NFC West: Joe Whitt

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jerome Bettis became a Hall of Fame candidate after leaving the Rams in a regrettable trade. Thomas: "If the Marshall Faulk trade in 1999 was one of the best in St. Louis sports history, the Bettis deal three years earlier was one of the worst. And ultimately, it cost coach Rich Brooks and general manager Steve Ortmayer their jobs." Bettis averaged 3.2 and 3.5 yards per carry in his final two seasons with the Rams. He then topped 1,000 yards for six consecutive seasons with the Steelers. He finished his career with 91 rushing touchdowns, three receiving touchdowns and 13,662 rushing yards. Said Brooks at the time of the trade: "I wanted a little more speed at the position. 'Jerome is an outstanding player and the Pittsburgh scheme will suit him more than my scheme will. It is a good move for Jerome.'' The Rams felt OK trading Bettis because they had recently drafted Lawrence Phillips. Oops.

Also from Thomas: says Rams receiver Mardy Gilyard underwent wrist surgery recently. Ron Bartell, Chris Chamberlain, Chris Long and Jerome Murphy have also undergone surgical procedures this offseason.

More from Thomas: If he were running the Rams, he would inquire about Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson this offseason. I would expect the Rams to be more aggressive at times in upgrading their roster. They're in better position to take an occasional risk now that they feel better about their leadership and foundation. And they certainly need to acquire weapons for quarterback Sam Bradford.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams can learn from the Steelers and Packers, who have drafted very well. Miklasz: "From 2002 through 2007, the Rams drafted 55 players, and only four remain with the team today: cornerback Ron Bartell, running back Steven Jackson, safety Oshiomogho Atogwe and long snapper Chris Massey. And only one, Jackson, has been voted to the Pro Bowl. The Rams' list of draft-day busts is lengthy and depressing. The Rams are doing better under general manager Billy Devaney. Over the last three drafts the Rams have added important franchise pieces such as quarterback Sam Bradford, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, offensive tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, defensive end Chris Long and cornerback Bradley Fletcher. The Rams may have another impact draftee in tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, and other young players have shown promise."

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis marks the 11-year anniversary of the Rams' Super Bowl victory over Tennessee.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com sizes up the 49ers' coaching staff, noting that the team still needs a tight ends coach. Maiocco lists the following coaches as retained from Mike Singletary's staff: Tom Rathman, Mike Solari, Jim Tomsula and Bill Nayes.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are raising -- and lowering -- ticket prices for the 2011 season. Barrows: "According to the 49ers, the average cost of an NFL ticket in 2010 was $101. A 49ers ticket averaged $77 in 2010 and will rise to $83 in 2011. The team also notes that it offers a $59 lower-bowl ticket, which is one of the lowest costs in the league for that level."

Glen Creno of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals ownership has purchased a landmark restaurant where team president Michael Bidwill hung out during his days as a federal prosecutor. Creno: "Tom's has been around in various incarnations for more than 80 years, but it was put up for sale last year when its owner, Michael Ratner, could no longer spend the time he wanted running the place. He was spending most of his time in treatment for esophageal cancer and said that if a buyer couldn't be found, the restaurant would be closed."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals to accelerate efforts to land a defensive coordinator beginning Monday or Tuesday following the Super Bowl. Somers: "There appear to be at least five candidates. Even though Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau has said he won't coach anywhere else than Pittsburgh in 2011, I think Ken Whisenhunt will at least inquire. ... Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler is another prime target. But the Steelers gave him a new contract a year ago and made him 'coordinator in waiting.' The Steelers might well deny Whisenhunt permission. Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton will also draw some interest. ... The Packers run a similar defensive scheme, with the 3-4 as their base alignment. Assistant head coach Winston Moss is highly regarded and coaches the inside linebackers. Safeties coach Darren Perry worked with Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh and is well-versed in LeBeau's system. The Packers have other young assistants, namely cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, Jr., who are regarded as up and comers, but they are not believed to be under consideration by the Cardinals at this time."

Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer lists recently fired Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates as a potential candidate to replace another former Seattle coordinator, Bob Bratkowski, as the Bengals' offensive coordinator.

Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal says former Seahawks defensive line coach Dwaine Board will coach the Browns' defensive line under new coach Pat Shurmur. Board worked under Browns president Mike Holmgren in Seattle.
NFL assistant coaches are some of the best people to know for those looking to learn more about the game.

That has been my experience in covering the NFL since 1998.

I've helped push for better media access to assistants through the Professional Football Writers of America. I've also learned more about some of the issues important to coaches, including some outlined in this recent story about the NFL Coaches Association.

The chart shows NFLCA team reps as the association talks about forming a union.

Kevin Spencer (Cardinals), Johnnie Lynn (49ers), Dan Quinn (Seahawks) and Andy Sugarman (Rams) are the reps for NFC West coaching staffs. The 49ers' Jimmy Raye is president of the NFLCA executive committee.

It's not clear yet whether the NFLCA will move to unionize and such an effort would face a challenge even if the association did decide to move in that direction. But as coaches consider their options, these assistants presumably will be active behind the scenes.

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NFC WEST SCOREBOARD