NFC West: Jason Garrett
Neither receiver has a contract for the 2013 season. Neither was named his team's franchise player. Both could become unrestricted free agents March 12.
McDaniels' presence in New England as the Patriots' offensive coordinator would seem to make Amendola a viable fallback option for the team if Welker were to leave in free agency. As Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com wrote Monday, there were increasingly reasons to think Welker and the Patriots would reach agreement before the signing period opens. But with ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting Wednesday that Welker planned to test the market, it's good to remember that there are no guarantees.
If Welker were to re-sign with the Patriots, where would Amendola fit beyond New England or St. Louis? Would any team value him more than the Rams would value him?
Those aren't easy questions to answer. Amendola, like Rams teammate and fellow free-agent candidate Brandon Gibson, was with Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles before coming to the Rams. Before that, Amendola was with Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, when Garrett was offensive coordinator.
Sometimes those past connections come into play when a player reaches free agency. Reid is the new head coach in Kansas City. Garrett fills the same role in Dallas. Reid's receivers coach, David Culley, is the same one he had in Philadelphia when Amendola was there in 2009.
But even if Amendola's ties to those teams' coaches were relevant, neither Kansas City nor Dallas appears to have a pressing need for a slot receiver. The Chiefs' Dexter McCluster and Tony Moeaki combined for 62 receptions from the slot last season, according to game charting from ESPN Stats & Information. The Cowboys' Miles Austin and Jason Witten combined for 83 slot receptions.
There could be other suitors, of course. There are other connections, too.
Amendola's offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, Marty Mornhinweg, has the same role with the New York Jets. One of his former offensive coordinators in St. Louis, Pat Shurmur, has the same job with the Eagles.
Again, though, does either team have a pressing need? Jeremy Kerley caught 43 passes for 612 yards from the slot for the Jets last season. Jason Avant had 50 catches for 609 yards from the slot for Philadelphia.
With Amendola coming off two injury-shortened seasons, the Rams should have a better shot at keeping him without overpaying, particularly if Welker re-signs. That would be good for St. Louis given the value Amendola has provided on third down in particular.
"He has great quickness in a short area and when you talk about a smaller guy, he has that great ability to create some separation," McDaniels said of Amendola in 2011, when he was the Rams' offensive coordinator. "You gotta be really tough, you gotta be able to create some separation quick because you don't have all day to run a 5-yard route sometimes. You gotta get open. He does that and he has great hands and he’s really tough. He is everything you want in that regard."
It also has the potential to liven up NFC West rivalries given Ryan's propensity for speaking his mind freely.
Ryan will serve as the St. Louis Rams' coordinator after the team went through 2012 without one. Head coach Jeff Fisher, assistant head coach Dave McGinnis, secondary coach Chuck Cecil and new linebackers coach Frank Bush were also defensive coordinators in the NFL previously.
The Dallas Cowboys fired Ryan as coordinator after last season in part because they hoped to generate more turnovers, according to coach Jason Garrett.
"It also didn't help Ryan that his flamboyant and boastful personality was never a good fit with the button-downed Garrett," Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote. "After making a few statements that turned into bulletin board material for opposing teams in 2011, Ryan was instructed by Garrett to tone it down before the 2012 season. He did his best [to] stay out of trouble with his mouth in 2012, but his penalty for going on the field to jaw with an opposing player in a game against Cincinnati didn't sit well with Garrett."
The Rams already played with attitude in 2012 while posting a 4-1-1 record in the division. With Ryan and a veteran defensive staff, one of the NFL's youngest teams won't be hurting for experience on the sideline and coaching booth.
Ryan served as defensive coordinator for Oakland, Cleveland and most recently Dallas before reaching an agreement with the Rams. He has favored a 3-4 defensive alignment in the past, but the Rams aren't looking for a new system. I anticipate Ryan adjusting to the defensive style Fisher favors.
Fisher played for and coached under Ryan's father, Buddy, years ago. Fisher and Rob Ryan have not worked together previously.
Former Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren never removed himself as a candidate to coach the Dallas Cowboys in the future.
He simply told reporters covering his most recent team, the Cleveland Browns, he had not pursued an opportunity with the Cowboys.
