NFC West: Gus Bradley

Willis/ShortsGetty Images, USA Today SportsPatrick Willis' 49ers meet Cecil Shorts' Jaguars in the second NFL game in London this season.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The San Francisco 49ers have righted the ship after a shaky start. The Jacksonville Jaguars are still sinking.

The teams going in opposite directions will meet Sunday in London's Wembley Stadium in the second of two NFL games being played in the United Kingdom this season.

The 49ers (5-2) have won four games in a row -- and scored at least 31 points in each of those games -- since starting the season 1-2. The Jaguars are 0-7 and are the first team since the 1984 Houston Oilers to lose their first seven games by double digits.

That makes Sunday's game look like a giant mismatch, yet the Jaguars were 28-point underdogs to the Denver Broncos two weeks ago but lost by only 16 points -- and trailed by just two at halftime. Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco and 49ers reporter Bill Williamson break down the matchup:

DiRocco: The 49ers used the read-option the most they have all season against Tennessee in Week 7. Will that be a bigger part of the offense again as the season progresses?

Williamson: Mike, I think it is going to be a week-to-week situation. The 49ers used the read-option seven times last week after using it a total of nine in the first six games. The 49ers saw they could exploit Tennessee's defense using it. I think we will see it again, but probably in more challenging games and only in certain situations, when the 49ers are confident it will work. We could maybe see it some in London, but I have a feeling it will be more like the first six weeks of the season.

Mike, if the 49ers do run a lot of read-option offense, do you think the Jaguars can handle it?

DiRocco: Probably not. The Jaguars are last in the NFL in rushing defense (153.3 yards per game) and have given up a league-high nine rushing touchdowns. The defense's biggest problem against the rush is that it has given up a lot of explosive plays. Jacksonville has allowed an NFL-worst 10 rushing plays of 20 or more yards. Stopping the read-option is assignment football and the Jaguars' ends have not been as disciplined as needed. For example, Oakland's Terrelle Pryor ran for 50 yards in Week 2, including a 27-yard run in which the entire defensive front bit on the inside fake.

Bill, the Jaguars have had trouble with tight ends all season and now they face Vernon Davis. Who is the last team that's shut him down how?

Williamson: Davis hurt his hamstring late in the Seattle game in Week 2. He was pretty well shut down in that game before getting hurt. He missed Week 3 against the Colts and then came back against the Rams. He's been good and he is healthy. If the Jaguars have trouble against tight ends, the 49ers will exploit it. Davis and quarterback Colin Kaepernick have a great chemistry going this season. The 49ers' coaching staff is great at exploiting weaknesses.

Mike, do you seeing this being a big problem for Jacksonville?

DiRocco: Absolutely. Tight ends have combined to catch 42 passes for 401 yards and five touchdowns against Jacksonville this season. Depending on the defense called, the Jaguars will either have a safety or linebacker on the tight end. At times, the job has fallen to middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, who is very good against the run but not fast or quick enough in pass coverage. The Jaguars won't use the approach New England did against New Orleans standout Jimmy Graham -- the Patriots put their best corner, Aqib Talib, on him -- so I'd expect Davis to have chances to exploit some matchups with linebackers on Sunday.

Speaking of exploitation, the Anquan Boldin trade looked like a steal in Week 1. How is it regarded now?

Williamson: Still, unabashed thievery. Sure, Boldin had 13 catches in the first week and a combined 21 catches in the following six. But the 49ers would be in trouble without Boldin. He had three circus catches at Tennessee and he's been the team's only reliable wide receiver with Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham out. The 49ers would not be 5-2 without Boldin.

Mike, do you think the Jaguars will keep him in check Sunday?

DiRocco: The Jaguars have done a solid job the past two weeks of playing umbrella coverage and making sure they don't give up deep throws. That does leave the short and intermediate routes open, though, and that's where Boldin thrives. He's a physical receiver and the Jaguars don't yet have the kind of personnel to match up with him. Coach Gus Bradley wants to build a secondary similar to the one he helped build in Seattle, which includes big, physical corners. The Jaguars still have work to do there, although rookie third-round pick Dwayne Gratz (5-foot-11, 201 pounds) is finally back from his high-ankle sprain.

Gus Bradley and Russell WilsonGetty ImagesWill Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, the ex-Seattle defensive coordinator, find a way to stop Seahawks QB Russell Wilson?
This is as close to a David versus Goliath matchup as you can get in the NFL, but it will take more than a slingshot for the Jacksonville Jaguars to knock over the Seattle Seahawks Sunday at CenturyLink Field. However, it marks the return to Seattle for Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, the former defensive coordinator for the Seahawks who left at the end of last season to take the Jacksonville job.

