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Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Around the NFC West: 49ers' GM options

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says current 49ers executive Trent Baalke is the "leader in the clubhouse" as the team searches for a general manager. The 49ers have already interviewed former Rams executive Tony Softli. The team will presumably widen its search once the regular season ends and candidates employed by other teams become available. Team president Jed York has said Baalke is "very much in the mix", but he would probably say that as a courtesy even if the status quo were not his preference. Baalke would be the candidate most familiar to them at this early stage. I'd be surprised if the 49ers have identified a favorite before they're even able to interview candidates employed by other teams.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers plan to interview former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist. Also: "By interviewing Softli, the 49ers have met their obligation under the NFL's 'Rooney Rule' to interview at least one minority candidate before making a hire."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reacts with surprise and condemnation upon hearing that Baalke might be the favorite. Kawakami: "Even if there are special circumstances with Baalke (read: Jim Harbaugh might come along), why trick up a fake process, pretend that there were other real candidates, only to leak to reporters after half-a-day of the interview process that it’s all Baalke?"

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers need to focus more on walking the walk than talking the talk.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle offers a transcript from an interview with 49ers president Jed York. York: "I saw the relationship with Scot [McCloughan] and Mike [Singletary] and I think they worked well together, and I think Mike got to a position where he wasn't working with Trent [Baalke] and the new personnel staff, and he retreated a little bit, especially after a poor start. I think it is so important to have a GM and a head coach working together to make sure this is a successful organization."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Seattle failed to place a player in the Pro Bowl for a second consecutive season. Farnsworth: "The Seahawks and Bucs -- who played last Sunday -- were the only NFC teams without a Pro Bowl selection. The Bills and Bengals were shutout in the AFC. The Seahawks played against 23 of the 42 players on the NFC squad this season, and 10 of the AFC Pro Bowl selections."

Also from Farnsworth: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll won a must-win game with his backup quarterback during his tenure as coach in New England.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says a Seattle victory in Week 17 would not make history in terms of sending a team with a losing record to the playoffs. O'Neil: "In the strike-shortened season of 1982, the playoff format was changed with division affiliations forgotten entirely and the top eight teams from each conference qualifying. The result was that two teams reached the postseason at 4-5: Detroit and Cleveland."

Also from O'Neil: Should Seattle fans really root for their team to lose Sunday?

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune wonders whether having no players voted to the Pro Bowl could serve as motivation for the Seahawks. Williams: "Seattle was represented at the Pro Bowl for eight straight seasons from 2001 to 2008. Recently retired offensive tackle Walter Jones was the last Seahawks player to make it two seasons ago."

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune looks through sports history for examples of losing teams earning postseason berths.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston faces an uncertain future with the team. Somers: "There are only two possible reasons the club could have for not making Breaston an offer: It doesn't want to spend the money, or it has serious concerns about Breaston's long-term health. The Cardinals don't want to pay big guarantees for a player they aren't convinced will be able to practice enough to be relied upon." Knee problems continue to slow Breaston. Andre Roberts' emergence gives the team options.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with safety Adrian Wilson, who says teammate Kerry Rhodes would have been a more deserving choice for the Pro Bowl this season. Wilson: "To be honest, I am very shocked. Someone told me, ‘You always go in a year later than you’re supposed to go, and you always get that one last one when you don’t really deserve it. I hope this isn’t my last one and I understand that this hasn’t been one of my greatest years."

Jim Thomas of the  St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are on the verge of a significant accomplishment. Thomas: "With a victory over Seattle, the Rams would join the 2008 Miami Dolphins as the only teams in NFL history to go from 1-15 (or 0-16) to a playoff berth the next year. (The league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.) In terms of won-lost record, an 8-8 finish and a plus-7 in the victory column would be the fourth-best improvement for a team that finished 1-15 or 0-16. The '08 Dolphins were plus-10, followed by the 1992 Indianapolis Colts and 1997 New York Jets, both at plus-8. The Dolphins went from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5, winning the AFC East but then losing to Baltimore in the first round of the playoffs. The '92 Colts and '97 Jets both finished 9-7 -- but missed the playoffs -- after finishing 1-15 the previous year."

Also from Thomas: Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo praises Steven Jackson after the running back earned another Pro Bowl berth.

More from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring thoughts for the future and regarding general manager Billy Devaney as the team moves forward with new owner Stan Kroenke. Thomas: "Sam Bradford looks like the real deal at QB, and that alone lends legitimacy to what the team has accomplished. However, the Rams can't be fooled into thinking they've arrived and all their troubles are over. (And I don't think the front office or the coaching staff feels that way.) They have only one victory this season over a team with a winning record (8-7), and on paper will face a much tougher schedule next year. There are still several holes on the roster. As the relationship between Kroenke and Devaney, I'm not sure what to tell you. When Kroenke mentioned in an early September interview with me that he didn't know Devaney that well it raised eyebrows with some, but it may have just been an innocent -- yet honest -- remark. Kroenke hadn't been around the team much in recent years and hadn't been around Devaney that much."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams need to continue using receiver Danario Alexander, who caught six passes for 99 yards against the 49ers. Also, Miklasz wonders whether the Seahawks are being a bit coy regarding Matt Hasselbeck's availability for Sunday. Miklasz: "Hasselbeck is an intense and dedicated competitor. If there's a way to go, he'll go. And NFL teams like to keep the other side guessing, so Seattle has a chance to engage in a little gamesmanship with the Rams. But I don't believe the coaches are sitting around in their upstairs offices at Rams Park, brooding and fretting over the Seahawks' QB pick. The Rams are familiar with Hasselbeck. They have ample video on Charlie Whitehurst. Seattle doesn't appear to change its offensive approach in a significant way based on the QB. Frankly, I'm surprised the Seahawks don't commit to the running game more than they do, and we'll discuss that later on."