There's a big difference. So, when ESPN's Ed Werder reports the Dallas job is one Holmgren would strongly consider, that does not speak counter to previous reports. I can never recall Holmgren voluntarily reducing his leverage in such a situation. The only time he accepted a reduced role was when the Seahawks forced him to step down as general manager at the threat of his firing following the 2002 season.
The Dallas job would not be an ideal one for Holmgren because Holmgren covets the personnel power and profile Cowboys owner Jerry Jones flaunts. At this stage, however, Holmgren might not be able to command full power. If the Dallas job opens and Holmgren thinks the Cowboys would give him a chance to win relatively quickly, the fit could be right. I'm thinking Holmgren knows all about the job through his relationship with former Cowboys coach Bill Pacells.
Assembling a staff could be a challenge for Holmgren given that he's an older coach and hasn't been a head coach for several years. The fate facing Andy Reid's staff in Philadelphia could be worth monitoring if Holmgren does return to coaching. Reid and Holmgren are close friends. Their offensive philosophies are similar.
The Cowboys do have the third-easiest remaining schedule (.397). They're not finished yet. Jones has said he's committed to current coach Jason Garrett.
This will not be the last time Holmgren's name arises in such a manner, at least.
Nine of 12 ESPN.com football reporters are picking the St. Louis Rams to win the NFC West this season. Three others are taking the Arizona Cardinals. And that is only a small sampling of results from our NFL predictions for the 2011 season.
NFL divisional bloggers joined John Clayton, Adam Schefter, Matt Williamson, Ashley Fox and Jeff Chadiha in voting for eight division winners, two wild-card teams per conference, AFC champion, NFC champ, Super Bowl champ, coach of the year, MVP, top offensive rookie and top defensive rookie.
A quick look at voting results:
- Super Bowl champ: Six of 12 votes, including mine, went for the New England Patriots. Chadiha and Seifert took Green Bay. Four other teams drew votes: New Orleans (Paul Kuharsky), San Diego (Dan Graziano), Pittsburgh (Fox) and the New York Jets (Bill Williamson).
- AFC champ: Nine votes for New England. One apiece for the Chargers, Steelers and Jets.
- NFC champ: Green Bay drew four votes, including mine. New Orleans and Philadelphia drew three votes apiece. Atlanta (Bill Williamson) and Dallas (Schefter) drew one apiece.
- NFC West: I was among nine picking the St. Louis Rams. Chadiha, Kevin Seifert joined Graziano in picking the Arizona Cardinals.
- NFC North: It was unanimous. Twelve votes for the Packers.
- NFC South: Six for New Orleans, six for Atlanta. I took the Falcons.
- NFC East: Eleven votes for the Eagles. Schefter took the Cowboys.
- NFC wild cards: The Saints and Cowboys were my picks, in part because Dallas plays the NFC West this season. There were six votes for Atlanta, five for New Orleans, four for Dallas, three for Detroit, three for Tampa Bay, one for Minnesota (Chadiha), one for Philadelphia (Schefter) and one for the New York Giants (Yasinskas).
- AFC West: Eleven votes for San Diego. Kuharsky took Kansas City.
- AFC North: Eight votes for Pittsburgh, including mine. Four for Baltimore.
- AFC South: Seven votes for Houston. Five votes for Indianapolis, including mine.
- AFC East: I was among 10 voting for the Patriots. Graziano and Bill Williamson picked the Jets.
- AFC wild cards: Baltimore and the Jets were my picks. There were eight votes for the Jets, five for the Ravens, four for the Steelers, three for the Colts, two for the Patriots, one for the Texans (Kuharsky) and one for the Chiefs (Bill Williamson).
- Coach of the year: Bill Belichick was my choice. There were three votes for Jim Schwartz, two for Jason Garrett, two for Belichick and one apiece for Steve Spagnuolo (Kuharsky), Sean Payton (James Walker), Mike McCarthy (Clayton), Andy Reid (Chadiha) and Gary Kubiak (Pat Yasinskas).
- MVP: I was among four voting for Aaron Rodgers. Philip Rivers drew three votes. Tom Brady and Michael Vick drew two apiece. Kuharsky cast the lone vote for Brees.
- Offensive rookie: I was among nine voting for Julio Jones. There were two votes for Mark Ingram (Clayton, Schefter) and one for Cam Newton (Bill Williamson).