Terry Blount: Michael, no one knows the ins and outs of the Seattle defense better than Gus Bradley. He's the man who built a defense that many people consider the best in the league. Do you think his knowledge of the Seahawks' schemes and players will help the Jaguars this week?

Michael DiRocco: Bradley’s knowledge of the personnel and their strengths and weaknesses will certainly help, especially when it comes to the secondary. He also knows the best way to attack the defense and should be able to school offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch on tendencies. With that being said, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are aware of that and will make some changes this week to counter. The bottom line is this: It doesn’t matter if the Jaguars know exactly what’s coming if they don’t have the personnel to stop it or fail to execute properly. Right now the team just doesn’t have a lot of talent, and the talent the Jaguars do have on offense is either banged up (Maurice Jones-Drew, Marcedes Lewis) or suspended (Justin Blackmon). Plus, the offensive line has struggled, giving up 11 sacks in two games. Jacksonville has scored just one touchdown in two weeks because of those issues and poor execution. I’ve always thought knowing what’s coming on any given play is overrated, anyway. Everybody knew Nebraska was going to run the option but they couldn’t stop it. Sometimes defenses played it perfectly and still got gashed for big yards. Why? The Huskers had better personnel.

Terry, Russell Wilson has had slow starts the first two weeks of the season. Is there a reason for that, and what can he or offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell do to fix it?

Blount: I think they will fix it, Michael. The main thing that has slowed Wilson down has been a slew of penalties -- false start, illegal formations, illegal procedure and holding. There have been several times in the first two games where Wilson was driving the team down the field, only to have the progress halted by penalties that backed the team up. They won’t eliminate all the holding calls, of course, but I expect to see a lot less of the careless penalties this weekend. Pete Carroll is fed up with it and made it a point of emphasis this week. But Wilson also has missed throws earlier in games that he usually makes, something I doubt will continue.

Michael, statistically speaking, this is a huge mismatch with the worst offense (Jacksonville) going against the best defense (Seattle). What could make this a close game?

DiRocco: The biggest factor will be turnovers. The Jaguars would have to get at least three, and most of them would need to be in Seahawks' territory. This offense isn’t going to be able to put together 70- or 80-yard drives against that defense, especially if Jones-Drew is limited because of his ankle injury. The Jaguars will need some short fields with which to work. And they need to capitalize on those turnovers with touchdowns. Field goals won’t get it done. If the Jaguars can get 14 or more points off turnovers, they’ll have a chance. That’s not going to be easy, though. The Seahawks have forced 25 turnovers at home since the start of the 2012 season and their plus-18 turnover margin in that span leads the NFL. That means they’ve turned it over only seven times in nine home games.

Terry, the 12th man set a world record against San Francisco the other night. Is their effect on opposing teams overrated?

Blount: I used to think it was a bit overblown, but I don’t now. There’s absolutely no question that crowd was a factor in Seattle’s victory Sunday night against San Francisco. It’s just electric in the stadium. The noise level drives the opposing offense crazy and clearly limits its effectiveness. When the Seahawks weren’t very good, the crowd probably wasn’t as big a deal, but this city has gone Seahawks crazy and the team feeds off it.

Michael, Bradley inherited a difficult situation in Jacksonville. How do you think he's handling things so far and what's the general feeling about him there?

DiRocco: Bradley has been consistent in terms of staying upbeat and positive, and that’s just the way he has to handle things in 2013. This is not a very talented team. It’s not going to win many games. Bradley knows that. The GM knows that. The smart fans know that, too. He’s concentrating on laying the foundation for what everyone hopes will only be a three-year rebuilding project. His biggest task this season will be making sure he doesn’t lose the team as the losses pile up, and keeps the players focused on improving. So far, so good.

Terry, do you think it's possible the Seahawks could get caught looking ahead to the Texans game next week in Houston?

Blount: Pete Carroll talked about this Monday, saying the Seahawks look at each game as a championship opportunity. Everyone says that, of course, but I think it works for this team. They realize they are in position to possibly win a championship this season, but one careless slip-up could cost them home-field advantage in the playoffs. And in this case, I think the coaches will emphasize how familiar Bradley is with the way the Seahawks do things, so they don’t get caught off guard.

Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley has an odd situation this weekend. He has to try to beat the juggernaut he helped build.

For four seasons, Bradley was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, transforming the defensive unit into what now is one of the best in the NFL.

Bradley opted to leave his stellar creation to take over as the head coach of a franchise in disarray. Does he have any regrets?

“People ask me that a lot,’’ Bradley said on a conference call Wednesday with Seahawks reporters. “I’m just happy for those guys. I’m not going to stop caring for those guys up there. They are very important to me. They gave me a lot and I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now if it wasn’t for those guys.

