NFC West: Brad Childress

Your NFC West roster fix right here

August, 13, 2013
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The Seattle Seahawks have more players drafted under Brad Childress, who never coached for the team, than were drafted under Mike Holmgren, who coached the team for nine seasons. This is Pete Carroll's team, in other words, and the chart shows to what extent.

Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Tarvaris Jackson are the Seattle players drafted under Childress, the former Minnesota Vikings coach. Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant are the current Seahawks left over from the Holmgren era.

Rosters will go through another round of changes when teams reduce from 90 to 53 players on Aug. 31. In the meantime, I've updated and made available for download my 26-column rosters for each NFC West team.


The second chart shows roster counts by position for each team.

The Arizona Cardinals have added three offensive linemen and two defensive linemen since early June, headlined by the free-agent signings of Eric Winston and John Abraham. They've dropped two at wide receiver (notably Ryan Swope), one at linebacker (O'Brien Schofield), and one at running back over the same span. Coach Bruce Arians recently indicated the team does not plan to add a running back despite injuries at the position. That suggests the team isn't worried about Rashard Mendenhall, who has missed time recently.

There was relatively little reaction Thursday when the Seattle Seahawks placed starters Chris Clemons and Zach Miller on their physically unable to perform (PUP) list to open training camp. Percy Harvin's presence on the list stirred up the NFL for reasons stemming in part from the wide receiver's sometimes stormy tenure with the Minnesota Vikings.

Harvin
NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert captured that dynamic Friday when asking whether Harvin's ailment was merely "camp hip" -- an injury Harvin might be using to manage training camp on his terms before suddenly clearing himself when the timing suited him.

"Harvin observers weren't at all surprised to hear that a potentially significant injury popped up out of nowhere on the first day of training camp," Seifert wrote, noting that Harvin has frequently missed practices for a variety of reasons. "It goes back to what we've always said about Harvin: Weird things always seem to happen around him."

Harvin and former Vikings coach Brad Childress clashed years ago when Harvin cited an ankle injury for missed practice time while refusing Childress' request to undergo an MRI exam. Those types of issues explained why the Viking weren't willing to invest in a second contract for Harvin.

The Seahawks are now in a position where they've invested more in Harvin than they've invested in any other player on the team. That commitment puts Harvin in a strong position. The team doesn't hold a hammer over him the way it has held one over other players.

Harvin is 25 years old and among the most dynamic players in the NFL. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, asked in March why the team would trade such a player, paused and said he would save the details for his memoirs. He was basically saying the relationship between Harvin and the Viking was complicated and ultimately unsustainable.

For all we know, Harvin could begin practicing in a couple days and never miss time because of the hip. He could adopt the practice mindset that has turned Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and other franchise building blocks into team leaders at young ages. Until that happens, Harvin's strange history with the Vikings will have to suffice as our point of reference.
A few thoughts regarding the prospects for an NFL team acquiring Tarvaris Jackson from the Seattle Seahawks:
  • What's been reported: Seattle has spoken with teams regarding a potential trade, but nothing is imminent, according to PFT.
  • Why a trade make senses for Seattle: Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson appear likely to emerge as the top two quarterbacks. Jackson has already given the Seahawks what they wanted from him: a quarterback whose familiarity with the offense helped the team get through a lockout-affected 2011 season. Seattle has no incentive to make a deal immediately. Jackson is insurance for now.
  • Why a trade could be unlikely: Jackson is scheduled to earn $4 million in salary for 2012. Any team acquiring him would acquire that salary, which could be higher than other teams would want to pay. Any team seeking to rework the deal would have to work with Jackson. And if other teams know Jackson doesn't fit in Seattle, why not simply wait for the team to release him?
  • Another consideration: Jackson has spent his career in the offensive system Darrell Bevell brought with him from Minnesota to Seattle as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator. He has conceivably maxed out in this system. He could be less valuable in a different scheme, particularly in the short term. Jackson's former head coach in Minnesota, Brad Childress, is offensive coordinator in Cleveland, where the Browns already have multiple backup quarterback options.

Final Word: NFC West

November, 18, 2011
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» NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11:

Skelton's opportunity: Arizona Cardinals quarterback John Skelton steps up in class when he faces the San Francisco 49ers' defense. The matchup figures to be a tough one from a protection standpoint, but the Cardinals have found ways to strike for big plays this season. They have seven pass plays of at least 40 yards this season, fourth-most in the league behind Detroit, Green Bay and Houston. The 49ers have given up seven such plays, tied for fourth-most in the league. That gives Arizona a puncher's chance against the 49ers. And if Skelton can somehow pull out a victory, his stock will rise considerably.

[+] EnlargeSteven Jackson
David Richard/US PresswireThe Rams' Steven Jackson has 30 career games with at least 100 rushing yards.
Ganging up on power backs: Steven Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Beanie Wells and Frank Gore give the NFC West four running backs able to dish out punishment. All are physical runners. I'm most interested in seeing whether Jackson can top 100 yards rushing for the fourth game in a row. He has 30 career games with at least 100 yards, but none against Seattle. That's surprising given that Jackson has faced the Seahawks more times than he has faced any other team -- 14, counting playoffs.

