NFC West: Bobby April

Singletary not afraid to take his time

January, 17, 2010
The 49ers fired offensive coordinator Mike Martz last offseason without having a replacement lined up.

They considered various candidates -- Scott Linehan, Jeff Jagodzinski, Hue Jackson, Clyde Christensen, Rob Chudzinski, etc. -- before finally hiring Jimmy Raye.

Coach Mike Singletary could be taking a similarly deliberate approach in finding a special-teams coach to replace the recently fired Al Everest.

Kurt Schottenheimer was the latest candidate to interview. Larry MacDuff and Bobby April interviewed previously, with April taking a job with the Eagles instead. There are other potential candidates to consider if Singletary chooses to widen the search. The Panthers fired special-teams coach Danny Crossman late last week. Longtime NFL special-teams coach Bruce DeHaven, who spent the last three seasons with Seattle, also became available recently.

Singletary spent a month looking for Martz's replacement. Eleven days have passed since Everest's dismissal.

Singletary hasn't been in coaching all that long. He might have a better feel for more candidates around the league if he had been an NFL coach for the past 20 years. That could partially explain why these searches take a little time. Sometimes a team knows what it doesn't want before it can find what it does want.

As Singletary put it after hiring Raye: "First of all, it certainly took longer than we would have liked it to, but sometimes good things come to those who wait. The thing that I did not want to do is go ahead and make a knee-jerk decision and try and select someone before we thought we had our guy. This process to me went exactly like it needed to go except that it went a little bit longer than I would like for it to."

Around the NFC West: Vick to the Rams?

January, 15, 2010
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders whether Michael Vick could be an option at quarterback for the Rams. Thomas: "As long as Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb are in Philly, Vick won't get a chance to start for the Eagles. But what about St. Louis? What seemed totally far-fetched last summer, as Vick was about to get out of prison, no longer seems like such a longshot in St. Louis. Because Vick remains under contract with Philadelphia, Rams general manager Billy Devaney can't speak publicly on the topic. But Devaney has consistently said the team will explore all options to improve the club. He has made it a point in interviews to note that the 'four pillars' approach is being softened this offseason. In other words, the Rams are more likely to take a chance on a so-called 'character-risk' player than last year at this time. Devaney worked for the Atlanta Falcons before coming to St. Louis, so he's very familiar with Vick. In fact, Devaney visited Vick in prison while Vick was serving 18 months for running a dogfighting operation."

Also from Thomas: The Rams have signed tight end Eric Butler and linebacker Dominic Douglas. Thomas: "Briefly promoted to the 53-man roster for a few days in late November following fullback Mike Karney’s neck injury, Butler spent the rest of the season on the Rams’ practice squad. Douglas spent seven games on the Rams’ active roster, and five weeks on the practice squad."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times shares what he expects to happen with the Seahawks' coaching staff. Defensive line coach Dan Quinn is expected to stay. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley also could stay. One thing to note: New coach Pete Carroll was with the Vikings when Monte Kiffin was there in the late 1980s. Kiffin mentored Bradley in Tampa Bay. That's part of what Carroll meant when he referred to the defensive coaching lineage he shares with some assistants from Jim Mora's staff.

Jason LaCanfora of says colleague Pat Kirwan could join the Seahawks as an assistant to new coach Pete Carroll, but not as a leading decision-maker. LaCanfora: "Carroll remains interested in close friend and former NFL personnel executive Pat Kirwan to be a part of the organization, but sources said the analyst wouldn’t be in a top personnel role. Instead, he would be an assistant to the head coach should he come to Seattle."

Bob McManaman and Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic check in with Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin, who missed practice again while recuperating from a sprained ankle. Boldin: "Everything is the same, nothing has really changed. It's better than it was a couple days ago, though, so I'm optimistic."

Also from Somers: Ken Whisenhunt and Sean Payton have turned around losing programs.

More from Somers: Expect Karlos Dansby to rake in big bucks this offseason. The $9.678 million Dansby earned this season wasn't bad, either.

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' pass rush could be key against New Orleans. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis on Drew Brees: "He's such a quick decision-maker, and a guy like that, the ball is going to be out of his hand before you get to him. A lot of teams in the NFC tournament right now have quick decision-makers with high accuracy and a lot of weapons to go to. It's tough to sack guys like that. You can have the worst offensive line in the world - and they've got a good one - and he'll still make a quick decision and get rid of it. That's going to be a big challenge for us."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee updates the 49ers' search for a special-teams coach, noting that Bobby April took a job with the Eagles. That means former Eagles special-teams coach Ted Daisher is available. Bruce DeHaven, the Seahawks' special-teams coach in recent seasons, also appears to be available.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says his All-Pro vote at tight end went to Vernon Davis. Maiocco: "What pushed it over the top for me in Davis' favor was his blocking. In my opinion, he was the best all-around tight end in the NFL in 2009." Hard to disagree, although Davis' expanded role as a receiver meant he wasn't as involved in blocking. Davis was at times a dominant pass protector in 2008.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci would be a good choice as the next coach of the Raiders. Kawakami: "For a while Tuesday, it looked as if USC was about to hire Mooch. But stunningly, Lane Kiffin swooped in from Tennessee to grab the Los Angeles mega-job. Believe me, nobody is more startled by this development than Al (Davis), who loves the USC program and, to put it mildly, does not love Kiffin. But now Mariucci is without a team. Gee, is there one out there? Mariucci has a good history with skittery quarterbacks, so Al might be able to envision a solid Mooch-JaMarcus Russell pairing; plus, with his 49ers background, Mariucci could sell some tickets."

