NFC West: Pat Ruel

Sizing up NFC West coaching staffs

April, 10, 2012
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.

Around the NFC West: Beanie Wells' status

September, 10, 2010
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals might not have Beanie Wells for the regular-season opener at St. Louis. Somers: "(Ken) Whisenhunt said he has three quality backs in addition to Wells and has no qualms about going with Tim Hightower, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Wright. Whisenhunt said this summer that he sees an increased role for Stephens-Howling this season." The Cardinals do have good depth at running back, but for the second time in two NFL seasons, missed practice time before the season is putting Wells at a competitive disadvantage.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals rebuilt their defense. Kerry Rhodes: "This year, I think people are sleeping on us a little bit. We're under the radar, and under the radar is fine for us right now. It doesn't count what anybody says right now. The Jets look good on paper. Baltimore looks good on paper, but at the end of the day, it's going to be the team that jells the best and can get it done when it counts."

Dan Bickley and Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic debate the Cardinals' likely fortunes in 2010.

Darren Urban of says Whisenhunt has learned his lesson about overthinking heading into an opener. The coach thought he had too many ideas heading into a 2007 opener at San Francisco.

Also from Urban: Hightower has two 100-yard rushing games in his career and both were at St. Louis. Holding off Wells for the starting job has been easier with Wells missing practice time. Hightower seems to understand why Wells was expected to win the job this year after leading the team in rushing as a backup in 2009. Hightower: "This is a results-driven business. You can say what you want about being a complete back, but at the end of the day, people look at stats. They look for results, and that’s one thing I haven’t had. I haven’t rushed for 1,000 yards, I haven’t been to a Pro Bowl. From an outside perspective, you’re not looking for, 'Oh, this guy blocks well on third downs.' Or. 'He does the intangibles,' or 'He does the things that help the team win.' You’re looking for stats. You understand where they are coming from. But from my perspective, I know what I have to do."

Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports looks at Max Hall's outlook heading into his first NFL season. Farrar: "Hall had two advantages to draw from when he did get to the NFL level -- his uncle is former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White, and the West Coast Offense he ran at BYU gave him an impressive ability to read more complex defenses quickly. While he's been talking to and getting help from White since his high school days, Hall said that the real football education came in college. Unlike many spread-happy quarterbacks, Hall played exclusively under center in high school and only started running shotgun snaps after a semester at Arizona State, his two-year mission, and his eventual transfer to BYU."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says James Laurinaitis is the leader of the Rams' defense even though teammates did not vote him as captain. Laurinaitis makes the defensive calls. Laurinaitis: "I like the role of being in control, because I think it holds you to a higher level of accountability. And when you have that accountability, knowing that you're the guy making the checks and the calls, you can't blame anybody else. It's on you."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with A.J. Feeley, who has recovered from a thumb injury well enough to back up Sam Bradford in Week 1. Thomas: "Feeley has been working with the scout team in practice and has not been listed on the team's official injury report. Feeley can only wonder what might have been had he not suffered the thumb injury. Remember, Bradford struggled in the Browns' game, generating only one first down (via penalty) in seven series. But Feeley isn't dwelling on that; he always knew he was keeping the seat warm for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are 4-26 in NFC West games since the start of the 2005 season. Scott Linehan, Mike Holmgren, Mike Nolan and Dennis Green were the NFC West head coaches when the Rams last won an NFC West game (in 2007).

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams and Steven Jackson in particular expect to see plenty of blitzes from the Cardinals on Sunday.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Crabtree appears baffled by the "diva" label applied to him in recent years.

Clare Farnsworth of says linebacker Aaron Curry is getting work with the defensive linemen at times because the team wants to use him as a pass-rusher.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times profiles Seahawks rookie safety Earl Thomas. Thomas was born after doctors told his mother she had six months to live and could not get pregnant.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says there's no shame in saying the Seahawks are rebuilding. Teams don't like to use the word because the rebuilding message isn't helpful when motivating players in the short term.

Greg Johns of says the 49ers can expect to see Tyler Polumbus lining up at left tackle for the Seahawks in Week 1.

Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune says Art Valero is the Seahawks' new offensive line coach, with Pat Ruel taking over as assistant offensive line coach. The official team release on Ruel's hiring called Ruel the primary line coach. However, coach Pete Carroll subsequently said Ruel would be working in a support role while learning the offense and terminology. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates: "Yeah, Art Valero is now the offensive line coach, and he's going to have some different eyes, everyone has different ideas. You can't be someone else so we're going to go in without Alex and Art's got the job now. ... Art has been at Tampa, he has been at St. Louis. He has learned some football that has been different than Alex. You have to be comfortable with the style of the way you're coaching and your philosophy. I think the toughest position would be if we made him do exactly what Alex did. There's going to be a lot of carryover, but at the same time you've got to be yourself."

