NFC West: Mike Solari

NFC West links: Is Mike Iupati next man up?

April, 10, 2013
4/10/13
8:53
AM ET
Arizona Cardinals

Count Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson among those players who think commissioner Roger Goodell is "changing the game for the good."

New Cardinals Curtis Taylor and Bryan McCann discuss what it's like as a lesser-known free agent trying to land a job.

St. Louis Rams

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "No, Rodger Saffold isn’t happy about his impending switch to right tackle for the Rams. But those close to Saffold insist he won’t be a malcontent and won’t be a holdout."

Nick Wagoner of the team's website previews the specialists heading into this month's NFL draft.

San Francisco 49ers

Could 49ers left guard Mike Iupati be the next in line for a contract extension?

Several 49ers coaches recently took a tour of the new stadium. “I think it’s real exciting in the sense of seeing it going up and the impact it’ll have on the economy here,” offensive line coach Mike Solari said of the tour. “It’s going to be a beautiful facility.”

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks on Tuesday announced they have signed quarterback Brady Quinn to back up Russell Wilson.

Seattle offensive tackle Breno Giacomini watched his Louisville Cardinals win the national championship Monday night.
We've made it, just about, to the 2012 NFL draft.

The anticipation kept at least one NFC West fan and probably a few NFL general managers from sleeping Wednesday night (throw me into that category as well, given that I was up to receive the above-linked tweet).

Let's pass at least some of the remaining time with a spin around the division.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with draft analyst Rob Rang for thoughts on defensive backs the Seahawks could consider in each round. South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore is one consideration. Rang: "An athletic cover corner with the size and physicality to be successful in Seattle’s press scheme, Gilmore’s stock is on the rise as the draft approaches."

Also from Williams: Sounds like the Seahawks plan to keep Kam Chancellor at safety, an indication Mark Barron isn't a likely first-round selection for Seattle. General manager John Schneider: "We usually try not to move Pro Bowl players to different positions."

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle thinks Luke Kuechly would be the best choice for the Seahawks with the 12th overall choice if the Boston College linebacker remains available at that point.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic considers the Cardinals' draft options and offers this: "The Cardinals have had their shares of busts, such as linebackers Cody Brown (second round, 2009) and Buster Davis (third round, 2007). Others haven't played up to their lofty draft status, such as tackle Levi Brown (fifth overall, 2007). And others have developed slower than the team had hoped, such as nose tackle Dan Williams (first round, 2010). But early returns suggest the Cardinals had one of their better draft classes in 2011. Three of the eight picks became regular starters on a team that went 8-8."

Also from Somers: what draft analysts are saying about Riley Reiff and Michael Floyd.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com has the Cardinals selecting Reiff at No. 13. He has Justin Blackmon to St. Louis, Melvin Ingram to Seattle and Amini Silatolu to San Francisco.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com also has the 49ers selecting Silatolu in the first round. Maiocco: "Offensive line coaches Mike Solari and Tim Drevno drove to meet Silatolu last week at his old high school. They drew up several 49ers offensive plays on the board, along with the corresponding adjustments based on the defense. And then they had Silatolu repeat the plays back to them. Silatolu told CSNBayArea.com on Wednesday that the zone blocking scheme he ran in college is similar to the 49ers' system."

Also from Maiocco: thoughts on why the 49ers should wait until after the first round before selecting a wide receiver.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers would be much better off drafting Fleener than their next starting right guard. Cohn: "Right guard is the least important offensive lineman. Because Trent Baalke moved up in the draft last year to take Daniel Kilgore, so Baalke and his brain trust must feel Kilgore has potential. Because a good right guard is not hard to find in later rounds."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News lays out a case for the 49ers drafting Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News explains why he thinks receiver Alshon Jeffery will be the 49ers' choice at No. 30.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Jeff Fisher downplayed "rumors" regarding running back Steven Jackson being unhappy with his contract or on the trading block. Fisher: "Steven's here in the offseason program. He's upstairs every other day (where the coaches’ offices are located). He’s doing great. Having fun. Learning the offense. No discussion, conversation, or anything along that sort to my knowledge."

Also from Thomas: thoughts on the Rams possibly trading down. Thomas: "If they stay at No. 6, Justin Blackmon is the logical choice -- and it looks like he’ll be there when they pick. But the Rams need more picks, and if the right offer presents itself to trade down, the Rams will do that."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams should use the sixth overall choice for Blackmon. Miklasz: "It makes no sense to draft quarterback Sam Bradford No. 1 overall, invest $50 million guaranteed in his rookie (2010) contract, then continue to surround him with mediocrity. I agree with those who say Blackmon isn't the prototype No. 1 wideout. But here are the names of the seven wide receivers on the Rams' roster: Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander, Brandon Gibson, Steve Smith, Austin Pettis, Greg Salas and Dominique Curry."

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com passes along highlights and notes from Fisher's news conference.

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.

Sneaking a peek at Week 1 opponents

August, 26, 2011
8/26/11
11:25
AM ET
The NFL lockout allowed teams to get a jump on familiarization with 2011 regular-season opponents.

The prep work was tougher for teams preparing to face opponents with new coaching staffs. That is why the Seattle Seahawks, scheduled to visit San Francisco in Week 1, have had added interest in the 49ers' preseason games this summer. Those games have provided at least some evidence as to what the 49ers might look like with Jim Harbaugh on the sideline.

"I’ve kept an eye on San Francisco because that’s a new team and all," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters Thursday. "They looked very good last week against the Raiders. I’ve looked at both sides of that game film and they executed very well on offense and on defense."