49ers hold their ground: Every NFL team but the 49ers has allowed at least three rushing touchdowns this season. San Francisco has allowed zero. The 49ers are the first team since the 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars to go nine games into a season without allowing one, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Cardinals rank tied for 11th in the league with eight rushing scores, but they have zero in their past two games. Wells' injured knee has robbed power from him. Wells had only 10 carries for 29 yards against the 49ers last season. He did carry 15 times for 79 yards against them as a rookie in 2009.

Cornerbacks in focus: The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks will play without cornerbacks Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Jerome Murphy, Al Harris, Walter Thurmond or Marcus Trufant, among others. The team best able to exploit issues in the secondary could prevail. Seattle feels better about its cornerback situation, but the raw talent is questionable. Two of the Seahawks' five players at the position were undrafted. Two others are rookies. None of the five was drafted earlier than the fifth round. That was partly by design, however. The team traded 2006 first-rounder Kelly Jennings and 2007 second-rounder Josh Wilson.

Explosive potential in return game: Patrick Peterson and Ted Ginn Jr. give the Cardinals-49ers game big-play potential on returns. Peterson has helped Arizona go from 27th last season to second this season in punt-return average. He leads the NFL in that category with a 17.6-yard average among players with more than 15 punt returns. His three touchdowns on punt returns also lead the NFL. The 49ers' Ginn ranks third in punt-return average and third in kick-return average among players with more than 15 returns in each category. He also has two touchdowns. The Cardinals' kick returner, LaRod Stephens-Howling, has been quiet this season. He scored three times on returns over the previous two seasons.

What to expect from Tarvaris Jackson

August, 10, 2011
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Charlie from St. Louis wants my thoughts on Tarvaris Jackson's potential impact in Seattle."The way I see it," Charlie wrote, "he already had the opportunity to play with Sidney Rice in the exact same offensive scheme under Darrell Bevell when all three were in Minnesota. Not only did they work together in the pass-friendly confines of the Metrodome, but they enjoyed the presence of the game's best running back in Adrian Peterson. What makes you think that a regression is not imminent?"

Mike Sando: Regression is one option. Skepticism is warranted. Jackson never seemed to improve while playing for the Vikings. He did have a strong supporting cast on the field. Whether his head coach, Brad Childress, had the right approach/temperament is debatable. Injuries were a problem for Jackson. Childress once wondered aloud whether Jackson were a "china doll" or simply unlucky. Questions about Jackson's toughness arose when the quarterback removed himself from a game in overtime after suffering a groin injury.

It's also reasonable to think Jackson will benefit from change. Jackson came to the Vikings from Division I-AA Alabama State. The Vikings made him their starter before he was ready. Childress was tightly wound. Brett Favre happened. Jackson rarely seemed comfortable enough to play freely. Sometimes it appeared as though he were straining to please coaches within the offensive system. Perhaps the Seahawks can find ways for Jackson to transcend the playbook.

The Seahawks have done well in adding big targets for Jackson, whose accuracy has generally appeared better in practice than in games. The team can send Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Zach Miller and John Carlson onto the field at once. Those guys have the size and hands to help out a quarterback. Seattle has caught the ball very well during this training camp.

I'd give Jackson a decent chance to show improvement in a new environment, with an outside chance at developing into the player Childress hoped he would become. They'll put his mobility to use without much question.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Kevin Kolb will probably play a little longer than a starting quarterback usually would when the Arizona Cardinals open their exhibition season. Kolb wants to play, of course, but also realizes mistakes will be made after only six days of on-field preparation. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "It’s not like he’ll be wide-eyed. He’s been through this before." Protecting Kolb stands out as the biggest concern. Offensive lines have had little time to jell. The Cardinals have new starters in both guard spots.

Also from Urban: Whisenhunt details what held back the Cardinals' running backs in 2010, and what he wants from them this season. Whisenhunt: "On runs, it was not being able to make a single defender miss. In the NFL, that’s what you have to do. Make guys miss, because you can’t block everybody. There were a couple times we were in the open field and we had an opportunity to make a big play and we got brought down and that was unacceptable."

More from Urban: Rookie receiver DeMarco Sampson has impressed.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic updates Rashad Johnson's efforts to gain an expanded role within the Cardinals' defense. Adrian Wilson's injury cleared the way. Somers: "A third-round pick from Alabama in 2009, Johnson's inconsistency has kept him from more playing time, although he showed improvement from the first year to the next. Johnson set about to change his career course this offseason by first changing his body. He worked out for three months with Wilson and several other Cardinals defensive backs. He still weighs about the same, 204 pounds, but Johnson's body fat percentage decreased from 17 percent to 7.8 percent."

Also from Somers: Cardinals safety Hamza Abdullah is headed to the White House for a dinner celebrating the end of Ramadan. Somers: "Getting through the first preseason game in Oakland on Thursday will be a big relief for coaches, who are working with 51 new players on a 90-man roster. Of that 90, 24 just started practicing last week."

More from Somers: Larry Fitzgerald hurdles a spectator at camp, and former Vikings coach Brad Childress visits the Circle K where he worked after getting fired from a job at Northern Arizona University.

More yet from Somers: a look at Cardinals position battles. On nose tackle: "Dan Williams is listed as the starter, but coaches believe he's out of shape. Rookie David Carter has had a nice camp, and veteran Nick Eason can swing from end to tackle, too." Is reporting to work in good physical condition too much to ask from a young professional athlete?

