NFC West: Fritz Shurmur
I'll continue with a look at his plans for the San Francisco 49ers, who hold the No. 7 overall choice.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Kiper's give: There were a lot of comments questioning why I could see my No. 1 overall Big Board player dropping this far on draft day. But consider the history: in 1987, I had Rod Woodson rated similarly, and he fell to No. 10 overall. In 1989, Deion Sanders was far and away the best athlete on the board -- he fell to No. 5. Champ Bailey was my best athlete and the top corner available in the 1999 draft, and he fell to No. 7. At this position, it simply happens, and San Fran should be happy if it does. Peterson is an immense talent. He checked in at 219 pounds and ran a 4.34 40-time in Indy. Enough said.
Sando's take: Yes, elite cornerbacks do tend last longer on draft day. I recall Mike Holmgren once saying his former defensive coordinator, Fritz Shurmur, only cared about front-seven players when drafting for defense. The drafts Kiper singled out -- 1987, 1989 and 1999 -- featured consensus No. 1 overall quarterbacks at the top. Vinny Testaverde went first in 1987. Troy Aikman followed in 1989. Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith went 1-2-3 in 1999. The current draft class does not yet have a consensus No. 1 overall choice. That could make it easier for a non-quarterback to threaten for the top choice. The 49ers would be thrilled, in my view, if Peterson were there for them at No. 7.
Ray Ratto of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers president Jed York was fibbing when he said he wanted to hire a strong general manager to run the team. Ratto: "Lies are like money, you see. When you spend one, it better be for something valuable, and making people think you want to divorce yourself from the football side without actually doing so is a wasted lie. A good lie is feigning non-interest in Jim Harbaugh if he wants that news kept quiet. That’s a tactical lie with known benefits. This was not. This was a smokescreen for Jed York’s benefit, so he could look for a moment like someone who understood the magnitude of the problem while all the time deciding he was the solution to it."
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers fell short when they hired Baalke. Cohn: "Jed rushed through this process just as he rushed through the disastrous hiring Mike Singletary, the joke head coach Jed subsequently needed to fire for not comprehending how to be a head coach. An owner who knows how to act like an owner interviews multiple candidates from winning teams. The operative phrase is “winning teams.” People from winning teams have a lot to offer."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Baalke and Mike Lombardi were finalists for the GM job.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains why he thinks the Rams should have given Steven Jackson more carries against Seattle. Miklasz: "Jim Hanifan and Rick Venturi also pointed out that when the Rams put the tight end in motion to attack Seattle's smaller defensive end (Chris Clemons), Jackson had two runs that picked up nearly 20 yards. Seattle likes to flip Clemons to the open side, away from the tight end. So the answer to that is to motion your tight end over to Clemons' side and ram him. Makes sense to me. Look, you can dismiss my questioning of this as the worthless whining of an idiot sportswriter. But I believe Coach Hanifan has established credibility. His evaluations of an NFL running game should be taken seriously."
Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says the Rams need to work on their inside run game.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch examines Pat Shurmur's candidacy for the Browns' head coaching job. Thomas: "Shurmur has never worked directly with Holmgren, but he got to know him as an assistant coach at Michigan State while his uncle, the late Fritz Shurmur, was on Mike Holmgren's Green Bay Packers staff in the mid 1990s. In addition, Pat Shurmur was on Andy Reid's staff in Philadelphia from 1999 through 2008. There's even more familiarity with the Browns, because Shurmur, Holmgren, Reid and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo all are represented by the same agent -- Bob LaMonte. Another LaMonte client is Browns general manager Tom Heckert, who was in the Philadelphia front office during eight of Shurmur's 10 seasons with the Eagles."
Also from Thomas: a look at Sam Bradford's rookie season.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coaches deserve scrutiny.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Cardinals players are bracing for a different offseason, one in which they could be locked out by team owners. Center Lyle Sendlein: "I just think everyone will have to have a backup plan for working out. It’s our job. If you’re not going to be working out you might as well not come to camp. If you’re not doing something, somebody else is. That’s how I think of it."
Also from Urban: a look at the Cardinals' roster by position, with contract status and other details. Urban: "The problem is that the labor deal might not be done for a few months. The free agency period might have to be a very quick (Three weeks? Four weeks?) time frame late in the summer. There is no question until that CBA is figured out (and when), it is a complicated offseason."
John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Hasselbeck split reps in practice Tuesday as the Seahawks prepared to face New Orleans.
Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle updates Seahawks-related roster moves. Mathews: "Both guard Chester Pitts (head) and tight end Chris Baker (hip) have been placed on season-ending injured reserve."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says it's easy for the Seahawks to adopt an us-against-the-world mentality as they head into the playoffs with a 7-9 record.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Marshawn Lynch, who played a leading role in the Seahawks' playoff-clinching victory Sunday. O'Neil: "Lynch led Seattle with 573 yards rushing, marking the fifth consecutive season the Seahawks didn't have anyone gain 1,000 yards. Detroit is the only other team in the league that has gone that long without a millennium man. But on Sunday night, Lynch helped Seattle find its stride at precisely the moment the Seahawks needed to run the ball more than anything. Held to 22 yards rushing in the first half, Seattle racked up 119 in the second as Lynch didn't put the game on his back so much as he tucked it under his arm and refused to let go."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Raheem Brock's father played for the Seahawks in the mid-1980s and was in attendance when Brock collected 2.5 sacks against the Rams. Brock: "It felt great to play in front of my dad. For my dad and my whole family to see this atmosphere and the 12th Man, and for us to go out there and play like we did, it’s a great feeling. Having my dad here just gets my adrenalin pumping even more. Just to know that he was going to be in the building and I was going to get to play in front of him, it had me pumped all week."
- Mike Holmgren is running the Browns. Any coach he hires will almost certainly run a West Coast-type offense. The offense Holmgren ran in Green Bay and Seattle is very similar to the one Andy Reid has run in Philadelphia. Shurmur worked under Reid before coming to the Rams. Holmgren trusts Reid as much or more than any head coach in the league. What Reid says about Shurmur will carry weight with Holmgren.
- Shurmur's uncle, Fritz Shurmur, worked on Holmgren's staff as defensive coordinator in Green Bay (and briefly in Seattle, until Fritz Shurmur died). Holmgren and Fritz Shurmur were close.
Would Holmgren hire as Browns head coach an assistant with only two full seasons as an offensive coordinator? I could see him going that route. Reid was never a coordinator. Holmgren could provide support. Both Holmgren and Shurmur have worked closely with quarterbacks in the same basic offense.
I've wondered whether Holmgren would be able to land a high-profile coach to work under him. Holmgren wields all the important power. A high-profile coach would presumably want some of that power. Holmgren, of course, wants to coach. I will not be surprised if he winds up coaching the Browns.
Hiring Shurmur or a similar candidate might allow Holmgren to influence the offense without having to put in the hours associated with coaching. Just a thought.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Johnson was a terrific coach long before making a name for himself nationally as the Eagles' defensive coordinator. He spent eight seasons with the Cardinals and one with the Seahawks, among other stops, before landing with Philadelphia in 1999.
Johnson's death from cancer Tuesday at age 68 robbed the NFL of a likeable man. He was linebackers coach for Seattle in 1998, my first season as an NFL beat reporter. Johnson was generous with his insight and seemed to enjoy helping others learn about the game.
The Seahawks watched Johnson join Andy Reid's inaugural Eagles staff as coordinator in 1999 before they knew Mike Holmgren's longtime defensive coordinator in Green Bay, Fritz Shurmur, would die of cancer before coaching a single game in Seattle.
With Johnson in Philadelphia, Holmgren went through four defensive coordinators during his tenure. A team could have done worse than to have Holmgren running the offense and Johnson running the defense.
Johnson: "It was around 1994 or '95, when I was with the Colts and we were playing against San Francisco with Steve Young running the West Coast offense, releasing receivers all the time, guys getting by you. The idea was, 'Don't let these people dictate to you. You have to put more pressure [on the quarterback],' and every year we tried to figure out how to do that."
Johnson found ways to do it more effectively than most. He will be missed. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, who worked under Johnson in Philadelphia, credited Johnson for positively impacting his coaching career.
Spagnuolo: "My wife Maria and I are deeply saddened to hear of Jim's passing. He was a dear friend and a special person. Our prayers and thoughts go out to his wife Vicki and their family. Jim meant the world to me, both personally and professionally. I am very blessed to have had the privilege to work for him and with him. The NFL has lost a good man."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's deep roots in the game. Shurmur's uncle, the late Fritz Shurmur, was the Rams' defensive coordinator years ago. Thomas: "With [Fritz] Shurmur as defensive coordinator, the 1985 Rams registered a league-high 56 sacks. The '85 and '86 clubs both finished fifth in the NFL in total defense. Fritz's signature game with the Rams may have been a 21-7 wild-card playoff victory over Philadelphia in 1989."
