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Thursday, January 13, 2011
Around the NFC West: Cards' QB options

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com runs through potential options for the Cardinals at quarterback. On Donovan McNabb: "First, he has to be released. If it happens before the lockout, I believe he can be signed. But will that happen? Regardless, I don’t see it here. McNabb will have been let loose by two different teams. His play was less than consistent this year (and yes, I know some people don’t think he had enough weapons). There are questions about his fitness (the Washington stuff earlier this season wasn’t out of the blue), his accuracy and his age. Plus, he’s spent almost his entire career in a West Coast offense that doesn’t exactly mirror the Cards’ offense. I just don’t see it." The Cardinals made no effort to acquire McNabb when he was available last offseason.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers thoughts on the Cardinals' search for a defensive coordinator and their prospects at quarterback. Somers: "All of us are going to have a zillion questions about the team's next quarterback over the next few months. Until a new CBA is reached, however, there are going to be zero answers. No free agents can be signed. And teams can't trade players for draft picks. So even if Denver is willing to deal Kyle Orton, or Philadelphia is open to swapping Kevin Kolb, it can't be done absent a CBA. And I wonder how seriously those teams will want to trade. Do the Broncos really want to trade Orton and go with Tim Tebow? Are the Eagles really ready to go all in on Michael Vick? Having a quality backup quarterback is important. Any trades for those players will carry a hefty price tag in terms of compensation."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says quarterbacks making their postseason debuts have a 5-19 record since 2003. The Bears' Jay Cutler will try to make it 6-19.

Also from Farnsworth: Marshawn Lynch's 67-yard touchdown run is still resonating with friends and family, including some Lynch hadn't heard from in years. The Bears are hearing about it quite a bit, too. Brian Urlacher: "A lot of misses tackles on that play. Marshawn is not a real easy guy to tackle, man. So guys missing tackles on him doesn’t surprise be at all. I actually expect it. Again, Marshawn made a great run. It was great call in the perfect situation for it. They lined up to where we knew we were going to get something positive out of it. The will and the determination to score is probably one of the most impressive things about it."

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks expect to see a more balanced Bears offense Sunday.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' top three receivers have come out of nowhere, or close to it. Releasing T.J. Houshmandzadeh and trading Deion Branch cleared the way for them to emerge. O'Neil: "Combined, the trio made $2.5 million in base salaries this season, which translates to about 35 percent of the $7.2 million Seattle paid Houshmandzadeh not to play in Seattle. But the most important measurement was against New Orleans on Saturday, when they combined for 14 catches, 184 yards receiving and two touchdowns."

Also from O'Neil: Leon Washington and Devin Hester lead the return games for Seattle and Chicago, respectively.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Brandon Stokley is the new Bobby Engram for Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Williams: "The Seahawks picked up Stokley to serve as a mentor for Seattle’s young receivers after veterans T.J. Houshmandzadeh (now with Baltimore) and Deion Branch (traded to New England) moved on. They also liked the fact that Stokley had an intimate knowledge of Seattle offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates’ offense from his time in Denver."

Also from Williams: Hasselbeck's future could be in Seattle. Williams: "Hasselbeck is one of 30 Seahawks players who will be free agents once the season is over. But because of the way he played against the Saints, he’ll have some options now. Teams such as Buffalo, San Francisco, Minnesota, Arizona, Carolina and Tennessee will be looking for veteran upgrades at quarterback. And few, if any, hitting the market hold the pedigree that Hasselbeck possesses. ... With Seattle’s unlikely playoff run, the club fell from a projected top-10 pick in the draft to something in the mid-20s -- a tough spot to land a franchise quarterback. And now that Stanford’s Andrew Luck has decided to stay in school, that quarterback talent pool is even shallower."

John Boyle of the Everett Herald looks at David Hawthorne's value to the Seahawks as a versatile linebacker. Hawthorne has developed into a legitimate starter after making a positive impact as a hard-hitting backup in previous seasons.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Ndamukong Suh edged Sam Bradford as top rookie in a poll of roughly 600 NFL players. Suh was more dominant as a rookie. Bradford had a greater impact through the nature of his position.

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks colleagues what to expect from new Rams majority owner Stan Kroenke. Thomas: "If you’re expecting Jerry Jones slapping backs on the sideline, or Dan Snyder burning money like firewood on a cold January night in St. Louis, you’ve got the wrong guy. Stan Kroenke will be an involved owner but not a hands-on owner. He will rely on the people he had hired to make the decisions – and make the right decisions. I’m sure he will offer some thoughts on possible courses of action, but he will largely leave that to the hired hands."

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says Pat Shurmur could be heading to a similar situation in Cleveland if the Browns hire him as head coach. Stull: "Shurmur would be leaving Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson, but in return he will be receiving Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis. In his eight games, McCoy completed just under 61 percent of his passes and threw for over 1,500 yards, with six touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was also sacked 23 times. By comparison, Bradford was sacked only 34 times the entire season and completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards, eighteen touchdowns and fifteen interceptions. Hillis carried the ball 270 times for 1,177 yards with 11 touchdowns. Jackson had 330 rushes for 1,241 yards and six scores."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com looks at options for Jim Harbaugh's initial 49ers staff. Maiocco: "Harbaugh has yet to make a hire. When I asked him Friday about his timetable for forming his staff, he agreed he'd likely have several hires in place by Jan. 24, when Senior Bowl practices begin. Then, he'd likely conduct more interviews during that week in Mobile, Ala."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says former University of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt is a candidate to coach linebackers for the 49ers. Barrows: "Leavitt was immensely popular and successful with the Bulls but was fired a year ago for allegedly striking a player during halftime of a 2009 game against Louisville." Advice to Leavitt: Striking Patrick Willis might not be a good idea.

Also from Barrows: more thoughts on the 49ers, including one on Vic Fangio and the search for a defensive coordinator. Barrows: "I think Fangio is Harbaugh's first choice. There is no deal yet, but all indications are that he will join Harbaugh in Santa Clara. The reason why we haven't heard of any hires yet is twofold: One, Harbaugh is first interviewing the assistants from Mike Singletary's staff before he makes any decisions. Two (and more important), whom Stanford hires as its head coach -- Fangio is being considered for that position, too -- will have a big bearing on Harbaugh's 49ers staff. The Stanford decision will have a domino effect, and we'll see the 49ers' positions starting to fall in place."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says it's looking like 49ers offensive coordinator Michael Johnson will take a job at UCLA.

Also from Branch: Ted Tollner's thoughts on Harbaugh.