NFC West: Hue Jackson

Around the NFC West: Pro Bowl moves

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
9:15
AM ET
The NFC would have a hard time fielding a Pro Bowl secondary without its Western division.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com notes that the NFL has added Seattle's Kam Chancellor and Brandon Browner to the NFC squad after the San Francisco 49ers' Dashon Goldson and Carlos Rogers withdrew from the game, citing injuries. Chancellor and Browner were alternates. Arizona's Adrian Wilson is also one of the safeties, as is Seattle's Earl Thomas. This means three-fourths of the Seahawks' secondary is in the Pro Bowl even though arguably the team's best corner, Richard Sherman, did not make it. Noted: Goldson and Rogers both have expiring contracts. Playing in the Pro Bowl would have meant spending the week hanging out with Green Bay's coaching staff. The Packers haven't been big spenders in free agency, but the Pro Bowl is one of the few places rules allow players from one team to hang out with coaches from another.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers' Brian Jennings has been added to the NFC roster as a "need" player. Jennings is arguably the best long-snapper in the NFL. Maiocco: "Jennings, a 12-year veteran, will make his second career appearance in the Pro Bowl. He becomes the ninth 49ers player to be selected to play in this year's game, which is takes place Sunday in Honolulu. The eight 49ers players previously selected to the NFC roster are defensive backs Dashon Goldson and Carlos Rogers, defensive lineman Justin Smith, linebacker Patrick Willis, running back Frank Gore, tackle Joe Staley, kicker David Akers and punter Andy Lee."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' need for wide receiver help is glaring after Michael Crabtree's single 3-yard reception accounted for all catches by San Francisco wideouts in the NFC title game. Kawakami: "The Giants’ three wide receivers combined to catch 16 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown Sunday, helping counterbalance the 49ers’ huge advantages in almost all other areas. It took two botched punt returns by Kyle Williams to set up the Giants for their game-deciding scores, but they would have been nowhere near the 49ers without their wide receivers. So as the 49ers hurtle into their offseason, upgrading their receiving corps has to be their central focus."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle did not notice the Giants going out of their way to inflict a concussion upon Williams.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Jim Harbaugh's refusal to discuss his feelings smacks of emotional immaturity.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers thoughts on the Cardinals' chances for landing Peyton Manning, should the Colts part with the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Somers: "Throwing to Larry Fitzgerald has to be an attractive prospect. With Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, the Cardinals have two talented young running backs. There are questions on the offensive line, however. The Cardinals' defense was stout over the last half of the season. Under Ken Whisenhunt, the Cardinals have proven they are willing to throw the ball and to mold their offense around the strengths of an older quarterback." Noted: Manning has never needed a strong offensive line. He has long proven how much quarterback play matters for avoiding sacks.

Also from Somers: Jerry Sullivan was briefly a candidate to rejoin the Cardinals. Noted: Seems like Bruce Arians would be a natural fit in Arizona after the Steelers decided against offering a new contract to him.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com provides a timeline for scheduled bonus payments to Manning and the Cardinals' Kevin Kolb. Manning is scheduled to receive $28 million from the Colts on March 8. Kolb is scheduled to receive $7 million from the Cardinals on March 17. Urban also notes that Hue Jackson could be interviewing with the Cardinals, per Charley Casserly. Noted: With free agency beginning March 13, the gap between bonus payments to Manning and Kolb would give the Cardinals time to explore their options with Manning, should the Colts decline to pay the bonus.

Also from Urban: Calais Campbell would not complain if the Cardinals named him their franchise player.

The Cardinals' Beanie Wells suggests he's undergoing surgery, presumably on the knee that bothered him this past season. Noted: Ryan Williams is also coming off surgery.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch updates Rams coaching moves after the team reached agreement with Dave McGinnis to join the staff as assistant head coach. Thomas: "Several other staff additions appear to be in the works but have not been made official, including Paul Boudreau as offensive line coach, Mike Waufle as defensive line coach, Rob Boras as tight ends coach and Tim Walton for what could be a job as assistant defensive coordinator/passing game."

Around the NFC West: 49ers' good timing

January, 19, 2012
1/19/12
10:03
AM ET
The San Francisco 49ers went into the 2011 season hoping to close the deal on a new stadium in Santa Clara.

Let's just say it was a good time to go 13-3 and advance to the NFC Championship Game.

Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' playoff push should help them sell season-ticket packages that stand as a big part of the funding equation. Finding a naming-rights sponsor for the new stadium should also become much easier. Rosenberg: "The final piece to the funding puzzle is securing $150 million to $200 million in league financing. With the NFL owners slated to vote on the funds Feb. 2, it didn't hurt to shine the national playoff spotlight on dilapidated Candlestick Park for consecutive weeks, particularly after two embarrassing blackouts during a Monday Night Football game this season. But success on the field is not a guaranteed cash cow, even in rich markets. When the New York Giants, Jets and Yankees sold seat packages for their new stadiums, it wasn't so easy. The Giants were fresh off a Super Bowl title, the Jets had just made it to the AFC Championship and the Yankees were a perennial power. Yet all three teams failed to sell out the priciest tickets when their home fields opened in 2009 and 2010."

