NFC West: Kevin Spencer

We interrupt our steady diet of San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl coverage to check out where the Arizona Cardinals stand in filling vacancies on their coaching staff.

The chart lists the team's coaches from last season and those the team announced as having joined Bruce Arians' new staff. Reports have listed other coaches expected to join the staff, but sometimes plans change. Those hires are not yet official. Mike Caldwell (linebackers) and Amos Jones (special teams) are two potential candidates.

Bold lettering in the chart shows which 2012 Cardinals assistants remain with the team until further notice. Some could remain as part of Arians' staff. None has been released from his contract.

General manager Steve Keim has said he expects the new staff to place heavy emphasis on the offensive and defensive lines. I'll be watching to see whether the Cardinals give Arians additional resources. Arizona had fewer assistants than other NFC West teams employed last season.

Sizing up NFC West coaching staffs

April, 10, 2012
4/10/12
7:26
PM ET
A few notes on NFC West coaching staffs after the St. Louis Rams announced theirs for 2012 in a news release Tuesday:
  • The Rams are not listing suspended defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on their staff. They did not mention him in the news release. They did not list a defensive coordinator. Coach Jeff Fisher and assistant head coach Dave McGinnis will presumably take the lead. Secondary coach Chuck Cecil has also been a coordinator.
  • Williams' son, Blake, coaches the Rams' linebackers.
  • The Cardinals have 3-4 fewer assistants than the other teams in the division. I've noticed that to be the case in recent seasons. Staff sizes can vary. Arizona has one more than the NFL listed for New England heading into the most recent Super Bowl.
  • Every team in the division has an assistant head coach. Two serve as offensive line coaches. Another coaches special teams. Assistant head coaches might earn more money than they otherwise would, but the title does not distinguish them from other assistants in relation to hiring protocol. The title affords no additional protections against losing an assistant to another team, in other words.
  • Paul Boudreau is the Rams' offensive line coach. His son, also named Paul, is assistant special teams coach. They are not Paul Sr. and Paul Jr., however. It's not yet clear how the Rams intend to differentiate between the two. Middle initials?
  • Niners offensive assistant Michael Christianson is also coordinator of football technology.

The chart lists full-time assistants, not interns or administrative assistants. Strength-and-conditioning coaches aren't involved in football strategy, but I have listed them.
The latest in our periodic spin around the NFC West radio dials:
Rams

101ESPN St. Louis: receiver Keenan Burton

101ESPN St. Louis: executive Kevin Demoff

101ESPN St. Louis: receiver Laurent Robinson

101ESPN St. Louis: reporter John Clayton

101ESPN St. Louis: coach Steve Spagnuolo

101ESPN St. Louis: defensive end Chris Long


49ersKNBR680 San Francisco: coach Mike Singletary

KNBR680 San Francisco: reporter Matt Barrows

KNBR680 San Francisco: reporter Matt Maiocco

KNBR680 San Francisco: former receiver Dwight Clark


CardinalsXTRA910 Phoenix: nose tackle Gabe Watson

XTRA910 Phoenix: kicker Jay Feely

XTRA910 Phoenix: receiver Max Komar

XTRA910 Phoenix: safety Adrian Wilson

XTRA910 Phoenix: cornerback Greg Toler

XTRA910 Phoenix: linebacker Clark Haggans

XTRA910 Phoenix: running back Tim Hightower

azcardinals.com: quarterback Matt Leinart (video)

azcardinals.com: coach Ken Whisenhunt (video)

azcardinals.com: In the Red Zone with Whisenhunt

KTAR620 Phoenix: Whisenhunt

KTAR620 Phoenix: general manager Rod Graves

KTAR620 Phoenix: defensive coordinator Bill Davis

KTAR620 Phoenix: special-teams coach Kevin Spencer


Seahawks
KJR950 Seattle: receiver Mike Williams

KJR950 Seattle: former defensive end Bryce Fisher

KJR950 Seattle: cornerback Kelly Jennings

KJR950 Seattle: reporter Danny O'Neil

KJR950 Seattle: linebacker David Hawthorne

KJR950 Seattle: quarterback J.P. Losman

KJR950 Seattle: safety Earl Thomas

KJR950 Seattle: quarterback Matt Hasselbeck

KJR950 Seattle: safety Lawyer Milloy

KJR950 Seattle: running back Leon Washington

This is the first file with audio links of the 2010 season. As a result, some of these interviews are several days old. Remember to put on those headphones if you're at work.
News that former St. Louis Rams great Isaac Bruce had joined the Chicago Bears as a coaching intern made sense because Bruce's former coach, Mike Martz, is the offensive coordinator in Chicago.