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsLike how he did with the Seattle defense, coach Gus Bradley is trying to keep things positive with the struggling Jaguars.
“I hold them in high regard. But this is a new step. I’m excited about this opportunity. We’re not where we want to be yet, but it doesn’t stop us from trying to get there as fast as we can.”

Bradley is as upbeat a football coach as you’ll ever see, which should help in guiding a team that likely will take its lumps this season.

“We’re trying to build something special,’’ Bradley said. “I’ve had a unique opportunity with our staff to really revamp our culture. It gives me the opportunity to share our message.

“We’re seeing our guys get better. We’re still making some mistakes in our growth, but I really like our guys, their attitude and their whole mentality.”

Jacksonville enters Sunday's game at Seattle a 19-point underdog, partially because of the defense that Bradley guided and the players he developed. He will watch those players from the other side of the field for the first time on Sunday.

“It is weird,” Bradley said. “I watched the film [of the Seahawks defense] with my offensive staff and said, ‘What is Deuce doing there? He can’t do that.’”

Deuce is the nickname Bradley gave Seattle Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas. Bradley first wanted to call Thomas, “Earl the Pearl,” but realized there’s only one of those --former NBA great Earl Monroe.

“But you can be No. 2,’’ Bradley told Thomas, so “Deuce” was born. Bradley also said if he had another son, he wanted to name him Deuce, which says a lot about his relationship with Thomas.

“Deuce is one of the guys I really took to and think the world of,” Bradley said. “To see him playing at that level is great for him. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s really on it.

“It looks like he's playing a little closer to the line of scrimmage, which shows he has a lot of confidence in the guys on the perimeter. He’s just around the ball a lot more.”

Thomas was asked how excited he was when Bradley got the head coaching job at Jacksonville

“I wasn’t excited,” Thomas said smiling. “I wanted him to stay here, but that goes along with being in the NFL.

“It’s gonna be weird [Sunday] because of the relationship we built. I wouldn’t say he was a father to me, but he was like an uncle. He just always believed in me.”

Seattle cornerback Walter Thurmond feels the same way.

“When I was going through all my injuries, Gus never gave up on me,” Thurmond said. “I really appreciated that. There are so many guys on this defense he made better, including me.”

Bradley takes a lot of pride in seeing players like Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and others become some of the most respected players at their positions in the NFL.

“Those guys are playing really well,” Bradley said. "Dan [Quinn, the new defensive coordinator] and his guys have really got them flying around. They’re impressive.”

[+] EnlargeWalter Thurmond
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson"There are so many guys on this defense he made better, including me," Seattle CB Walter Thurmond said of Gus Bradley.
Quinn worked with Bradley for two seasons as Seattle’s defensive line coach before becoming the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll brought Quinn back when Bradley left, a way to have a smooth transition with someone who knew Seattle’s defensive system. Quinn has the same positive coaching style that Bradley shares with Carroll.

“Pete and I are very similar in many ways, but there are other ways we’re different,” Bradley said. “You probably could come [to Jacksonville] and see a lot of similarities, but some things are different in trying to stay true to who I am.

“It’s important to be genuine with our guys. I try to be upbeat and positive. To go through this process that way is important to me. Our guys have really responded well.”

Carroll hated to lose Bradley, but knew it was only a matter of time before Bradley became an NFL head coach.

“Gus is such a dynamic personality,” Carroll said. “He’s loaded with the mentality, the mindset, the communication skills and the sensitivity it takes to deal with people and in all areas. There was no question he was preparing to do this and he was ready to do this.

“I couldn’t have been more excited for him. When coaches first come here to join our staff, I tell them, ‘I hope I can help you be the best you can be and get whatever you want in coaching.’ The whole process is preparing them for it if that’s where they want to go. So it’s great when a guy gets the opportunity.”

Bradley basically is starting from scratch at Jacksonville. The Jaguars were 2-14 last season and have started this year 0-2.

“It’s been a new challenge for me,” Bradley said. “I feel my position here is to try to help everybody be at their best. I try to give our coaches an environment where they can excel, and that’s the same thing we’re doing with the players.”

The Seahawks went 5-11 the year Bradley arrived, but improved to an 11-5 playoff team last season. Does Bradley use that as an example of how things can change?

“We don’t talk too much about that,’’ Bradley said. “Probably the last thing the players want to hear is about Seattle. For me, I reflect on times through my career. I was at Fort Lewis College and we got beat by New Mexico Highlands 70-50.

“Talk about taking it on the chin. It goes back to that when you’re starting something. You take those things to learn and grow from it.”

That’s the message Bradley is hoping to convey to his young team. He believes they’re embracing it.

“That’s what I like about our team right now,” Bradley said. “It hurts them when we don’t come out with a victory. It really bothers them, but their attitude the next day is great. That’s where we have the opportunity to get better.”