Alex Espinoza of 49ers.com says Patrick Willis relishes playing on a winning team for the first time since his freshman year of college.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the next challenge for Alex Smith is to come up big again -- and again after that. Cohn: "Smith is good, promising, and people believe in him. We see all that. One great performance doesn't make anybody great, and a failure on Sunday will plunge Smith once again into a netherworld of uncertainty. I am not saying he will plunge. I don't think he will. I am saying he must make more great throws against the Giants. I'm saying the game almost surely will come down to him. He has to do it again -- and then again."

Jerry McDonald of Bay Area News Group takes a closer look at the 49ers' secondary.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle gets Troy Aikman's thoughts on Smith.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers aren't going to talk trash before their game against the Giants on Sunday.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch examines where Sam Bradford fits in a Jeff Fisher-prioritized Rams offense. Miklasz: "Some of what Fisher likes to do is, indeed, old-fashioned when compared to the recent high-scoring trend that's turning NFL games into sessions of 'Madden 12' on the Xbox. Fisher does like to run the football and control the game. He does believe in having competitive, somewhat unruly men doing the blocking up front. He would like to see his guys punish opponents. He does not object to seeing opponents limping away in pain. It's the kind of "outdated" football that has the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants in the four-team field for Sunday's conference championship games." Noted: Quarterback troubles with the unpredictable Vince Young marked Fisher's final seasons in Tennessee. Bradford will be much easier to coach.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch passes along these comments from Fisher regarding who will have ultimate authority on personnel decisions: "There's too much that needs to be done in this building for one person to do it all. It's like anything else, you've got to surround yourself with good people and trust the people to get their jobs done. It's no different than when you're putting together a coaching staff. The head coach is not calling offense, defense, and making special teams decisions in the game. You let your coordinators do those things. It's all about surrounding yourself with the best people you can."

Also from Thomas: Hue Jackson interviewed for the offensive coordinator's job under Fisher.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic does not expect the Cardinals to re-hire Todd Haley to their offensive staff. Somers: "Talks between the two sides have been amicable, as far as I know, but coming to agreement on a position that meets the Cardinals' needs and matches Haley's career goals has been elusive. It's become clear that coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn't want to make a major shake-up on his offensive staff. He believes in coordiantor Mike Miller, who is not going to be demoted. The only open position, then, is the quarterbacks job, and Haley would fit perfectly into that role. But Haley is a former coordinator and head coach. It's understandable he would want more responsibility than that. Haley also likes Miller, and both sides are sensitive to the possibility of hiring someone who would be perceived as looking over Miller's shoulder."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle summarizes a recent conversation between Brock Huard and Mike Salk asking whether the Seattle Seahawks' Tarvaris Jackson could follow the path Alex Smith has taken this season. Henderson: "Smith learned a new offense (Greg Roman is his seventh coordinator in as many seasons) in the same lockout-shortened offseason. Jackson, meanwhile, has run the same offense since he entered the league in 2006. As former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon said last week, 'If anyone should have known the offense it's Tarvaris Jackson.' If Smith can thrive in a new offense after a lockout-shortened offseason, why didn't Jackson do so in a familiar offense under the same circumstances?"

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks' approach to winning follows the ones San Francisco and Baltimore have taken to the championship round. Noted: Every team would be much better off with a quarterback capable of the things Tom Brady or Drew Brees could do. That doesn't mean a team absolutely has to have one in order to win playoff games. It's just that teams should not aspire to advance in the absence of a top quarterback. That should not be the blueprint.
A few thoughts on Jeff Fisher's introductory news conference with the St. Louis Rams:
  • Overall scene: Owner Stan Kroenke and chief operating officer Kevin Demoff flanked Fisher during the news conference. All three men spoke. They steered clear of specifics, which actually told us quite a bit.

  • Purposely vague on power: Fisher would not say whether he had "final say" on personnel decisions. The team still needs to find a general manager. Luring an executive away from another team becomes easier if the Rams can offer the powers associated with the GM position. Clearly stating that Fisher has full control of personnel would complicate the process. Fisher will almost surely have control of the 53-man roster, at least.
  • Why no word on staff: Fisher is familiar with process. He would not name coordinator candidates, because he had signed his own deal only recently. He alluded to having solid options. Gregg Williams is expected to become defensive coordinator. Brian Schottenheimer and Hue Jackson are potential candidates for offensive coordinator.
  • No commitment to St. Louis: Kroenke had an opportunity to assure Rams fans that the team would do all it could to remain in St. Louis. He did not do that. He pointed to his long tenure in St. Louis, one reaching nearly two decades. But he also alluded to a stadium lease that can end following the 2014 season. "We'll see how that process sorts itself out," Kroenke said. Fisher was even more qualified when asked whether the team's future played a role in his decision to take the job. Fisher: "The future of this franchise right now, in this moment, is in St. Louis."
  • Grasp of history: Kroenke noted that the Rams' 1999 Super Bowl team really lost just one game, against Fisher's Titans. Kroenke correctly noted that the Rams rested starters in their Week 17 defeat to Philadelphia. Those Rams did also lose to Detroit, however.
  • Fisher's immediate goal: Fisher pointed to becoming competitive within the NFC West as his top priority. The Rams were 0-6 in the division this season. Fisher said he would field a "disciplined, tough, physical football team" that can win in the division. He wants to field a team that runs the ball, protects the quarterback and forces turnovers.