Bruce isn't the only former NFC West player assisting teams as they hold training camps.

I saw a familiar face working as a personnel assistant in Arizona Cardinals camp. It was former Cardinals and Seahawks running back Josh Scobey, known as a fearless player on special teams. My first impression in speaking with Scobey was that he seemed to have matured quite a bit since his playing days. He was excited for the opportunity to remain close to the game without putting his body on the line.

Also in Cardinals camp, former NFL punter Chris Gardocki is helping special-teams coach Kevin Spencer.

Dan Morgan, former Pro Bowl linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, is coaching with the Seattle Seahawks. Morgan and new Seahawks assistant pro personnel director Trent Kirchner were in Carolina together for years. Seattle now has two former Pro Bowl linebackers lending expertise to the position (Ken Norton Jr. being the other).

Seahawks fans might also recall former safety Harold Blackmon, who played nine games for the team in 2001 and 2002. He's a minority coaching intern with the St. Louis Rams.
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.

Sizing up NFC West coaching staffs

February, 4, 2010
2/04/10
3:33
PM ET
MIAMI -- With the Seahawks announcing their 2010 coaching staff, I went through every NFC West team's staff to produce a chart allowing for easy comparison.

It's pretty clear the Cardinals do more with less than the other teams in the division. They have fewer assistants than the other teams in the NFC West.

In most cases, I have recreated official titles for each assistant coach. That explains why the Cardinals have no offensive coordinator listed (Russ Grimm coordinates the running game, Mike Miller coordinates the passing game and Ken Whisenhunt calls the plays). I did not create a special category for 49ers receivers coach Jerry Sullivan (he also carries the title senior assistant). Seattle's Carroll is also executive vice president. I did not create an extra category to reflect that title.

I have listed no offensive line coach for the Cardinals. Grimm handles those duties. The 49ers do not list a defensive quality control coach, but clearly someone must break down the upcoming opponents' offensive video (I am checking to see which assistant handles those duties). Update: Outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver handles those duties. Also, I updated the chart to reflect Curtis Modkins' departure from the Cardinals to become Buffalo's offensive coordinator. Ray Brown is the new assistant offensive line coach in San Francisco.

The Rams are expected to hire a receivers coach after Charlie Baggett left. They could hire an assistant offensive line coach to replace Art Valero, who took the same job with Seattle. The 49ers might need to find a new offensive quality-control coach (Shane Day is interviewing with the Bears to coach quarterbacks for Mike Martz).

The Rams and Seahawks list special assistants to the head coach. These are largely administrative positions.

Sounding off: NFC West on the airwaves

January, 25, 2010
1/25/10
10:22
AM ET
The latest in our periodic spins around the NFC West radio dials:

Rams

101ESPN St. Louis: cornerback Ron Bartell

101ESPN St. Louis: reporter Jim Thomas

101ESPN St. Louis: reporter Sam Farmer (see 7:55 mark)

101ESPN St. Louis: Howie Long

49ers

KNBR680: Ronnie Lott

KNBR680: Bryant Young

KNBR680: Brent Jones

Cardinals

KTAR620 Phoenix: quarterback Matt Leinart

KTAR620 Phoenix: outside linebacker/defensive end Bertrand Berry

KTAR620 Phoenix: special-teams coach Kevin Spencer

KTAR620 Phoenix: Warren Moon on Kurt Warner

KTAR620 Phoenix: Sando

azcardinals.com: Cardinals Underground

Seahawks
710ESPN Seattle: Dave Wyman

101ESPN St. Louis: Steve Largent

KJR950 Seattle: defensive coordinator Gus Bradley

KJR950 Seattle: coach Pete Carroll

KJR950 Seattle: general manager John Schneider
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com previews the Seahawks-Cardinals game across a few categories. On Aaron Curry: "The Seahawks’ first-round draft choice is turning Qwest Field into his personal playground. The intensity, energy and even nastiness that he brought to the first three home games will be needed -- and then some -- as the Seahawks try to pull even, and lift themselves back into the NFC West picture, entering their bye week. The defense must find a way to pressure Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, and Curry is capable of providing that pressure point."