- Defensive rookie: I was among nine voting for Von Miller. Adrian Clayborn (Kuharsky), Ryan Kerrigan (Graziano) and Jimmy Smith (Walker) drew one vote apiece.
Take these to the bank, but please do not try depositing them. I'm sure our perceptions will change -- "evolve" sounds better -- as these teams reveal more about themselves.
For me, the biggest challenge is following four teams so closely every day of the year, then trying to make sense of faraway teams that cross the radar screen far less frequently. I'm interested in your picks, too. Fire away.
Retired St. Louis Rams great Marshall Faulk explained why during an NFL Network spot from the Pro Bowl.
Faulk, in downplaying the job Jason Garrett did as Dallas Cowboys interim coach last season, said players sometimes perform better when they know the established coach or quarterback isn't around to take the blame. That sounds cynical, but it makes sense.
The Cowboys seemed to play better after losing their quarterback and head coach last season. Two years ago, the San Francisco 49ers quickly signed interim coach Mike Singletary to an extension after finishing strong following a coaching switch. By Faulk's logic, players might have been reacting to Mike Nolan's ouster as much as they were reacting to Singletary's promotion.
It's something to keep in mind when assessing how the next interim coach or backup quarterback fares.
Brad (Visalia, Calif.): Mike, please find a way to end my suffering. How did the Niners blow this Harbaugh deal? Do you think they low-balled him? Sounds like they came in at somewhere between $4.5 and $5M where as Carroll got about $6.5. Do you think if they had come in at the Carroll number that we'd be listening to a press conference right now announcing Harbaugh as HC? I just feel completely betrayed by Jed York.
Mike Sando: You are not the only one. First, it's not over til it's over, so let's not react prematurely. But at this point, I would be quite surprised if the 49ers landed Harbaugh. And if he does get away, your complaints regarding York appear justified. He did say money would be no object, yet all the reports suggest the 49ers came in at a figure well beneath what the Miami Dolphins appear willing to pay. I do not know whether a better offer would have stopped Harbaugh from at least talking to other people, though. He had to know the 49ers would wait for him. What other options were they going to pursue that would trump him? None.
Ben (Portland): Do you think Vince Young is a possibility in Seattle? He seems like a good fit for Bates' offense and I have to think that Young would appreciate Uncle Pete's approach more than Fisher's "My way or the highway".
Mike Sando: A fresh start would serve Young well, and we know Carroll gives fresh starts. The key would be whether the Seahawks or any team could land Young on favorable terms. Young cannot have the power he attempted to wield in Tennessee. He would need to be humbled and grateful for the chance. I question whether he would have that state of mind. He is accustomed to "The Man" status. Let's see how the market responds. I'd applaud a team for signing Young to the right kind of deal. The signing team could not offer too many promises.
Tevin T. Broner (NLR): Do you think the Rams will make some noise in free agency?
Mike Sando: They do have a new owner and they do have a quarterback to build around. They are definitely more likely to make some sort of splash in free agency this offseason than in past offseasons -- provided we have free agency.
Bryan (Houston): What are your thoughts on the Cards coaching and GM situations? Do you see some major changes? Hire a new DC? Will Whiz give up play calling to an OC?
Mike Sando: In a normal year, yes, I think the Cardinals would overhaul the defensive staff. I am a little less sure about that in the current climate. We are seeing some teams make decisions with the bottom line in mind. Marvin Lewis stays in Cincy. Jack Del Rio stays in Jacksonville. Jerry Jones sticks with Jason Garrett. Carolina parts with John Fox (and will hire more cheaply, for sure). The Cardinals will have to think hard about whether to change over their coaching staff. Now, they could always write into contracts lockout clauses protecting themselves against having no football, but that process adds another layer of uncertainty, too.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes an in-depth look at the process by which the Rams named Steve Spagnuolo head coach. General manager Billy Devaney was worried about losing Spagnuolo to another team. Owner Chip Rosenbloom gave Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier a slight edge. And the Rams couldn't say no when Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett asked to make a last-minute visit to St. Louis.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' hiring of Spagnuolo shows Rosenbloom is living up to his word. Miklasz: "All I know is this: At the beginning of the search, Spagnuolo was unanimously portrayed as one of the most coveted available coaching properties. And the Rams got him."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' dream scenario unfolded when they landed Spagnuolo. Burwell: "Did the Rams really just hire the right guy? Call me cautiously noncommittal. We'll see. But I'm hopeful, and I haven't been hopeful around the Rams in a long time."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams players following Spagnuolo's hiring. Wisely, none criticized the move.
Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com would have preferred Rex Ryan as the Rams' next coach, but hiring Spagnuolo was more practical.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Spagnuolo's credentials make him a worthy selection as the Rams' new head coach. Korte: "Spagnuolo transformed the underperforming Giants' defense into one of the best in the NFL practically overnight. They ranked 25th in the NFL in defense in 2006 prior to Spagnuolo's arrival, and they would rank seventh in 2007 and fifth in 2008 under the high-energy, no-nonsense defensive coordinator."
|Evan Pinkus/Getty Image|
|Former New York defensive coordinator was a hot commodity after New York's playoff loss to Philadelphia and is now headed to St. Louis.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams have to feel good about their ability to land Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as head coach given the recent state of the franchise in St. Louis.
Spagnuolo was the hot candidate a year ago. The Rams couldn't have pried him away if they had been interested in him at that time. No team could.
The Giants didn't finish this season with a Super Bowl title, but if Spagnuolo was a good coach one year ago, he should be a better one for having one more year of experience.
The Rams' interest in Spagnuolo comes as little surprise given his success in the NFL and his longstanding relationship with Rams general manager Billy Devaney. The hiring seemed less likely when the Rams appeared to show considerable interest in other candidates, even bringing in Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett a second time.
The relationship between Spagnuolo and Devaney was probably key in the Rams' ability to land such a high-profile candidate. This wasn't just a case of Devaney trusting Spagnuolo. Given the state of the Rams after two horrible seasons and a potentially unsettled ownership situation, Spagnuolo needed to trust Devaney when the general manager sold him on the Rams.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic checks in with former Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer, who is spending the weekend at a handball tournament in Seattle. Plummer: "Getting your (backside) kicked all the time was really rough, but (ownership) didn't care one way or the other. They just wanted a stadium. If we won, it was a bonus. But they were right. They have a stadium, and what they promised has become a reality. They have delivered on their word."
The Arizona Republic offers a question-and-answer session with Cardinals president Michael Bidwill, who says getting a new stadium helped turn around the franchise. Bidwill: "We believed so strongly that it would give us the great home-field advantage we'd been lacking, the revenue streams to compete with the rest of the NFL, and ultimately lead to the success we all wanted. Three seasons after opening the stadium, it's rewarding that that all of those things followed."
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' defense has held up its end.
More from McManaman, with Kent Somers: Anquan Boldin says his hamstring isn't a problem.
Also from Somers: a closer look at what makes Ken Whisenhunt an effective coach.
Also from McManaman: The decision to start Kurt Warner is paying off for Arizona.
More from McManaman: a look at Larry Fitzgerald, followed by a list of the 10 greatest Cardinals.
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says Dennis Green also deserves some credit for the Cardinals' rise.
Mark Maske of the Washington Post says times have changed for the Cardinals. Years ago, leaving the organization seemed to be the first step toward a successful career. Ken Harvey, Jay Novacek and Tim McDonald proved as much.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times picks apart the "no respect" angle. Warner has his back when he says, "Why would we get a lot of respect when we haven't done anything to prove otherwise? It is what it is. It's a process. You're trying to earn respect, as an organization and as a team. It takes year-in and year-out consistency to earn that respect."
Jarrett Bell of USA Today checks in with the least objective reporter covering the NFL playoffs. Says the elder Larry Fitzgerald, a sports reporter by trade: "I understand there's no cheering [in the press box]. I'm there as an objective journalist. On the outside, that's what you see. But inside, I'm high-fiving."
Karen Crouse of the New York Times writes about the hurdles Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie overcame in reaching the NFL. Losing a kidney at age 5 was one of them.
Jim Corbett of USA Today looks at Whisenhunt's quick two-year rise in Arizona.
Bob Romantic and Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune debate which team will win the NFC Championship Game.
Also from Bordow: Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith hopes his late mother's premonition comes true.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says Fitzgerald is well on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Mark Heller of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals are bracing for the Eagles' blitzes.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers appear close to hiring an offensive coordinator. Rick Dennison is no longer a candidate.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are waiting for former Rams coach Scott Linehan to accept their offer to become offensive coordinator.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat expects Linehan to make a decision by the end of the weekend.