Those were a few of the key talking points. Fisher projects confidence and credibility.
The news conference introducing Jeff Fisher as the St. Louis Rams' head coach, scheduled for Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET, should provide answers regarding organizational structure.

We should expect Fisher to control the roster and have say over who becomes general manager. We should also expect Fisher's contract to give him at least as much power as the GM.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Fisher will not have a title beyond head coach, but Fisher will have significant say over personnel to go along with a $7 million annual salary. Thomas: "After 17 years working for tightwad owner Bud Adams in Houston and Tennessee, Fisher wanted to make sure he had the resources to put together a strong coaching staff, be active in free agency and have a strong personnel department. Contrary to speculation, it looks like Fisher's only title will be head coach. He's not expected to have 'vice president' or 'executive vice president' attached to his name in St. Louis."

Also from Thomas: Gregg Williams and Brian Schottenheimer are expected to become Fisher's coordinators, although ESPN's Chris Mortensen says former Raiders coach Hue Jackson will interview on the offensive side.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shields Schottenheimer from some of the blame over what went wrong with Mark Sanchez and the Jets this past season. Miklasz: "If we are to blame Schottenheimer for the stalled development of a young QB, then it's fair to give the OC just a nod of praise for what Sanchez did in the 2009-10 postseasons. In six games, with the Jets winning four, Sanchez completed 60.5 percent with 9 TDs and 3 INTs. He played very well in road wins at San Diego, Indianapolis and New England. He also played a good game in last season's AFC championship, completing 61 percent for 2 TDs and no picks in the loss at Pittsburgh."

Also from Miklasz: Rams owner Stan Kroenke hasn't done enough to allay fears of a future franchise relocation.

Andy Cordan of WKRN-TV Nashville says Fisher was recently first on the scene to a traffic accident that left two teenagers injured. Cordan: "Authorities said the 17-year-old driver of a Nissan Altima lost control, ran off the road, hit a pole and overturned. A 13-year-old passenger was thrown from the car and rushed to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital with critical wounds. Fisher didn't want to go on camera but spoke with Nashville's News 2 over the phone. He said he was on his way home when he saw the wreck and stopped. Knowing the teens were hurt, Fisher said he rendered aid the best he could, and stayed with them until medical personnel arrived."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is embracing the magnitude of the moment as the 49ers prepare to play for a Super Bowl berth.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is extremely happy for quarterback Alex Smith. Baalke: "Like I told him after the game, I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier for an individual than I was for Alex to come through in those moments like he did and to have the type of game he had. And to just see the joy on his face. If anyone deserved it, Alex deserved it. (I’m) very appreciative that he was able to do that."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com notes that former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. will serve as honorary captain for the NFC Championship Game.

Also from Maiocco: Center Jonathan Goodwin has won the 49ers' annual Bobb McKittrick Award as top offensive lineman.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Delanie Walker, if cleared to return, would give the 49ers a big boost on offense.

Alex Espinoza of 49ers.com runs through which 49ers earned spots on the annual all-NFL selections published by Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers of America. General manager Trent Baalke was top executive.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Harbaugh thought the Giants played harder than the Packers on Sunday.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says physical evidence from Jim Harbaugh's playing days, including a manged finger, connect the coach with his players. Cohn: "He is scarred because he was a player and he relates to his own players because he once did battle as they now do battle. It is a reality they share with each other, and even in retirement he is the real deal."

Keith Goldner of Advanced NFL Stats revisits comparisons between Smith and Trent Dilfer.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with former Cardinals and Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams, who is grateful to be a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Williams: "We didn't win a whole lot of games, but I can say this, I had just as much enjoyment playing the game with the Cardinals as I did with the Rams. I'll never forget being around that team with Jake Plummer and those guys and finally breaking through, making the playoffs and winning in Dallas." Noted: Williams is definitely worthy of strong consideration. He came through in the clutch and was a playmaker for an extended period.

Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times says the Bears should consider the Seattle Seahawks' Will Lewis as a candidate to succeed Jerry Angelo as general manager. Jensen: "In the last 14 years, Lewis has worked alongside people such as Ron Wolf, new Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, Packers GM Ted Thompson, Seahawks GM John Schneider and Tim Ruskell. Lewis is on the short list of GM candidates the Fritz Pollard Alliance -- an organization that helps to diversify the NFL -- is recommending to teams with vacancies, and he interviewed in 2010 to become the GM of the Cleveland Browns. And while the Packers are the 'it' team, the Seahawks quickly have overhauled their roster since Schneider took over. In 2010, they traded a fourth-round pick and a conditional selection to the Buffalo Bills for former first-round pick Marshawn Lynch. The transaction proved wise, as Lynch set career highs with 1,204 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season."
ESPN.com’s NFL writers rank the top 10 up-and-coming assistant coaches in the league today. Next week: Top players overall.

