campus. After winning the Heisman Trophy, according to sources, he was outperformed by Newton in practice, yet Tebow (understandably) remained the starter. Newton was promised an opportunity to start in ‘08, but he never had a real chance given Urban Meyer's affection and preference for Tebow. At Senior Bowl practices in 2010, Tebow was so bad at taking snaps that shotgun elements from the Florida offense were added for him. That's right -- his college offense was incorporated at the NFL's biggest job fair, one at which Tebow needed to show he could play a more conventional style of football.

Tebow was then drafted in the first round, in spite of the fact he simply cannot throw the football. In 2011, he went from third-string to starter, leapfrogging backup Brady Quinn. And he became a phenomenon as Denver approached the playoffs. His obvious shortcomings were replaced by euphemisms masked as "intangibles," even though multiple opponents privately referred to him, unequivocally, as the worst quarterback they'd ever seen. He arrived in New York with much fanfare, but proved himself incapable of displacing Mark Sanchez or holding off Greg McElroy. But, apparently, he thought he should have been the starter anyway.

Why? We won't know for sure unless Tebow discusses this on the record (ha!). But given the way Tebow has been treated by his teams and even the NFL, why wouldn't he think he was entitled to a chance to start? He's supposed to be beneficiary of broken promises and depth-chart gymnastics. He's been coddled since he got to Florida, and he expected that coddling to continue forever. If things don't go Tim Tebow's way, apparently, he won't go at all. Based on what's happened the last five years, there was no reason for him to think anything else.

(Oh, and in spite of all of this, there might be a job waiting on him next season.)

So you still think the Giants will find a way to pull it out? Life is typically hard for defending Super Bowl Champions, but the Giants' collapse was staggering. At a point in the schedule when conventional wisdom says "champions" show their mettle, New York lost five out of seven games. After losing 33-14 at Baltimore in a must-win game, they've been outscored, 67-14, in their last two games. And Eli Manning, whose Hall of Fame ticket many were punching before the season, arguably hasn't played as well this season as the pilloried Cam Newton.

Congratulations to the Giants for winning two Super Bowls in five years, but they haven't won a playoff game in any other season of the Manning-Coughlin era. This isn't a dynasty or a team with some gene that makes it champions. Twice, the Giants got hot and healthy at the right time and rode it to glory, not terribly unlike the Marlins in baseball. Now, they need a win and a lot of help just to make the postseason. They may do it again, but this team looks nothing like the Big Blue we saw last year at this time.

The Vikings are almost in the playoffs, but ... The Texans looked done while losing 23-6 to Minnesota. With their running game shut down, Matt Schaub put up a nearly identical line as Christian Ponder ... except Ponder threw a touchdown pass, and the Texans offense scored none.

Houston's defense did the Lord's work against Adrian Peterson, holding him to 86 yards on 25 carries, but allowed Minnesota to convert half of its 18 third downs. They couldn't get off the field, allowing the Vikings to hold the ball for just under 35 minutes, and the offense couldn't find a way to stick around. Had Houston won Sunday, they would have locked up homefield advantage in the AFC for the playoffs. Now, with a loss next week, the battered Texans will be playing on Wild Card Weekend with a defense that barely resembles its statistical profile, and a quarterback who still might not be ready for prime time.

Thanks for playing, Pittsburgh. When Ben Roethlisberger was out, I said the Steelers defense had to do more than just be its impenetrable self. It also had to force turnovers to give its offense a hand. Sunday, they intercepted Andy Dalton twice and held Cincinnati to six offensive points, but still lost 13-10 to the Bengals. Their playoff hopes were dashed, not because Roethlisberger was out, but because he couldn't get it done when he was there. The Steelers haven't won since he returned. Two weeks in a row he's thrown a pick-six, and those miscues proved more important than any disagreement the quarterback has with offensive coordinator Todd Haley. And nothing between the two of them matters as much as the Steelers' inability to run the ball -- they haven't run for 100 yards since Nov. 18. Now, it looks like they might not do so again until September 2013, while the Bengals will be in the postseason for the second straight season.