Around the NFC West: Doucet's time

January, 14, 2010
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals receiver Early Doucet, who has overcome a rough start to his career. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "One thing we've been consistent with is we've made our players earn their opportunities on the field," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Look at even Kurt (Warner). Kurt had to earn that job, too. I think it builds a hunger and confidence within these players. Early had it tough, but that created a toughness in Early. He understood what it took for him to prepare and get ready to play, and you're seeing it pay off now. His confidence has soared, and (against the Packers) we got a chance to see that really blossom."

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' defense has much to prove against the Saints. Antrel Rolle: "People can sleep on us all they want. We know what type of defense we are. We're not always going to play our best game. But we know what we're capable of, and we realize our mistakes when they happen."

John Faherty of the Arizona Republic says the Phoenix area is home to quite a few Saints fans displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

McManaman and Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offer Cardinals-related notes. Darnell Dockett and Gabe Watson want the ball in goal-line situations.

Also from Somers: Gerald Hayes and Anquan Boldin missed practice again Wednesday. Both could practice Thursday, Whisenhunt said.

Darren Urban of says Karlos Dansby is contributing for the Cardinals even though his stats aren't as good this season. Urban: "For the Cardinals, Dansby gives the defense an anchor around which the rest of the pieces can be placed. While the veteran still can step into the spotlight -- witness Sunday’s wild-card performance, when he tipped a pass to cause an interception, forced a key fumble and later returned a fumble for the game-winning touchdown -- it's Dansby’s reliability that makes him valuable."

Karen Crouse of the New York Times says Kurt Warner contemplates retirement in part because he wants to spend more time with his kids. Wife Brenda: "He wants to be as good a dad as he is a quarterback. He wants to be there, be in the moment with them, and football takes him away from that."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch joins colleagues in projecting Marc Bulger's future with the Rams. Thomas: "I still think it’s better than 50-50 that Bulger will not be back. And if he’s traded to a non-contending team he may pull a Jake Plummer and just retire. But in order to dispose of Bulger, the Rams need two quarterbacks — a veteran and a draft pick. How they fare on those two fronts over the next three months might have a lot to do with whether Bulger returns to St. Louis in 2010." I see no way for the Rams to bring back Bulger under his current contract, which features an $8.5 million salary for 2010. That is far too much money for what Bulger has been able to offer in return.

Turf Show Times' VanRam says the stats show the Rams' offense to have been worse than its defense, and the team needs playmakers.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with Bobby April, who met with Mike Singletary regarding the 49ers' opening for a special-teams coach. Barrows: "April, 56, said he had a good conversation with Mike Singletary in Orlando on Tuesday. He said that Singletary did not offer him the job, although the two plan to speak by telephone later this week. April also has met with the Steelers about their vacancy at special teams coordinator and that he's heard from other teams as well."

Also from Barrows: 49ers defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois is awaiting word regarding the safety of relatives affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Barrows: "He said he spoke briefly with his brother who said that he had to dodge a falling ceiling fan when the earthquake struck. When he went outside, his bother saw that much of Port-au Prince, a city of 2 million, had been flattened."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Nate Clements, Michael Lewis and Brandon Jones need to justify their salaries or take paycuts before returning in 2010. Maiocco: "The question is whether the 49ers are prepared to pay Clements $6 million to play cornerback. That is more than twice Shawntae Spencer's scheduled salary. There is no hurry to get Clements to accept a pay cut, if that's the route the 49ers plan to take. The 49ers can hold onto Clements until the final cuts to determine what a fair price for his services would be for the 2010 season."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune makes the case for the Seahawks to hire Floyd Reese as their general manager. Boling: "Some of the other GM candidates may be young and promising and on the way up. But Reese has actually done this and proven he can do it over the long haul. In his first season as top executive with the franchise that turned into the Tennessee Titans, he hired Jeff Fisher, who has been the head coach ever since. ... The Seahawks have the No. 6 and No. 14 picks in the first round of the upcoming draft, so this will be critical. How has Reese done in such situations? Well, in 1996, he used the No. 14 pick to get running back Eddie George, who was offensive rookie of the year and went to four Pro Bowls. With the No. 16 pick in ’99, he added defensive end Jevon Kearse … defensive rookie of the year. His No. 15 pick in 2002 was Albert Haynesworth, a two-time Pro Bowl run-stopping beast. As for that high pick? With the No. 3 selection in ’95, he drafted quarterback Steve McNair, a three-time Pro Bowl player who was the NFL co-MVP in ’03."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are interested in Jerry Gray as a potential defensive coordinator. O'Neil: "Gray is a candidate as defensive coordinator, and Dan Quinn, Seattle's defensive line coach, is also a consideration to keep on staff. Quinn also is thought to be a potential target of the New York Jets, whom he worked for before coming to the Seahawks. Gus Bradley, the Seahawks defensive coordinator last year, also has a chance to stay on Seattle's staff."