John Morgan of Field Gulls compares Mike Williams to Brandon Marshall and Deion Branch to Eddie Royal when examining similarities between Seattle's offensive scheme and the one Bates ran at Denver.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Carroll wants to show that it's possible to win in the NFL without being so serious all the time. Carroll: "Only that you can't have fun coaching football at this level and still compete like crazy and win. If there's anything that people don't understand, it's how you can enjoy it in the way that we do and still work really hard and be really disciplined."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' Travis LaBoy will try to exploit any issues on the Seahawks' offensive line. Barrows: "Last year in Seattle, Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson and Ahmad Brooks each had a sack. (The 49ers had five total). This year the triumvirate will be Lawson, Haralson and newcomer Travis LaBoy. As was the case with Brooks last year, the concern this offseason was making sure LaBoy, who began his career as a defensive end, was up to speed on playing linebacker on first and second downs."

Also from Barrows: Vernon Davis came up behind Michael Crabtree and hugged the receiver during Crabtree's first media session in an extended period. Said Crabtree, whose sideline dispute with Davis during practice made headlines during preseason: "Ah, man. That's just something inside, you know? It's something I don't really want to talk about. Because it's not a problem. And by me talking about it, it's going to make it a problem, so ... It's nothing."

Matt Maiocco of identifies Taylor Mays' primary Week 1 role -- as a special-teamer, not on defense.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' rookie offensive linemen are gearing up for their first visit to Qwest Field. Branch: "Sure, the team has pumped in crowd noise during practice this week. But no one is kidding themselves. They know it can't replicate the din they'll discover when they open the season against the Seahawks at 67,000-seat Qwest Field, the place where eardrums go to burst."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat examines Mike Singletary's direct, honest style.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers anticipate a limited role for Brian Westbrook in the opener. It's tough taking Frank Gore off the field.

Also from Brown: Davis' comment to Crabtree upon hugging him for reporters to see: "Michael, good to see you, buddy."
John Glennon of the Tennessean profiles former Seahawks linebacker Greg Gaines, who has struggled with addiction to pain medication after a career that led Steve Largent to call him the toughest player he ever saw. Glennon: "Indeed, Gaines' continuing struggles are representative of life after football for many ex-players. In his case, 40 surgeries and the pain medicine prescribed to cope with them helped make him an addict." This is a gruesome story complete with a gruesome photo showing Gaines' mangled knee during a workout. It's also very much a developing story. Every day sounds like a challenge for Gaines.

Clare Farnsworth of offers highlights from an eventful day at Seahawks camp. The situation at left tackle remains in flux.

Also from Farnsworth: Seahawks general manager John Schneider says the team is more talented following a flurry of moves. That appears true on the offensive line with Stacy Andrews' addition in particular. There are a lot of question marks, though.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times runs through the Seahawks' recent roster changes.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says it's clear Seattle is in rebuilding mode. Brewer: "The front office is using this season as one big evaluation period, and it will keep shuffling the roster, attempting to find long-term solutions to the huge problem it inherited. That's how the first season in every rebuilding process must work. The problem is that the Seahawks took a sledgehammer to their roster just days before the season is set to begin. It means they're almost guaranteed to start the year slowly because so many new players must get comfortable."

Greg Johns of says the Seahawks appear thin at safety and the team is "buying time" on the offensive line while Russell Okung recovers from a sprained ankle.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers Schneider's reasoning for releasing T.J. Houshmandzadeh: "It was really just playing the young guys. Much like with Josh (Wilson), we felt like there was a group of guys behind him that were ready to take a step forward. T.J. is a good football player, he just happens to be a little bit older than the other guys, and we had some guys -- Mike Williams and Deon Butler and Ben Obomanu -- we had some guys step forward."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with new Seahawks offensive line coach Pat Ruel.

John Morgan of Field Gulls looks at players Seattle has subtracted from its roster.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald quotes Seahawks coach Pete Carroll as saying the team "needed to do this" -- overhaul the roster.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says there's hope for the Rams, as evidenced by their acquisition of Mark Clayton from the Ravens. Burwell: "The Clayton trade is not a move that simply upgrades the back end of the 53-man roster. Clayton is expected to be an immediate-impact starting wide receiver. He will be in uniform Sunday for the Arizona Cardinals - and you can bet he will be fast-tracked this week to be a serious weapon in the passing game almost immediately, if not sooner."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also sees reason for hope in St. Louis. Miklasz: "There are no expectations of the Rams making the playoffs in 2010, no hope of competing for a Super Bowl, no delusions about where the Rams are and how far they must go to become an elite franchise. Only a hair-on-fire optimist would predict a winning record for the 2010 Rams. But it's been a while since fans had something to look forward to."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with converted basketball player Fendi Onobun, who earned a spot on the Rams' initial 53-man roster as a tight end.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney crossed paths with Clayton at the Sam Bradford workout. Devaney: "We were in the middle of the field talking to him, never thinking that he was going to wind up with the Rams. I remember, I told Spags, 'That's a good kid.' He's a classy, classy kid -- the way he presented himself and the way he carried himself."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Darnell Dockett is working to justify the new contract he signed. Dockett: "I'm not satisfied. I want to do something that a lot of guys aren't able to do and that's outplay three contracts, back to back to back. That's my mind-set. I'm raising my standards completely high. If I'm able to accomplish this last one, then I think I'll pat myself on the back."