Also from Thomas: a bigger-picture look at the Rams under new head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
Turf Show Times' Tackle Box sizes up the Rams' situation at middle linebacker. I'm not seeing many likely solutions in free agency. Perhaps the Rams will prove otherwise.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind uses Chuck Cecil's promotion as Titans defensive coordinator as an opportunity to revisit Cecil's brief but memorable career with the Phoenix Cardinals. He links to a memorable 1993 Sports Illustrated article with quotes from prominent people supporting tactics that drew a $30,000 fine and would never be tolerated now. One of his targets, tight end Ron Middleton, put it this way: "It was just great lick. That's the nature of the game. Guys dream of licks like that."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are looking at right tackles, free safeties, quarterbacks and fullbacks. Pass rushers are a given. Barrows also addresses whether the 49ers would have interest in the Cardinals' Karlos Dansby. Barrows: "The 49ers always have held two Cardinals defenders, Dansby and safety Adrian Wilson, in high esteem. The problem is that every other team holds Dansby in high esteem, too, meaning there would be plenty of competition. You would also have to wonder whether Dansby would want to play second fiddle to Patrick Willis. All that being said, a Willis-Dansby inside linebacking corps would be pretty special." I think the Cardinals need to keep Dansby.
Florida Danny of Niners Nation takes a statistical look at the 49ers' defense and special teams. He says the defense was better under Mike Nolan than Mike Singletary. I say this: The 49ers' opponents averaged 9.1 fourth-quarter points per game when Nolan was head coach and 4.3 fourth-quarter points per game when Singletary was head coach. The number under Nolan was 6.8 if we excluded the Eagles' 23-point fourth quarter. Of course, if we excluded that fourth quarter, Nolan might have kept his job a little longer.
Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog links to a few mock drafts, with an eye toward the Seahawks. A few people seem to think the team might draft Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree. Staton: "Another possibility is quarterback. Matt Stafford is very likely to go to Detroit first overall, but if he did fall to the Seahawks would be a steal as a long-term investment to eventually replace Hasselbeck." The long term isn't very long when you draft a quarterback fourth overall. Players drafted that early need to play sooner rather than later.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Martin from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Mike, I have been a diehard 49ers fan since I was a very young. I have enjoyed some great times and as of late, I have suffered with my team's ineptitude. It appears with the hiring of Mike Singletary (couldn't be happier) that we are on the right path. With Singletary taking the reins for good, it appears that Martz is on his way out. Which means another year with another offensive coordinator. Do you think this is a good idea? You need consistency, and if we change OC every year, how can we achieve success?
As the past 49er teams achieve success with a short passing game in place of a power running game, which is the opposite of Singletary's philosophy. My question is, do you think a marriage of the two philosophies much like the Washington Redskins offense with the West Coast passing and a power running game work with the Niners? Who do you see as possible candidates for offensive coordinator and will they stay longer than one year?
Mike Sando: All things being equal, the 49ers probably would have hired an offensive head coach who called the plays. That would have provided protection against the coordinator instability that has hurt the franchise in recent seasons.
All things were not equal, however, after Singletary led the 49ers to four victories in their final five games. Singletary's strong leadership, backed by the 49ers' on-field improvement, made him the only choice the 49ers considered for the job.
If Singletary determines Martz isn't a good fit for his offense, he needs to make the change now. Yes, such a move would come at the expense of continuity, but these are the breaks. Singletary might get only one chance to set up his staff the right way. Now is the time to get that done. Singletary needs in place an offensive staff he trusts, one that shares his philosophy. Singletary and Martz made things work over the second half of this season, but their philosophical differences might be harder to reconcile over the long haul.
The fact that the 49ers were willing to risk continued instability at offensive coordinator speaks to a couple of things.
One, 49ers management wasn't onboard when former coach Mike Nolan hired Martz (we know this because general manager Scot McCloughan said as much before Nolan made the hire).
Two, Singletary proved enough over the second half of the season to make his hiring worth [in the 49ers' eyes] whatever staff fallout might ensue.
Singletary's rise is a great story at this point. Things were not looking good for him after his memorable debut game against the Seahawks. My criticisms of Singletary then related to his unstable behavior during and after that game. Singletary later acknowledged that he needed to project himself differently. He did that, and it worked. He deserves credit for that.
Unlike Nolan, who never seemed to admit an error, Singletary worked to get better. Had he continued in the vein he displayed in that first game, I would still be questioning that behavior and the 49ers would probably be looking for that offensive-minded head coach.
As for coordinator candidates, I don't have a firm list. I would think former Rams coach Scott Linehan might be a good fit. If the team goes for an unproven coordinator, that would seem like quite a risk. It's not like the head coach could take over the offense in a pinch.