The 49ers aren't tipping their hand from a strategy standpoint during preseason games. But those games still create a visual for what the 49ers' personnel might look like running basic plays.

A few thoughts on how prepared each NFC West team should be for its Week 1 opponent:
  • Seattle Seahawks: A year ago, the Seahawks were the team with the new coaching staff. They seemed to surprise the 49ers in the regular-season opener at Seattle. There should be fewer surprises when the teams face one another in the 2011 opener even though the 49ers do have a new staff. For one, the 49ers' key personnel is largely the same from last season. Two, Carroll coached against Harbaugh extensively while at the college level. He'll have a better feel than most for the way Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman like to call a game. He'll have a better feel than most for the way Harbaugh might want to use his personnel. The 49ers will surely have some surprises for Seattle, but the Seahawks should be well prepared under the circumstances.
  • San Francisco 49ers: They'll have good feel for what Carroll likes to do defensively given Harbaugh's experience at the college level and limited staff carryover. Both San Francisco line coaches, Mike Solari and Jim Tomsula, were on the 49ers' staff last season. Also, 49ers receivers coach John Morton was on Carroll's staff at USC. Seattle does have a new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, and new offensive line coach, Tom Cable. The 49ers will presumably study Bevell's history in Minnesota and Cable's approach to the running game. There should be no big surprises.
  • Arizona Cardinals: They have to feel good about facing the Carolina Panthers at University of Phoenix Stadium in the opener. Yes, the Panthers have a new head coach in Ron Rivera, but the Cardinals faced Rivera's Chargers last season, so they've prepared for his defensive scheme. San Diego crushed Arizona in that matchup, but that had a lot to do with the personnel each team put on the field that day. Rivera did not get to bring Philip Rivers or Antonio Gates with him. The Panthers will have a good feel for the Cardinals' personnel. Their staff includes former 49ers assistants Ray Brown and Pete Hoener.
  • St. Louis Rams: They would have been better served drawing an opponent less talented than Philadelphia, but if they were going to play the Eagles, they could not have picked a better time (Week 1) or place (at home). The Eagles are working through issues on their offensive line. One of their top threats on offense, Jeremy Maclin, has been ill. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and Eagles coach Andy Reid know each others' schemes and tendencies. They coached together for years. Safety Quintin Mikell signed with the Rams after spending all of his career with Philadelphia. He'll have a great feel for Michael Vick and the Eagles' offense.

Not that any of us are looking forward to the regular season or anything.
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with Oregon State assistant Mark Banker for thoughts on 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Banker was an assistant with the Chargers when Harbaugh was finishing his playing career with San Diego. Branch: "Banker, who served for one year as the Chargers defensive coordinator, described Stanford under Harbaugh as a smash-mouth running team with a sophisticated NFL passing attack that made effective use of its tight ends. In Banker’s estimation, the core principles of Stanford’s offense will easily transfer to the NFL and he expects the 49ers’ attack to mirror the Cardinal’s in many ways." ESPN's Brock Huard, who called Pac-10 games this past season, also emphasized the power element of Harbaugh's offense when I asked him about it last month.

Also from Branch: There might not be a quarterback worth drafting in the first round for the 49ers.

Joe Staley of the 49ers blogs about life in the offseason, with this note on the coaching staff: "One of the coaches who is still around from last season is my o-line coach, Mike Solari. I like the fact that he’s still around and I think it’s especially good for the rookies Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis. Solari just has a good rapport with all of the players and he knows who we are, what we do and what we respond to. So him still being here is great."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com looks at the 49ers' running backs, noting that Frank Gore became an even bigger part of the offense in 2010. Maiocco on backup Anthony Dixon: "Dixon is a big, powerful back who needs to learn how to run like a big, powerful back. He definitely showed flashes with some very nice runs. But he also frustrated the coaching staff with too much dancing, some missed assignments and difficulty with the simple things, such as making sure he was wearing the right kind of cleats to maintain traction on slippery fields. Dixon played just 16 offensive snaps in the first 10 games before Gore's injury. Dixon finished with 237 yards rushing on 70 rushing attempts. He should continue to prove that he is capable of taking on a larger role in the offense."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers need more pass-rush pop from their outside linebackers.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says cornerback Bryant McFadden was "shocked" and a little "astonished" when the Cardinals traded him back to the Steelers. McFadden did not meet expectations with the Cardinals, but the team was not better at cornerback without him. McFadden on the two defensive systems: "Our defense is difficult but, once you get it, you feel comfortable. We just play football. There (Arizona) it was different. You see things and think, 'It may work, it may not work.' Every coach doesn't coach the same. Every person don't walk the same." Three other differences: James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com explores receiver Steve Breaston's fascination with comic books. Breaston got to hang out with Todd McFarlane, who drew for Marvel comics and created the "Venom" character associated with Spider-Man. Urban: "A huge fan of comics, including the McFarlane-create Spawn, Breaston reached out to the Tempe-based McFarlane to set up a meeting. The two did Wednesday at The McFarlane Companies offices just down the street from the Cardinals’ Tempe facility, talking for two hours. Breaston got a short rundown on how McFarlane builds and sells its SportsPicks line of athlete action figures, and then sat down in McFarlane’s office to talk comics."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune outlines the Seahawks' draft needs and checks in with analyst Rob Rang for thoughts on the available quarterbacks. Rang on Missouri's Blaine Gabbert: "He’s got a big arm. He’s got a quick release for a big guy, and that’s very rare for a big quarterback. He uses his feet well, and so it leads you to believe that he can make that transition. He reads defenses well -- he does all of those things well. He just doesn’t have the eye-popping statistics. … When it’s all said and done with Blaine Gabbert, I believe he’s going to be end up being a top 5 to top 7 pick."

Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times says Seahawks assistant Rocky Seto interviewed for a job as defensive coordinator at UCLA. This would stand as a significant step forward for Seto, who helps coach Seattle's secondary. And with a lockout potentially looming in the NFL, now isn't a bad time to consider college options, anyway.

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks colleagues whether the Greatest Show on Turf would have been as great if Jerome Bettis had stayed with the Rams. Bernie Miklasz: "Absolutely not. It’s not even a discussion. Bettis was a power runner. A good one. But a one-dimensional runner. Faulk was the greatest all-purpose back in NFL history. He’s the best receiver/RB in league history. From 1999 through 2001, the Rams scored 500-plus points each year and Faulk had 44 percent of the team’s touches from scrimmage during that time. He had nearly 70 percent of the rushing yards. He caught more passes than Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt. He had more TD catches than Holt, and only five fewer than Bruce. I hope this slams the door shut on the question."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Sam Bradford's freshly cut hair is getting mixed reviews. Bradford: "My friends in Oklahoma, obviously, it doesn't matter what I do. I'm going to hear about it. All the girls back home really like it. They were excited when I told them I was cutting my hair."

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says former Rams linebacker Kevin Greene would make a logical choice to address the Packers before the Super Bowl.
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.

Welcoming Bobby Engram back to West

January, 28, 2011
1/28/11
4:15
PM ET
Years ago, when San Francisco 49ers linebacker Jeff Ulbrich was tackling Seattle Seahawks receiver Bobby Engram, the NFC West rivals probably never thought they would coach against one another.

They will in 2011, with a twist: Engram will be coaching for the 49ers, who hired him as an offensive assistant Friday, against a Seattle team featuring Ulbrich as assistant special-teams coach.

Not every player wants to grind away at coaching. It's good for the game when players as respected as Ulbrich and Engram do decide to go that route, even if it's strange for the rest of us to see them wearing unfamiliar colors.

This is Engram's first coaching job. He played for Chicago from 1996 through 2000, then with Seattle through the 2008 season. He finished with Kansas City in 2009. Engram's strong rapport with Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck would become a natural storyline if San Francisco pursued Hasselbeck in free agency.

Engram's background in the West Coast offense makes him a natural hire for San Francisco. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh had long since left the Chicago Bears by the time Engram arrived as a receiver, but they'll speak a similar language from a scheme standpoint.

Engram and 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari were together with Seattle in 2008.

Around the NFC West: LeBeau dreamin'

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
9:21
AM ET
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals to wait at least two more weeks before hiring a defensive coordinator. Somers: "That quest could start with Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. ESPN reported on Sunday that LeBeau's contract expires after the season. Before the LeBeau-to-Arizona reports start, a lot could happen in the next two weeks. LeBeau could announce he's returning to the Steelers, or he could decide to retire. LeBeau ponders retirement after each year." I can't see any reason for the Steelers to part with LeBeau unless the assurances they've made to linebackers coach Keith Butler require them to promote him this offseason.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says he is "sure" the Cardinals would seriously consider acquiring Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer if Cincinnati met Palmer's reported demands to trade him. The big question on Palmer, in my view, is to what degree serious leg injuries have compromised his overall physical ability.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune assesses the Seahawks' connection to the Green Bay Packers via general manager John Schneider. Boling: "As the Packers head to the Super Bowl in Dallas, the Seahawks enter a curious and unpredictable offseason that could be profoundly disrupted by the unsettled labor situation. Nobody really seems to know how player movement and free agency will be affected. It’s bad timing, because the Seahawks have a long way to go in elevating their talent. But it could help that Schneider at least understands the path."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh isn't ruling out bringing back Alex Smith for another season with the team. This makes sense. The 49ers gain nothing by reducing their options. Harbaugh: "I'm not into absolutes and alwayses and nevers and those kind of bold statements. We're into evaluation, and that will be of Alex and any player on the football team."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News wonders how Mike Solari, Ray Brown and Tim Drevno will combine to coach the 49ers' offensive line and tight ends. Brown: The plan calls for Solari and Drevno to coach the entire offensive line, while Brown focuses on tight ends and tackles. New offensive coordinator Greg Roman will also work with tight ends. Why so many cooks? Harbaugh noted that a typical training camp could have more than a dozen tight ends and tackles."

Aaron Wilson of National Football Post updates the case that led to David Vobora's suspension from the Rams for allegedly taking a banned substance. Wilson: "The owner of the supplement company, Mitch Ross, said he has sent over 25 bottles of the spray to (Ray) Lewis. He showed text messages and receipts from Lewis, according to the report. ... Vobora sued the company when he was suspended by the league for a positive steroid test, claiming the spray triggered the failed test."

Video: NFC West coaching turnover

January, 21, 2011
1/21/11
5:43
PM ET
NFL players aren't the only ones team owners would lock out if the league fails to secure a collective bargaining agreement this offseason.

Assistant coaches could be on the outside, too.

The subject came to mind this week while NFC West teams shuffled their staffs.

Seattle lost a few assistants to the college ranks, where a lockout isn't a threat. San Francisco drew from the college game in filling out its staff (while also bringing back Tom Rathman, Mike Solari, Ray Brown and Jim Tomsula, the team announced Friday). Arizona reportedly sat back and waited for the NFL playoffs to end for teams with candidates to become their defensive coordinator.

I do not think a potential lockout is a pivotal factor for most coaches deciding whether to take NFL jobs or head to/stay in the college ranks. I do think labor uncertainty plays a role, however, even though some assistants can earn back lost wages if there's labor peace in time for the regular season.