Oh, and kicking a 53-yard field goal into the open end of Heinz Field, which would have been the longest in the stadium's history? Not Mike Tomlin's best decision.

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Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The incomparable Class of 2012. You know you've got a helluva rookie class when Doug Martin will probably finish with over 1,300 yards rushing, and he'll still be lucky to finish fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting. There will be time to definitively name a pick after all the games have been played, but now's a great time to marvel at Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.

Griffin returned to the lineup after missing a week with a sprained knee ligament and, even without his customary mobility, was accurate and threw two touchdown passes in a 27-20 win at Philadelphia. Luck, though still struggling with accuracy, led his seventh game-winning drive and put the Colts back in the playoffs (the franchise's 12th postseason appearance in 14 years). And Wilson, perhaps the biggest surprise of the bunch, led Seattle to its third straight game with more than 40 points, and their sixth win in seven games.

There's a good chance one quarter of the quarterbacks in the postseason will be rookies. And each of their teams will be there because of their signal callers, not in spite of them. None are in offenses designed to protect them. They're all being asked to win games, and all of them have. The quarterback class of 1983 produced three Hall of Famers, but only Dan Marino walked in ready to win games. When all is said and done, 2012's class could prove to be one for the ages.

Time for DeMarcus Cousins to wake up. The bottom line is, even with his defenders, Cousins is losing the little benefit of the benefit of the doubt he has. The suspension for whatever happened with Sean Elliott still seems bogus, but Cousins' shouting match with Kings coach Keith Smart -- one of Cousins' allies -- was indefensible. And given that Sacramento fired the last coach after he overreacted and suspended Cousins, it's safe to say he went pretty damn far to get grounded indefinitely.

I've long cautioned against drawing too many conclusions about what kind of person Cousins is because of his immature actions, because a 22-year-old still has plenty of time to grow up. But no one will care how good or bad of a person Cousins is if he doesn't get his act together and, more importantly, few teams will be willing to commit big money to him by way of a contract extension or free-agent deal. It's not yet make-or-break for Cousins, but it could be make-or-Michael Beasley if he isn't careful. And if he doesn't get that now, it will be too late by the time he does. I'm not writing Cousins off, but I'm also not the guy he has to worry about doing so.

Steve Nash came back so Kobe Bryant could shoot 41 shots? At last, we no longer have to wait ‘til Nash comes back to save the Lakers. But, at the risk of overreacting to a small sample, was Saturday's 118-115 overtime win over the Warriors a sign of things to come? The Lakers didn't need him for Kobe to put up 41 shots, and they surely weren't happy to see him get torched by Jarrett Jack and Stephen Curry. Yes, Los Angeles won, but it didn't take long to see Nash won't be the panacea for all that ails Los Angeles. The closest thing to that will be something whose arrival few of us can predict -- Dwight Howard's return to health. Until his back is strong enough for him to regain something close to full mobility, the Lakers' utter lack of defensive ... everything will sink their ship. And, as we all know, Steve Nash can't do a thing to make that better.

Why couldn't Steve Kerr question how Johnny Manziel got courtside NBA seats? Both media and fans instantly threw their antennae up when Marvin Austin tweeted about partying in Miami, a harbinger of the scandal that took down the North Carolina football program. But now, it's unfair to ask how a college freshman turned up at two NBA games and an NFL game in one week? Of course, it's absurd the NCAA should care about something like tickets to pro sports games, but imagine what people would say if Shabazz Muhammad turned up in a box at Cowboys Stadium. How long would it take before someone loudly asked how he got there?

Everyone loves Johnny Football right now, but he's still as constrained by phony amateurism as any other NCAA athlete. And when athletes show money, people ask questions. If his presence was on the up and up, fine. But for as long as I can remember, college athletes who show money get questioned. If all these tickets come from his (very, very generous) parents, then that's the explanation. If Manziel shouldn't be questioned, than no one should. There can be no in between.

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