NFC West: Mike Clark
Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette says Packers assistant strength and conditioning coach Mondray Gee will join the Seahawks in a similar role. Dougherty: "Gee, 33, worked seven years as a strength and conditioning assistant for the Detroit Lions before the Packers hired him in 2008. New Seahawks coach Pete Carroll hired Gee presumably on the recommendation of John Schneider, Seattle's new general manager and a high-level personnel executive for the Packers from 2002 until last week."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll from Mobile, Ala., site of the Senior Bowl practices. O'Neil: "Carroll didn't have to look very far for one idea Monday afternoon when USC safety Taylor Mays had the most ooh-inspiring hit of the South team's practice. Mays kept Citadel receiver Andre Roberts from coming down with the ball. Carroll coached Mays in college. Could Seattle bring Mays back to Seattle, where he attended O'Dea or will Seattle find that bedrock of a left tackle, a quarterback, or an offensive player who's a home-run threat in the open field? Those are the questions Carroll, [general manager John] Schneider and Seattle will be asking in three months of draft preparation that began in earnest on Monday in the opposite corner of the country."
Also from O'Neil: Former Seahawks quarterback and assistant coach Jim Zorn hopes to coach somewhere in 2010.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic takes an in-depth look at the Cardinals' situation at linebacker. Karlos Dansby could leave in free agency. Clark Haggans probably exceeded expectations in 2009. Chike Okeafor probably will not be back. Somers: "The Cardinals likely will replace him with a younger player, perhaps Will Davis or Cody Brown, rookies in 2009. Brown, a second-round pick, suffered a dislocated wrist in training camp and was on injured reserve all year. That basically made his rookie season a wasted one. He is making the transition from defensive end in college, so it's going to take for him to develop. Davis, a sixth-round pick, is further ahead. By mid-season, he was starting to show some pass-rush skills and was taking snaps away from veteran Bertrand Berry, who retired at the end of the season. A knee injury delayed Davis' progress, but he showed signs of being a real steal in the draft."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says longtime Rams trainer Jim Anderson isn't sure why coach Steve Spagnuolo fired him. Anderson: "What did I not do that was expected? Or what can I do differently if I have a situation in the future where I want to be an athletic trainer? Like I said, (Spagnuolo) didn't feel at the time that he had any response to that. He just felt the organization would be better off with a change." That's the way it works in the NFL. It's not always personal. A new coach often wants his own medical people or trainers or strength coaches, etc. Thomas: "Longtime employees at Rams Park are on eggshells again, as their numbers continue to dwindle. The massive organizational shakeup means very few employees are left who moved with the team to St. Louis from California in 1995."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers could use a return specialist with the ability to add punch on offense. Percy Harvin and Reggie Bush stand out as examples. Barrows: "After selecting Michael Crabtree last year with the 10th pick, the 49ers likely will pass on wide receivers this season. But a running back who could complement the between-the-tackles running style of Frank Gore could be a nice fit."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers were neither elite at quarterback or on defense this season, an indication they've got a ways to go before challenging the best teams in the NFC. Coach Mike Singletary also has questions to answer. Maiocco: "Singletary has some incredible traits as a coach. He is tough, demanding and he listens to the needs and wants of those who work for him. Singletary is a self-described 'big-picture guy.' That might be fine, but only if there are extraordinary people taking care of the small details for him. And that's where I have my biggest doubts about whether the 49ers are ready to take that next step." A coach without a strong background as a coordinator will always be more reliant on his staff. That was one of the issues raised when the team hired Singletary over Greg Manusky and others.
John Cote of the San Francisco Chronicle updates the 49ers' efforts to build a new stadium in Santa Clara.
I stumbled across this link while thumbing through American Football Monthly magazine recently.
The video features Seahawks strength and conditioning coach Mike Clark providing a facilities tour at the team's new headquarters. From the do-not-try-this-at-home department comes the first underwater treadmill I've seen.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Devin from Burlington, Conn., writes: Sando, Matt Hasselbeck at 15????! If you were going to start a franchise tomorrow, you would take Aaron Rodgers over Matt Hasselbeck? I think your GM career would be short lived. Hasselbeck struggled with injuries to his receivers and a crummy offensive line over the last two years. He is top six easy.
Mike Sando: My GM career might be short lived, but not for that reason. Any general manager starting a franchise would select the 25-year-old quarterback coming off a 4,000-yard, 28-touchdown season over the nearly 35-year-old veteran coming off two down seasons in the last three years, plus a back injury.
You mentioned injuries to Hasselbeck's receivers and problems on his offensive line. I think you're overlooking the fact that Hasselbeck has struggled with his own injuries. Let's see how well he bounces back this summer and into the season before assuming that two of the past three seasons were aberrations.
We all know Hasselbeck is a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback and one of the 10 best in the game when he is at his best. It's just been a while since he's been at his best -- long enough, I think, to not blindly assume he'll be at his best this season.
Jeremy from Phoenix writes: Hey Mike. Thanks for posting your ranking of all the QBs in the league. Glad to see Kurt Warner in the top five. My question doesn't necessarily relate to the NFC West. However, it relates to former Cardinals OC Todd Haley, so I will ask and hope for an answer. What do you think about the Chiefs giving Matt Cassel such a big, long-term contract this soon?
Speculation in the media has had the Chiefs waiting to see how well Cassel performs for at least 4-6 games before throwing a big contract at him. What if Cassel was successful last season simply because he was on the Patriots? What if the Chiefs start the season 0-6 or 1-5 and Cassel posts terrible numbers?
I understand the Chiefs are in a rebuilding phase and losses are expected in that process. But do you think it was a mistake to pull the trigger on a big contract so soon? Is there any particular reason or advantage the Chiefs would have for getting Cassel taken care of now? Or does Scott Pioli just have that much faith in him?
Mike Sando: The Chiefs were already paying $14.65 million per year to Cassel. The extension brings down the average and redefines Cassel as an average starter in terms of compensation. If you're willing to trade a second-round draft choice for a player earning $14.65 million per year, you had better think highly of the player.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The lettering on the F-15 fighter's fuselage was clearly visible from the boom window beneath our KC-135 refueling jet.
"Capt. Bill Kopp", it read.
We were close enough to see the pilots' faces as they took turns adding fuel 25,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean off the Oregon coast.
"It was like you could reach out and jump in the cockpit," Seahawks coach Jim Mora said.
All while traveling 400 mph.
"If I make a mistake on a route, I might drop a ball or there might be an interception," tight end John Carlson said. "If they make a mistake, it might be life or death. It really puts it into perspective."
I wasn't sure what to expect when former Rams and Seahawks defensive end Bryce Fisher, a captain in the Washington Air National Guard, invited me to accompany a small contingent featuring Mora, Carlson, strength coach Mike Clark and backup tight end Joe Newton.
The experience exceeded any reasonable expectations [see photos on my Facebook page]. I'm not sure anything on a football field, at least from a spectator's standpoint, can compare with the sight of a fighter jet flying so close.
"Watching Coach and the players get down in that boom, they are like little kids at Disneyland," Fisher said. "How do you get to be within 20 feet of a fighter in midair? It's an amazing experience."
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.
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.
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: