NFC West: Mike McCoy
A quick run through NFC West opponents for 2013 shows relatively few games against teams with first-year head coaches.
Every team in the division faces Jacksonville. That could be interesting if Jaguars general manager David Caldwell hires San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, his former college teammate and roommate.
Arizona faces the Eagles on the road this season. San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis will of course face the Cardinals, who have yet to hire a replacement for Ken Whisenhunt.
Buffalo (Doug Marrone), Chicago (Marc Trestman), Cleveland (Rob Chudzinski), Kansas City (Andy Reid), Philadelphia (Kelly) and San Diego (Mike McCoy) have hired offensive-minded head coaches. I think the Cardinals have intended to do the same. And if Roman emerges as the choice in Jacksonville, there's strong potential for all eight first-year coaches coming from the offensive side of the ball.
Trestman was not a known candidate for any other job. His rather curious hiring should not affect the Cardinals in any way.
A quick look at the known candidates for the Cardinals, Eagles and Jaguars:
- Arizona: Offensive coordinators Darell Bevell (Seattle), Jay Gruden (Cincinnati) and Todd Haley (Pittsburgh) have reportedly interviewed or will interview. Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton has already interviewed and remains on staff. Andy Reid and Mike McCoy were candidates before taking jobs elsewhere.
- Eagles: The Eagles have interviewed and/or pursued Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (Seattle), former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, Gruden, McCoy, Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Falcons special-teams coordinator Mike Armstrong, Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, Oregon coach Chip Kelly, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, and then-Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. Did I miss anyone? Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer joked that the Eagles have interviewed "every living male with a visor" to this point.
- Jaguars: Bradley headed from his Eagles interview to meet with the Jaguars on Wednesday. Bevell and St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer also interviewed. Schottenheimer was a finalist for the job one year ago, but the Jaguars hired Mike Mularkey. Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker interviewed. San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman would be a logical candidate for the job given his success with the 49ers and close ties to new Jaguars general manager David Caldwell, Roman's former college teammate and roommate. The Jaguars were not yet conducting their coaching search when Roman was available for interviews during the window provided before divisional-round games. He remains off-limits during Championship Game week. Armstrong, the Falcons' special-teams coach, has also been mentioned as a candidate. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky sizes up the field.
The chart is an expanded version of previous ones I've produced, designed to show which openings might be most appealing from candidates' perspective. I would order them Philadelphia, Arizona and Jacksonville based on a range of factors, including quarterbacks and ownership.
There is no way to know the answer to that question.
First, we do not know for sure what the Cardinals' plans are for naming a head coach. Second, we do not know whether McCoy will become a better head coach than the person Arizona winds up hiring in the end.
We do know Cardinals president Michael Bidwill announced intentions to interview Andy Reid, only to have Reid accept the Kansas City Chiefs' offer without visiting Arizona. We know reports suggested the Cardinals sought a second interview with McCoy, only to have McCoy cancel that interview after accepting the Chargers' offer.
So, from outside appearances, the Cardinals appear to be struggling in their search for Ken Whisenhunt's replacement. They do have an insurance policy in defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Missing out on Reid and McCoy would hurt more if Horton also appeared likely to land a head coaching job elsewhere. Horton appears more likely to stay, however.
In my view, firing Whisenhunt made sense if the Cardinals were in position to move decisively for a superior candidate. They have not done that to this point. Still, it's tough to render a verdict on the process before the Cardinals have made a hire. And even when they do make a hire, we won't immediately know whether they've made a good one.
Before hiring Whisenhunt in 2007, the Cardinals reportedly conducted second interviews with a group featuring Mike Sherman, Norm Chow, Cam Cameron and Ron Rivera. Whisenhunt was also a candidate to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers at that time.
Horton, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden have interviewed with the Cardinals this offseason. They appear to be the leading candidates.
No coach is going to succeed in Arizona without upgrading the quarterback situation. Whisenhunt proved he could win with a top quarterback. He lost his job because the quarterbacks he helped acquire and develop following Kurt Warner's retirement either could not stay healthy (Kevin Kolb) or struggled (John Skelton, Ryan Lindley) or both (Kolb, to varying degrees).
The other teams seeking head coaches generally have superior quarterback situations. That makes those teams more attractive to coaching candidates. If the Cardinals wind up settling for a lesser candidate, then they would have been better off keeping Whisenhunt, shuffling the offensive staff and making another run at finding the team's next quarterback.