Also from Farnsworth: Good receivers will be plentiful at Qwest Field.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times outlines keys to victory for Seattle and Arizona. O'Neil: "The Cardinals have scored 54 points in the first half, 31 in the second. That means the Seahawks must be ready to keep pace. Seattle has scored only one touchdown in the first quarter this season, and the Cardinals haven't allowed a first-quarter touchdown."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are searching for an identity, unless this is it. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "We're going to have an opportunity to find out what we're all about. We got four games under our belt, and hopefully we've learned something from those four games."

Also from Somers: Beanie Wells used the word 'humbling' to describe his experience through one month of the regular season. Whisenhunt: "Obviously, if that dumb guy that is calling plays will call more runs, then Beanie will get more opportunities for carries."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals know what they're up against in Seattle. Bertrand Berry on Matt Hasselbeck: "Looking at his confidence and charisma in the huddle and how he comes to the line of scrimmage and throws the ball, he just has a certain confidence about him those guys feed off of. It will be imperative we disrupt that timing and take away some of that confidence."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals are 40 percent of the way toward their goal of five blocked kicks this season. Special-teams coach Kevin Spencer: "I really believe it’s more the kids’ efforts and determination more than it is the scheme. I am just trying to put our strongest and biggest in a position and the guys are just making it happen. Coach Whisenhunt always says he can judge the character of the team by the field-goal rush." Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is also a special talent coming off the edge and one of the few players ever with the speed, extension and timing to block extra points from the outside.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams think their offense is making strides after finishing Week 5 with 400 yards and 27 first downs. Steven Jackson on whether the offense might be pressing in the red zone: "I think it's one of those things that we on the field have become so conscious of it and so uptight about it that it kind of has backfired on us in the last five games. I'm going to go back to my regular routine of playing loose, just being myself, and being a playmaker. I've never had a fumbling problem, knock on wood, and I don't think it will be a problem."

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis sensed optimism around the Rams during the past week.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Jaguars' problems could be a key to keeping the Rams in St. Louis. Burwell: "Things are going so badly in Jacksonville that the Jaguars appear to be the most likely existing NFL franchise that could bolt to more prosperous places. And if you are a Rams loyalist, you hope the Jags jump to the front of the line in the race to relocate to L.A."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revisits the intertwined efforts of Jacksonville and St. Louis as the cities tried to attract pro football during the 1990s. Thomas: "Because of stadium lease and ownership group issues, the would-be St. Louis Stallions never came into being. Jacksonville, which briefly dropped out of the expansion race in July '93 because of its own stadium lease issue, got its act together in time to be awarded the NFL's 30th franchise."

Also from Thomas: He gives the Rams an edge when they run the ball against the Jaguars.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams tackle Adam Goldberg has embraced his role as mentor for first-round rookie Jason Smith. Smith: "He grabbed and took me under his wing and has been a mentor to me. The guy's very crafty, he's smooth, and he's a great guy, a great person. I've learned a lot from him since I got here."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with analyst Greg Cosell for his thoughts on the 49ers. Cosell: "I think (Shaun) Hill has had some nice moments this year. I thought his (fourth-quarter) drive against Arizona Week 1 was very, very good. I have some problems with the way Arizona chose to play defense on that drive, but you still have to make the throws. Same with Minnesota. I thought Hill made some very good throws. I thought Minnesota had some problems with playing their coverages and the responsibilities within those coverages, but you still have to make the throws. But at the end of the day, Hill is not going to be a guy who's going to consistently drop back and make throw after throw after throw to either keep you in games or win games."

Also from Maiocco: a look at how Michael Crabtree's contract affects the 49ers' salary cap in 2009 (not much).

