San Francisco 49ers

Broken thumb didn’t stop 49ers tight end Celek from playing; another injury finally did

Postgame Buzz: The 49ers hang on to beat the Detroit Lions

The San Francisco 49ers nearly squandered a 17-point lead Sunday in their home opener, but some penalties against the Detroit Lions proved costly as the hosts won 30-27 to improve to 1-1.
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The San Francisco 49ers nearly squandered a 17-point lead Sunday in their home opener, but some penalties against the Detroit Lions proved costly as the hosts won 30-27 to improve to 1-1.

Perhaps the drop in Garrett Celek’s production could be attributed to playing 12 games with a broken thumb.

The 49ers tight end told The Bee this week he underwent surgery on his broken right thumb shortly after the season ended. He sustained the injury Sept. 23 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

San Francisco’s primary blocking tight end had just five catches for 90 yards this season after averaging 23 catches for 290 yards over the previous three campaigns. He scored a touchdown in Week 2 against the Lions and Week 15 versus the Seattle Seahawks, two of the 49ers’ four victories.

Being overtaken by Pro Bowler George Kittle, who set an NFL record for tight ends with 1,377 receiving yards, was another obvious factor that led to Celek’s decline.

Celek wound up playing in each game except the season finale against the Rams after suffering a concussion Dec. 23 against the Chicago Bears. Celek said he’ll be healed in time for the 49ers’ offseason conditioning program in April.

Cardinals find their coach — The Arizona Cardinals added another splashy, offensive-minded head coach to the NFC West, announcing the hiring of former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.

The hiring has drawn criticism. Kingsbury, 39, was fired by Texas Tech on Nov. 25 after going 35-40 in six seasons. He took a job as offensive coordinator at USC, then spurned the Trojans and signed a four-year contract with the Cardinals with a team option for a fifth season.

Kingsbury has become a popular name for an innovative offensive style that’s becoming en vogue in the NFL. He helped develop promising young quarterbacks such as Baker Mayfield of the Browns and Chiefs MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes during their time in college. Kingsbury was also a candidate for the New York Jets opening.

Kingsbury replaced Steve Wilks, who was fired after one season in which the Cardinals finished 3-13 and will have the No. 1 pick in the draft. His primary objective will be developing second-year quarterback Josh Rosen, the No. 10 pick in 2018, who orchestrated wins against the 49ers in both their games this season.

The move means the NFC West has three of the youngest and most innovative offensive head coaches in the NFL, joining Sean McVay of the Rams and Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers. Seattle’s Pete Carroll remains one of the oldest and longest-tenured coaches in the league and is still widely regarded as one of the best defensive coaches of his generation.

Arizona’s former coach, Bruce Arians, is finalizing a deal to become the new coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to multiple reports. Arians spent one season as a CBS broadcaster before jumping back into coaching. He’s expected to make a run at former Jets coach Todd Bowles, who was Arians’ defensive coordinator in Arizona.

The 49ers are scheduled to play a road game against the Buccaneers in 2019, which may be a candidate to be played in London.

Finally, the Green Bay Packers this week hired former Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, who previously worked under McVay as the Rams’ coordinator. His brother, Mike, is the 49ers’ receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Matt LaFleur worked under Shanahan in Houston, Washington and Atlanta before joining McVay in Los Angeles.

NBC Sports Bay Area reported this week Mike LaFleur is expected to stay with San Francisco.