Arizona caught a break, it appeared, when one of their candidates, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, became available earlier than expected following a divisional-round playoff defeat.
McCoy will reportedly have a second interview with the Cardinals after meeting with the San Diego Chargers.
The chart shows some of what Arizona has to offer relative to what the four other teams have to offer. Most or all of the other teams appear to have more attractive quarterback situations.
We also took a closer look at the Arizona Cardinals' search for a head coach.
My feeling was that Arizona would be best off hiring an offensive-minded head coach. Promoting Ray Horton from defensive coordinator to head coach carries some appeal, but my thinking was that such a move might make it tougher to fix what was broken in Arizona this season: the offense. An offensive-minded head coach would presumably have a better shot at fixing the offense and hiring offensive assistants.
Promoting Horton would also force the team to hire a defensive coordinator, perhaps weakening the team on that side of the ball.
One thought occurred to me after finishing this conversation: What if Horton, as head coach, could hire Norv Turner to oversee the offense? Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looked at the potential connection a couple days ago. Turner has ties to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who could come available this offseason.
Things to consider as the Cardinals move toward an expected interview with Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, among potential others.
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, mentioned early in the week by ESPN's John Clayton, is now in the mix for Arizona.
Arizona has already interviewed its own defensive coordinator, Ray Horton.
The Cardinals are also without a general manager.
Haley would come to Arizona already familiar with the organization from his tenure as the team's offensive coordinator under former coach Ken Whisenhunt. He would presumably fit if the team promoted vice president of player personnel Steve Keim to the GM role. Haley and Keim worked together in Arizona previously.
Haley posted a 19-26 record as head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. That included a 10-6 season in 2010, when the Cardinals were 5-11.
On Monday, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill mentioned Reid as a candidate to replace Whisenhunt. On Tuesday, ESPN's Adam Schefter cited a source expressing "95 percent" confidence in Reid becoming the Cardinals' next head coach. Later Tuesday, Schefter cited other sources expressing skepticism that Reid-to-Arizona was that likely.
News of Arizona's interest in Reid surely worked in Reid's favor in negotiations with the Chiefs. That doesn't mean there was nothing to the Reid-to-Arizona stories. Bidwill announced the team's interest and plans to interview Reid, an indication the team had participated in discussions with the former Philadelphia Eagles coach or his representatives.
Hiring Reid would generate much more buzz in Arizona than hiring Haley. If Reid lands in Kansas City, the Cardinals will be perceived to have settled for whichever coach they wind up hiring. That is OK as long as they hire a good coach.
Horton has said he would hire a defensive coordinator to run the Cardinals' defense if Arizona promoted him to head coach. That would allow Horton to focus all his efforts on being a head coach. It might also weaken the defensive coaching.
Horton remains under contract to the Cardinals. If he does not land a head coaching job elsewhere, Arizona could keep him as coordinator while naming Haley or someone else as head coach. That could create an uncomfortable dynamic, particularly if the head coach has no history with Horton. Haley and Horton have not coached together previously.
Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is another potential candidate to replace Whisenhunt. The Cardinals have lined up an interview with him for the weekend. McCoy has spent much of his coaching career with the Carolina Panthers.
A few notes on this first day of 2013:
- The Arizona Cardinals said they plan to interview Andy Reid, Ray Horton and Mike McCoy as potential replacements for Ken Whisenhunt;
- Steve Keim is a candidate to replace fired Cardinals general manager Rod Graves;
- Tom Gamble, right-hand man to San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke, will interview for jobs with Jacksonville and the New York Jets;
- Greg Roman, the 49ers' offensive coordinator, could be a head-coaching candidate for the Philadelphia Eagles;
- Brandon Jacobs' release from the 49ers was a formality. He wasn't going to play again this season anyway;
- Even though the Associated Press' award announcements are weeks away, voting closes Thursday. That means the playoff game featuring Russell Wilson's Seattle Seahawks and Robert Griffin III's Washington Redskins won't affect offensive rookie of the year balloting;
- Seattle welcomed back starting cornerback Brandon Browner from a four-game suspension after losing another corner, Walter Thurmond, to injured reserve;
- ESPN's final Power Rankings of the season are coming later Tuesday.
ESPN's John Clayton points to Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, among others, as a potential head coaching candidate in Arizona.
Haley, the Cardinals' offensive coordinator during their Super Bowl season, would come to the Cardinals familiar with ownership and some players, notably Larry Fitzgerald.
Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said the team plans to interview former Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Cue the video for John's thoughts. Oh, and Happy New Year a little early.
- Jon Ryan was the choice at punter after finishing the season with 27 punts downed inside the 20 and only one touchback. That's a sensational ratio. Ryan didn't spend half his games punting indoors, adding to degree of difficulty. The Rams' Donnie Jones and the 49ers' Andy Lee are worthy choices most years.
- Cardinals kicker Jay Feely set an NFL record by scoring 22 consecutive points for Arizona against Denver, including six on a fake field goal. That set him apart. The Rams' Josh Brown made more field goals, but Feely connected on a higher percentage than Brown or Seattle's Olindo Mare. Mare had 20 touchbacks, Feely had 16 and Brown had five. Feely was the too often the Cardinals' greatest scoring threat.
- Several candidates deserved consideration for overall special-teams play. The 49ers' Manny Lawson and Reggie Smith were consistent performers even though Lawson started all season and Smith started some of the time. Smith had 26 special-teams tackles. The Rams' Chris Chamberlain would have earned a spot, most likely, had he not missed five games. Seattle's Matt McCoy deserves mention. He and Chamberlain each had 19 special-teams tackles.
- Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling threatened Leon Washington as a returner for part of the season, but Washington's production on kickoff returns and punt returns set him apart. Stephens-Howling was stronger on coverage teams when opponents focused on former teammate Sean Morey. Stephens-Howling also played more on offense this season.
The chart breaks down all-division choices from 2008 and 2009, plus this season.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with players as they departed for the offseason. Matt Hasselbeck: "The season just ended so abruptly for us. I think a lot of us in the locker room expected to win that game and really expected to have the opportunity to come back and host the NFC Championship game -- which would have been an awesome opportunity. That’s probably one of the most disappointing things about this year is knowing that we had the opportunity to host that game -- and it would have been a great opportunity for our fans and for us – and we just let it slip away and didn’t get it done."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times looks ahead to an uncertain offeason for the Seahawks.
Also from O'Neil: Pete Carroll says Marcus Trufant and John Carlson were returning from Chicago in good condition after suffering concussions Sunday.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along Brian McIntyre's weekly personnel report for the Seahawks. McIntyre: "Against Seattle’s nickel, dime and 'Bandit' defenses, Cutler was 7 of 12 for 128 yards and a touchdown, with Seattle registering all three of its quarterback sacks out of these extra DB looks, including one by Lofa Tatupu with what appeared to be 10 players on the field. Cutler was 8 of 16 for 146 yards and a touchdown against Seattle’s base defense, which intercepted Matt Forte in a disastrous 'Wildcat' play in the fourth quarter."
Also from Williams: Hasselbeck's contract expires this offseason. Hasselbeck: "It’s just how it is, and I’m not stressed about anything. There’s nothing I can do about anything right now, just sit back and wait. The only X-factor here is I don’t exactly know how it works, so if the lockout does come March 4, I don’t know when the time to sign free agents would be. My hope is that we could maybe do something before then, but again that’s not up to me. And I’m just going to go be a dad for a little bit."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' strong finish means they started well under Carroll.
Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle passes along comments and audio from the Seahawks' locker room. Lawyer Milloy: "This day, I've had it fifteen times and it's never a good feeling unless the one time I was able to have this day with the trophy. It was an up and down season. A lot of things were awkward at times. The one thing that this team did was stay together and when we had a chance to end, everything started to feel normal around here, started to feel like it's supposed to feel. This is a team thats going places. When you have a new coach, when you have new players, it's a process. We took a big step in that process to being a very good team, not only in the near future but to be dominant, especially in our division, for awhile. That's the thing I'm proud about."
Doug Farrar of Sportspress Northwest looks at the NFL labor situation through the Seahawks' eyes. Chester Pitts: "Let’s be real here. You’re really that worried about our health and our well-being, lower your requirements for what it takes to get ... increase the benefits for the injured guys. (Increased roster size) would only help in practice, not in games, because … trust me, the best guys are gonna play. Especially as an offensive lineman. The best five will line up. I’m still waiting for a coach to stick his neck out and rotate linemen (as defensive linemen are rotated). For a guy who has played a long time in this league, it’s really, really tough. Unless they find a way to make teams sit their starters for a game or two, it’s gonna be really tough."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch updates Oshiomogho Atogwe's contract situation with the Rams. Thomas: "The day after the Super Bowl, or Feb. 7, Atogwe can void the final four years of a five-year contract he signed with the Rams last June 25. If Atogwe voids the contract, he becomes a free agent, leaving a significant hole at the position for the Rams. However, there doesn't seem to be much incentive for Atogwe to void the contract, because the second milepost arrives just two weeks later, or on Feb. 21. That's when Atogwe is due an $8 million roster bonus by the Rams. Why not wait two weeks to see if the Rams pay him the $8 million roster bonus? If they do, Atogwe stays. If they don't, he's released and becomes a free agent anyway."
Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis wonders whether hiring Josh McDaniels as the Rams' offensive coordinator might lead to a diminished role for running back Steven Jackson. Stull: "In the three seasons McDaniels was offensive coordinator in New England, the Patriots failed to have a running back rush for over 1000 yards in a season. Corey Dillon had 199 carries for 812 yards in 2006. Laurence Maroney had 175 carries that same year for another 745 yards. The following two seasons it was Maroney and Sammy Morris, then Morris and Kevin Faulk sharing the carries -- with the secondary back getting about 80 rushes each year." McDaniels never had a back like Jackson on his team. I tend to think Sam Bradford's development will lead to a diminished role for Jackson, and that hiring a coordinator such as McDaniels could accelerate the process.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea. com says the 49ers head to the Senior Bowl to evaluate quarterbacks, among other players. Maiocco: "The first six draft-eligible quarterbacks Harbaugh will evaluate are those he'll get to evaluate in-person next week in Mobile, Ala.: Andy Dalton (TCU), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Jake Locker (Washington), Greg McElroy (Alabama), Christian Ponder (Florida State) and Ricky Stanzi (Iowa)."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers expectations for the 49ers' offseason, plus thoughts on what kind of quarterback Jim Harbaugh will seek. Barrows: "My sense as of Jan. 17 is that Harbaugh is confident he can mold just about any quarterback into the passer he wants. But if there's been one hallmark of Jim Harbaugh's college pupils, it's been accuracy, which is what the West Coast system demands."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Rodgers' success reflects poorly on the 49ers.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says there's little to report on the Cardinals' search for a defensive coordinator. He also offers thoughts on Aaron Rodgers' performance against Atlanta in the divisional round. Urban: "Watching Aaron Rodgers dice up the competition every week, I keep thinking he would have done the same thing last year in the playoffs had Kurt Warner not come up with one of the greatest playoff performances ever. There was irony in that thought when people were trying to put into perspective how great Rodgers was against Atlanta -- and he was, but still not quite up with Warner’s game versus the Packers." That's why it's silly to suggest Rodgers finally broke through in the playoffs. He played very well in the playoffs previously, too.
St. Louis: The Rams have generally done a good job working through manpower issues in their secondary, but the situation appears unfavorable heading into a game against Drew Brees and New Orleans. Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (shoulder) and cornerback Ron Bartell (neck) did not practice Wednesday. Safety Craig Dahl (knee), cornerback Justin King (shoulder) and cornerback Jerome Murphy (hamstring) were limited. Meanwhile, coach Steve Spagnuolo said quarterback Sam Bradford's sore ankle was no longer an issue. Bradford did not appear on the injury report. An ankle injury continues to sideline tight end Mike Hoomanwanui. His absence hurts.
San Francisco: The 49ers remain without left tackle Joe Staley and kicker Joe Nedney. Neither will play Sunday in the team's second full game since Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore landed on injured reserve with a fractured hip. Gore's primary replacement, Brian Westbrook, is getting extra rest as the team tries to keep his 31-year-old legs fresh. Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (groin), linebacker Takeo Spikes (ankle) and tight end Delanie Walker did not practice Wednesday. Walker missed part of the Green Bay game last week after suffering the injury, but he was able to return. Gore's absence and quarterback Alex Smith's return to the lineup could facilitate more pass-oriented personnel groups. The 49ers will still want to test the Seahawks' run defense.
Seattle: Nose tackle Colin Cole and tight end John Carlson participated fully in practice Wednesday. An ankle injury has sidelined Cole for the Seahawks' last five games. The team needs his presence against the run. Carlson's value has leveled off a bit now that tight end Cameron Morrah is becoming a factor in the receiving game and fullback Michael Robinson is available. Carlson had taken some of the fullback reps when Robinson was out. Seattle remains cautiously optimistic that top receiver Mike Williams will play against the 49ers despite ankle and foot injuries. Williams did not practice Wednesday. Neither did guard Chester Pitts (ankle), receiver Ben Obomanu (hand), defensive end Chris Clemons (ankle), middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu (knee) or linebacker Mike McCoy (head). Tatupu's injury is limiting him. He limps following some plays and lacks his usual explosiveness. Watching him play against Carolina, I wondered if how many more games he would last.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
It's tough convincing millionaire athletes to work 80-hour weeks for a fraction of what they earned as players. Warner will pocket $19 million in salary and signing bonus this year, considerably more than an entire NFL coaching staff earns in a season.