How could the situation be affecting NFC West teams? Cue the video.

Around the NFC West: Warner on QBs

January, 17, 2011
1/17/11
8:56
AM ET
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic checks in with former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner for thoughts on Marc Bulger, Cam Newton, Kevin Kolb and other potential quarterback options for Arizona this offseason. Warner on Newton: "I think he's a great college quarterback who can throw the ball well and has every intangible you're looking for, but the one thing I always tell people is that, at this level, you don't win with running quarterbacks. It just doesn't happen. As great as Michael Vick played this year, when it came down to it, he had to win games in the pocket. And his team was eliminated in the first round. This is not a knock on Newton or how great a player he is or can be. There's just a big difference in the way the game is played in the NFL."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com looks at where the 49ers are tentatively scheduled to draft in 2011, minus as-yet-unannounced compensatory choices. Maiocco on draft needs: "Cornerback is a definite need for the 49ers. They also need to get new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio someone who can pose a threat as an outside pass rusher. Those are two huge needs. The only position I can see the 49ers addressing on offense is quarterback." The outside pass rush has been a group effort and a fairly successful one, but one dominant outside rusher can open up options for a coordinator.

Also from Maiocco: a look at the 49ers' coaching staff as it stood over the weekend.

More from Maiocco: He expects assistants Mike Solari, Tom Rathman and Jim Tomsula to remain with the 49ers under new coach Jim Harbaugh.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Solari and the newly hired Tim Drevno will share duties coaching the 49ers' offensive line. Barrows: "This past season, Ray Brown served as Solari's assistant offensive line coach. There is no word yet on where Brown will end up."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers thoughts on key plays in the Seahawks' 35-24 divisional-round playoff defeat at Chicago. O'Neil on the turning point: "The Bears had the ball at Seattle's 3-yard line later in the first quarter when Cutler threw a quick pass straight to safety Jordan Babineaux. Babineaux saw the ball after it was released, and couldn't respond in time to intercept a pass he very well could have returned for a touchdown that would have tied the game. Instead the pass bounced off Babineaux's hands incomplete, and the Bears scored four plays later on a 1-yard touchdown run from Chester Taylor."

Also from O'Neil: Veteran safety Lawyer Milloy says the Seahawks aren't seeking a consolation prize for reaching the divisional round.

More from O'Neil: injury updates on Marcus Trufant and John Carlson.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' defeat to Chicago felt more like reality than their victory over the Saints. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck: "The hard thing is that I don't know if everyone realizes how close we were to doing something special. We had everything there for us. We didn't deserve it, but it was right there for us."

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times sizes up the Seahawks this way: "The Seahawks needed to play their best game to beat the Bears, who are for real, by the way. They needed to perform at a level even higher than they did against New Orleans. Instead, they were a playoff remix of their 2010 season: erratic, fidgety, unworthy. It doesn't make their invigorating run to the divisional playoff round any less special. But, sadly, it does mean their season ends with the type of performance you could've envisioned long ago."

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks were outgunned, particularly after losing Carlson. Boyle: "For his part, Hasselbeck was very good in what could have been his final game as a Seahawk. Hasselbeck, who turned 35 this season, becomes a free agent this offseason, and while he and Carroll have both said they'd like him to stay a Seahawk, nothing is done as of now. And if Hasselbeck was playing his last game for Seattle, he went out in style, throwing a touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley on his final completion of the day. Hasselbeck finished with 258 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers, and those numbers would have been better if not for several drops by receivers."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the injuries to Carlson and Trufant weighed on Seattle players.

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune says the moment was too big for Seattle. McGrath: "Potential completions went through Seahawks receivers’ fingers. Defensive backs failed to hang onto easy interceptions. Most surprising was how coach Pete Carroll abandoned the go-for-broke aggressiveness of a prohibitive underdog. With nothing to lose, Carroll’s strategy suggested his team had everything to lose." Carroll said he punted on fourth-and-1 in the first half in part because he didn't want to send the signal that his team was in desperation mode after falling behind. Not having Carlson also diminished Seattle's short-yardage options.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' defeat exposed their lack of playmakers. Boling: "No discredit. Making it to the divisional round of the playoffs was far beyond reasonable expectations. Still, getting this far after a 7-9 regular season was equal parts quirk, illusion, fortunate timing and the positive psychological bounce from a late infusion of confidence. Not the least of this was the powerful influence of their home fans. But the sprinkle of pixie dust that made this ordinary team special at home isn’t portable."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along this from Carroll: "It took us the whole season to get to the point where we really understood how hard the work needs to be to get yourself to play at a really high level. We kind of dipped in and out of it at times this year. So I think that’s really important. I think these guys understand where we’re going and what we’re trying to get done. And that’s important for us to move forward with that."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams should hire an offensive coordinator quickly. Miklasz: "Give the new OC as much time as possible to implement his offense and get down to serious meeting-room study with quarterback Sam Bradford before a threatened lockout shuts down the NFL on March 4. If the Rams want continuity and stability and a conservative style, then Childress would be the choice. He'd keep their West Coast offense intact and Bradford wouldn't have to absorb a new playbook. If the Rams prefer excitement and aggressiveness and some risk, then Josh McDaniels is their man. He's creative and edgy. McDaniels can do for the offense what Steve Spagnuolo did for the Rams' defense. But is Spags really willing to go away from the offense and turn it over to McDaniels?"

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams should consider minority candidates for the coordinator's job.

Around the NFC West: Seismic matters

January, 11, 2011
1/11/11
9:13
AM ET
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along a Seismograph showing seismic activity associated with fan reaction during Marshawn Lynch's 67-yard touchdown run Saturday. More here.