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News sizes up the 49ers' Hill and isn't particularly impressed.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News takes a bigger-picture look at the 49ers through five games.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers think they have plenty of speed even though the Falcons outran them a few times in Week 5. General manager Scot McCloughan: "It's better than we've ever had. Our play speed is fine compared to the rest of the league. We've got speed. The play with Roddy White on Nate (Clements), Nate's there to make the play. He's got to make the play. With elite speed like (White's), you're not going to catch him. White's a 4.3 guy (in the 40-yard dash). He can fly."

Carthon's departure was in the works

February, 19, 2009
2/19/09
6:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cardinals had already hired Curtis Modkins to coach their running backs. They didn't say anything publicly until the Chiefs announced Maurice Carthon's hiring as assistant head coach.

Carthon coached running backs for the Cardinals in 2007 and 2008. Modkins coached running backs for the Chiefs in 2008.

When Todd Haley left his job as Cardinals offensive coordinator to become the Chiefs' head coach, he wanted to bring along Carthon from Arizona.

The Cardinals allowed Carthon to pursue the promotion. They quickly lined up Modkins, who broke into the NFL with Kansas City in 2008 after six seasons coaching running backs defensive backs at Georgia Tech.

Title Cardinals 49ers Seahawks Rams
Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt
Mike Singletary
Jim Mora
Steve Spagnuolo
Off. Coord.
(shared)
Jimmy Raye
Greg Knapp
Pat Shurmur
OL Russ Grimm
Chris Foerster
Mike Solari
Steve Loney
QB Chris Miller
Mike Johnson
Bill Lazor
Dick Curl
WR John McNulty
Jerry Sullivan
Robert Prince
Charlie Baggett
RB Curtis Modkins
Tom Rathman
Kasey Dunn
Sylvester Croom
TE Freddie Kitchens
Pete Hoener
Mike DeBord
Frank Leonard
Def. Coord.
Bill Davis
Greg Manusky
Gus Bradley
Ken Flajole
DL Ron Aiken
Jim Tomsula
Dan Quinn
Brendan Daly
LB Matt Raich
(shared)
Zerick Rollins
Paul Ferraro
DB Teryl Austin
(shared)
Tim Lewis (shared)
Special Teams
Kevin Spencer
Al Everest
Bruce DeHaven
Tom McMahon

The chart provides a general overview of NFC West coaching staffs. Yellow shading highlights changes from last season. Titles are imprecise in some cases.

For example, the Cardinals do not have an offensive coordinator. They have a running game coordinator in assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm and they have a passing game coordinator in Mike Miller.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

NFC West coaching staffs are mostly complete after the Rams assigned titles to Frank Leonard, Paul Ferraro, Andre Curtis and Clayton Lopez.

The chart shows which coaches retained their titles from the end of last season (gray shading) and which coaches are new to their current roles (yellow shading). The Cardinals could face additional changes if they fill vacancies from within.

Title Cardinals 49ers Seahawks Rams
Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt
Mike Singletary
Jim Mora
Steve Spagnuolo
Off. Coord.
(open)
Jimmy Raye
Greg Knapp
Pat Shurmur
OL Russ Grimm
Chris Foerster
Mike Solari
Steve Loney
QB (open)
Mike Johnson
Bill Lazor
Dick Curl
WR Mike Miller
Jerry Sullivan
Robert Prince
Charlie Baggett
RB Maurice Carthon
Tom Rathman
Kasey Dunn
Sylvester Croom
TE Freddie Kitchens
Pete Hoener
Mike DeBord
Frank Leonard
Def. Coord.
(open) Greg Manusky
Gus Bradley
Ken Flajole
DL Ron Aiken
Jim Tomsula
Dan Quinn
Brendan Daly
LB Bill Davis
(shared)
Zerick Rollins
Paul Ferraro
DB Teryl Austin
(shared)
Tim Lewis (shared)
Special Teams
Kevin Spencer
Al Everest
Bruce DeHaven
Tom McMahon

All four offensive line coaches remain in their roles from last season (subject to change if Russ Grimm becomes the Cardinals' offensive coordinator). Every other core staff position features at least one change in the division.

The 49ers and Rams have the largest staffs with 20 members apiece, counting head coaches. The Seahawks reduced to 18 after moving assistant offensive line coach Mike DeBord to tight ends and eliminating the job of assistant special teams coach John Jamison. The Cardinals have 13 coaches, a number that figures to rise by at least three.

