NFC West: Dave Wannstedt

Three quick thoughts after reading Eric Branch's piece suggesting San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh sees himself in quarterback Alex Smith:
  • The numbers Branch presents are interesting. The chart below reproduces them. The stats compare Harbaugh's first seven NFL seasons with Smith's first six seasons. Harbaugh played for better teams in Chicago under Mike Ditka and Dave Wannstedt. His 35-30 starting record reflects as much. But the raw stats are remarkably similar. Smith has played in an era friendlier to the passing game.
  • Harbaugh has nothing to lose from bringing back Smith for one season while grooming rookie Colin Kaepernick. If Smith fails to impress, what's new? If Smith impresses, Harbaugh has succeeded in the short term without compromising long-term plans. Either way, Harbaugh is just getting started. He has a five-year contract and everyone knows this is a transition season, particularly with the lockout.
  • Smith still generates groans from a large contingent of 49ers fans, including Patrick, who pointed out Branch's piece to me on Facebook. I get it, but it's helpful to grasp the difference between signing Smith for one season and committing to him. One year does not constitute a commitment. It constitutes a low-risk bet during a lockout that is complicating efforts to seek viable alternatives.

Now, on to the chart. Harbaugh put up much better numbers after leaving the Bears, earning Pro Bowl honors one season. He had 79 touchdown passes with 61 interceptions with Indianapolis, Baltimore and San Diego. But his starting record after leaving Chicago was only 31-44. Quarterbacks are hugely important, but football is still a team sport.

Miami at Arizona: Dolphins DNA profile

September, 14, 2008
9/14/08
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals can claim their first 2-0 start since 1991 by beating a reconfigured Dolphins team at University of Phoenix Stadium today. The Dolphins were one of the more active teams in free agency as they sought to recover from a 1-15 record last season.

Those interested in taking a closer look at the Dolphins can pick up a roided-out roster with enough information to last until kickoff, and then some. The Dolphins have only 20 of their own draft choices on the 53-man roster, tied for the fewest in the league and 6.2 fewer than average. That includes seven players drafted under current coach Tony Sparano, five drafted under previous coach Cam Cameron, six drafted under Nick Saban and two survivors from the Dave Wannstedt era (Yeremiah Bell and Vernon Carey).

The Dolphins' 53-man roster features 25 players drafted by other organizations, four more than any team in the league and 7.4 more than the league average.

Led by rookie No. 1 overall choice Jake Long at left tackle, the Dolphins are very young on offense. Only the Packers were younger on offense heading into games today. The Dolphins' defensive players are eighth-oldest on average.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFC WEST SCOREBOARD