NFC West: Norv Turner

We have rightfully focused at times over the years on coordinator continuity for NFC West quarterbacks.

Alex Smith famously played with coordinators Mike McCarthy, Norv Turner, Jim Hostler, Mike Martz, Jimmy Raye, Mike Johnson and Greg Roman while with the San Francisco 49ers from 2005 through last season.

Sam Bradford has bounced from Pat Shurmur to Josh McDaniels to Brian Schottenheimer during three seasons with the St. Louis Rams.

The dynamic works both ways. Some coordinators have bounced from one quarterback to another, preventing them from getting the best feel for their players. Playcallers and quarterbacks are most comfortable -- and presumably most effective -- when they've had time to figure out one another. Coordinators get a better feel for players' strengths, weaknesses and preferences. Quarterbacks more fully understand how their coordinators are approaching specific situations.

That line of thinking came to mind this week while watching Schottenheimer coach Bradford during the Rams' organized team activities. Schottenheimer has worked for only two teams since 2006 and he was offensive coordinator both times. But he has run through five primary quarterbacks during that time: Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, Brett Favre and Mark Sanchez before joining Bradford in St. Louis.

"The things we are able to do starting this offseason, we are 1,000 years ahead of where we were last year," Schottenheimer said following a recent practice. "It's been fun to push Sam and have Sam push me, too, in terms of, 'Hey, I can take more.' We're both enjoying having some stability."

The chart associates current NFC West offensive playcallers with their primary quarterbacks since 2006, the first year any of the four was a coordinator. I've listed Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians instead of coordinator Harold Goodwin because Arians plans to call the plays. Arians has also called plays continuously since 2007.

Quarterbacks are the most important pieces for any team, but I thought it would be interesting to view these situations from the playcallers' perspectives. Every NFC West team but Arizona returns the same coordinator-quarterback combination from the end of last season.

Finding next home for 49ers' Alex Smith

February, 19, 2013
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In eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Alex Smith has played for three head coaches, seven offensive coordinators and six quarterbacks coaches (seven if you count Pep Hamilton, who helped Jim Hostler coach the position in 2006).

These many associations would seem to increase exponentially the number of likely landing spots for Smith as a free agent or trade candidate this offseason.

A closer look suggests that might not be the case.

Smith's connections with former head coaches Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary would actually deter reunions. Neither would be in position to push for landing Smith, anyway. Nolan's Atlanta Falcons don't need a quarterback.

Former 49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner could potentially need a quarterback in Cleveland. The team's other former Smith-era coordinators wouldn't be in position to help. Mike McCarthy's Green Bay Packers are obviously set at the position. Mike Martz is a color commentator for Fox. Hostler coaches wide receivers for the Joe Flacco-led Baltimore Ravens. Jimmy Raye worked last season as a senior offensive assistant with Tampa Bay. Michael Johnson was out of the NFL.

Hostler and Johnson were also among the Smith-era quarterbacks coaches in San Francisco. Another, Frank Cignetti, coaches the position for the Sam Bradford-led St. Louis Rams. Another, Ted Tollner, is no longer coaching. Another, Jason Michael, coaches tight ends for the Philip Rivers-led San Diego Chargers. Hamilton, meanwhile, is offensive coordinator for the Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis Colts.

Even a run through former position coaches for the 49ers' receivers, tight ends and offensive line turns up more dead ends than fresh leads. Former tight ends coach Pete Hoener coaches the position for the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers. Former line coach Chris Foerster coaches the position for the Robert Griffin III-led Washington Redskins. Another former line coach, George Warhop, is with Turner in Cleveland.

The 49ers' longtime former receivers coach, Jerry Sullivan, coaches the same position for Jacksonville. New Jaguars coach Gus Bradley would be familiar with Smith from his days coordinating the Seattle Seahawks' defense. But Jacksonville would make much greater sense as a landing spot for Smith if the 49ers' current offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, had become the Jaguars' head coach. That had been the expectation until the 49ers' deep playoff run complicated efforts to hire Roman.