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says a chest injury is limiting Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have signed rookie cornerback Jared McGee.

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring his thoughts on whether the Rams' moves in free agency reflect short-term goals. Thomas: "Remember, 8 of the 11 free agents signed so far are one-year deals. So there's no guarantee how many of them will be back in 2012. Of the 11 outside veteran free agents, Zac Diles is 26, Mike Sims-Walker is 26, Quinn Ojinnaka is 27, Jerious Norwood just turned 28, Dan Muir is 28, Cadillac Williams is 29, Craig Dahl just turned 30, Quintin Mikell is 30, Brady Poppinga is 31, Justin Bannan is 32, and Al Harris is 36. So they're spread out kind of all over the spectrum. But I think your overall point is valid. But the sheer number of free agents signed shows the Rams are trying to get over the hump in terms of at least making the playoffs."

Also from Thomas: the Rams' situation at receiver remains muddled.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers 49ers practice notes, including one about rookie tight end Konrad Reuland making a push for a roster spot. Reuland appears to have strong hands. He made plays on the ball Tuesday. On one play, Reuland impressed even when unable to finish the catch. He dove for the ball and got both hands on it despite hard contact from a defender.

Also from Maiocco: a look at the 49ers' depth chart. Ted Ginn Jr. dropped a couple passes Tuesday, but otherwise has been one of the more impressive receivers in camp, Maiocco notes. Maiocco: "Ginn has put together the most-impressive camp of the widouts. Josh Morgan has been inconsistent, though he did have a nice leaping catch of 30 yards in a two-minute drill Monday. Braylon Edwards is not listed as a starter because he just arrived in town after signing a one-year, $1 million contract. Based on his practice Monday, Edwards looks ready to leap into a starting role. Michael Crabtree and Dominique Zeigler are not listed on the depth chart because they are ineligible to practice or play until being removed from the physically-unable-to-perform list."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Patrick Willis is embracing a chance to rush the passer more frequently.

Also from Inman: Frank Gore offers thoughts on the 49ers' offense. Gore on Alex Smith: "You can tell the (offense's) energy is different. You can see it in Alex. He looks really confident. He's able to go. ... Alex is going to be really good in this offense."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers rookie Aldon Smith, despite showing flashes of athletic prowess, remains a work in progress while learning the team's system.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says rookie Byron Maxwell continues to impress. Coach Pete Carroll: "He’s been really special the last two or three days. He looks very competitive. He’s tough. He’s tackled well. He’s got a nose for the football. He’s really bright. He’s really picked things up. He’s right in the mix of this with the young cornerbacks."

Also from Farnsworth: a look at quarterback Josh Portis' winding path to the NFL.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times updates the Seahawks' cornerback situation. O'Neil: "Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond project as the team's starting cornerbacks currently. Thurmond has been out the past week, which has left Kelly Jennings playing with the first-unit defense. Then there are the rookies Maxwell and Richard Sherman, a fifth-round draft choice out of Stanford. At 6 feet 4, Brandon Browner is the tallest defensive back Seattle has in camp and someone Carroll has praised for the length he brings to his press coverage."

Also from O'Neil: a look at the positions where Seattle has had the most players start since 2006. Yes, Steve Hutchinson's name comes up.

More from O'Neil: Can Golden Tate bounce back from a disappointing rookie season? Carroll: "He's caught more balls than anyone on the practice field since camp started. He's highly competitive, and we're going to find a way to really have him help us. I think it's a different setting for him entirely."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks rookie cornerback Richard Sherman, who has so far fared well using the bump-and-run tactics Seattle prefers.

Also from Williams: Tarvaris Jackson will start the exhibition opener Thursday night, but a toe injury will prevent receiver Mike Williams from playing.

More from Williams: The Seahawks plan to keep Portis around in some capacity.

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle says Red Bryant and Kris Durham will miss the Seahawks' exhibition opener. The team expects Bryant to return next week.

Camp Confidential: Seattle Seahawks

August, 3, 2011
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RENTON, Wash. -- NFL training camps aren't what they used to be now that players have secured day-spa treatment from coaches under the new labor agreement.

Still, teams aren't practicing in slippers and robes ... yet.

Earl Thomas, the Seattle Seahawks' second-year safety, did go through a recent practice -- make that a walk-through, just to be safe -- wearing a visor that also would have served him well standing over a Titleist. Several teammates wore ball caps.

None of this shocks the system for Seattle.

Coach Pete Carroll ran a player-friendly camp last year as well, giving the team full days off from practice. But the veterans who lauded Carroll's approach in 2010 aren't around to celebrate it this year. And therein lies the biggest difference for the Seahawks this summer.

For the first time since 2000, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck isn't around to offer the insights and asides that made him mandatory viewing at Seahawks camp. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, leader of the defense since 2005, also is gone. Other veterans I polled during the inaugural Camp Carroll are also elsewhere -- Lawyer Milloy, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Olindo Mare among them.