Sunday could be one of those take-it-on-the-chin moments for the Jaguars and Bradley. Even if that happens, Bradley can walk away thinking, “I helped build that.” Now he’s trying to do it again.

Team-by-team breakdown on waiver awards

September, 2, 2013
The NFL awarded 45 players to other teams via waiver claims immediately following the mandatory reduction to 53-man roster limits Saturday.

Most of the players probably will not play leading roles for their new teams. Some could develop over time.

We have recently considered whether having a high number of released players awarded to other teams via waivers might reflect well on a team's roster strength. The thinking is that stronger teams release better players overall, and weaker teams find more of those players appealing. This sounds logical and appears true in some cases even though the overall numbers suggest this isn't necessarily the case.

In any event, the chart below ranks teams by the number of released players awarded to other teams via waivers immediately following the reduction to 53 players. A league-high five players released by the Green Bay Packers immediately found homes elsewhere via waivers. The Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles were next with four apiece.

On the flip side, Kansas City and Jacksonville each received a league-high seven players off waivers from other teams. Cleveland was next with six, followed by New England (four), the New York Jets (three) and four teams with two apiece: Oakland, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Arizona.

The total number of claims submitted exceeds the number of players awarded because some players were claimed more than once. I do not yet have the total number of claims submitted. The numbers I've referenced here pertain only to players awarded via waivers.

Note that Seattle's strength in the secondary shines through. The Seahawks were the only team to have two of the defensive backs they released awarded to other teams via waivers. Ron Parker went to Kansas City. Winston Guy went to Jacksonville. Another former Seahawks defensive back, Will Blackmon, was not eligible for waivers when Seattle terminated his contract. The Jaguars signed him as well. Yet another Seattle defensive back, Antoine Winfield, was expected to retire following his release from the Seahawks.

Connections came into play with those waiver claims. The Chiefs' general manager, John Dorsey, worked with Seahawks GM John Schneider in Green Bay. They could be looking for similar players in some cases. Guy and Blackmon join a Jaguars team featuring former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as head coach.

The Seattle Seahawks arguably had the NFL's best secondary even without Walter Thurmond factoring as a healthy contributor.

Thurmond's strong performances through training camp and his work with the first-team defense Monday make an outstanding secondary even better. But what might a possible Thurmond ascension mean for incumbent starter Brandon Browner?

Thurmond, at his healthy best, could be the better corner. Browner's uncommon size (6-foot-4 and 220 pounds) makes him valuable as well, particularly when the Seahawks face physical receivers such as the San Francisco 49ers' Anquan Boldin. Browner has even covered 49ers tight end Vernon Davis at times.

Thurmond also has the ability to defend the slot, where Antoine Winfield is currently the first option. Meanwhile, young corners Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, Byron Maxwell, Ron Parker and Will Blackmon are fighting for positioning on the roster. Not all will earn spots.

I see a couple of key considerations for Seattle at this position:
  • Maintain long-term options: Starting corner Richard Sherman is signed through 2014. He's on track for a massive payday, but the Seahawks have other considerations in their secondary, including re-signing Earl Thomas. They have already paid strong safety Kam Chancellor. They gave Browner a raise without extending his deal past 2013. What if the Seahawks can't realistically re-sign Sherman? They're going to want other young options at a lower price. Thurmond could be one of them.
  • Maximize short-term value: Seattle won't have room on its roster to keep all its promising young corners. Players further down the depth chart are fighting for roster spots. Perhaps one of them could have trade value near the mandatory reduction to 53-man rosters. Former Seahawks executive John Idzik is the New York Jets' general manager. Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is the Jacksonville Jaguars' head coach. Might they have interest?

Thurmond's injury problems at the University of Oregon allowed the Seahawks to select him in only the fourth round of the 2010 draft. Subsequent injuries have sidelined him for 24 of 32 games over the past two seasons. At this point, it's a big bonus if Thurmond stays healthy through a full season. So far, though, he's looking good.

Thurmond was a starter in 2011. An injury cleared the way for Sherman to replace him. Sherman became one of the NFL's most productive corners. Browner became a starter as well, giving Seattle two big, rangy and physical corners. The combination worked so well that other teams have sought taller corners.

Injuries figure to make some roster decisions more straightforward as the Aug. 31 reduction to 53-man limits approaches. That hasn't happened for the Seahawks at corner, and if Thurmond stays healthy, the team is going to have difficult decisions -- exactly the kind teams like.
We hear quite a bit about NFL coaching trees. Personnel trees can be important, too, as like-minded former associates compete for the same players.

Implications for the latter came to mind Monday when the New York Jets announced Rod Graves' hiring as their senior director of football administration. Graves, the Arizona Cardinals' former long time general manager, will work under new Jets GM John Idzik, an NFC West alum with ties to the Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.

