Highlights and interpretations from the recently concluded hour-long "SportsCenter" Special focusing on the NFC West:
ESPN's Tedy Bruschi played for Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll in New England years ago and seemed to have a strong feel -- and respect -- for Carroll's current team. He picked Seattle as an upset division winner in 2012. He pointed to Earl Thomas as the heir to Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. He picked Marshawn Lynch as the division's MVP for the upcoming season. Bruschi was high on Seattle all the way around. He also defended Carroll's handling of the quarterback situation, noting that it's only May -- too early to worry about having a starter in place. Bruschi also thought Matt Flynn would become the signing of the year in the division.
Fellow analyst Tim Hasselbeck picked the San Francisco 49ers to defend their division title. He and Bruschi both picked the Arizona Cardinals third and the St. Louis Rams fourth. Hasselbeck thought Seattle would challenge the 49ers and finish as close as one game behind them. But he also thought Carroll needed to settle on Flynn as the starter sooner rather than later. Quarterbacks like clarity at the position. Hasselbeck went with Flynn as his breakout player from the division and Patrick Willis as the MVP.
The quarterback-related analysis from Hasselbeck stood out. He pointed out Sam Bradford's struggles locating open receivers after turning his back to the defense for play-action fakes last season. He thought the Rams needed to treat Bradford as a young quarterback only two years removed from a spread system at Oklahoma, not as a third-year pro. He pointed to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's voluminous playbook as something the Rams might want to streamline for now.
Hasselbeck, who played for Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona, suggested Kevin Kolb hasn't shown himself to be the leader Whisenhunt wants at the position. He thought Kolb needed to win over the team this offseason. Bruschi encouraged the team to go with John Skelton instead if Kolb doesn't step forward and distinguish himself as a team leader. Sound familiar? It should, at least to anyone familiar with Matt Leinart's time under Whisenhunt. Is Kolb the next Leinart, a highly paid player unable to win over the team? That was the comparison drawn during this special.
Fantasy analyst Eric Karabell singled out Arizona's Ryan Williams, St. Louis' Danny Amendola and Seattle's Flynn as breakout fantasy players from the division. He thought Flynn would rank among the 20 best fantasy quarterbacks.
Defensive end Chris Long noted the Rams' relative youth on the defensive line. This line is Long's to lead. Long has the capacity to take that role, I think. He might have deferred some to Fred Robbins and James Hall in the past. Both were valued veterans. They're gone now. Long had 13 sacks last season. His time is now.
Anyone else catch this special? I'd be interested in your thoughts.