This day has been coming for a while. The Seahawks are getting on with their lives, untethered from what came before.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeTarvaris Jackson
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonTarvaris Jackson should be familiar with the Seahawks' offense since he spent five seasons with new coordinator Darrell Bevell.
1. Why Tarvaris Jackson? The Seahawks decided it was time to move on from Hasselbeck before they had a long-term replacement lined up. Once that decision was made, the team targeted Jackson because he and the Seahawks' new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, had spent five years together. Once Jackson was signed, Carroll wasted little time endorsing him as the starter. Three possible explanations come to mind. One, Jackson knew the offense. Two, Charlie Whitehurst hadn't asserted himself as a leader during offseason workouts when Hasselbeck was without a contract for 2011. Three, a quick endorsement gave Jackson a confidence boost following a rough run in Minnesota. There's a feeling that maybe, just maybe, Brad Childress did not give Jackson the best chance to succeed with the Vikings.

2. Who will lead the defense? Tatupu's release following six seasons with the team leaves the defense in transition. Tatupu was instinctive and adept at getting teammates lined up properly. His play had deteriorated through injuries, but Tatupu had three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl on his résumé. He was the defensive leader. Carroll pointed to linebacker David Hawthorne, pass-rusher Chris Clemons and defensive end Red Bryant as heirs. He named Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor as well. "I'm not worried about it," Carroll said. "There’s a lot of very strong character kids on that side of the ball, particularly."

3. Does Whitehurst have a future? It's tough to see him emerging in Seattle. The decision to go with Jackson even though rules prevented him from practicing right away said plenty about Whitehurst's status on the team. Whitehurst has been running the first-team offense while Jackson waits to become eligible under rules for players with new contracts. Everyone knows he's the backup even though there was never any competition. It's a tough situation for Whitehurst. Still, getting to work with the starters provided an opportunity to impress. It has not happened. Whitehurst's contract runs through the 2011 season. If Whitehurst doesn't show more as camp progresses, it's fair to wonder whether the team would consider bringing in a cheaper veteran.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Signing Zach Miller in free agency. Miller was on the Seahawks' radar when free agency opened. Assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable had high praise for Miller from their days together in Oakland. But the Seahawks never expected Miller to remain available so deep into the signing period. After a while, the Seahawks began to view Miller the way they would view a talented prospect falling to them in the draft. They felt compelled to pursue Miller with a strong offer. The Raiders made a push to keep Miller, but Seattle came through with a five-year, $34 million contract featuring $17 million in guarantees. Having Cable and former Raiders guard Robert Gallery in Seattle helped the Seahawks get this deal done. The team emerged from free agency with a 25-year-old Pro Bowl player.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Extending the lockout (sort of). Carroll has bristled every day over the rules preventing newly signed players from practicing before Aug. 4, only one week before Seattle's exhibition opener at San Diego. Jackson, Sidney Rice and Gallery are among the key additions who were forbidden from participating in practices or even workouts with the team. The situation was tough for teams throughout the league, but Seattle felt challenged more than most because the team has undergone so much roster turnover. Seattle also has quite a few new coaches on the offensive side of the ball, including Bevell, Cable and quarterbacks coach Carl Smith. Going a week without getting key starters onto the field didn't make any sense from a football standpoint.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • [+] EnlargeRussell Okung
    AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonRussell Okung has shown no signs of the injuries that nagged him last season.
    The ankle injuries that slowed left tackle Russell Okung as a rookie last season haven't been a problem so far. Okung appears exceedingly smooth. He rides out defenders effectively during pass-rush drills, sometimes even driving them to the ground. He's a threat to flatten defenders in the running game. Another recent first-round pick on the line, James Carpenter, has made a positive first impression at right tackle early in camp. He's thick and massive. He plays with an edge. He's going to start in Week 1.
  • Rookie right guard John Moffitt projects as a starter, but he could need time to develop. That was my impression watching Moffitt in drills. Of course, it's not fair comparing Moffitt to Okung or Carpenter. Those guys were first-round picks. Moffitt was a third-rounder. Having youth on the line is a good thing overall. Getting the 31-year-old Gallery into the lineup is critical, however. Gallery has been serving as a coach on the field during practices. He knows Cable's blocking schemes and is already proving valuable as a resource. Durability is a concern for him.
  • Seattle is finished with the big-ticket purchases in free agency. The team could still add veterans at linebacker and kicker. The team lacks experience in the secondary as well. Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings are the only cornerbacks on the team with more than one start. Going young sounds great during the offseason, but throwing untested corners onto the field against veteran quarterbacks isn't very appealing when the games start counting. The Seahawks face Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Eli Manning in the first five weeks of the regular season.
  • Strong safety Jeron Johnson and three linebackers -- Mike Morgan, K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith -- are among the rookies impressing Seattle early in camp. Another rookie, safety Mark LeGree, is getting a chance to play safety when Thomas, the starter at free, shifts to cornerback against slot receivers. Carroll alluded to such an arrangement during the draft. One more rookie, Pep Levingston, has impressed in early one-on-one pass-rush drills. A defensive tackle at LSU, Levingston projects as an end with Seattle. He's leaner than I had anticipated, an advantage in pass-rush drills.
  • Seven of the 11 cornerbacks on the roster are at least 6 feet tall. Three are 5-foot-11 and one is 5-10. The biggest, Brandon Browner, goes 6-4 and 221 pounds. Impressive? Perhaps, but only three of the 11 have started an NFL game, and none of the three with starting experience stands taller than 5-11.
  • Size is a theme throughout the roster. Mike Williams, Rice and fellow receiver Kris Durham are at least 6-4.
  • The Seahawks might need to find more touches for Leon Washington if they hope to get sufficient return on their investment in him. New rules governing kickoffs figure to diminish the value of Washington and other top returners.
  • Seattle's front office trusted its coaches during free agency. Just about every free-agent addition has ties to a Seahawks staff member. Miller and Gallery played for Cable in Oakland. Jackson and Rice played for Bevell in Minnesota. Defensive tackle Alan Branch was an exception. Seattle added him after failing to land a defensive tackle in the draft. Ideally, Branch would be a backup. He could start for Seattle at three-technique, with Brandon Mebane moving to nose tackle. Branch will also back up Bryant at five-technique.
  • For the second year in a row under Carroll, the Seahawks are piping hip-hop beats and mixes into practices. A disc jockey stands behind two turntables near the front corner of the practices fields. "Halfway home and my pager still blowin' up, today I didn't even have to use my A.K. I got to say it was a good day ..." Hearing those lyrics from Ice Cube during a recent practice, I couldn't help but wonder what Chuck Knox would think of the arrangement. Did I mention times have changed in the NFL? Just a little.