Seven NFL teams named new head coaches after last season, tapping into a pool that included experienced coordinators and relatively unknown assistants alike. The class of 2011 featured longtime candidates (Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera). It also included a trusted position coach in Mike Munchak (Tennessee Titans) and a couple of relative hotshots in Hue Jackson (Oakland Raiders) and Pat Shurmur (Cleveland Browns).

Who will comprise the NFL's next batch of head-coaching candidates? That was the question ESPN.com hoped to answer in this week's edition of the offseason Power Rankings. We established one ground rule by eliminating any assistant who has already had a permanent head-coaching job. The idea was to develop a list that focused on the "next wave" of coaching candidates.

No less than 24 NFL assistants received at least one vote, a reflection of both the variables involved in head-coaching searches and the relative lack of national name recognition for all but the most highly regarded assistants.

So in that vein, it was no surprise to see four well-known assistants at the top of our list, headed by New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell -- who placed first or second on six of the eight ballots. Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan finished second, followed by New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Arizona offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

Fewell is an ideal candidate in many ways, having spent time as the Buffalo Bills' interim coach in 2009 and leading a substantial turnaround of the Giants' defense last season. Fewell interviewed for four head-coaching jobs last winter, and NFC East blogger Dan Graziano suggested that experience, along with a high profile afforded to coaches in New York, make him "the most likely guy on the list to be a head coach soon."

Just don't bother forwarding his name to AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky, who couldn't find room for Fewell on his 10-man ballot. Kuharsky noted the Giants' poor performance in Week 2 last season against the Indianapolis Colts, during which quarterback Peyton Manning threw three touchdowns and cruised to an easy 38-14 victory.

"Certainly I'm letting one game overinfluence my ballot," Kuharsky muttered. "But Fewell's plan for the Giants against the Colts last season was so bad that I could not help but score him down for it. Was he not familiar with how Peyton Manning and Indianapolis operate?"

We can't cover every coach who received votes in this exercise, but let's hit some of the more interesting names that received attention.

Another Ryan? Deserved or not, Ryan has long been considered a loose cannon. There is little doubt about his schematic prowess, but hiring him would require a confident owner ready to make a leap of faith.

The success of twin brother Rex Ryan with the Jets might have softened the perception of that risk, and collectively we see Rob Ryan on the doorstep of a job.

"Similar to Rex, Rob Ryan is good with X's and O's and has the type of outgoing personality players want to be around," AFC North blogger James Walker said. "I think both are equally important in today's NFL. Both brothers say exactly what's on their mind, and before that scared off a lot of teams. But Rex broke the ice with his success in New York and that could help Rob in the future."

The next generation: Schottenheimer has turned down more opportunities to interview for head-coaching jobs than he has actually submitted to. He has nixed requests from the Miami Dolphins and Bills in recent years, but he did interview for the Jets' job that ultimately went to Ryan. I placed him atop my ballot (he finished No. 3 overall) because I think NFL people have made up their mind that he is the kind of young and innovative assistant who can turn around their franchise. (Think: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.)

Schottenheimer's pedigree doesn't hurt -- he's the son of longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer -- and I'm not sure how closely teams will dissect the specifics of the Jets' offensive performance. Graziano, on the other hand, thinks Schottenheimer is close to coaching his way out of the golden-child image he cultivated and left him off his ballot.

"Having spent a good amount of time around that team the past couple of years, I just feel like defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is the more likely guy to end up a head coach," Graziano said. "Schottenheimer's under a ton of pressure as Ryan defers the offensive responsibilities to him. I feel like, if the offense has a bad year, he could end up in trouble or even out of a job. And given their youth at quarterback and running back and the uncertainty of their receiver situation, a bad year for the Jets' offense is possible.

"Now, he could be a genius, make chicken salad and be the next hot name eight months from now. But I think there's the potential that he may have already peaked as a hot coaching prospect and that he might not be set up to succeed in New York."

The big fella: Four years ago, Grimm thought he would be the next Pittsburgh Steelers coach. He moved to Arizona after the Steelers selected Mike Tomlin instead, and we view his status as a head-coaching candidate with wide disparity.

AFC West blogger Bill Williamson put Grimm atop his ballot, and AFC East blogger Tim Graham had him No. 2. Kuharsky and I left him off.

Williamson thinks Grimm has moved to "the top of the food chain" largely because most of his "hot-name" contemporaries have already gotten jobs. As well, Graham suggested that it will soon be Grimm's turn because he is still well-regarded throughout the league.

Personally, I couldn't get past Grimm's well-publicized gaffe after interviewing with the Chicago Bears, after which he referred to the team owners as the "McClaskey" family. I also agree with NFC West blogger Mike Sando, who ranked Grimm No. 8 and wondered: "Is he still ascending? Grimm seems content coaching the line in Arizona. He has plateaued and doesn't seem to be losing any sleep over it."

Welcome back: Unless you're a college football fan, you might not have heard of Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. He spent six years as the head coach at Arizona State, but has drawn some quiet acclaim for his work with the Jaguars and made a strong impression while interviewing with the Denver Broncos last winter.