Also from O'Neil: The Seahawks expect middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu to practice this week after suffering a concussion Saturday.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with Matt Hasselbeck, who says Lance Briggs' absence from Seattle's Week 6 victory at Soldier Field was a big deal. Hasselbeck: "He’s huge. He’s arguably one of the best defensive players in the game. I think he’s a great player. Going into that game, we fully expected him to play. He didn’t play, and that was a big deal. So for us to sit back and say, ‘Oh hey, we beat them at their place. We can do it again,’ that would be a dangerous way to feel. Because Lance Briggs did not play in that game. He is a big, big-time difference-maker and a great football player."

Also from Farnsworth: Hasselbeck "abhorred" missing the Week 17 game against St. Louis.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Hasselbeck rescued his Seattle legacy with a four-touchdown performance against the Saints.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' return trip to Chicago carries different circumstances.

Also from Williams: He passes along Brian McIntyre's weekly Seahawks personnel report.

Doug Farrar of Sportspress Northwest looks at how Pete Carroll has changed since his last stint as an NFL head coach.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals might have no shot at hiring the Steelers' Keith Butler as their defensive coordinator. Somers: "After the 2009 season, Butler turned down an offer to become the Dolphins' defensive coordinator. According to the Post-Gazette, Butler and the Steelers agreed then to contract language that identifies Butler as 'the coordinator in waiting' for when Dick LeBeau decides to retire." The 49ers' Greg Manusky could be a candidate, but he might have options elsewhere, including at San Diego if Ron Rivera leaves, or at Dallas.

Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the Cardinals have not asked for permission to speak with Butler.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com updates the Cardinals' search for a defensive coordinator. Urban: "(Ken) Whisenhunt has not said whether a coach’s background on scheme impacts the hire, although the Steelers do run a 3-4 look like the Cardinals. It also seems unlikely to make a significant scheme change in an offseason that could be drastically shortened or even lost because of labor problems and a lockout."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees no likely in-house candidates to replace Pat Shurmur if the Rams' offensive coordinator becomes head coach of the Browns. Thomas: "Should Shurmur end up with the Cleveland job, the Rams don't appear to have any logical replacements for the coordinator's job in-house. Assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Dick Curl hasn't been a coordinator since 1997 with the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe. Wide receivers coach Nolan Cromwell was an offensive coordinator on the college level, but for just two seasons at Texas A&M. He does, however, have a background in the West Coast system, having been wide receivers coach for Holmgren both in Seattle and Green Bay. Running backs coach Sylvester Croom was offensive coordinator for Detroit, but that was 10 years ago-plus (1997-2000)."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com updates the 49ers' efforts to hire a coaching staff. Manusky has permission to pursue other jobs. Vic Fangio could have opportunities elsewhere, including at Stanford. Maiocco: "Fangio served as an NFL defensive coordinator for 11 seasons. But Fangio might also be a candidate to replace Harbaugh as Stanford head coach after top candidate Chris Petersen announced he will remain at Boise State." ESPN's John Clayton has mentioned former 49ers assistant Marc Trestman as a person Harbaugh has contacted about possibly becoming offensive coordinator.

Also from Maiocco: a look at how a lockout could affect player personnel for the 49ers. Maiocco: "The only contracts that can be signed before March 3 are extensions. That is, a team can sign a player on its current roster to a new deal. So, the 49ers are allowed to work out contracts with their own scheduled free agents, such as David Baas, Aubrayo Franklin, Manny Lawson, Dashon Goldson and others. (Remember, there was no NFL salary cap in 2010, and there are no indications that one will come back in the future.)"

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says it's likely the 49ers would want to retain offensive line coach Mike Solari, running backs coach Tom Rathman and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.

The 49ers' website passes along an interview transcript featuring linebacker Keaton Kristick.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat previews a potential national broadcast featuring Harbaugh against his brother.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News links to bios for Harbaugh's coaches at Stanford.

Around the NFC West: 49ers' plans

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
9:54
AM ET
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com asks and answers questions about the 49ers' search for a general manager and head coach. Maiocco on which assistant coaches the 49ers might want to retain, beyond interim coach Jim Tomsula: "Certainly, running backs coach Tom Rathman, offensive line coach Mike Solari, tight ends coach Pete Hoener and outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver will be considered among those who have a chance to be retained. The organization has a high opinion of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, but the new coach will have the call. Also, with new offensive ideas coming to the team, it remains to be seen if offensive coordinator Mike Johnson fits what the new coach will have in mind. Of course, a lot of the staff will not return, including a possible retirement. Inside linebackers coach Vantz Singletary, Mike Singletary's nephew, and pass-rush coach Al Harris, who played with Singletary with the Bears, are no longer with the team."

Also from Maiocco: highlights from Jed York's news conference. York: "I've spoken to a lot of people that have been in and around the game this season to get their feedback on how to build a team. I think when you look at teams that have been successful out there, it's not about hiring the flashiest name as your head coach or GM or both. It's about making sure the GM and head coach are really working together. you need your general manager, and your general manager is a person who is going to live and die with the coach."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers a Mike Singletary timeline.

Also from Barrows: The 49ers are in a situation similar to the one they encountered in 2005.

More from Barrows: Unlike in 2005, the 49ers plan to hire a general manager before they hire a head coach.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat wonders whether York has what it takes to hire the right general manager. Cohn: "Jed cannot allow himself to be alone in the interview room with general-manager candidates. He doesn’t know what questions to ask. So much depends on knowing the questions and evaluating the answers. Jed needs wise old heads in the room with him, men who have done it before. How about Carmen Policy and/or John McVay? How about people from the league office? I know for a fact the league wants to help the Yorks because it wants a stronger team in San Francisco."