Clayton: Seahawks targeting Bevell

January, 19, 2011
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The Minnesota Vikings' Darrell Bevell is looking like the Seattle Seahawks' choice to succeed Jeremy Bates as offensive coordinator.

The team offered the job to Bevell, ESPN's John Clayton is reporting, and that begs a question: What would Bevell's hiring mean for the Seahawks' offense?

Bevell and the Vikings ran a West Coast system with at least some ties to what the Seahawks have been running. Bevell's ties to former Vikings coach Brad Childress link back to Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid and, by extension, to former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren.

Bates' offense aligns more closely with Mike Shanahan's version of the West Coast system. It all traces back to Bill Walsh, but Bevell's roots trace more directly to Holmgren than to Bates or Shanahan. Bevell and Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck were together in Green Bay.

If the Seahawks hire Bevell, I would expect Bevell and offensive line coach Tom Cable to combine their efforts in shaping the offense. Cable's influence will be significant. This team will not ignore the running game.

Bevell did take over play calling from Childress in 2007, and the offense seemed to perk up.

Quick thoughts as Rams land McDaniels

January, 18, 2011
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The St. Louis Rams won't have to worry about coaching against Josh McDaniels two times each season.

They won't have to hear about losing him to a division rival.

McDaniels, the former New England assistant and former Denver Broncos head coach, will be coordinating their offense -- an exciting development for the Rams in general and quarterback Sam Bradford in particular.

I like the move for St. Louis. The Rams could have gone the more comfortable route by hiring Brad Childress or someone else familiar with the basic West Coast system St. Louis ran under former coordinator Pat Shurmur.

McDaniels' hiring carries more question marks. How will he fit with the current staff? What happens if he leaves for a head-coaching job in a year or two? Will his personality mesh with Bradford and coach Steve Spagnuolo? Would a lockout make it nearly impossible for the Rams to install a new system in time for the upcoming season?

McDaniels' hiring also carries more sizzle. It carries more upside. It fits with the Rams' overall move toward becoming Bradford's offense. It aligns Bradford with an established coordinator, and one with strong credentials in the passing game specifically.

The move also removes McDaniels from the equation in Seattle, where the Seahawks fired coordinator Jeremy Bates. Firing Bates seemed to make sense if the Seahawks had someone better lined up. McDaniels would have qualified as such.

The Seahawks have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday featuring coach Pete Carroll. We should have a much better feel for the situation regarding Bates, and potentially McDaniels, once Carroll fields questions on the matter.

Rams, Seahawks and Josh McDaniels

January, 18, 2011
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OK, now we know the Seattle Seahawks have been speaking with Josh McDaniels about becoming their offensive coordinator.

Hiring the former New England assistant and Denver head coach would help explain why the Seahawks fired Jeremy Bates after one season as coordinator. The Seahawks' interest might also explain why talks between McDaniels and the St. Louis Rams hit a snag.