There still could be a market for Smith, of course. But in a league built on connections and relationships, it's tough to find many likely to influence where Smith winds up next season. That is partly because the 49ers have kept together their current staff under head coach Jim Harbaugh. The coaches most closely associated with Smith's recent revival remain under contract to the team. That was great for Smith when he was starting, but it won't help him find his next job.

XTRA910 audio: Cardinals' candidates

January, 4, 2013
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NFC playoff matchups consumed much of my weekly Friday conversation with Dan Bickley and Mike Jurecki on XTRA Sports 910 AM.

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.

Only a select few outlasted Whisenhunt

December, 31, 2012
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Ken Whisenhunt, hired by the Arizona Cardinals in 2007, had outlasted all but eight NFL head coaches when the team fired him Monday.

Bill Belichick, Marvin Lewis, Tom Coughlin, Mike McCarthy, Gary Kubiak and Sean Payton were hired by their current teams no later than 2006. Lovie Smith and Andy Reid were also in place before 2007. Both were fired Monday.

Whisenhunt, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin and San Diego's Norv Turner remained from the 2007 hiring class until Monday, when Turner joined Whisenhunt among the ranks of former coaches.

As Jerry Glanville put it years ago, NFL means, "Not For Long."

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith enters Week 10 as a four-coordinator favorite over St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.

Each man has run plays under three coordinators over the two-plus seasons since Bradford entered the NFL in 2010. Smith worked with four others previously.

Mike McCarthy, Norv Turner, Jim Hostler, Mike Martz and Jimmy Raye had already coordinated offenses featuring Smith when Bradford joined Rams in 2010. Smith, who worked with Mike Johnson following Raye's firing three games into the 2010 season, has found coordinator bliss under Greg Roman over the past two seasons.

Bradford appears to be adjusting well to Brian Schottenheimer's offense after playing for Josh McDaniels (2011) and Pat Shurmur (2010). But Smith is much deeper into his playbook with Roman. Their pairing has gone so well, in fact, that Roman could emerge as a head coaching candidate after the season.
After appearing on MVP Watch and before visiting the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9, Adrian Peterson dominated much of the "Inside Slant" podcast discussion Wednesday.

The Minnesota Vikings running back is challenging what we've thought about serious knee injuries by disregarding standard timetables for rehabilitation.

Peyton Manning, another player thriving improbably following career-altering surgery, also stars in this podcast. Russell Wilson, Romeo Crennel, Brett Favre, Jamal Lewis, Terry Allen, Norv Turner, Leslie Frazier, Titus Young, Richard Sherman, Alex Smith, Joe Namath and Johnny Unitas surface at various points.

Listeners also receive special Halloween access to a photo showing a certain NFC West blogger in costume as though right off the set for that John Clayton commercial.
Randy Moss' impressive offseason with the San Francisco 49ers continues, generating positive reviews.

"The first day, it was surreal out there throwing balls to him," quarterback Alex Smith said. "The physical skills everybody knows. The thing you appreciate a lot is the guy's a true pro. He's played a lot of football. He's incredibly smart out there."

If this sounds familiar, it should.

With Moss, it's often about impressive debuts and new beginnings. Sometimes, he sticks around and produces, as the case was with New England. Other times, the initial impressions do not foreshadow future results.

Moss impressed the Oakland Raiders when he joined them by trade from Minnesota in 2005. That situation did not work out well (the Raiders obviously deserve some of the blame).

"I thought Randy was outstanding," Norv Turner, then the Raiders' coach, said after Moss' first couple practices with the team. "He got in yesterday afternoon late and we put a lot of offense in today and we have a lot going in this weekend. He handled it extremely well. It's a whole different system than he's been around. He went out and relaxed and obviously he can run and catch and do those things. He looked very comfortable to me."

Moss impressed the New England Patriots when he joined them by trade from Oakland in 2007. Moss played very well for the Patriots before his time with the team ran its course.