Most former NFL quarterbacks coaching the position played before huge salaries proliferated (see chart). I remember a prominent offensive lineman informing his team upon retirement in the late 1990s that he would be willing to serve as an assistant for $400,000 a year. The team tried not to laugh. The player never went into coaching.
Warner's new position coach, Chris Miller, is one of the more accomplished former NFL quarterbacks coaching the position. I counted 10 former NFL passers coaching quarterbacks. The figure includes Redskins head coach Jim Zorn, who oversees the position. The Broncos' Mike McCoy spent one game as the 49ers' third quarterback in 1997.
Another 14 NFL quarterbacks coaches played the position in college, including the Seahawks' Bill Lazor (Cornell), the Rams' Dick Curl (Richmond) and the 49ers' Mike Johnson (Akron).
Ken Zampese (Bengals), Kyle Shanahan (Texans) and James Urban (Eagles) were college receivers. The Saints' Joe Lombardi, grandson of Vince, was a college tight end. The Chargers' John Ramsdell was a college running back. The Patriots' Bill O'Brien and the Vikings' Kevin Rogers were college linebackers. The Lions' Jeff Horton did not play in college.
The Chiefs do not list a quarterbacks coach, but offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, once a quarterback at Florida, is overseeing the position.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike SandoMitch from parts unknown writes: First off Mike I like the blog. I always look forward to reading it. My problem is way the Cards are handling my boy Edge. He can still play. Just because he isn't popping off 50+ yd runs doesn't mean he cant play anymore. He is a grinder that can move the chains. These fantasy geeks don't appreciate the 3 and 4 yd runs to make it 2nd and 6 instead of 2nd 10 or 9. Whisenhunt needs to quit letting Warner chuck it every down like he's still playing Arena ball.
Your stock rising list should include Edge. Even the commentators are jumping off the Hightower wagon and wondering why Edge isn't in the game. Arizona needs to commit to the run more with Edge and have the threat of play-action with their weapons at WR. Edge proved he can still do it against New England this past week but the "Whiz" has a personal issue with him for whatever reason.
There's a reason Whiz and Russ Grimm didnt get the Steelers job. If they wanted to run the ball so badly then they would have made the commitment to do it. The O-line needs work but Edge can still find creases to move the chains. Keep up the good work and give Edge some respect.
Mike Sando: I suspect the Cardinals' commitment to Warner has led them down this road. The team has played to its strengths offensively, which has meant playing to Warner's strengths, which has meant throwing the ball frequently. That worked well for a long time, but the tougher schedule has caught up to Arizona, and now there's not a running game when the Cardinals suddenly need one.
Arizona spends significant time in the shotgun, which helps Warner see the field while reducing the pounding his fragile hands take from direct snaps (delivered more firmly than we might realize watching from afar). Teams do run from the shotgun, but I think the shotgun facilitates the passing game in this case.
Edgerrin James wasn't going to bust long runs, as you noted, but neither would he necessarily fit into the offense as the Cardinals are running it. It's too late at this point for the Cardinals to reinvent themselves as a run-oriented team with James as the featured back.
I'm a little surprised the Cardinals have adopted the passing game to this degree. Watching their opener, I expected them to be more balanced this season.
James from Lincoln, U.K., writes: Seasons Greetings, Mr Sando. Assuming Mike Singletary is appointed Head Coach for real after the season (the right move in my opinion) can the 49ers do enough to become contenders for this awful division? Is there enough talent for this to happen? I understand that this is a flawed roster, so what do they have to do to become a contender to make the playoffs? Has your opinion of the roster changed over the last six weeks?
Mike Sando: Every team wakes up a contender in this division next season. Even the Rams have a chance to compete if they make the right changes this offseason.
The 49ers need to follow through on plans to solidify the offensive line. They need to continue matching their personnel to their approach, a strength under Singletary so far. And they need to make the right choice at offensive coordinator. That last one is huge. We'll expand on it later in this mailbag.