"In a setting where he won't have to deal with boosters and can shine for being a smart X's and O's guy with strong coaching DNA," Kuharsky said, "I think he'd do far better. He's smart and will interview quite well. He really impressed John Elway and the Broncos before losing out to John Fox's experience. St. Louis wanted him as coordinator, but Jacksonville wouldn't let him go. He's heading into the final year of his contract. How Blaine Gabbert develops early on will have a big bearing on Koetter's future."

Secret weapon: In two years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have developed quarterback Josh Freeman into one of the better starters in the league. The man largely responsible is offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who navigated a disastrous 2009 preseason -- coach Raheem Morris promoted him in the middle of training camp after firing Jeff Jagodzinski -- and NFL teams often seek out coaches with success developing young quarterbacks.

"I think Olson deserves a ton of credit for developing Freeman so quickly," said NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas. "Freeman threw for 25 touchdowns and six interceptions in his first full season as a starter and carried an incredibly young team to a 10-6 record. I also think people need to look at what Olson did last year with rookie running back LeGarrette Blount and rookie receiver Mike Williams. He helped make them into instant stars."

Super Bowl entitlement: The Green Bay Packers were the only team to place more than one name in the top 10, as would be expected from a championship team. Assistant head coach/inside linebackers Winston Moss is at No. 6, while safeties coach Darren Perry finished No. 10. I also voted for receivers coach Edgar Bennett, who has moved over from running backs coach and is clearly being groomed for bigger things.

I'll detail my ranking of the Packers' assistants, including why I think so highly of Perry, in a future post for NFC North readers. But we'll say this for now: Moss is a strong leader who has drawn interest from the Raiders, while Perry is a disciple of Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his coveted 3-4 scheme.

Around the NFC West: McDaniels' hiring

January, 19, 2011
1/19/11
9:35
AM ET
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the Rams made a strong move in hiring Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator. Miklasz: "I'm already tired of people whining about how this is a bad move based on McDaniels work in Denver as the head coach. Huh? The guy won't be the head coach here. He isn't the GM. McDaniels won't have the authority to make trades, cut players, set the roster. McDaniels is the Rams' offensive coordinator, period. He was the OC in New England and that seems to have worked out well, to say the least. He knew what his job was and stayed in it without straying into other areas. McDaniels was a bad head coach in Denver. And I would care about this if the Rams were bringing him in as head coach. But they are not doing that. Relax."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch passes along comments from McDaniels regarding Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson. McDaniels on Bradford: "I'm looking forward certainly to working with everybody there. Sam's an extremely talented player. He's a very accurate guy. Does a lot of things in the pocket well. Does things out of the pocket well. We'll hope to take the things that he did well this year and try to build on 'em as he goes into his second year."

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says Jeremy Bates' firing as offensive coordinator kicked off what figures to be an offseason filled with surprises for the Seahawks. Kelley: "There is a disconnect between Pete Carroll's unvarnished postgame optimism following Sunday's smack-in-the-face at Chicago, and his actions the next day. Words won't fix the Seahawks. This building project Carroll inherited is going to take even more time than he thought. This offseason begins without an offensive coordinator, without a quarterback and with questions about players like right tackle Sean Locklear and center Chris Spencer."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers thoughts on why Bates was let go. Williams, after covering on-field struggles: "A more likely scenario for Bates moving on is his gruff personality not jibing with the culture Carroll wants to create in Seattle. Carroll is looking for a fresh perspective and a coach more willing to champion his offensive philosophy of balance and a physical run game." Williams also notes that former Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable found a "soft landing" in Seattle as the team's offensive line coach. Cable grew up in the Northwest and went to Snohomish High School.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat outlines complaints from Raiders owner Al Davis regarding the Seahawks' new offensive line coach. According to Davis, two women raised abuse allegations against Cable during the 2009 season. According to Davis, Cable would fly in women to be with him on the road before games. Cohn: "I’d like to pause here and let out a rip-roaring, 'Yippee!!!!!!!!!!' I drove to Alameda for the usual boring new coach intro and now I was into hotel sex -- I certainly don’t approve of the alleged abuse -- and I was into a steamy secret girlfriend hiding in the room and Cable flagrantly breaking the Raiders’ co-habitation clause. I also was into scandal. I mean, sportswriting never gets any better than this. Never." Davis makes harsh accusations, delivered with obvious malice. Cable will surely face additional questions about the matters.

John Morgan of Field Gulls thinks Green Bay's Joe Philbin and Houston's Rick Dennison could make sense as replacements for Bates given their coaching backgrounds. Hiring Cable as offensive line coach before hiring a coordinator makes it more important, in theory, for the team to find a coordinator with specific philosophical traits.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com updates 49ers coaching moves. Maiocco: "Ed Donatell, who spent last season as Denver Broncos secondary coach, will coach 49ers defensive backs, new Raiders coach Hue Jackson confirmed at his press conference Tuesday. Also, USC passing game coordinator and receivers coach John Morton has left USC to join Jim Harbaugh's coaching staff, said USC coach Lane Kiffin." Harbaugh is adding some experienced coaches to the defensive side. Vic Fangio and Donatell have been defensive coordinators in the NFL.