"Tom Brady has heard the critics who expect Moss to bring more baggage to the Patriots than a hotel valet would," The New York Times wrote back when Moss joined New England. "But so far, Brady has been impressed, and Moss looked explosive during Wednesday’s workout. During one portion of practice, Brady and Moss stood off to the side by themselves, talking and throwing a football, part of the working bond they hope to create."

Moss impressed the Vikings when he rejoined them by trade from the Patriots in 2010. Moss wound up making little impact (the Vikings, like the Raiders, had their own issues).

"He's had a whirlwind week-and-a-half catching up on a new playbook, and the Vikings were quite pleased with his performance against the New York Jets last week despite the lack of familiarity," the Associated Press reported. "The coaches have noted progress in practice this week, believing he'll be able to be more comfortable with his routes without having to stop and think too much about his assignment."

Moss impressed the Tennessee Titans when he joined their team off waivers in 2011. He made almost no impact with the team on the field, however.

"When Randy Moss comes into your locker room, he brings something. Guys are seeing that and responding to it," Kerry Collins, then a Titans quarterback, told reporters. "The biggest thing is just the way he's working. You never judge a book by what you hear. You wait and see what a guy is about. He's come in here with a great attitude and ready to work. The guy just wants to win. Period. The end. He'll do whatever it takes to make that happen."

Moss impressed the New Orleans Saints during a workout in 2012. They did not sign him, however.

"Moss had an off-the-charts workout at the Saints facility this morning," sportsNOLA.com reported. "The 35-year old Moss reportedly performed the 40-yard dash in the 4.39 to 4.4 range and ran routes while hauling in nearly 50 passes. One source described Moss as being more impressive than anticipated, saying that he is in great shape."

And, of course, Moss is impressing the 49ers this offseason. The situation in San Francisco appears more stable than the ones in Oakland or Minnesota (the second time). Perhaps the results will be better as well.
SeattleAztec from San Diego asks whether Matt Flynn might be the "most developed" quarterback in the NFC West after learning from Mike McCarthy in Green Bay.

"Alex Smith and Sam Bradford seem to be the least developed with having multiple offensive coordinators and no great vets to learn behind," he writes. "Kevin Kolb had a good upbringing in Philadelphia and Arizona has shown an ability to handle QBs, but Flynn had the benefit of learning in the Green Bay system. Learning behind Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy will give him an advantage, assuming he wins the starting job. Thoughts?"

Mike Sando: Flynn's background with McCarthy and the Packers appealed to the Seahawks. McCarthy, with nothing more than a compensatory draft choice to gain from advocating for Flynn in free agency, gave glowing reviews in conversations with the Seahawks. Those conversations appear more credible based on Seahawks general manager John Schneider's long association and friendship with McCarthy.

"We really respect the job that they’ve done with their offense and their quarterbacking and Matt is a beneficiary of that, so therefore we are also," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after signing Flynn in March. "His process to learn as Aaron Rodgers has learned has really been helpful to him. There are a lot of similarities in their style of movement and decision-making, play and conscience that I think helps us."

That doesn't necessarily mean Flynn will be the "most developed" quarterback in the division. A few thoughts on what the other NFC West quarterbacks have going for them:
  • Smith (49ers): Jim Harbaugh should know the position better than any head coach in the division. Smith has more experience than any quarterback in the division. Harbaugh and Smith meshed well last season. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman and quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst round out what looks like a solid support group. Smith has finally had time this offseason to work on his mechanics. He's getting a second season in the offense. Spending one season with McCarthy and a second with Norv Turner probably counts for something, too, despite the passage of time.
  • Kolb (Cardinals): Kolb did not practice with the Cardinals until 38 days before the 2011 opener. That made it tough for Kolb to learn a new system and settle into the role. Injuries derailed Kolb once he finally did get experience in the system. The Cardinals fired quarterbacks coach Chris Miller and promoted receivers coach John McNulty to the position. Arizona valued McNulty enough to block Tampa Bay from pursuing him as its offensive coordinator. The team's new receivers coach, Frank Reich, was an NFL quarterback for 14 seasons. What does it all mean? It's a little early to tell.
  • Bradford (Rams): New coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was with Mark Sanchez previously. One line of thinking says Schottenheimer led Sanchez as far as Sanchez could go, then took the fall when Sanchez failed to carry more of the offensive load. Another line of thinking says Schottenheimer couldn't get Sanchez past a certain point. Bradford is on his third coordinator in as many seasons. The Rams went through 2011 without a quarterbacks coach. The new quarterbacks coach, Frank Cignetti, coached the 49ers' Smith under coordinator Jim Hostler in 2007. That was one of the worst offensive seasons in 49ers history. Hostler took the blame. It's tough to fault Cignetti in that context, but also tough to offer a strong endorsement without seeing results.