Jim Thomas and Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch try to make sense of the Rams' latest meeting with Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. General manager Billy Devaney had said the interviews of head-coaching candidates were over. Devaney: "Jason didn't know much about St. Louis, and he wanted to look at the facility. We're not close to moving on Jason Garrett. I'm not even going to say he's the leading guy."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams would be taking quite a risk by hiring Garrett as their next head coach. Miklasz: "This one floors me. If Garrett is destined to be the next head coach at Rams Park, I never saw it coming. I never took it seriously. I never realized the extent of the apparent man crush that Devaney has on Garrett. And maybe this is all just another head fake by Devaney. Again: who knows?"
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Garrett's visit could suggest he's the front-runner for the job.
Previously from Thomas: Leslie Frazier was looking like the No. 1 candidate.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-I
ntelligencer says the Seahawks would rather not select an offensive tackle with the fourth overall choice. General manager Tim Ruskell: "I have never been fond of the high (pick) offensive lineman. It's not a sexy pick and you can't really show highlights."
John Morgan of Field Gulls explains why drafting a cornerback early might not make sense for the Seahawks. If they draft one fourth overall, what does that say about the team's investment in Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings?
Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts takes a look at a mock draft from the Sporting News as it pertains to the Seahawks.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams appeared ready to move on without interim coach Jim Haslett when they lined up interviews with other candidates. Haslett appeared ready to move on without the Rams when he interviewed to become defensive coordinator in Green Bay.
Given where we all saw this heading, the Rams surprised no one by formally announcing that Haslett would not return in 2009.
Here's how general manager Billy Devaney put it in a statement:
"Jim took over an impossible situation. He kept the team focused and playing hard and, as an organization, we are much better off for his contribution. We decided that, after going through the interview process and in the spirit of that process, it was best to let Jim know that we are going to go in a new direction."
The Rams said they expected to make no additional announcements Thursday. Candidates include Leslie Frazier, Rex Ryan, Steve Spagnuolo and Jason Garrett. Devaney has suggested a decision could be made this weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Steve Wyche of NFL.com says the Eagles have an edge at quarterback. He gives the Cardinals an edge on the offensive line. Hmmm.
Pat Kirwan of NFL.com breaks down the Eagles-Cardinals matchup before picking Arizona to win by a field goal or less.
John Branch of the New York Times revisits the Cardinals' 1947 championship team. At least five players from that team remain alive, and Branch checks in with a couple of them.
Karen Crouse of the New York Times checks in with former dancer Ann Frederick, an Arizona-based stretching specialist whose clients include Eagles and Cardinals alike.
The Arizona Republic profiles the Cardinals' key players and head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic describes Anquan Boldin as critical to the Cardinals' success. Bickley: "In the short term, all that matters is Boldin's availability. Though the Cardinals are 4-1 without Boldin in the lineup this season, they are not beating the Eagles on Sunday without him."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie remains a rookie off the field while playing like a veteran on it.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says Boldin is looking forward to atoning for a subpar performance against the Eagles on Thanksgiving.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' decision to interview quarterbacks coaches could mean they're finished interviewing potential coordinators.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Pat McPherson, candidate to coach quarterbacks for the 49ers, has strong ties to the organization. McPherson's father, Bill, spent 27 seasons with the 49ers as a coach and personnel analyst.
John Ryan of the San Jose Mercury News thinks the Broncos could be in trouble with former 49ers coach Mike Nolan running their defense.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jason Garrett's stock has dropped, but the Rams are considering him as their potential head coach anyway. Thomas: "[Terrell] Owens, meanwhile, wouldn't even refer to Garrett by name for a couple of weeks this season. When asked questions about the offense, Owens' reply would be something along these lines: 'You're going to have to ask the offensive coordinator.' Even given Owens' track record, the friction of '08 could raise red flags for a Rams team searching for leadership in its next head coach."
VanRam of Turf Show Times looks at the Rams' struggles running the ball up the middle.
Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts, in summarizing a recent radio interview involving Matt Hasselbeck, quotes the quarterback as saying the Seahawks are simplifying their offense. This is potentially significant. The Seahawks have sometimes had a hard time quickly assimilating receivers into the offense. Audio here.