The 49ers and Rams have full-time administrative assistants assigned to their head coaches. The Cardinals do not formally list an assistant strength and conditioning coach, although Pete Alosi does help John Lott in that area.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals' reported interest in Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler as a candidate for defensive coordinator appears headed nowhere.

Mike Jurecki of KGME radio in Phoenix said the Cardinals requested and received permission from the Steelers to interview Butler for the job. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the Cardinals haven't even asked for permisison on Butler.

Kent Somers, longtime Cardinals beat reporter for the Arizona Republic, says he has been unable to confirm Butler as a candidate. I have also been unable to confirm Butler as a candidate. The Steelers and Cardinals have declined comment as a matter of policy.

We know the Cardinals once had interest in Butler. They requested permission to speak with him before the 2007 season, when Ken Whisenhunt left the Steelers for the Cardinals. The Steelers denied permission at that time. Here is what Somers reported Jan. 19, 2007, according to the Republic's paid archives:

"Whisenhunt asked for the Steelers' permission to interview three current staff members. The Steelers denied the request to talk to receivers coach Bruce Arians and linebackers coach Keith Butler. They granted Whisenhunt permission to talk to special-teams coach Kevin Spencer, and he could join the Cardinals staff soon."

Spencer coaches the Cardinals' special teams. Arians became the Steelers' offensive coordinator. Butler remained in Pittsburgh as linebackers coach.

The Cardinals remain without coordinators on boths sides of the ball, and without a quarterbacks coach. Linebackers coach Bill Davis and secondary coach Teryl Austin appear in line for interviews on the defensive side. Assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm is a candidate on the offensive side.

The Rams are the only other NFC West team with an opening at coordinator. The Rams have not named position coaches at tight end, linebacker or defensive back, but they could conceivably fill one or more of those positions with coaches already on staff.

(Read full post)

Sizing up NFC West coaching staffs

February, 5, 2009
2/05/09
4:20
PM ET
Title Cardinals 49ers Seahawks Rams
Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt
Mike Singletary
Jim Mora
Steve Spagnuolo
Off. Coord.
Todd Haley
Jimmy Raye
Greg Knapp
Pat Shurmur
OL Russ Grimm
Chris Foerster
Mike Solari
Steve Loney
QB Jeff Rutledge
Mike Johnson
Bill Lazor
Dick Curl
WR Mike Miller
Jerry Sullivan
Robert Prince
Charlie Baggett
RB Maurice Carthon
Tom Rathman
Kasey Dunn
Sylvester Croom
TE Freddie Kitchens
Pete Hoener
Mike DeBord
(unnamed)
Def. Coord.
C. Pendergast Greg Manusky
Gus Bradley
Ken Flajole
DL Ron Aiken
Jim Tomsula
Dan Quinn
Brendan Daly
LB Bill Davis
(shared)
Zerick Rollins
(unnamed)
DB Teryl Austin
(shared)
Tim Lewis (unnamed)
Special Teams
Kevin Spencer
Al Everest
Bruce DeHaven
Tom McMahon

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

NFC West coaching staffs are mostly complete. The chart provides a general overview showing which coaches are primarily overseeing key areas.

Some coaches have fancy titles. I'll list those below. Including those titles in the chart would have served them but not us.

The 49ers have two coaches assigned to linebackers and two assigned to the secondary:

  • Jason Tarver is a defensive assistant/outside linebackers. Vantz Singletary is coaching inside linebackers. Coach Mike Singletary and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky are former NFL linebackers, so the 49ers have that position covered.
  • Vance Joseph and Johnnie Lynn are both listed as secondary coaches.

The Rams have not named coaches at tight
end, linebacker or secondary. However, they have hired Andre Curtis and Paul Ferraro as unspecified defensive assistants. They have also hired Frank Leonard as an unspecified offensive assistant.

The Seahawks and Cardinals do not list administrative assistants as part of their staffs. Bill Nayes and Bruce Warwick fill those spots for the 49ers and Rams, respectively.

The following team-by-team list includes all the fancy titles, plus some coaches who did not appear on the chart:

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFC WEST SCOREBOARD