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Singletary's firing was more emotional for linebacker Patrick Willis.

Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group says hiring Singletary was a mistake, with the team rushing into the decision as if eager to appease a fan base.

Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group says hiring a GM before hiring a coach is a wise move.

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are in their current mess because York brought them there. Ostler: "Twice in a row, York -- with assists from his mom and dad -- hired spectacularly wrong coaches. York, 29, has to get it right this time, because you know what the rule is in hiring people to lead your team: Three strikes and you're out ... unless you own the team, in which case you can take all the mulligans you want."

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says York is conceding he needs help to field a winner.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are 2-1 with John Skelton as their starting quarterback even though Skelton has not completed even 50 percent of his passes in a game. Multiple return touchdowns put Skelton in position to win against Dallas. There was little sustainable about the performance on offense. Somers: "It's doubtful that Skelton will have shown the Cardinals enough to keep them from pursuing a veteran quarterback this off-season. Skelton has completed just 46 percent of his passes, and he has just one touchdown pass in 101 throws. But he does not have an interception, and he made two important throws during the game-winning drive against the Cowboys. The first was a 26-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald on fourth-and-15, and the second was a 19-yard pass to Max Komar, a play Skelton made after escaping pressure."

Also from Somers: Skelton does appear to do a good job keeping his composure.

More from Somers: Defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson has rejoined the team after a scare Saturday. Somers: "Secondary coach Donnie Henderson is back at work after missing last Saturday's game. Henderson apparently blacked out while driving down a ramp at the stadium and spent the night at a local hospital. Doctors are still evaluating tests, but it appears Henderson might have been dehyrdrated. He watched the game from the hospital. Given that two of Henderson's DBs returned interceptions for touchdowns, Henderson might have to beg to be in attendance for the finale against the 49ers."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says he thinks the Cardinals' defensive linemen are better suited for the 3-4 than for a 4-3 defense.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals are taking a wait-and-see approach at quarterback. Urban: "There was much praise coming from Whisenhunt Monday toward his young QB, but also much caution. Whisenhunt has repeatedly raved about Skelton’s accountability and temperament for the position. He noted the improvisation skills Skelton showed on the crucial pass to Max Komar -- on the move under pressure -- that set up the game-winning field goal, and the coolness in which Skelton found Larry Fitzgerald on fourth down. He likes the idea Skelton can scramble for a few yards when necessary. Yet there are still issues like calling plays, communicating the offense, even fumbling the snap that teammate Steve Breaston was forced to fall upon to save a turnover."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo knows what critics might be thinking. Spagnuolo: "Here's what I know about this league: if you have one more point than they do at the end of the game, it all counts the same. The goal is to win the football game. Now again, I would say this. There may be another game going forward where you do it differently. We chose to do it this way, it happened to work out, so this time we were right. Could it have bitten us in the butt? Maybe, yeah. But just all things considered and the way it was going and what we were doing on both sides of the ball, I thought it was the right thing. ... And that's all on me. I'll take the full blame if there is blame, you put it that way."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Danario Alexander is getting more playing time for the Rams.

Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says moving the Rams' Week 17 game to prime time hurts the local affiliate that had been carrying Rams games this season.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks ahead to the Rams' game at Seattle and wonders whether the team, and specifically Spagnuolo, will be uptight.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams seem fine with the idea of playing in prime time. James Laurinaitis: "I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't excited to play in this game. It's exciting. It's exciting for the fans, and it's exciting for us to be in a situation where all America is watching."

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks colleagues why the Rams were conservative with a lead against the 49ers. Thomas: "The Rams have a defensive-oriented head coach in Steve Spagnuolo, and that usually means a conservative approach offensively. Spagnuolo has enough confidence in his defense that he’s more than willing to put the game on their shoulders at various times. The tactic has worked most of the time against lesser teams and mediocre teams, but will it be the right thing to do when the Rams are matched up with elite teams in the future? Maybe we’ll find out in the playoffs."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team hopes to get tight end Mike Hoomanawanui back from injury this week. Also: "The Rams will not be adjusting their travel schedule at all. They will travel on Saturday afternoon to Seattle and get in around the same time they normally would. The only change is a little different game day because of the wait for the game. But other than that, it will be business as usual."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers notes as the team prepares to face the Rams in Week 17. Coach Pete Carroll on left tackle Russell Okung: "Russell did reinjure his ankle some. He’s still hobbling a little bit. If you watch him closely, he’s not 100 percent. But he was determined to get back. The docs were trying to sit him down for a bit and let it rest. He said, 'I can go. I can go.' So we shoved him back out there and he did. He did a nice job of finishing the game. It’s a factor in his play. It is what it is. We’ve just got to keep trying to help him get through it."

Also from Farnsworth: Matt Hasselbeck is determined to play against the Rams, but the Seahawks are preparing as though Charlie Whitehurst will start at quarterback."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says, among other things, that the Seahawks cannot run against anyone. O'Neil: "Not even the Bucs, who were allowing a league-high 4.9 yards per carry entering the game with a defense missing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Marshawn Lynch's 29-yarder in the first quarter was promising. Trouble was that one run accounted for nearly one-third of Seattle's rushing yardage in the game. Seattle still hasn't had a back rush for more than 100 yards this season."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers highlights from Carroll's news conference Monday. Boling: "He acknowledged the oddity of a six-win team still contending for a playoff berth, calling it an 'interesting finish to the season.' "

Also from Boling: thoughts on this strange Seahawks season. Boling: "I saw this as a rebuilding season, with it taking time to assimilate and improve. Not one in which they would peak in October."