Look around the league and you'll see connections with implications for NFC West personnel departments. The Seahawks in particular could find themselves competing against their former associates:
  • Jets: Idzik, who was involved mostly with contract negotiations during his time with Graves in Arizona, studied personnel more closely under Seahawks GM John Schneider. He has taken what he learned to the Jets.
  • Packers: Green Bay GM Ted Thompson worked with Schneider for the Packers and in Seattle before taking his current job. There is overlap in their approaches to scouting.
  • Titans: GM Ruston Webster worked with Idzik and Schneider in Seattle before taking a job with Tennessee.
  • Chiefs: New Chiefs GM John Dorsey worked with Schneider and Thompson in Green Bay. Again, there is overlap in their approaches to scouting.
  • Jaguars: New coach Gus Bradley's connection to Seattle is via coaching, but it's already clear he's looking for players similar to the ones the Seahawks have acquired on defense, notably at cornerback.
  • Raiders: GM Reggie McKenzie is another member of the Green Bay personnel tree with strong ties to Schneider.

There are surely other connections I've overlooked. Each person brings his own style to the job, of course, but similarities in their thinking can provide a common philosophical foundation. We'll be on the lookout during future drafts and free-agent signing periods for evidence these teams are, at times, interested in similar players.

Elsewhere, note that the San Francisco 49ers lost one of their highest-ranking personnel people this offseason when Tom Gamble left for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Finding next home for 49ers' Alex Smith

February, 19, 2013
In eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Alex Smith has played for three head coaches, seven offensive coordinators and six quarterbacks coaches (seven if you count Pep Hamilton, who helped Jim Hostler coach the position in 2006).

These many associations would seem to increase exponentially the number of likely landing spots for Smith as a free agent or trade candidate this offseason.

A closer look suggests that might not be the case.

Smith's connections with former head coaches Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary would actually deter reunions. Neither would be in position to push for landing Smith, anyway. Nolan's Atlanta Falcons don't need a quarterback.

Former 49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner could potentially need a quarterback in Cleveland. The team's other former Smith-era coordinators wouldn't be in position to help. Mike McCarthy's Green Bay Packers are obviously set at the position. Mike Martz is a color commentator for Fox. Hostler coaches wide receivers for the Joe Flacco-led Baltimore Ravens. Jimmy Raye worked last season as a senior offensive assistant with Tampa Bay. Michael Johnson was out of the NFL.

Hostler and Johnson were also among the Smith-era quarterbacks coaches in San Francisco. Another, Frank Cignetti, coaches the position for the Sam Bradford-led St. Louis Rams. Another, Ted Tollner, is no longer coaching. Another, Jason Michael, coaches tight ends for the Philip Rivers-led San Diego Chargers. Hamilton, meanwhile, is offensive coordinator for the Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis Colts.

Even a run through former position coaches for the 49ers' receivers, tight ends and offensive line turns up more dead ends than fresh leads. Former tight ends coach Pete Hoener coaches the position for the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers. Former line coach Chris Foerster coaches the position for the Robert Griffin III-led Washington Redskins. Another former line coach, George Warhop, is with Turner in Cleveland.

The 49ers' longtime former receivers coach, Jerry Sullivan, coaches the same position for Jacksonville. New Jaguars coach Gus Bradley would be familiar with Smith from his days coordinating the Seattle Seahawks' defense. But Jacksonville would make much greater sense as a landing spot for Smith if the 49ers' current offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, had become the Jaguars' head coach. That had been the expectation until the 49ers' deep playoff run complicated efforts to hire Roman.

There still could be a market for Smith, of course. But in a league built on connections and relationships, it's tough to find many likely to influence where Smith winds up next season. That is partly because the 49ers have kept together their current staff under head coach Jim Harbaugh. The coaches most closely associated with Smith's recent revival remain under contract to the team. That was great for Smith when he was starting, but it won't help him find his next job.

Around the NFC West: Coaching carousel

January, 18, 2013

Thursday was kind to the NFC West.

The Arizona Cardinals found their next head coach in Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

The Seattle Seahawks moved quickly to hire Dan Quinn, their first and only choice as defensive coordinator once the team lost Gus Bradley to Jacksonville. They also were able to keep offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell once the Cardinals' coaching search went away from him.

Bradley's hiring in Jacksonville meant the St. Louis Rams could keep offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who had interviewed for the job. It also meant the San Francisco 49ers wouldn't have to worry about losing offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who would have been a logical candidate to lead the Jaguars.