Also from O'Neil: Pete Carroll's former associate, Daryl Gross, explains why he likes the Seahawks' new coach.

Greg Johns of sizes up the Rooney Rule as it applies to the Seahawks' recent coaching search. Johns: "In cases like Seattle's, where a team has already identified its top candidate, the interview becomes a token effort and seems demeaning to candidates who are essentially being used just to fulfill the obligation. Yet there is another way to look at this, even in the awkward case of Leslie Frazier's chat with Seattle. If not for the Rooney Rule, (Tod) Leiweke would have never talked to Frazier. He never would have met with him for four hours, been impressed by what he saw and then spread the word to other NFL execs who might someday be looking for their own coach."

Also from Johns: Lawyer Milloy says Carroll's training camps were as hard as those run by Bill Parcells. Johns: "Obviously, I think the biggest difference was there wasn't the scare tactics that you had with a Parcells or (Bill) Belichick or someone like that. Does that mean he's a player's coach? I don't know. But when you go to the playoffs two years in a row, I don't think that's being a mediocre coach."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have been dysfunctional in recent years and that hiring Pete Carroll is a step toward unification, according to CEO Tod Leiweke. Haven't we heard this before? Yes, we have. The team hired Tim Ruskell to work with Mike Holmgren in 2005, putting more distance between the organization and the dysfunction that marked the relationship between Holmgren and former president Bob Whitsitt. The big difference this time is that Seattle is hiring its coach and GM at the same time. That should help them function better together. Leiweke: "To be quite honest, there was not a harmonious relationship between Tim and Mike Holmgren. It's probably neither guy's fault, but we learned a lot there."

Clare Farnsworth of says Carroll, contract negotiator John Idzik and the as-yet-unhired general manager will report to Leiweke.

Greg Johns of says Leiweke wasn't surprised to hear negative reaction following Carroll's hiring. Leiweke: "No, because when you lead with your chin, when you've had two years like we've had, when people see some dysfunction, when you have a legend like Mike Holmgren leave and you let a coach go after one year, it doesn't really set the table for a ticker tape parade for the next guy coming in. But what gets that right is winning. And Mr. Allen gave us the authority to go out and find the best coach we could and we think we have. And now we're going to find the best GM. And I'm confident it's going to result in what our fans most want, which is winning."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' game against the Packers was exciting for a lot of people, but not necessarily coach Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt: "That's funny to say it's entertaining, because it's not entertaining when I'm seeing 88 [Jermichael Finley] and 85 [Greg Jennings] on the other side of the field catching the football and running around with it. It's rewarding when you win a game like that; it's devastating when you lose a game like that. Both teams made enough plays to win the football game. Fortunately, we made one more than them."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the NFL stands by the non-call of a potential face mask penalty against Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams on the final play of the game Sunday. Somers: "In a statement, an NFL spokesman pointed out that an 'incidental grasp' of the face mask is allowed. The rule reads that 'no player shall twist, turn, or pull the face mask of an opponent in any direction.'" More here.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Phoenix area is still buzzing over the Cardinals' victory. Bickley: "With an obscene overnight television rating (21.8) that trumped the Eagles-Cowboys on Saturday night, the game will do wonders for the Big Red brand. The relentless pace of the game felt like the historic Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, when a single break of serve spelled disaster for both sides. And it made one realize just how blessed we've been since joining the big leagues in 1998, when Arizona first fielded four major professional sports teams."

Darren Urban of says Kurt Warner values being part of two organizational turnarounds.

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says the Rams have signed cornerback Marcus Brown, who had spent time of the practice squad. Balzer: "Brown joins defensive end Sean Conover, guard Mark Lewis and center/guard Drew Miller, who were previously signed after ending the season on the practice squad. Players whose practice-squad contracts expired and haven’t been signed are defensive tackle Chris Bradwell, tight end Eric Butler, linebacker Jay Moore and wide receiver Sean Walker."

Also from Balzer: a case for former St. Louis Cardinals coach Don Coryell as a Hall of Fame inductee. Former tackle Dan Dierdorf: "He simply changed the game. The NFL was a running league when he came to the Cardinals [in 1973]. Teams seemingly ran the ball out of obligation. Don wanted to throw the football, especially on first down."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers plan to interview Bobby April as a potential special-teams coach. Also: "The 49ers signed another practice squadder, tight end Joe Jon Finley, to a future contract. Finley essentially beat out Bear Pascoe, a sixth-round pick, to land a spot on the practice squad in the offseason. Coaches felt more confident in Finley should something have happened to either Vernon Davis or Delanie Walker. Given the importance of the tight end in the 49ers' offense, look for them to acquire a tight end who can block in the offseason."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says April reportedly interviewed with the Steelers recently.