John Morgan of Field Gulls looks at a basic running play as run by Greg Knapp in Oakland using regular personnel from the I-formation.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers held a phone interview with Broncos assistant Pat McPherson, a candidate to coach quarterbacks for the 49ers. McPherson would likely coach the position if the team hired Broncos assistant Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have discussed the possibility of hiring an offensive coordinator from within. Also, the Broncos might have interest in 49ers offensive assistant Adam Gase.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says McPherson served as position coach for Jake Plummer, who posted a 39-15 starting record with McPherson coaching the position.
Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals continue to fight through personnel issues at tight end.
Also from Obert: Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb trains in Arizona.
Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette checks in with former Redskins and University of Iowa defensive back Matt Bowen for scouting reports on Kurt Warner and McNabb. Bowen played with Warner and against McNabb.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie claims to be the fastest player on the Cardinals, and he's willing to back it up.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with Steve Breaston, who disputes Rodgers-Cromartie's claim while declining to prove it until after the season.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals passed out shirts featuring a simple message. "PROVE IT," the shirts read.
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune thinks Rodgers-Cromartie can become a perennial Pro Bowl cornerback.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shares his thoughts on changes to the Seahawks' coaching staff. Farnsworth: "Seeing [Gil] Haskell go is almost as difficult as watching Holmgren walk away. Like [Mike] Holmgren, Haskell is a good coach and an even better person. But [Greg] Knapp's name as the eventual O.C. surfaced a year ago, when [Jim] Mora was named the head-coach-in-waiting. Knapp and Mora worked together previously in San Francisco and Atlanta, and it was imperative that Mora have his 'own guy' running the offense because his expertise is on the defensive side of the ball."
Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier emerged from his Rams interview hopeful the team would hire him as head coach. Frazier: "I felt really good about the interview. I had no second guesses about, 'Maybe I should have said this or that.' I put everything out there that needed to be out there and now it's a matter of if I'm the right fit for what they're looking for."
John Clayton says the Rams' interest in Steve Spagnuolo and Jason Garrett shows money isn't a problem for the team in its search for a new head coach.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are working to overcome distractions associated with championship week.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals thrive on being disrespected. Adrian Wilson: "Deion Sanders, saying he's going to sell his Super Bowl tickets if we make it to the Super Bowl? That's disrespectful."
Mark Heller of the East Valley Tribune examines how the Cardinals processed their 48-20 defeat to the Eagles on Thanksgiving. The game is difficult to rewatch, coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Also from Heller: a look at the matchup between rookies DeSean Jackson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Cardinals' playoff success has resonated with some in the city the organization left behind. Dan Dierdorf: "I'm immensely proud and thrilled for everybody involved. I think it's wonderful. I was really kind of surprised how emotional I was when they made the playoffs and won that first game. I mean, I wasn't crying my eyes out; I was just really happy for the guys."
Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers might be closer than we realize to becoming a playoff team. Mike Singletary suggested the team would need to upgrade four positions.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat updates the 49ers' search for an offensive coordinator following Rick Dennison's interview. Also, Mike Nolan turned down the Packers' offer to become defensive coordinator. Expect him to surface as the Broncos' defensive coordinator under Josh McDaniels.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks might be closer than we realize to becoming a playoff team. The Falcons went from 5-11 before Jim Mora took over to 11-5 in his first season with the team.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune advances Mora's first news conference as the Seahawks' head coach. He says Mora was wise to keep a low profile to this point, but the coach will need to step up his public profile in the future.
William Tomisser of Seahawk Addicts revisits Tim Ruskell's recent radio interview while expressing confidence in Seattle's president and general manager. Ruskell denies influencing Mike Holmgren's decision to leave the organization.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett isn't ready for the job, contrary to the other four candidates. Burwell: "The name of the Dallas Cowboys' embattled offensive coordinator sticks out like an unruly comb-over on a bald man."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com quotes Rams general manager Billy Devaney as saying the team could have a new head coach in the next week. "I would say we are winding down," Devaney said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch identifies Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett as one of five finalists to become the Rams' head coach. Other finalists include interim Rams coach Jim Haslett, Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.
Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News says the Rams have lined up an interview with Spagnuolo. Vacchiano: "That will be the fifth interview for Spagnuolo, who has already met with officials for the Browns, Broncos, Jets and Lions. The Lions are reportedly interested in bringing him to Detroit for an interview this week, and a league source said the Jets might try to interview him for a second time, too."
Clark Judge of CBS Sports.com says the Cardinals should think about extending coach Ken Whisenhunt's contract.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Whisenhunt plans no changes to the Cardinals' offense after losing tight end Stephen Spach to a knee injury. You might recall Leonard Pope making a 25-yard reception at Philadelphia on Thanksgiving.
More from Somers, with Richard Obert: Cardinals fullback Terrelle Smith relays a story about his cancer-stricken mother having a vision about Arizona playing for the NFC title at home. Smith: "Doctors say sometimes they get delusional and, at times, we thought she was. But now it lines up. It makes sense, and it tells me what to fight for every week." Smith's mother died last month.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals' 41-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald owed its roots to a play drawn up on the team plane. The play -- Fake Toss, 339 Taxi Pass -- was such a secret that the team decided against running it during its walkthrough in Charlotte.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says new Seahawks coach Jim Mora is surrounding himself with assistant coaches he knows and trusts. Mora's first news conference as head coach is scheduled for Tuesday.
Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog takes a deliberate look at potential draft options for the Seahawks with the fourth overall choice, balancing why certain options may or may not be feasible.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, citing a National Football Post report, says former Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski will interview to become the 49ers' offensive coordinator. Jagodzinski also worked previously on Mora's staff in Atlanta. Update: Jagodzinski is not a candidate.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sees similarities in the resumes of Jagodzinski and fellow candidate Rick Dennison. Update: Those similarities would be more interesting if Jagodzinski were indeed a candidate.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic emphasizes the positive in looking at the Cardinals heading into their divisional-round game at Carolina.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Panthers surprised the Cardinals in Week 8 by loading up against the run. Arizona enjoyed a big day in the passing game.
Also from Somers: Recent history gives the Cardinals hope going on the road for the divisional round. Wild-card teams have made it to Super Bowls recently.
More from Somers: Anquan Boldin's injury could affect a chunk of the Cardinals' game plan.
Bob Young of the Arizona Republic wonders why the Cardinals tend to leave their retractable roof closed even when the weather is perfect. I can think of two reasons. One, Kurt Warner prefers the roof closed, and he let team president Michael Bidwill know about it. Two, bright sunshine can blind a small number of fans in part of the stadium.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic takes a quick look at the Panthers.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals prefer the underdog role.
Billy Witz of the New York Times checks in with the most disrespected Cardinal of them all, Edgerrin James.
Brian McIntyre of Scout.com breaks down the Seahawks' defensive participation by scheme and player. Brian Russell played all but one snap on defense, by his count. And there were several plays when Seattle had only 10 defenders on the field. Oops.
Also from McIntyre: A look at offensive participation and personnel use. Ironman Floyd Womack played a higher percentage of offensive snaps than any Seattle player.
John Morgan of Field Gulls says poor quality at the top of the 2009 NFL draft means the Seahawks are less likely to find an impact player there. I had this conversation with a scout Sunday. He couldn't think of a dynamic pass-rusher worthy of the fourth overall pick, unles the Seahawks took a chance on Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks could hire Rod Marinelli. Meanwhile, longtime tight ends coach Jim Lind is expected to retire.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks tried to hire Marinelli twice when Mike Holmgren was head coach, but the Bucs denied permission each time.
William Tomisser of Seahawk Addicts breaks down the Seahawks' situation at running back. Maurice Morris, Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett combined for solid numbers, even if the perception was that Seattle didn't get top production from the position.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have shown "at least some level of interest" in Jim Fassel, Russ Grimm, Jim Schwartz, Mike Munchak, Steve Spagnuolo and Jason Garrett. Winston Moss has already interviewed. The team has received formal permission to interview Todd Bowles, Leslie Frazier, Rex Ryan and Ray Sherman.
Drew Olson of onmilwaukee.com lists Mike Nolan and Jim Haslett as potential candidates to become defensive coordinator for the Packers. Both worked with current Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
Chrissy Mauck of 49ers.com lists the team's players scheduled to become free agents.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' rushing production by play direction. The team ranked fifth among NFL teams in yards per carry up the middle.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says a power running game can help a team succeed without having a top-flight quarterback.