NFC West: Pat Shurmur

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.

The St. Louis Rams' Danny Amendola, like Wes Welker of New England, is a cat-quick slot receiver from Texas Tech with experience in Josh McDaniels' offense.

Neither receiver has a contract for the 2013 season. Neither was named his team's franchise player. Both could become unrestricted free agents March 12.

McDaniels' presence in New England as the Patriots' offensive coordinator would seem to make Amendola a viable fallback option for the team if Welker were to leave in free agency. As Mike Reiss of wrote Monday, there were increasingly reasons to think Welker and the Patriots would reach agreement before the signing period opens. But with ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting Wednesday that Welker planned to test the market, it's good to remember that there are no guarantees.

If Welker were to re-sign with the Patriots, where would Amendola fit beyond New England or St. Louis? Would any team value him more than the Rams would value him?

Those aren't easy questions to answer. Amendola, like Rams teammate and fellow free-agent candidate Brandon Gibson, was with Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles before coming to the Rams. Before that, Amendola was with Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, when Garrett was offensive coordinator.

Sometimes those past connections come into play when a player reaches free agency. Reid is the new head coach in Kansas City. Garrett fills the same role in Dallas. Reid's receivers coach, David Culley, is the same one he had in Philadelphia when Amendola was there in 2009.

But even if Amendola's ties to those teams' coaches were relevant, neither Kansas City nor Dallas appears to have a pressing need for a slot receiver. The Chiefs' Dexter McCluster and Tony Moeaki combined for 62 receptions from the slot last season, according to game charting from ESPN Stats & Information. The Cowboys' Miles Austin and Jason Witten combined for 83 slot receptions.

There could be other suitors, of course. There are other connections, too.

Amendola's offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, Marty Mornhinweg, has the same role with the New York Jets. One of his former offensive coordinators in St. Louis, Pat Shurmur, has the same job with the Eagles.

Again, though, does either team have a pressing need? Jeremy Kerley caught 43 passes for 612 yards from the slot for the Jets last season. Jason Avant had 50 catches for 609 yards from the slot for Philadelphia.

With Amendola coming off two injury-shortened seasons, the Rams should have a better shot at keeping him without overpaying, particularly if Welker re-signs. That would be good for St. Louis given the value Amendola has provided on third down in particular.

"He has great quickness in a short area and when you talk about a smaller guy, he has that great ability to create some separation," McDaniels said of Amendola in 2011, when he was the Rams' offensive coordinator. "You gotta be really tough, you gotta be able to create some separation quick because you don't have all day to run a 5-yard route sometimes. You gotta get open. He does that and he has great hands and he’s really tough. He is everything you want in that regard."

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.
Billy Devaney has kept a low profile since the St. Louis Rams fired him as general manager following the 2011 season.

That changed Saturday when Devaney, now living in Atlanta, checked in with Doug Farrar and Rob Rang on Sports Radio 950 AM KJR.

Devaney revisited some of the issues that led to the Rams' demise: losing offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, changing the offense with no offseason, suffering too many injuries at cornerback and then facing a tough schedule.

There was no mention of anything the general manager could have done better, but in truth, there were lots of troubles beyond his control.

Devaney did lament the talent at receiver last season even before the Rams lost Danny Amendola to injury, and especially after Amendola was out. He thinks the Rams' new offensive philosophy will be better for quarterback Sam Bradford.

Brian McIntyre of transcribed some of Devaney's comments, including this one: "We lose Pat Shurmur to the Cleveland Browns, he's our offensive coordinator. And the decision was made to bring in Josh McDaniels and change the whole offense. And it kind of completely blew up on us. It was the perfect storm, Doug and Rob. When you look at it, we had a ton of injuries, no offseason. It was just one thing after another. I could tell in training camp -- I mean early on, I don't even know if we started playing a preseason game -- things just, especially on offense, things just looked really ... nobody looked comfortable." Noted: Devaney's wording was interesting. "The decision was made" puts distance between Devaney and the Rams' decision to hire McDaniels. Devaney would be more apt to favor a traditional offense, one that emphasizes the ground game. That was the Rams' stated approach previously. It's the Rams' approach now, and Devaney said it would help Bradford.