Also from Maiocco: a review of the 2010 49ers, beginning with a look at the defensive line. Maiocco: "In a 3-4 scheme, these guys do the dirty work. The 49ers ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. The opposition averaged 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers were better."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with draft analyst Rob Rang for a look at quarterbacks the 49ers might consider in the middle rounds. Rang on Florida State's Christian Ponder: "He's smart and he played in a demanding offensive system for the Seminoles. He doesn't have the arm strength of Ryan Mallett or the athleticism of Cam Newton, but he has just enough of each. He also has a long injury history and suffered a concussion that knocked him out of FSU's bowl game."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat updates 49ers coaching hires, noting that former coach Mike Singletary has officially become linebackers coach for the Vikings.

The Phoenix Business Journal says the Cardinals plan to send out renewal notices for season tickets next month, before a potential lockout. The story notes: "The Cards kept most season ticket prices the same for the 2010 season and cut some prices. Cards season tickets ran $25 to $112.50 this season for non-club seats. That excluded a $5.25 per game ticket charge by University of Phoenix Stadium. While demand for ticket may be diminished by a possible lockout, the Cardinals do have home games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants. Those teams all have transplant fans in the Valley and region which will help demand."

Josh McDaniels not interested in 49ers

January, 6, 2011
1/06/11
12:44
PM ET
Cross off former Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels from the list of potential fallback candidates for the San Francisco 49ers.

McDaniels is not interested, according to a source I spoke with Thursday.

The 49ers still hope to hire Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, but they reportedly reached out to McDaniels as a potential fallback while the Miami Dolphins became more active in pursuing Harbaugh, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The 49ers have interviewed Harbaugh and Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland led a contingent that flew from Miami to the San Francisco Bay Area to meet with Harbaugh beginning Thursday morning, ESPN Insider Chris Mortensen reported.

McDaniels, 34, is more likely to land as a coordinator than as a head coach this season. Questions about the 49ers' current leadership -- specifically whether the team has a winning mix with third-year president Jed York, first-year general manager Trent Baalke and executive vice president Paraag Marathe -- made the head coaching job there less appealing to McDaniels following a turbulent run with the Broncos, the source said.

For the 49ers, hiring McDaniels as head coach months after the NFL punished him for illegally videotaping a 49ers walk-through practice would seem stupefying, in my view. Of course, we do not know how serious the 49ers would have been about McDaniels, so I'm reluctant to judge them too harshly for merely reaching out. Might the 49ers have been more interested in McDaniels as a coordinator?

At the very least, it's revealing when a recently fired candidate has no interest in the 49ers. It says McDaniels remains confident he'll land a more appealing job once he repairs his image through a successful run as a coordinator. It also suggests high-profile candidates could elude the 49ers, as the case appeared to be during the team's search for a general manager.

Landing Harbaugh would change perceptions. If Harbaugh accepts a more lucrative offer from the Dolphins, however, the 49ers will look like a team that overplayed its hand and misled fans when York said money would be no object.

The 49ers might then have to settle for another tier of candidates. That would not necessarily prevent them from hiring a capable coach. None of us knows whether Harbaugh would fare better than Marty Mornhinweg, Brian Billick, Jackson or any other potential candidate.

We do know the 49ers wanted Harbaugh, however. Watching him take a job with the Dolphins or anyone else would sting.
The San Francisco 49ers said they would hire a general manager, and the GM would hire their next head coach.

They have yet to announce a GM hiring, but ESPN's Adam Schefter says the team has requested permission to interview Oakland Raiders assistant coach Hue Jackson. New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell also might be on the 49ers' interview list.

My take: Interviewing Jackson or Fewell would satisfy the Rooney Rule requiring teams to consider minority candidates, giving the 49ers flexibility if they needed to move quickly on a higher-profile candidate such as Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. If they do not land a higher-profile coach, they could still pursue assistants such as Jackson or Fewell.

Singletary not afraid to take his time

January, 17, 2010
1/17/10
12:52
PM ET
The 49ers fired offensive coordinator Mike Martz last offseason without having a replacement lined up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Niners coach Mike Singletary and new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye just finished a conference call with reporters to confirm Raye's hiring.

A few highlights, mostly according to Singletary:

  • Singletary was not looking to revisit the 2006 offense as run by Norv Turner. He said he did not speak with Turner as part of the interview process;
  • Singletary repeatedly talked about wanting the candidate with the "leadership, preparation and vision" to handle the job; he also talked about "physicality" and "toughness" and "discipline" as important points of emphasis;
  • On the decision to go with Raye over Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson, who received a second interview, Singletary said, "The second interview is sort of revealing in that you were going to hire the guy. Hue Jackson was very intriguing from standpoint of what Baltimore had done this year, his style and philosophy. It came down to that leadership we know we need on that side of the ball -- the leadership, the vision, the physicality, the toughness and discipline. Everyone says that. It was the conviction that lets you know that is the guy I am looking for."
  • Singletary said he had not known Raye personally prior to this process; he also declined to say who pointed him toward Raye, who was not retained as the Jets' running backs coach after the team fired head coach Eric Mangini;
  • On contract length, Singletary was not definitive, but he said he expected this to be a three-year agreement;
  • The hiring process took much longer than expected. "It certainly took longer than we wanted," Singletary said. "The thing I did not want to do is go ahead and make a knee-jerk decision and try to select someone before we thought we had our guy."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have hired Mike Williams from the 49ers' scouting department to serve as pro personnel director under general manager Billy Devaney. Williams brings strong knowledge of the division. That could prove helpful at Rams Park after the team made so many changes to its staff and front office. Strong ties across personnel departments can sometimes facilitate draft-related trades as well. Williams begins work Friday.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Jimmy Raye becomes the eighth man to interview for the 49ers' vacant offensive coordinator's position. Maiocco makes a rare but welcome mention to former 49ers coach Ken Meyer, who served as a terrific resource for an ESPN.com package on all-time great quarterbacks. Raye, 62, worked under Meyer with the 49ers in 1977. He spent last season with the Jets.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes that Raye previously worked with Hue Jackson, another candidate for the current opening in San Francisco.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times follows up Leroy Hill's recent arrest by detailing off-field incidents involving Seahawks players since Tim Ruskell became president and [later] general manager in 2005. Koren Robinson, Sean Locklear, Bryce Fisher, Jerramy Stevens, Rocky Bernard, Lofa Tatupu and Hill made the list. Ruskell's tough talk against off-field problems began with a letter he sent to players shortly after joining the Seahawks.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals fared well at Super Bowl XLIII media day.

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic didn't flinch when a reporter dressed in drag asked to borrow her lipstick. Cardinals linebacker Monty Beisel also rolled with the media day madness.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic leads his notebook with an item about Anquan Boldin's contract situation.

Also from Somers: a look at the Cardinals' offensive tackles, who face tough work Sunday.

Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic says Kurt Warner's wife knows the Super Bowl routine.

Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals punter Ben Graham, the first Australian to play in a Super Bowl.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic feels the presence of Steelers fans at Super Bowl XLIII.

Also from McManaman: Darnell Dockett's tattoos tell a personal history.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at the Cardinals-related story lines at media day.

Also from Urban: a look ahead at the off-field moves facing Arizona.

More from Urban: the team's online Super Bowl headquarters.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune explores Edgerrin James' strange Cardinals journey.

Also from Tulumello: This isn't the Cardinals' first week-long road trip to the East Coast this season.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune details Larry Fitzgerald's Pittsburgh ties.

Also from Bordow: Cardinals coaches might say there's nothing personal in facing their former team, but Bordow isn't buying it.

Pete1020 of Revenge of the Birds sizes up key matchups in Super Bowl XLIII.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' prolonged search for an offensive coordinator does not reflect well on head coach Mike Singletary. Ratto: "Singletary has reached the outer limit of what passes for due diligence on this job search. Whether the impetus is his or those of the candidates, he looks like he is too hard to please ... unless he is simply not a very good salesman. Maybe he drops his pants when he's trying to sell the salary and benefits package."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says former 49ers receiver Billy Wilson, who died Tuesday, fell short of the Hall of Fame despite Bill Walsh's efforts.

Also from Maiocco: Hue Jackson appears to be the frontrunner to become the 49ers' offensive coordinator. Michael Johnson, who interviewed to coach quarterbacks, left the Ravens' staff after the 2007 season when new coach John Harbaugh decided to hire 49ers castoff Jim Hostler instead.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says people told Wilson he was the most qualified person not enshrined in Canton.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune catches up with former Seahawks Jerheme Urban and Chike Okeafor. Both have contributed to the Cardinals' Super Bowl run. Okeafor: "I'm not a, 'I told you so,' and 'this and that' [kind of guy]. Those things seem to work themselves out. I just play the game like a kid at recess, for the love the game." 

John Morgan of Field Gulls continues his look at free agents of interest for Seattle. Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh is in the spotlight this time.

Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog looks at potential Seattle draft choices and whether they meet standards outlined by general manager Tim Ruskell.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says a Rams statue honoring the team's Super Bowl championship is long overdue. Burwell: "I bring this up now because the local artist who sculpted all those familiar bronze masterpieces in front of Busch has been trying to get a similar project off the ground for football for more than six years. Now, Harry Weber has grown tired of running into one frustrating roadblock after another."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains, among other things Rams-related, why the Rams probably would not consider a middle linebacker with the second overall choice. Thomas: "You just don't pay $50 million for a guy, if he's sitting on the bench on second-and-long and third-and-long because he can't cover his shadow."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic explains why Larry Fitzgerald's comments about restructuring his contract to accommodate a new deal with Anquan Boldin were as irrelevant as they were well-intentioned. The Cardinals have more than $40 million in salary-cap space. They do not need additional space to create room for a new deal with Boldin. The hard part will be reaching a new deal with Boldin, not figuring out how to make that deal fit within the salary cap.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers could be leaning toward hiring Ravens assistant Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator. Jackson received a second interview. Meanwhile, Mike Johnson interviewed as a potential quarterbacks coach. He was out of the NFL last season after working for three NFL teams. Jimmy Raye is another potential candidate, although the team would not confirm whether he would interview.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides an update on the Rams' new coaching staff. Charlie Baggett will coach receivers, as expected. The team has now hired offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, quarterbacks coach Dick Curl, offensive line coach Steve Loney, Baggett, offensive assistant Frank Leonard and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole. The team has not hired coaches for the defensive line, secondary, running backs, tight ends and special teams.