More from Boling: Whitehurst is the quarterback for now.

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle says Carroll was in a similar situation when he coached the Patriots.

Chat wrap: 49ers fans take it on chin

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
2:14
PM ET
Let's just say fans of NFC West teams located outside the San Francisco Bay Area had a little fun at the 49ers' expense during the latest NFC West chat.

All they needed was a little prompting.

"Before Seattle and Arizona fans gets carried away, I want to remind them that they have not won an away game this season that doesn't include the Rams," a 49ers fan going by 4949Centennial wrote. "Still better than the 49ers, but just pointing it out."

Derrick from Tacoma replied quickly.

"Before 49ers fans get carried away with telling others to not get carried away," Derrick wrote, "I want to remind them that they have not won any games this season that include the 49ers. Just pointing it out."

It was all in good fun and 4949Centennial rolled with it.

"Ouch. That hurts!!!!" was the reply.

Greg from Bellingham, north of Seattle, dug up Roger Craig's quote about the 49ers having a team to "annihilate" the NFC West.

"Weren't you in the same boat?" Greg asked me.

Not exactly. Same ocean, though. I thought the 49ers should be favored to win the division based on talent and I stand by that. It's not my fault they're failing to meet reasonable expectations.

With that, let's dive into the chat highlights (full transcript here):
Gabe (Bay Area): I feel that the 49ers should have gone with Mike Solari as O.C. because he has done the job before. With that said, what are your feelings about Mike Johnson and do you think he can revive this putrid 49er offense.

Mike Sando: Mike Singletary makes a valid point about the new coordinator needing to have a good feel for and rapport with Alex Smith. That made Michael Johnson the easy choice. Mike Solari is too valuable as the line coach. They have two rookies starting up front and Solari's efforts are best spent teaching them.

Marshall (LA): Is this the year the Rams beat the Seahawks and make me look like I know what I'm talking about?

Mike Sando: I thought so before the season. Seattle has protected Matt Hasselbeck better than I envisioned, so the Seahawks have a better chance to win that game. Seattle has won by forcing turnovers. I think turnovers are tough to rely upon. The Rams will be easier to beat with a diminished Steven Jackson, though. And Seattle's running game will probably have some success. I give Seattle a slight edge but think the Rams have a good chance.

John (Tucson): Mike! The Cardinals are looking to go into San Diego quite disadvantaged. But watching the Chargers play in their first 3 games, I didn't see much that screams blowout. We have a decided special teams advantage, and while our offense is running at about 40% their offense hasn't exactly been firing on all cylinders. Is this looking to be a defensive showdown, and if so, can Arizona hang in there?

Mike Sando: The Chargers' secondary appeared quite opportunistic against Jacksonville in San Diego's last home game. That's the story to me. How well does Derek Anderson protect the football? In the end, I think the Chargers are so much better at quarterback and in the passing game overall. Advantage, San Diego.

Aaron (Camp Patriot, Kuwait): Hello Mike. Thank you for your dedication to your blog. It keeps me informed very well. I have a question regarding Matt Hasselbeck. How much do you think his apparent struggles (i.e 5 interceptions in 3 games, inability to move the offense in the second half of the San Diego game) are related to his somewhat new receivers, a new offense, and/or just age creeping up on him? Is it possible, like last year, he is still trying too hard?

Mike Sando: Thanks. Hasselbeck has always needed to be comfortable -- with the offense, with his receivers, with his protection. I don't see age as a huge factor right now. He's pretty healthy and moving well. He's not playing as freely as you might want him to play. Some of that is because Pete Carroll would rather have Hasselbeck throw away the ball than take a chance on a bigger play. Some of that is on Hasselbeck, too. He has made some bad throws. I think there have also been times when he wasn't in sync with receivers -- some new, and some (John Carlson) who have been around a while.

This was a fun chat. Thanks to those who kept it rolling.

Around the NFC West: Cards 'in the tank'

September, 24, 2010
9/24/10
9:38
AM ET
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Adrian Wilson considers the Arizona defense to be "in the tank" following it's soft showing against the Falcons. I don't use the word "soft" lightly here, either, but I cannot recall an Arizona defense getting pushed around to this degree. At one point, Falcons receiver Brian Finneran decked Wilson with a left to the head. Wilson had appeared to take a swing at Finneran. Finneran fired back quickly and Wilson went to the turf. Shouldn't it be the other way around out there? Also, Falcons tackle Tyson Clabo moved Darnell Dockett off the line repeatedly. I also thought the Falcons' line shoved around the Cardinals' nose tackles, Bryan Robinson and Dan Williams. It was just an ugly day all the way around for Arizona. Wilson: "I don't really have anything nice to say. We got whupped. We didn't even put up a fight, so it's hard for me to even say anything right now. Anything I say is going to be negative, so I don't want to go that way."

Also from Somers: an expanded look at the defensive problems.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Ken Whisenhunt wasn't very specific in terms of what to expect from Beanie Wells in Week 3. Wells said Wednesday that he will "definitely" play against Oakland.

Also from Urban: Larry Fitzgerald prepares to face Nnamdi Asomugha by going against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in practice.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Philip Rivers is used to hearing play calls in his headset from Charlie Whitehurst. The two will be on opposite sides Sunday.

Also from Farnsworth: Deon Butler has six receptions in two games after catching 15 passes all last season.