Two lingering questions persist:
  • What will happen with Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who remains under contract with the team but isn't happy about being passed over for the head coaching job? Mike Jurecki of XTRA Sports 910 AM in Phoenix says Horton felt misled by the Cardinals during the search process. He says Horton and general manager Steve Keim were involved in a heated exchange. Arians and Horton worked together in Pittsburgh. Horton is under contract. Will Arians want to retain an unhappy assistant? Mike Silver reports that Horton will be out and the Cardinals will hire Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles for the job. Stay tuned on this one.
  • Where will the St. Louis Rams' search for a defensive coordinator lead head coach Jeff Fisher? Rob Ryan's name lingers as a possibility, but would the fit be right? Might Fisher promote one of the team's current assistants to the job? Information on this one remains scarce. Assistant coaches Dave McGinnis and Chuck Cecil have been coordinators previously. So has Fisher. That means there's less urgency to hire an experienced coordinator from the outside.

Sando chat scheduled for 1 p.m. ET

January, 17, 2013
The next NFC West chat is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.

Here's the link.

We'll have plenty to discuss: Gus Bradley's departure from the Seattle Seahawks to become the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars; the Arizona Cardinals' interest in offensive coordinators Darrell Bevell (Seattle) and Bruce Arians (Indianapolis) for their head coaching job; where the San Francisco 49ers stand heading into their NFC Championship Game with Atlanta; and whatever else crosses your mind.

In the meantime, I'm putting the finishing touches on a Colin Kaepernick piece, set to publish in the next hour or so. I promise it won't be as long as Kaepernick's touchdown runs.

Around the NFC West: Bradley to Jags

January, 17, 2013

The Jacksonville Jaguars have hired Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as their next head coach.

This move has significant repercussions in the NFC West.

It pushes Seattle into the market for a defensive coordinator while removing what had been considered a likely landing spot for San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. And with Arizona having interviewed Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on Wednesday, it's now possible Seattle will lose both coordinators to head coaching jobs. That would stand as a setback for the Seahawks.

Bradley's hiring also makes the St. Louis Rams much more likely to keep offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who had interviewed for the job in Jacksonville.

The Seahawks had been expecting Bradley to become the next head coach in Philadelphia. Chip Kelly's surprise hiring headed off that scenario. Bradley then interviewed with Jacksonville, but there was still some thought that Roman would get strong consideration. Roman and new Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell were college teammates and roommates.

The 49ers now appear likely to keep together their coaching staff unless Arizona moves on Roman following the 49ers' NFC Championship Game appearance against Atlanta.

Some have asked whether Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. might become the new defensive coordinator in Seattle. I've never heard Norton's name come up as a candidate for coordinator. Former Seattle defensive line coach and assistant head coach Dan Quinn, now the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida, is one potential candidate. There could be others, for sure.

With Bradley heading for the AFC South, here are a few thoughts on other NFC West names in the news:
  • John Idzik, Seattle Seahawks vice president of football administration: Idzik is a finalist to become general manager of the New York Jets. He has been most involved in managing the Seahawks' salary cap. The team enters the offseason with more than $18 million in cap space. The Jets' cap situation is problematic. The GM title usually carries expectations for personnel evaluation. Idzik worked for Arizona and Tampa Bay previously. He has been with Seattle since Tim Ruskell hired him in 2007. More recently, Idzik has worked closely with Seahawks general manager John Schneider with an eye toward developing his personnel evaluation. Idzik was a wide receiver at Dartmouth, graduating with honors in 1982.
  • Darrell Bevell, Seahawks offensive coordinator. Bevell met Wednesday with Cardinals officials regarding their coaching vacancy. There's not much new since we discussed Bevell in relation to the Cardinals earlier in the week. Bevell interviewed with Jacksonville as well. Arizona added Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to its list of candidates. Arians, like Bevell, worked with a successful rookie quarterback in 2012. He also worked previously with Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton when both were with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Horton has interviewed for the head-coaching vacancy, but Arizona has otherwise focused on coaches with backgrounds on offense.
  • Brian Schottenheimer, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator. Schottenheimer was a candidate for the Jaguars' job. He was a finalist one year ago. The Rams have had three offensive coordinators over the past three seasons. They would like to keep Schottenheimer and build continuity over time. The team plans to keep its basic offensive system even if Schottenheimer departs. It's now looking highly likely that Schottenheimer will be back.

Ranking the remaining coaching vacancies

January, 16, 2013
The Chicago Bears' hiring of Marc Trestman as head coach leaves Arizona, Philadelphia and Jacksonville as the final three teams with vacancies heading toward the 2013 season.

Trestman was not a known candidate for any other job. His rather curious hiring should not affect the Cardinals in any way.