Nothing on the Seahawks at present, as far as I know.

Around the NFC West: Presidential veto

January, 24, 2009
1/24/09
9:32
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are hoping to prove the new president wrong. Barack Obama is taking the Steelers.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic dusts off a reference to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in describing the comedic charms of Cardinals offensive linemen Lyle Sendlein and Deuce Lutui.

Max Jarman of the Arizona Republic looks at Cardinals memorabilia sales.

David Mackall of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals guard Reggie Wells, whose parents have gone to great lengths in watching their son play.

Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic looks at the Cardinals' penchant for trick plays. Coordinator Todd Haley concedes that the "Philly Special" might not work a second time.

Also from the Republic: a notebook leading with an item on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic provides an injury update from Cardinals practice Friday. Travis LaBoy is practicing on a limited basis. J.J. Arrington remains on the sideline.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Cardinals running back Tim Hightower has benefited from an unlikely background in ballet.

Also from Urban: Cardinals defensive end Bertrand Berry finally enjoys success with Arizona.

More from Urban: Adrian Wilson's jack-in-the-box celebration is one of several the Cardinals have planned, just in case.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune traces the Cardinals' improvement to Michael Bidwill's arrival as team president in 2002.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune looks at Rod Graves' role in building the Cardinals.

Niners general manager Scot McCloughan says the team hopes Alex Smith can compete with Shaun Hill to become the 49ers' starting quarterback. McCloughan: "I still believe Alex Smith is going to be a good quarterback in the NFL and if we can have him back competing with Shaun, we'd love to do it."

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle isn't sure what to make of the 49ers' interest in Dan Reeves and Hue Jackson as potential offensive coordinators. Crumpacker: "With his sixth and seventh candidates interviewed, Singletary is either exercising due diligence in his search for a coordinator or is struggling to find someone compatible with his vision for the 49ers' offense."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says hiring Jackson, now with the Ravens and formerly with the Falcons and Bencals, would "open the door to troubled but talented players such as Ocho Cinco, [Michael] Vick and to lesser extent [T.J.] Houshmandzadeh."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat traces Reeves' candidacy to former 49ers coach Mike Nolan. Maiocco: "When Mike Nolan was named 49ers head coach in 2005, there were rumblings he might bring along his mentor, Dan Reeves, to assist him. Nolan is gone, but Reeves accepted a surprise invitation Friday to visit the 49ers team headquarters and discuss the offensive-coordinator position with new coach Mike Singletary."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Singletary couldn't find a more old-school coordinator than Reeves.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer questions whether the Seahawks will keep two kickers for the long term. General manager Tim Ruskell says Olindo Mare will be back. The plan -- "right now," Ruskell said -- is for Brandon Coutu to return as well.

John Morgan of Field Gulls explains why he likes the Seahawks' hiring of Tim Lewis to coach the secondary. The fact that Lewis brought Charles Godfrey to Carolina helps.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says special-teams coach Al Roberts is one of the assistant coaches not coming back to the Rams. Strength coach Dana LeDuc and quarterbacks coach Terry Shea also will not return. Thomas: "Some holdover assistants who are still being considered for jobs are scheduled to meet with new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and new defensive coordinator Ken Flajole over the next few days."

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript that says the Rams do not have anyone negotiating contracts at the moment.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The 49ers' reported interest in Dan Reeves suggests the 49ers' search for an offensive coordinator has taken them far off course.

I've been trying to confirm the specific nature of the 49ers' interest to make sure Reeves is, in fact, a candidate for that job (update: Reeves is at 49ers headquarters and already interviewing for the coordinator's job). Coach Mike Singletary has consulted with Reeves in the past, seeking advice from the 65-year-old former Broncos, Giants and Falcons head coach.

Reeves, in turn, has recently expressed a desire to get back into coaching. He has not coached since the Falcons fired him following the 2003 season.

Hiring a coach removed from the game so long would open the 49ers to easy criticism. While I do think Singletary needs an established offensive coordinator to handle all aspects of the offense, I wasn't thinking of candidates with playing experience dating to the Ice Bowl.

Reeves would certainly bring experience, leadership, toughness and integrity. He could help Singletary with game management, if needed. But has the game passed him by? Would that even matter given Singletary's interest in establishing a run-oriented offense?

Either way, the 49ers' search for assistant coaches seems to lack coherence.

We have so far seen Singletary hire a nephew (Vantz Singletary) and former teammate (Al Harris) to newly created positions.

We have seen Singletary add former 49ers fullback and Raiders assistant Tom Rathman, who turned away other opportunities because he wanted to stay in the Bay Area.

We have seen Singletary offer the coordinator's job to Scott Linehan, who turned it down and then took a job with a Lions franchise coming off a 0-16 record.

We now apparently have Reeves joining Hue Jackson as candidates to become offensive coordinator, with Rob Chudzinski and Clyde Christensen already having interviewed.

SPONSORED HEADLINES