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Thursday, January 6, 2011
Around the NFC West: Money no object?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Stephen Ross' jet arrived in the Bay Area at 11:21 p.m. PT. The Dolphins' owner planned to meet Thursday morning with Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers' top choice to replace Mike Singletary. Maiocco: "Niners team president Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke met for more than five hours with Harbaugh, a source confirmed. The San Jose Mercury News reported there appeared to be a deal in place. But Harbaugh said he wanted to at least listen to what the Dolphins' owner had to say. The Dolphins are reportedly ready to offer in the $7-to-$8 million annual range for Harbaugh. Although the 49ers are not likely to go that high, a team source said the 49ers have not given up hope Harbaugh will choose to remain in the Bay Area with the 49ers." York's previous comments about money being no object will come off as so much bluster if money plays a role in losing Harbaugh to another team. York likes to talk a big game. He usually has not delivered, however. Can he this time?

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers thoughts on why Harbaugh is a hot coaching candidate. Rich Gannon: "I have vivid memories of him entrenching himself in an office and doing everything he could to learn. He was willing to do the grunt work. He was the quality control guy but he was staying until three in the morning pulling the game plan together, the QB quick tips ... He would be exhausted the next day."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the Dolphins' push for Harbaugh could ruin the 49ers' chances at landing the Stanford coach. Kawakami: "According to a source, everything went smoothly during the face-to-face discussions between Harbaugh and the 49ers today. He and Baalke meshed well and the money terms were being negotiated with agent David Dunn. Then Harbaugh said he would talk to Ross, and the 49ers heard that the Dolphin offer could blow theirs away." Dunn's involvement was something I had not anticipated. Harbaugh previously listed Jack Bechta as his agent. Recent reports have noted that Harbaugh and 49ers general manager Trent Baalke share an agent. I had thought Baalke's agent was Peter Schaffer. That aspect of the negotiations begs for some elaboration.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Jed York's comment about money being no object might not be exactly true.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle updates the 49ers' coaching search in a story featuring a photo of York and Baalke riding in a car together.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Darnell Dockett's comments on Twitter about an Arizona mall shooting stirred controversy. No shock there. Dockett has cranked out politically incorrect comments on Twitter for as long as I can remember him being on Twitter. Dockett's latest dispatch, according to Somers: "Was the guys who shot some1 & the mall today was they Black? Cuz its hard 2 believe they would run in the mall!! Probaly white or mexicans!" Dockett followed up those comments with additional comments seeking to explain his stance, such as: "Cuz blacks wouldn't run in a mall after shooting chances on getting caught is 100% that's why!!" Dockett then tried a little damage control, defending himself against charges of racism. The sheer number of potentially objectionable tweets from Dockett over an extended time period diminish the impact of subsequent objectionable tweets. It's rhetorical inflation.

Also from Somers: Staff changes could be on the way for Arizona as coach Ken Whisenhunt winds down meetings with assistants. Somers: "His decision is complicated by the labor disagreement between the NFL and the players' union, as well as the number of coaches' jobs that have opened. If no collective-bargaining agreement is reached by March 4, the owners are expected to lock out the players. A prolonged lockout means a new coordinator might have little time with which to install a new system. It also means owners could be paying former and current staff members while no games are being played. If Whisenhunt does want to make new hires, he likely would face competition. Eight teams are making changes at head coach, and one other, Houston, is hiring a new defensive staff."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says punter Jon Ryan has become adept at avoiding touchbacks and pinning opponents deep in their own territory.

Also from Farnsworth: Pete Carroll isn't saying which quarterback will start against New Orleans.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes a closer look at the relationship between Seattle safeties Lawyer Milloy and Earl Thomas.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says Carroll finds himself in an unfamiliar position: as the underdog. Brewer: "He hasn't been called such a thing before a game this big in ages. For most of his nine-year run at USC, the first-year Seahawks coach was known more for instructing a giant to stomp on the little guys. And he did that job well, managing to meet the demanding expectations of a college football powerhouse so flamboyantly the Trojans became a cultural phenomenon."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Raheem Brock's productivity as a pass-rushing defensive end caught the Seahawks by surprise. Boling: "He and fellow defensive end Chris Clemons now have a total of 20 sacks, giving them the league’s third-highest sacks total for ends behind the Giants’ Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora (23), and the Colts’ Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis (21)."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' quarterback gamesmanship affected Seattle and New Orleans. Williams: "Initially, the Seahawks planned to make both quarterbacks available but then chose to deny access to both because no decision on the starter had been made. Carroll’s indecision also affected New Orleans-area reporters, who were expecting to talk to Hasselbeck on conference call but got Mike Williams instead. That decision led to Seattle-area reporters getting receiver Lance Moore on conference call instead of quarterback Drew Brees."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says drafting later in the first round is a new feeling for the Rams. Thomas: "Strategically, when you're picking first, you don't have to worry about anybody else. And picking second, you only have to worry about the one team ahead of you, or the possibility of someone trading up to that spot. But at No. 14, there are tons of variables and 13 other teams to worry about. You have to be ready to go in a lot of different directions, depending on what happens ahead of you."

Also from the Post-Dispatch: a look at hits and misses in the 14th overall spot.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says rookie quarterback Sam Bradford learned plenty during his first season in the NFL. Bradford joined Peyton Manning, David Carr and Matt Ryan as the only rookies to play every offensive snap for their teams. Wagoner: "Bradford set a rookie record for consecutive attempts without an interception, going 174 straight without a pick. He set a rookie record for attempts (590) and completions (354), passing future Hall of Famer Manning in both categories. He finished second among rookie quarterbacks in passing yards with 3,512, behind only Manning and fifth in touchdown passes with 18. He was the Rookie of the Month two times, becoming the first rookie quarterback to achieve that feat."

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says Rams receiver Mark Clayton would like to return in 2011.