A quick look at the known candidates for the Cardinals, Eagles and Jaguars:
  • Arizona: Offensive coordinators Darell Bevell (Seattle), Jay Gruden (Cincinnati) and Todd Haley (Pittsburgh) have reportedly interviewed or will interview. Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton has already interviewed and remains on staff. Andy Reid and Mike McCoy were candidates before taking jobs elsewhere.
  • Eagles: The Eagles have interviewed and/or pursued Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (Seattle), former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, Gruden, McCoy, Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Falcons special-teams coordinator Mike Armstrong, Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, Oregon coach Chip Kelly, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, and then-Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. Did I miss anyone? Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer joked that the Eagles have interviewed "every living male with a visor" to this point.
  • Jaguars: Bradley headed from his Eagles interview to meet with the Jaguars on Wednesday. Bevell and St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer also interviewed. Schottenheimer was a finalist for the job one year ago, but the Jaguars hired Mike Mularkey. Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker interviewed. San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman would be a logical candidate for the job given his success with the 49ers and close ties to new Jaguars general manager David Caldwell, Roman's former college teammate and roommate. The Jaguars were not yet conducting their coaching search when Roman was available for interviews during the window provided before divisional-round games. He remains off-limits during Championship Game week. Armstrong, the Falcons' special-teams coach, has also been mentioned as a candidate. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky sizes up the field.

The chart is an expanded version of previous ones I've produced, designed to show which openings might be most appealing from candidates' perspective. I would order them Philadelphia, Arizona and Jacksonville based on a range of factors, including quarterbacks and ownership.

Around the NFC West: Coaching updates

January, 15, 2013
A quick look around the NFC West coaching landscape:
  • Arizona: The Cardinals are reportedly planning a second interview with Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy as the team searches for a new head coach. Some speculation points to McCoy preferring San Diego for the presence of quarterback Philip Rivers. That seems logical. However, most of the information regarding the candidates appears anonymously. A small number of people are in position to know the details. Most of those people have something to gain from what information is released and how that information is presented. It's tough to know what McCoy really thinks, but the quarterback situation in Arizona isn't going to excite any candidate.
  • St. Louis: Coach Jeff Fisher is searching for a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Rob Ryan, most recently defensive coordinator for Dallas, is reportedly the favorite to fill the same role for the Rams. Very little information has filtered out of Rams headquarters on this subject, however.
  • Seattle: Coordinators Darrell Bevell (offense) and Gus Bradley (defense) are getting second interviews with Chicago and Philadelphia, respectively. Bevell and CFL coach Marc Trestman are finalists with the Bears. Another prominent Seahawks assistant, Tom Cable, has not surfaced as a candidate elsewhere. If Bradley left, I suspect he would want to take along defensive line coach Todd Wash. The two coached together with Tampa Bay previously. They played together and coached together at North Dakota State. However, the Seahawks would have to let Wash out of his contract. Dan Quinn, the Seahawks' former defensive line coach, would be a logical candidate to replace Bradley in Seattle if Bradley did get the Philadelphia job. Quinn is the defensive coordinator at Florida.
  • San Francisco: Not much new here. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has been linked informally to Jacksonville based on his past association with Jaguars general manager David Caldwell. Niners director of player personnel Tom Gamble interviewed with the New York Jets.

Where West coaches stand as candidates

January, 10, 2013
A few NFC West assistant coaches and personnel evaluators remain in play for jobs elsewhere:

A look at where things stand:
  • Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator: Roman's name has surfaced in connection with head coaching jobs in San Diego and Jacksonville. He has ties to the general managers each of those teams hired recently. Roman and the Chargers' new general manager, Tom Telesco, were college teammates and even roommates. Roman and new Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell also played together in college and worked together with the Carolina Panthers. The Jaguars are expected to have interest in Roman after firing Mike Mularkey, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Losing Roman could put more pressure on 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to oversee the offense. Harbaugh's background is on offense, so the 49ers appear to have some protection on that side of the ball. Niners players have referred to Roman as an offensive genius, however, so it's clear Roman would be missed.
  • Tom Gamble, 49ers director of player personnel: Gamble is reportedly a leading candidate to replace Mike Tannenbaum as the New York Jets' general manager.
  • Gus Bradley, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator: Philadelphia received permission to speak with Bradley about its head coaching vacancy. Rules allowed for contact this week, but the Seahawks are focused on a divisional-round playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Eagles have quite a few known candidates. They appear to be in no rush. No clear favorite has emerged. Bradley is in the mix, at least. Head coach Pete Carroll's background is on defense. That would appear to provide some insurance for the Seahawks if Bradley took a job elsewhere.
  • Darrell Bevell, Seahawks offensive coordinator: The Chicago Bears received permission to speak with Bevell, an NFC North alum via the Minnesota Vikings. Line coach Tom Cable coordinates the running game for Seattle. The Seahawks would look to keep their offensive system if Bevell departed. Cable's presence provides some insurance.
  • Brian Schottenheimer, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator: Schottenheimer quickly emerged as a candidate in Jacksonville once the Jaguars fired Mularkey. Schottenheimer interviewed for this job one year ago before the team chose Mularkey. If Schottenheimer left, the Rams would presumably hire a replacement from the outside and try to keep a similar offensive system in place. Quarterback Sam Bradford has changed coordinators every season. The Rams would want a smooth transition if Schottenheimer did take a job elsewhere. Still, adjusting to yet another coordinator would likely come at a price for Bradford.
  • Ray Horton, Cardinals defensive coordinator: The NFC West assistant considered most likely to generate interest this offseason appears to have little going at this time. He remains a candidate to succeed Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona, it appears. But there's been little buzz on the Horton front lately.
Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is a candidate to succeed Andy Reid as the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach.