Circling back to the original question, we could make a case that Flynn should be the most developed quarterback in the division.

Other factors go into success, of course. Bradford and Smith were No. 1 overall choices, indicating that teams thought they were more talented than Flynn, a seventh-rounder who drew moderate interest in free agency this offseason. And if the Seahawks were convinced Flynn were the answer, they would have had less reason to use a third-round choice for a quarterback after signing Flynn.

I do think Flynn's background with the Packers was crucial for the Seahawks. Schneider's first-hand knowledge of Green Bay's quarterback training techniques was a factor.

Sam Bradford and Alex Smith, early years

February, 9, 2012
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Count Frank Cignetti's expected hiring as quarterbacks coach in St. Louis as the latest career parallel between the Rams' Sam Bradford and the San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith.

Both were No. 1 overall draft choices.

Both began their careers under first-time head coaches with backgrounds on defense.

Both started as rookies.

Both watched their original offensive coordinators take head coaching jobs elsewhere after one season. Mike McCarthy left the 49ers for Green Bay in 2006. Pat Shurmur left the Rams for Cleveland in 2011.

Both appeared fortunate when their teams landed high-profile replacements. Norv Turner replaced McCarthy. Josh McDaniels replaced Shurmur. Turner and McDaniels had been head coaches, but both were best known for calling plays.

Smith and Bradford would experience coordinator changes once again while entering their third seasons. Turner left the 49ers to coach San Diego. McDaniels left St. Louis to rejoin New England.

In a coincidence of coincidences, Bradford and Smith will have approached their third NFL seasons with Cignetti as their new position coach, provided the Rams make official Cignetti's expected hiring. Cignetti coached Smith and the 49ers' quarterbacks in 2007. The Rams have targeted him to work with Bradford this season.

These circumstantial parallels will not necessarily produce the same results. Many other variables come into play.

Mike Nolan was entering his third and final full season as the 49ers' head coach in 2007, whereas Jeff Fisher is entering his first season with the Rams. The coaching situation in St. Louis appears more stable than the one Smith encountered in 2007, when the 49ers were breaking in a first-time coordinator and Nolan was nearing the end.

The Rams' new coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, has much more experience.

Still, the parallels between Smith and Bradford through two seasons are uncanny, at least.

Smith suffered a serious shoulder injury during his third season. He missed the 2008 season before rebounding to throw 49 touchdown passes with 27 interceptions in three subsequent seasons.

Chargers' moves should help the Rams

January, 3, 2012
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Coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith are returning to the San Diego Chargers in 2012.

That is good for the St. Louis Rams as they pursue a head coach and GM.

San Diego, with a franchise quarterback in place and geography on its side, could have been an alluring alternative for candidates the Rams might be considering. One of those candidates, Jeff Fisher, reportedly has interest in teams with stability at quarterback.

Bernie Miklasz and I were just discussing the Rams and Fisher on 101ESPN St. Louis. Bernie asked what other candidates might appeal. An offensive-minded head coach would help insulate quarterback Sam Bradford from coordinator changes on that side of the ball. That would be one consideration from my standpoint.

