Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Monday, January 17, 2011
Mailbag: Clamoring for Nnamdi Asomugha

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Greg from Novato, Calif., writes: Hey Sando, I post as allenjr16 on espn.com, and I was wondering in terms of the 49ers, they need a QB and some other stuff as well.

Cornerback is one of those other things. Since the biggest name in the draft at that position is likely out of the 49ers' reach, how likely do you think the 49ers are to pay Nnamdi Asomugha? My thinking is that he is from the Bay Area originally and the pickup would allow the 49ers to move Nate Clements to free safety (since Dashon Goldson is going to expect a big unearned payday).

Also, do you think with the new defensive coordinator that the 49ers will change back to a 4-3 in which they are best suited, with Isaac Sopoaga, Aubrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean-Francois in rotation in the middle, and Ray McDonald, Justin Smith and Parys Haralson in rotation on the outside?

Regardless of those personnel changes, can you please comment on how the most successful coaches alter their schemes to match their players and not the other way around? I am sure there is information out there proving just that.

Mike Sando: Good questions, Greg. The 49ers did spend in free agency several years ago as they sought to upgrade their roster. The team has more recently focused on re-signing its own players. That philosophy will probably continue with Trent Baalke as general manager.

Team president Jed York has been unwavering in saying the 49ers have enough talent in general, if not at quarterback. The 49ers are not a high-revenue team, they are playing in a dumpy stadium and they will be paying two head coaches with a lockout looming.

Put together those factors, throw in the fact that Oakland or another team might covet Asomugha and I'm thinking it's unlikely the 49ers go that route. I'm going to address Asomugha's situation in relation to the entire division at some point here. I'd be a little surprised if Al Davis let the NFL's best cornerback get away. Davis loves corners.

If Davis were willing to overpay Asomugha a couple years ago, why not again? Asomugha has held up his end. Letting Asomugha leave as a free agent would help return a compensatory draft choice to Oakland this offseason, perhaps, but that is no reason for a team to let its best player get away. If Asomugha wanted out, he would have tried to leave a couple years ago. The Raiders have only improved since then.

Oakland will have some tough financial choices. Richard Seymour's contract is also up. That could help Asomugha pop free. It's just not a slam dunk at this point.

As for the defensive scheme, yes, good coaches adapt. I tend to think most coaches adapt within their system, however. They generally do not scrap what they know best. You would not see Ken Whisenhunt suddenly adopting a West Coast offense. Jim Harbaugh would not suddenly switch to the Mike Martz offense.

Martz is a good example. The Bears have changed their style and some of their approach on offense, but they are still running Martz's system.


Mike from Seattle writes: I know the Seahawks had to pass, but what happened to Marshawn Lynch in the second half? Never saw him again.

Mike Sando: The situation at tight end and the Bears' stout run defense combined with the scoreboard to take Lynch out of the Seattle offense.

Justin Forsett is often the preferred back from pass-oriented personnel groupings because he's quicker. Lynch is the power runner, but it's tough to play the power game with Chris Baker on injured reserve, John Carlson headed to the hospital and Cameron Morrah battling a turf-toe injury.

Seattle ran 13 snaps from 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) when the Seahawks and Bears played in Week 6. I counted none Sunday. The Seahawks ran nine snaps from 22 personnel in Week 6. I counted one Sunday, but only with an extra offensive lineman as the second tight end. In Week 6, Lynch scored on a 1-yard touchdown run from 23 personnel. That wasn't even an option against the Bears in the rematch.


Brandon from Pullman, Wash., writes: After watching the Seahawks game then the Jets-Patriots game, one thing immediately stood out to me -- the conditions of the fields. In Chicago, the field looked a sickly yellowish green that was clearly frozen solid.Yet in New England, a similarly northerly cold location, the field was a lush green that looked like a beautiful playing surface. Do the Bears need to fire their groundskeeping crew or what?

Mike Sando: The Bears, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, share their field with local high schools. In a best-case scenario, they would change to FieldTurf or another surface better suited to for heavy use. My understanding, however, is that the Bears do not control every aspect of the playing surface.


Kevin from Maryland writes: Who would you think is a better fit as the new offensive coordinator in St. Louis -- Josh McDaniels, Brad Childress or someone else?

Mike Sando: I started out thinking the Rams should lean more toward maintaining continuity of scheme, which would favor Childress. I am increasingly leaning toward McDaniels as the more exciting hire. His offense might suit Sam Bradford at least as well.

One key, I think, would be making sure the Rams had a successor on staff in case a team gave McDaniels another shot at a head-coaching job. That might seem like a stretch given how things ended in Denver, but McDaniels struggled more with personnel decisions than with the tactical side, it seemed.

That's it for now. There were no new questions on the Cardinals this time. To clarify earlier items, however, note that Larry Fitzgerald's no-trade clause remains in place for the 2011 season. His deal with Arizona voids before the 2012 season. That negotiation will have significant ramifications for the Cardinals and the NFL.