Ten quick thoughts on the matter:
  • The Rams' job could be more appealing. The Rams have Sam Bradford. The Seahawks do not. Bradford has the ability to help his next coordinator become a head coach. McDaniels has already been a head coach. He wants to be one again. Aligning himself with Bradford seems like the smart move for the long term. Not necessarily, though. More on that below.
  • The Seahawks' job could be more lucrative. ESPN's Chris Mortensen cited a source saying the Rams were taking a "conservative fiscal approach" to talks with McDaniels. It's easy to see why. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is reportedly working under a four-year, $12 million contract. The head coach's salary sets the bar for what top assistants can reasonably earn. Seattle's Pete Carroll earns significantly more than Spagnuolo, so the ceiling could be higher for assistants in Seattle.
  • McDaniels could be using Seattle. Let's say McDaniels knows Bradford is his ticket to becoming a head coach again. Let's say he wants to leverage a better deal from the Rams. Dancing with the Seahawks could help him get more from the Rams. But money does tend to talk in these matters.
  • The Rams have other options. Brad Childress is still in the running, as Mortensen noted. Also according to Mortensen, the Rams have inquired about assistants Darrell Bevell (Minnesota Vikings) and Bill Musgrave (Atlanta Falcons). The Seahawks are interviewing Bevell for their opening as quarterbacks coach. Bevell is the Vikings' offensive coordinator, but Minnesota has let him explore other opportunities.
  • This is good for NFC West rivalries. One NFC West team hiring a big-name candidate away from another NFC West team sets up a compelling storyline within the division. Carroll's old Pac-10 rivalry with new San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh added another dynamic to the Seahawks-49ers rivalry. Having McDaniels coaching against a team he spurned would add another one.
  • Seattle has to be the leading candidate. It's tough to envision the Seahawks firing Bates without having a contingency plan in place. The team must feel confident in its ability to land a suitable replacement.
  • Carroll could help repair McDaniels' image. Everyone knows McDaniels can coach, the thinking goes. His reputation took a hit on multiple fronts during his tenure as Broncos coach. The low-keyed, cheery Carroll might be in better position than the more regimented Spagnuolo to offer McDaniels the space and latitude he needs to repair his image.
  • Seattle might offer more staff flexibility. The Seahawks are without a quarterbacks coach. They lost offensive line coach Alex Gibbs just as the regular season was beginning. McDaniels might have an easier time putting together a staff to his liking if he joined the Seahawks, particularly if that "conservative fiscal approach" were a problem in St. Louis.
  • Losing McDaniels to a division rival would sting. Bernie Miklasz might have been right when he said the Rams needed to move quickly on a coordinator once Pat Shurmur left to join the Cleveland Browns. Having Seattle enter the picture gave McDaniels an option that wasn't immediately available to him until the Seahawks lost in the playoffs.
  • Week 17 is proving pivotal in retrospect. Life might be different for the Rams if they had defeated the Seahawks in Week 17 and then upset New Orleans in the divisional round, as Seattle did. Shurmur would have been busy coaching the Rams. It's possible the Browns would have gone in another direction.

Lots to think about here, and we have more going on within the division. The 49ers are making staff moves, too.

Mailbag: Clamoring for Nnamdi Asomugha

January, 17, 2011
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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.

Around the NFC West: Warner on QBs

January, 17, 2011
1/17/11
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Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic checks in with former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner for thoughts on Marc Bulger, Cam Newton, Kevin Kolb and other potential quarterback options for Arizona this offseason. Warner on Newton: "I think he's a great college quarterback who can throw the ball well and has every intangible you're looking for, but the one thing I always tell people is that, at this level, you don't win with running quarterbacks. It just doesn't happen. As great as Michael Vick played this year, when it came down to it, he had to win games in the pocket. And his team was eliminated in the first round. This is not a knock on Newton or how great a player he is or can be. There's just a big difference in the way the game is played in the NFL."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com looks at where the 49ers are tentatively scheduled to draft in 2011, minus as-yet-unannounced compensatory choices. Maiocco on draft needs: "Cornerback is a definite need for the 49ers. They also need to get new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio someone who can pose a threat as an outside pass rusher. Those are two huge needs. The only position I can see the 49ers addressing on offense is quarterback." The outside pass rush has been a group effort and a fairly successful one, but one dominant outside rusher can open up options for a coordinator.

Also from Maiocco: a look at the 49ers' coaching staff as it stood over the weekend.

More from Maiocco: He expects assistants Mike Solari, Tom Rathman and Jim Tomsula to remain with the 49ers under new coach Jim Harbaugh.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Solari and the newly hired Tim Drevno will share duties coaching the 49ers' offensive line. Barrows: "This past season, Ray Brown served as Solari's assistant offensive line coach. There is no word yet on where Brown will end up."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers thoughts on key plays in the Seahawks' 35-24 divisional-round playoff defeat at Chicago. O'Neil on the turning point: "The Bears had the ball at Seattle's 3-yard line later in the first quarter when Cutler threw a quick pass straight to safety Jordan Babineaux. Babineaux saw the ball after it was released, and couldn't respond in time to intercept a pass he very well could have returned for a touchdown that would have tied the game. Instead the pass bounced off Babineaux's hands incomplete, and the Bears scored four plays later on a 1-yard touchdown run from Chester Taylor."

Also from O'Neil: Veteran safety Lawyer Milloy says the Seahawks aren't seeking a consolation prize for reaching the divisional round.

More from O'Neil: injury updates on Marcus Trufant and John Carlson.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' defeat to Chicago felt more like reality than their victory over the Saints. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck: "The hard thing is that I don't know if everyone realizes how close we were to doing something special. We had everything there for us. We didn't deserve it, but it was right there for us."

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times sizes up the Seahawks this way: "The Seahawks needed to play their best game to beat the Bears, who are for real, by the way. They needed to perform at a level even higher than they did against New Orleans. Instead, they were a playoff remix of their 2010 season: erratic, fidgety, unworthy. It doesn't make their invigorating run to the divisional playoff round any less special. But, sadly, it does mean their season ends with the type of performance you could've envisioned long ago."

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks were outgunned, particularly after losing Carlson. Boyle: "For his part, Hasselbeck was very good in what could have been his final game as a Seahawk. Hasselbeck, who turned 35 this season, becomes a free agent this offseason, and while he and Carroll have both said they'd like him to stay a Seahawk, nothing is done as of now. And if Hasselbeck was playing his last game for Seattle, he went out in style, throwing a touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley on his final completion of the day. Hasselbeck finished with 258 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers, and those numbers would have been better if not for several drops by receivers."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the injuries to Carlson and Trufant weighed on Seattle players.