Brian McIntyre of scout.com breaks down playing time for the Seahawks against Denver in Week 2. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu played every snap.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along a transcript from offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates' weekly in-season interview session. The Chargers' defense is similar in approach to the one Seattle faced in Week 1. Bates: "You know, San Francisco came from the San Diego family so definitely, each 3-4 is different. San Francisco and San Diego are a lot alike, and there's the New England (style), kind of a mind of their own. You've got the Jets and you've got Baltimore, and they're unique. Then you've got Pittsburgh. A lot of people outside of football say, 'Hey, you're playing a 3-4 team,' but everyone has their own identity, their own style. And it's a challenge that each week you play a 3-4 team, you've just got to crack the code."

Also from O'Neil: Colin Cole is playing well for Seattle.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com looks at the Seahawks' shifting offensive identity. The team used three wide receivers extensively in Week 2, partly because Seattle fell behind.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says new Seahawks president Peter McLoughlin should follow Tod Leiweke's lead. Leiweke has basically hired himself to take over some of the duties he has handled for years.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole wants more pressure from his front four. That's easier to generate at home. Thomas: "This Sunday's opponent, Washington, presents a pass-rushing challenge because not only is quarterback Donovan McNabb still mobile at age 33, but head coach Mike Shanahan likes to have his QBs throw on the move with bootlegs and rollouts." The schedule sets up favorably for the Rams from a preparation standpoint. They face Shanahan in Week 3 and Shanahan's former understudy, Jeremy Bates, in Week 4.

Also from Thomas: Steven Jackson offers thoughts on exploiting mismatches. Jackson: "If we want to spread a team out and run in a nickel package where it's three receivers, and they want to keep their big guys in, I think we should take advantage of the mismatch. So if you have a linebacker guarding Danny (Amendola), you should take advantage of that mismatch. If we're going to spread them out and (they) go small, then you do vice versa and run the ball. So we've just got to figure out what the defense's trying to do, what's their game plan. And once we figure that out, I think that's what we should do, take advantage of that."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says it's looking as though Brandon Gibson will be active for the Rams in Week 3 while Laurent Robinson deals with a foot injury. I'm interested in seeing Gibson get some snaps. His absence from the 45-man roster would have been unexpected based on what Gibson showed in 2009.

Also from Wagoner: more on Gibson and Mardy Gilyard.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers this in a chat transcript: "(Ted Ginn Jr.) did not practice Wednesday, and it's questionable whether he'll be available to play Sunday against the Chiefs. Kyle Williams did practice, so he will definitely be available. I think Ginn will be held out another week." Getting Williams back to return punts sounds great in theory, but the 49ers should be a little nervous about sending a rookie into his first regular-season game at Arrowhead Stadium. Rookies Walter Thurmond (Seattle) and Phillip Adams (San Francisco) muffed punts last week. Another rookie, Golden Tate, fared better.

Also from Maiocco: He disagrees with the thought that the 49ers ran their two-minute offense without using enough clock time Monday night. I'm with him on this one. The 49ers needed a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie. Leaving time on the clock for a potential onside kick would have made little sense, because the Saints could have recovered with good field position, setting up a field goal. Leaving time on the clock would have made more sense if the 49ers had trailed by a margin other than eight.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is looking forward to a Kansas City return. Raye is not the only one. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky played for the Chiefs. Offensive line coach Mike Solari coached for Kansas City.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers rookie Nate Byham is earning more playing time.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News is having a hard time finding Michael Crabtree in the 49ers' offense. I thought Crabtree would catch four or five passes per game. He still might. It's early.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Alex Smith began to change perceptions about himself with that two-minute drive against New Orleans.
Thoughts following Alex Gibbs' abrupt resignation as the offensive line coach of the Seattle Seahawks eight days before the regular-season opener:
  • Gibbs cited burnout. He's 69, extremely intense and has burned out before. This is a plausible explanation.
  • I've seen no evidence a personnel dispute precipitated this resignation. The Seahawks' decision to trade for Philadelphia Eagles guard Stacy Andrews seemed curious at first because Andrews is much bigger than the typical Gibbs guard. But the acquisition makes more sense now that we know Seattle plans to play Andrews at tackle. The Seahawks placed backup right tackle Ray Willis on injured reserve Saturday. They needed a tackle.
  • This is no time to be looking for an offensive line coach. Art Valero served as Gibbs' assistant after coming to Seattle from the St. Louis Rams this offseason. Valero has coached mostly running backs and tight ends since making his NFL debut in 2002. He played offensive line at Boise State and has coached the position extensively at the college level, but Gibbs was an icon among all-time NFL line coaches. Replacing him will not be easy. I would expect the Seahawks to look outside the organization for a potential long-term replacement.
  • Gibbs stepping down does not come as a shock to those who have followed his career. The timing was a surprise. I figured Gibbs would last at least a season or two. But he's known for pouring everything he has into the job, at the expense of balance in his life.
  • The Seahawks should wince in Week 1 when they look across the field to see their former line coach, Mike Solari, manning that job for the San Francisco 49ers. Seattle tried to retain Solari as tight ends coach, but he declined the demotion and quickly landed in San Francisco, where he was already familiar with 49ers coordinator Jimmy Raye. Former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan was one of Solari's biggest advocates in San Francisco, but he now works for the Seahawks.
  • Did I mention the horrendous timing of this change for Seattle? It might be more important for Seattle to keep around players familiar with Gibbs' scheme. Ben Hamilton and Chester Pitts come to mind (although Andrews' arrival could precipitate the departure of another lineman).
  • The impact of Gibbs' resignation on the Seahawks is only part of the story. Gibbs' welfare is also important. At this point, it appears as though he gave all he could.

What a day in the NFC West, huh?

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFC WEST SCOREBOARD