Darren Urban of says Deuce Lutui is the Cardinals' starting left guard again, but coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to keep pressure on him. Lutui: "I came back in shape. Maybe not the weight they wanted, but I passed the condition test." Lutui has been the best guard in camp for the Cardinals. Whisenhunt wasn't happy about Lutui's weight, but he wasn't going to play a lesser candidate at the position. Lutui recovered nicely from a rough offseason, it appears, but will the Cardinals want to reward him with a long-term extension? Probably not without a stronger commitment from Lutui.

Also from Urban: Derek Anderson's thoughts about becoming the Cardinals' starting quarterback.

Matt Maiocco of says the 49ers don't have to worry about Troy Smith's work ethic. The 49ers know what they are getting from Smith because their quarterbacks coach, Michael Johnson, was an assistant with Baltimore when the Ravens drafted Smith. Maiocco: "Smith appeared in 14 games with the Baltimore Ravens in three seasons. After starting two games as a rookie, Smith attempted just 13 passes the past two seasons. The Ravens cut him, as they decided to go with two quarterbacks -- Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger -- on their regular-season roster."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers will not have Ahmad Brooks back from injury in time for Week 1.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Brooks suffered his kidney laceration during a freak accident with a blocking sled. Barrows: "A blocking sled did the damage when he hit it on the morning of Aug. 6 and it ricocheted back up and struck a rib under his left arm. The impact didn't break the rib, but it forced it into the kidney." The worst blocking-sled injury I recall came when a Seattle rookie named Tim Watson impaled a knee on a steel hook used to drag the sled from station to station. Such hooks were subsequently removed.

Also from Barrows: The Titans and Steelers joined Seattle in pursuing former 49ers running back Michael Robinson.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says Scot McCloughan's departure to Seattle deprived Nate Davis of a chief supporter within the 49ers' organization. McCloughan works for Seattle now, but the Seahawks appear to favor keeping only two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with 49ers rookies Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, who make their first regular-season NFL starts Sunday.

Quick notes from Seahawks headquarters

September, 6, 2010
RENTON, Wash. -- A few thoughts from Seattle Seahawks headquarters after the team finished practicing Monday in preparation for its Week 1 game against the San Francisco 49ers:
  • Okung
    Left tackle Russell Okung will not play against the 49ers, coach Pete Carroll said. The job will fall to Tyler Polumbus, an eight-game starter for Denver last season, or Chester Pitts, who hasn't played in a game since suffering a knee injury in Week 2 last season. Expect the Seahawks to adjust their game plan as they match up against Justin Smith and the 49ers' outside pass-rushers. Pitts began practicing only recently. He's sound fundamentally, but throwing him onto the field against Smith this early in Pitts' return seems risky. Seattle heads into the 2010 season with issues at tackle, same as last season. Okung will change that for the long term, but that will not help Sunday.
  • Assistant offensive line coach Art Valero is taking the lead in coaching the position following Alex Gibbs' abrupt resignation. The newly hired Pat Ruel is still learning the Seahawks' personnel and playbook. Ruel was about to go to sleep Friday night when Carroll called to offer him a job. Ruel was preparing to help coach a scrimmage the next morning as part of his job with the Omaha Nighthawks. As for sizing up the 49ers? "I was up watching them last night," Ruel said. "I know a little too much already. They are very good up front."
  • Carroll said the massive roster changes of the past few days were part of the plan all along. He also said the changes don't affect the team's preparations for the 49ers because the team has been game-planning for months. All the shuffling has to come at a short-term price, however, particularly against a 49ers team that has largely been together for the past two or three seasons. The 49ers have had defensive philosophical continuity since 2005 -- a very long time ago in NFL terms, as Seahawks fans know too well.
  • Justin Forsett will start at running back for the Seahawks, as expected. Carroll said it wasn't clear which back will get the most carries. Julius Jones, who kept his roster spot by accepting a pay reduction, said he "got a lot of phone calls and text messages" over the weekend, but wasn't frustrated by confusion over his employment status.
  • Receiver Mike Williams let a few smiles slip through during a post-practice interview. He seemed determined to project earnestness, though. Williams' journey from first-round bust to potential Week 1 starter qualifies as an improbable story, but that first-round bust status isn't gone for good. Williams must produce and he knows it, particularly after the team released receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. "I didn't know if I was going to be here," Williams said. "It's a good feeling, but it's just a feeling. I still have to go out every week and prove that I'm worth it."

Carroll is projecting a business-as-usual feel, and that is expected. There's no advantage to acknowledging the effects of roster turnover before the first game. The storyline will be there all season, however, and its effects should be most pronounced early in the season.

Alex Gibbs' replacement a familiar one

September, 5, 2010
Seattle fans might have a hard time distinguishing their Seahawks from the Omaha Nighthawks if coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider keep hacking away at the roster.

The teams' offensive line coaches are already indistinguishable.

It's not as bad as it sounds.

Pat Ruel is leaving the Nighthawks to replace Alex Gibbs as the Seahawks' offensive line coach, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports, and the fit should be good because Ruel coached under Carroll at USC from 2005 until Carroll's departure earlier this year.

The Seahawks have yet to make an announcement. They're busy reconfiguring the roster. Expect the moves to keep coming.