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune says the moment was too big for Seattle. McGrath: "Potential completions went through Seahawks receivers’ fingers. Defensive backs failed to hang onto easy interceptions. Most surprising was how coach Pete Carroll abandoned the go-for-broke aggressiveness of a prohibitive underdog. With nothing to lose, Carroll’s strategy suggested his team had everything to lose." Carroll said he punted on fourth-and-1 in the first half in part because he didn't want to send the signal that his team was in desperation mode after falling behind. Not having Carlson also diminished Seattle's short-yardage options.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' defeat exposed their lack of playmakers. Boling: "No discredit. Making it to the divisional round of the playoffs was far beyond reasonable expectations. Still, getting this far after a 7-9 regular season was equal parts quirk, illusion, fortunate timing and the positive psychological bounce from a late infusion of confidence. Not the least of this was the powerful influence of their home fans. But the sprinkle of pixie dust that made this ordinary team special at home isn’t portable."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along this from Carroll: "It took us the whole season to get to the point where we really understood how hard the work needs to be to get yourself to play at a really high level. We kind of dipped in and out of it at times this year. So I think that’s really important. I think these guys understand where we’re going and what we’re trying to get done. And that’s important for us to move forward with that."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams should hire an offensive coordinator quickly. Miklasz: "Give the new OC as much time as possible to implement his offense and get down to serious meeting-room study with quarterback Sam Bradford before a threatened lockout shuts down the NFL on March 4. If the Rams want continuity and stability and a conservative style, then Childress would be the choice. He'd keep their West Coast offense intact and Bradford wouldn't have to absorb a new playbook. If the Rams prefer excitement and aggressiveness and some risk, then Josh McDaniels is their man. He's creative and edgy. McDaniels can do for the offense what Steve Spagnuolo did for the Rams' defense. But is Spags really willing to go away from the offense and turn it over to McDaniels?"

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams should consider minority candidates for the coordinator's job.

Shurmur's departure puts Rams on clock

January, 13, 2011
1/13/11
1:03
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The St. Louis Rams' periodic offensive struggles this season invited questions.

How much had to do with talent? How much had to do with the job Pat Shurmur was doing as offensive coordinator?

Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren cast his vote Thursday by naming Shurmur the team's new head coach. Clearly, Holmgren thought the Rams' offense was in good hands with Shurmur. I would tend to agree even though it's tough to know what kind of head coach Shurmur might become after only two seasons as the Rams' coordinator. Holmgren will be there to mold him, a big asset. And the fit was natural.

The Rams have known for about a week that Shurmur might be leaving. They should be able to name a replacement relatively quickly, I would think, based on some of the key characters' connections to agent Bob LaMonte. LaMonte counts among his clients Shurmur, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and multiple coordinating candidates, including Josh McDaniels and Brad Childress among them.

Sam Bradford's presence as the Rams' quarterback makes the coordinating job attractive. The team has already invested in its offensive line. Running back Steven Jackson provides balance. The team needs more talent and improved health at wide receiver. Developing tight end Mike Hoomanwanui should be another priority.

Earlier: More than a dozen thoughts on Shurmur's potential departure.

If the Rams lose Pat Shurmur to Browns

January, 10, 2011
1/10/11
10:44
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ESPN's Adam Schefter calls St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shumur the favorite to coach the Cleveland Browns.

Shurmur fits the Browns for multiple reasons.

Losing Shurmur would threaten the Rams' continuity unless the team found a replacement to run the same system. Former Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress comes to mind. Like Shurmur, Childress has roots in Andy Reid's offense.

Maintaining continuity would help quarterback Sam Bradford. That's why former Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels might be a better fit somewhere other than St. Louis if Shurmur does leave the Rams. McDaniels is hoping to reemerge as a head coaching candidate after spending a couple years as a coordinator.

I think the Rams would be best off having the same coordinator, or at least the same system, in place for the long haul.

Mailbag: Proposed 49ers coaching scenario

December, 30, 2010
12/30/10
10:06
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George from Orlando, Fla., writes: Maybe I'm too hopeful that Jed York hasn't really made his decision on a GM, but I want to throw out a scenario for you: Howie Roseman (GM of the Eagles); Marty Mornhinweg as head coach, Brad Childress as offensive coordinator and either retain Greg Manusky or hire Jim Mora. Mornhinweg was the 49ers' offensive coordinator in the late 1990s. He and Childress both worked with Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Mora was the 49ers' defensive coordinator overlapping Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator. They could move back to the West Coast offense and bring in Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb to groom someone like Blaine Gabbert from Missouri.

Mike Sando: Roseman is already the GM in Philadelphia. He's not coming to San Francisco for a lateral move on the flow chart and a downward move in NFL standing. Mornhinweg as head coach is something John Clayton has raised as a possibility. It's something we should keep in mind. Mornhinweg was with Mora on the 49ers beginning in 1997.