And no, I wouldn't expect the Rams to consider former coach Mike Martz, now out as coordinator for the Chicago Bears. The Rams will presumably be looking toward the future, not the past, when making their next big hires (although Dick Vermeil and Marshall Faulk are part of the search process).

Fisher is the opposite of Martz: stable and consistent.

710ESPN audio: NFC West Week 14

December, 8, 2011
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Matt_Brigham asked via Twitter when Seattle last played a Monday night game at home. The answer was 2007, when the Seahawks scored a 24-0 victory over San Francisco.

That was back when Mike Holmgren was running Seattle's offense and Jim Hostler had taken over for Norv Turner as the 49ers' offensive coordinator.

Dave Wyman, Bob Stelton and I did not discuss that game during our weekly conversation Wednesday on 710ESPN Seattle. I did mention that Seattle's home game against the St. Louis Rams on Monday night would mark the third consecutive week with a prime-time game for an NFC West team.

We discussed that and more, including Kevin Kolb's improved play Sunday. Audio here.
The San Francisco 49ers' changes at offensive coordinator have become an annual storyline.

The team has gone from Mike McCarthy to Norv Turner to Jim Hostler to Mike Martz to Jimmy Raye to Michael Johnson to Greg Roman since January 2006.

Smith
Bradford
Bradford
The effect on quarterback Alex Smith cannot be quantified, but that much change cannot be a good thing.

The St. Louis Rams almost certainly will not go through as many changes while bringing along their franchise quarterback, Sam Bradford. Still, the change from Pat Shurmur to Josh McDaniels after one season has raised concerns for the short term, particularly with McDaniels looking to re-emerge as a head-coaching candidate -- as was the case with Smith's second coordinator, Turner.

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo isn't buying the idea that a transition from Shurmur to McDaniels during an NFL lockout will significantly hinder Bradford in 2011.

"This may be some na´ve thinking, but I coached two years in NFL Europe and we would go down to Florida with 60 guys, and in three-and-a-half weeks, you cut down to 35 and you play a 10-game season," Spagnuolo said from the NFL owners meeting last week. "That part of it, I have been through it. I certainly don't think that is going to happen. There is a confidence on that side of the ball in our building that if you are smart about how you implement it, go at the pace the players absorb it, I think we'll be fine. It still comes back to throwing it, catching it, running it, tackling."

The Rams' confidence in Bradford lets them feel that way. The coordinator change and ongoing lockout would affect a lesser quarterback to a greater degree.

Injuries prevented Bradford from working extensively with some of his receivers last season. The Rams can feel good about how quickly Bradford developed a rapport with Mark Clayton, even though Bradford was a rookie and Clayton had not run the Rams' offense.

The 49ers' Smith, despite not meeting expectations, improved dramatically in his second season following a coordinator change. He went from tossing one touchdown pass with 11 interceptions as a rookie to finishing his second season with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Bradford finished his rookie season with 18 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and 3,512 yards.
The latest NFC West chat passed while the NFL and its players considered buying time to continue working toward an agreement. This extension would postpone union decertification and an NFL lockout while the sides continued talking. It would not clear the way for free agency to begin under terms of the old agreement.

A few chat highlights:
Corey (D.C.): Mike, recent reports say Matt Hasselbeck turned down the Seahawks' latest offer. Do you have a pulse on what his plans are? I could see him playing well in Arizona, SF, or Minnesota.

Mike Sando: There is no agreement, so he has not accepted the Seahawks' offer. I wouldn't get too wrapped up in the "finality" such a statement suggests. Sure, I could see Hasselbeck playing for the Cardinals, 49ers or Vikings. And I think the Seahawks would move on and live for another day. But if they can upgrade their offensive line, keeping Hasselbeck at a reasonable price would make sense. I think they would be reasonable offering more than the $8 million he averaged on his previous deal. I do not think they should be offering way more than that, based on how Hasselbeck has played most of the time. Kurt Warner got $11.5 million per year coming off a Super Bowl. Hasselbeck is not coming off that type of season.