The Eagles announced they have received permission to interview Bradley next week.

Bradley has been known to make positive impressions.

Former Seahawks coach Jim Mora had been expected to name Dan Quinn as his defensive coordinator in 2009. Mora changed his mind after interviewing Bradley. It was nothing against Quinn, who advanced on his own and now serves as defensive coordinator for the University of Florida. Bradley simply impressed Mora beyond reasonable expectations. Mora named Bradley coordinator and Quinn to coach the defensive line.

Longtime NFL assistant Monte Kiffin, who had worked with Mora on the New Orleans Saints staff in 1995, had recommended Bradley for the coordinator's job.

Mora explained it this way in 2009: "Monte says, 'J.L., listen to me. I have got a guy here in Tampa that is one of, if not, the finest football coaches I have ever worked with. He's an A-plus. He's a once-in-a-lifetime coach. You need to talk to him.' He said, 'J.L., this guy is special. You have to bring him in.' "

When the Seahawks fired Mora unexpectedly after one season, incoming coach Pete Carroll kept Bradley in place as coordinator, citing an endorsement from Kiffin. Kiffin worked with Carroll in Minnesota and with Bradley in Tampa Bay.

I don't know how many coordinators have stuck around when one head coach replaced another and all three men traced their backgrounds to the same side of the ball. Usually, a new coach comes in with new ideas and specific people in mind for the highest-ranking positions. New coaches usually are looking to break from the past, not build upon it.

Bradley's staying power through a tumultuous time in Seattle speaks well of him.

The chart shows Seattle's defensive stats over the past four seasons. The row for "Defensive EPA" refers to expected points added by the defense. Negative numbers are better than positive ones.

Kevin Kolb's big chance against Patriots

September, 14, 2012
The New England Patriots famously listed Tom Brady on their injury report for years without the quarterback missing a start during that span.

Might the Patriots' Week 2 opponent, Arizona, be engaging in some injury-related gamesmanship?

Coach Ken Whisenhunt has not declared Kevin Kolb his starter against New England even though John Skelton appears "doubtful" and Kolb took the meaningful practice reps this week. ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported Kolb will start. It's been difficult to realistically envision any other scenario under the circumstances.

Kolb led the winning drive against Seattle in the opener after Skelton departed the field on a cart, having suffered a sprained ankle. This game against New England provides the Cardinals an opportunity to watch Kolb perform over an extended period without deciding on him as the longer-term starter. It's a good situation for Arizona after Skelton struggled in the opener.

Among the things I'll be watching for from Kolb against the Patriots:
  • Protection: The Cardinals' offensive line appears vulnerable in this area, particularly on the road. How will Kolb respond? Will he revert to bad habits? In the past, he has sometimes bailed from the pocket too quickly and without a clear plan. Arizona likes its quarterbacks to set up deep in the pocket and throw from there.
  • Secondary targets: Arizona runs its passing game through Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald will get targets regularly, most likely. The Cardinals think secondary receivers, notably Andre Roberts, have been running open without getting the ball frequently enough (last season in particular). Let's see how well Kolb gets other players involved. He did well in finding Roberts for the winning touchdown reception last week. Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley subsequently lamented making an aggressive defensive call on the play.
  • Fun factor. No one expects Kolb to skip around the field like Brett Favre, but body language matters. Can the success Kolb enjoyed against Seattle propel him forward? Will he look like he's having fun out there? Will he look like the leader of the offense? Some success would help, of course

The chart, compiled with data from ESPN Stats & Information, shows Kolb's production by game during his Arizona tenure. I've included one row showing Brady's production in the same weeks. The final row shows how all other NFL quarterbacks -- all but Kolb and Brady -- have produced over the same span.

The second-to-last column shows success rate, defined by ESPN's analytics department as those plays improving a team's expected points. The final column shows QBR scores (100 maximum, 50 average). By that measure, Kolb has been at his best during season openers. He was also above average in Week 2 last season, a narrow defeat at Washington.