I do think Jed York wants to reconnect with the 49ers' past. Getting back to the West Coast offense would represent a step in that direction. Hiring Mornhinweg would not invigorate the fan base, but he would be an offensive-minded coach with ties to more successful 49ers seasons. He would not threaten the 49ers' current power structure. That could be important to York.


CC from Baltimore writes: I just think you have something against the Rams or NFC West. I don't remember you saying anything when the Chargers were 8-8. This is just another knee-jerk reaction to something that has happened how many times in the history of the NFL? Three. Get over it.

Mike Sando: I don't remember saying anything about the Chargers in 2008, either, but that is probably because I do not write about the AFC West. I don't see anything wrong with the Rams winning the NFC West with an 8-8 record, but it is unfortunate for the NFC West's showcase game to feature teams with losing records.

On San Diego, remember that the 2008 Chargers won their final four games. That team scored 93 points in its final two games. The Rams have scored 75 points in their last four. Both were 8-8, but that Chargers team beat Indianapolis in the playoffs. If the Rams beat Seattle, they'll likely draw New Orleans in the wild-card round. Beating the Saints would silence the criticisms of the NFC West, for sure.


Richard from Queen Creek, Ariz., writes: Hey Mike, like everyone else, love the blog. As a looooongtime Niners fan, suffering through this season was as painful as I remember. That being said, I believe a silver lining may be in sight, albeit a slightly tarnished one.

If I understand the draft order rules right, San Francisco could end up with the second overall pick in the 2011 draft! This may take a bit, but bear with me.

If (big if, but here we go) the 49ers lose to Arizona while Denver, Cincy and Buffalo all win, the 49ers and those teams would be 5-11. Cleveland, Dallas and Detroit could also be 5-11. The 49ers would win (lose?) the tiebreaker based on opponents' strength of schedule. Am I right on this? If so, would they risk another high draft pick on a QB such a Andrew Luck, Gabbert, or Jake Locker?

Mike Sando: This is fun as long as you're not taking this parlay to Vegas, OK? I've gone through the scenario. Add Houston to the list of teams that would have to lose in Week 17. The following things would have to happen for the 49ers to emerge with the second overall choice, provided the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker still favored the 49ers:
  • Denver beats San Diego to finish 5-11
  • Cincinnati wins at Baltimore to finish 5-11
  • Buffalo wins at the New York Jets to finish 5-11
  • Arizona wins at San Francisco to finish 6-10
  • Cleveland beats Pittsburgh to finish 6-10
  • Dallas wins at Philadelphia to finish 6-10
  • Detroit beats Minnesota to finish 6-10
  • Houston loses to Jacksonville to finish 5-11

That scenario would leave Buffalo, Denver, Houston, Cincinnati and San Francisco with 5-11 records. Carolina would be the only team with a worse record. If all that happened and the 49ers emerged with the No. 2 overall choice, sure, I could see them taking the top-rated quarterback.


Jesse from Pleasanton, Calif., writes: A quarterback question for Seattle next season. Mike, what do you think the chances are Seattle will look to pursue Kyle Orton (if avaliable) this offseason? He is a very underrated QB and familar with Jeremy Bates and his offensive system. With a win Sunday, Seattle would be looking at drafting possibly the fourth- or fifth-best QB in next year's draft during round one if they choose that route. Wouldn't a play for Orton make more sense?

Mike Sando: Orton and Bates were never together in Denver. Quite a few people think they were together there. Bates left Denver for USC after the 2008 season. Bates left Denver in January 2009. The Broncos added Orton in February 2009. I do think adding Orton or another veteran quarterback makes sense. We'll need to see what happens with Matt Hasselbeck.

Reinforcing the quarterback position in free agency could give Seattle flexibility in the draft. I still think the team needs to consider drafting one.


Mike from St. Louis writes: Sando, love the NFC West blog, and the whole blog idea in general, so thanks to you and ESPN for keeping this up. I have a question on MVP, and yes it is probably a little biased since I am from Saint Louis. But when the MVP voters assess a player's value, what exactly are they looking for in that particular player in respect to other weapons on the team?

Tom Brady and Michael Vick have been the front-runners thus far (maybe after Tuesday night it might be a little more clear). Brady gets points for not having a superstar cast like Vick. My question is, Sam Bradford's name does not get brought up at all in conversation, understanding that his team could finish below .500, but in terms of pure value to a team, doesn't he stack up well? Brady has better weapons to throw to and New England has proven it could win with Matt Cassel, and Vick has tons of weapons.

Again, maybe it is a stretch, especially since he is a rookie and the MVP sometimes goes to those who have been in the league or on dominating teams, but if football is the ultimate team sport, then how can one player on a dominant team stand out over others? Thanks for taking the question.

Mike Sando: Thanks for the support. The production has to be there and the winning usually has to be there. I think there's a baseline for production that prevents, say, the 24th-rated passer from contending (Bradford is No. 24 in rating). He is 18th in touchdown passes and 13th in passing yards. The MVP would usually have to be closer to setting the pace in the key statistical categories.

I hear what you're saying on Bradford. He has been more valuable than most this season. There just hasn't been enough production or team success to separate him.


Justin from Tucson, Ariz., writes: What are the chances the Cardinals pick up Mike Singletary as their defensive coordinator?

Mike Sando: I would think nil. Singletary has never been a coordinator at any level and he has no ties to Ken Whisenhunt.

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