CHRIS (Columbia, SC): Hello Mike. After watching the combine and looking at the needs of my beloved St. Louis Rams I have to say I was most impressed with Julio Jones and I think you are right we need to surround Sam Bradford with talent. That being said I believe we should spend the first round on a OLB or a DT. Drafting someone at those positions would most likely start immediately and still get an offensive weapon to contribute like Torrey Smith, Leonard Hankerson, or Titus Young in the 2nd or 3rd. I just see whoever we draft OLB or DT would have a better chance in getting into the starting lineup than a DE or WR. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: Good thoughts, Chris. I'd have no problem with the Rams taking a front-line player at defensive tackle in particular, and linebacker secondarily. The team needs young talent at those positions.

Cedric (Memphis, TN): Hey Mike! Am I the only 49ers fan that thinks Alex Smith still can be a good productive winning QB in the NFL? I truly believe the organization has failed him more than he has failed them or us as fans. When he was under what I think has been his only real offensive coordinator/QB coach (Norv Turner) he looked good and like he was gonna be good. Then we hire all these defensive guys as head coach who get puppets as the OC and nobody further developed the guy. Oh, and let's not forget Mike Martz who was allowed to bring in his own QB to start that was never any good. Please help me here Mike, am I right?

Mike Sando: Good? Productive? Winning? Alex Smith might be able to be those things. I'm fine with the 49ers keeping him around. But they obviously will not bank on him the way they did when he was coming out of college as the top overall pick. Keeping him as part of the mix differs from committing to him.

JR (Tradeland): Mr. Sando, first off love what you do for the NFC West. Do you think the Cardinals can afford to draft a QB with the 5th pick with Fitzgerald in his contract year and the pressure of starting such a high pick sooner rather than later, especially considering Fitz has a no franchise tag clause in his current deal?

Mike Sando: Thanks. The Cardinals should take into account what moves might mean for Larry Fitzgerald, but they cannot bypass drafting a franchise quarterback just because it might hurt them with Fitzgerald in the short term. They need to build their team the way other teams build: starting at quarterback. Now, if they are less sure about the quarterback prospects in the draft, perhaps Fitzgerald's situation makes them feel better about going in another direction.

Thanks for taking part. Here's hoping we get some labor clarity soon.

Carroll, Whisenhunt lead NFC West's way

February, 14, 2011
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The Seattle Seahawks' upset playoff victory over New Orleans let Pete Carroll join the club of NFL head coaches with at least one playoff victory in their current roles.

Jim Harbaugh will be looking to match the feat in his first season with the San Francisco 49ers.

The chart breaks down current NFL head coaches by playoff victories with their current teams.

Quarterback Sam Bradford faces a difficult short-term adjustment while transitioning to a new offensive system under coordinator Josh McDaniels.

I think he'll handle it well and show progress in his second NFL season.

Bradford
Bradford
Easy for me to say.

ESPN's Tim Hasselbeck learned at least five offensive systems during his six-year career as a backup quarterback. Asked whether McDaniels would help make Bradford into a top-tier quarterback, Hasselbeck said he anticipates a tough transition for Bradford in 2011.

"I think eventually he will be a top-tier quarterback," Hasselbeck said. "I've got to tell you, though, I am not in love with the idea of Sam Bradford having to learn a brand-new system that is very different from what Pat Shurmur was doing in St. Louis. To me, I think we are going to see a big step back."

That would stand as a significant disappointment for the Rams. I tend to think quarterbacks worry about such things on a personal level with less regard for the bigger picture. And the bigger picture says Bradford's career trajectory remains on track, most likely.

The San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith finished his rookie season with one touchdown pass and 11 interceptions. The 49ers' coordinator at the time, Mike McCarthy, then left to become Green Bay's head coach. Smith learned a new system under Norv Turner the next season, finishing 2006 with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

Smith had nowhere to go but up following his rough rookie season. He was also less talented than Bradford appears to be. Bradford will struggle some because he's a young quarterback, but he fared quite well after learning a new system last season.

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