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the Rams' situation at tight end.

Matt Maiocco of explains why he said the San Francisco 49ers' current receiving corps is the deepest and most talented in team history. Maiocco: "I was referring to depth -- a combination of looking at the 11 receivers on the 49ers' 90-man roster from the bottom up, as well as from the top down. Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn and A.J. Jenkins were first-round draft picks. Ginn is only 27. His best season came in his second year, 2008 with the Miami Dolphins, when he caught 56 passes for 790 yards. He'll have a difficult time getting on the field for action other than special teams this season. Jenkins' talent is undeniable. And, likewise, it will not be easy for him to work his way onto the field early in his career because of the fierce competition within this position group." Noted: No other team in the NFL has as many first-round receivers on its roster.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee has no problem with Vernon Davis saying he expects to become the greatest tight end in NFL history. Noted: The postseason Davis put together shows he can be that type of player at the position, especially if he continues to refine his route running, improve his feel for the game and improve in other areas that go beyond his obvious physical gifts.

Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News says lawsuits could arise after Santa Clara County redirected $30 million in stadium funding to education. Noted: That amount of money isn't enough to scuttle plans to build the stadium. The fact that the county has declared plans to spend the money on education instead of for "little televisions in the back of stadium seats" makes this look like a political play, in my view.

Clare Farnsworth of checks in with receiver Sidney Rice for an injury update. Rice is rehabbing from surgery on each shoulder, but problems with those joints weren't behind his move to the injured reserve list last season. Rice: "The shoulder wasn’t really the problem, I was battling through that concussion thing. That’s a league policy, and I can’t argue with that. But I could have played through the shoulders the whole season, no doubt."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers thoughts on a few Seahawks-related issues, including expectations for Chris Clemons: "He’s under contract, and I can’t imagine him just throwing away a year by not showing up at all. If he doesn’t get the deal he wants, I’m not sure that would affect him the way it might some other players … because he seems disgruntled pretty much all the time anyway. He plays as if he’s angry all the time, anyway; that might be what puts the edge in his game. This might make him better than ever."

Darren Urban of says the team has a "reasonable" amount of salary-cap space heading toward training camp, based on figures published by Pro Football Talk. Urban: "Even if the Cards don’t make another move, the cap space will change depending on their final roster. Right now the number is the top 51 cap numbers on the roster; when the regular season starts that will include all 53 on the roster as well as anyone on injured reserve and the practice squad." Noted: Teams will do more subtracting from rosters than adding to them. Having several million in cap spaces provides a measure of flexibility.
Sam BradfordJim O'Connor/US PresswireEntering his third pro season, Rams QB Sam Bradford says he's more comfortable under center.
Sam Bradford has eight victories as a starter and three offensive playbooks to show for his time with the St. Louis Rams.

No one said rescuing a struggling franchise would be easy, but the journey to this point has been more treacherous than anticipated.

Jeff Fisher's arrival as head coach this offseason represents a fresh start. Yet, as much as the Rams might want to forget their recent past, the experience Bradford has gained in 26 starts will be important to the success he might enjoy in the team's latest offense.

That was one takeaway from a telephone interview with Bradford on Tuesday. First, a little background.

The offense new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is installing marks a dramatic departure from the one St. Louis ran under predecessor Josh McDaniels last season. It's closer in approach to the system Bradford ran during his rookie season, when Pat Shurmur brought a version of the offense Andy Reid had run in Philadelphia.

Adopting a system closer to the one Bradford ran during a generally successful rookie season sounds good in theory, but just last offseason, Bradford was genuinely excited about heading in another direction. He was ready to take the next step and sounded almost giddy when discussing the possibilities during an interview from Rams training camp.

"I really like it and I’m really comfortable with it because it’s a lot more like what I did in college," Bradford said at the time, speaking of McDaniels' offense. "Because we had progressions, but at the same time, we had certain plays where, 'OK, if they give us roll, we’re going to short-cut it and we’re going to work these two receivers and this concept, and if they give us [another coverage], we're going to short-cut this and work the three-man combination right here."

On he went.

Bradford welcomed the added responsibilities McDaniels entrusted him with, taking ownership of the pre-snap protection adjustments. Bradford, having relied on his offensive line to handle those calls during his rookie season, eagerly anticipated transitioning to the system Tom Brady had mastered under McDaniels in New England years earlier. He wanted to run the show, and the Rams had drafted him first overall in 2010 to do just that.

The approach under Fisher and Schottenheimer will be different.

St. Louis signed veteran center Scott Wells from Green Bay in part to handle the protection calls before the snap, lightening the load for Bradford. Fisher has stressed the role a strong ground game plays in protecting quarterbacks, particularly young ones, from punishment.

Why would Bradford, so eager to assume greater command of the offense under McDaniels, happily hand back control? This is where the experience he has gained over the past two seasons becomes critical in striking a balance between the power Bradford coveted under McDaniels and the relief he might gain from leaning on his center.

"My rookie year, when the center was making the calls, it's not that I was scared, but I was so new that I didn't see things, and sometimes I was hesitant to trump the center's calls," Bradford said. "This year, going into my third year, I'm more comfortable out there and will not have a problem [changing a call] if I see something -- the Mike [linebacker] over there."

So, while Bradford will give back some responsibilities, he will not necessarily lose ultimate control. Ideally, Wells' involvement would free Bradford's mind, taking off some pressure. And the 26 starts Bradford has made to this point, though most of them were painful, will inform his decisions.

"The longer me and Scott play together, the better it's going to be," Bradford said.

As a rookie, Shurmur's West Coast system focused on working through progressions regardless of the coverage. The Rams would do what they do, over and over, and opponents would have a hard time matching the precision and timing that would develop eventually.

That is the essence of the West Coast approach, but as Bradford indicated last offseason, the NFL has increasingly become a week-to-week league. Under McDaniels, the Rams hoped to reach a point where they could install 30 or 40 new plays in a given week, all based on where the opponent might be vulnerable. The offense would become less about what the Rams wanted to do and more about the opportunities they could exploit.

"There is no doubt I can learn from everything I went through last year -- playing with an injury, playing in that offense, learning from Josh and the things he taught me," Bradford said. "He did teach me a lot. ... Everything we can take from last year, I've taken, moved on and am concentrating on 2012."
The Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams cannot be sure what they'll get from the picks they agreed to exchange Friday night.

It's safe to say the Redskins' ability to position themselves for a potential franchise quarterback drove up the price St. Louis commanded for the second overall choice.

The first chart shows what Oakland paid when moving up from 10th to second in the 1997 draft for defensive tackle Darrell Russell.

The Raiders paid far less than the Redskins gave up for the second pick in the draft this year, a pick Washington is expected to use for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. In 1997, Oakland acquired the second and 166th picks from New Orleans for the 10th, 39th and 107th picks, plus receiver Daryl Hobbs, who had six career touchdown receptions and would play only 14 additional games during his career.

Also in 1997, the Rams acquired the No. 1 overall choice from the New York Jets for the sixth, 67th, 102nd and 207th picks. That is far less than the Redskins paid for the second pick this year, but there was no quarterback atop the 1997 draft. The Rams took left tackle Orlando Pace that year.

The second chart shows what the Redskins will pay for the second pick this year. For trading purposes, a first-round pick next year equates roughly to a second-rounder this year. It's not like the Rams acquired three 2012 first-rounders.

Still, Washington becomes the first team since at least 1980 to give up three first-round picks while moving into the top five picks in a draft, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But as the football adage goes, virtually no price is too high for a franchise quarterback. The Rams think they have one already in Sam Bradford. That was a primary reason they were willing to deal the second pick this year.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. sees this as a win-win trade Insider for Washington and St. Louis. He sees Cleveland as a big loser for failing to land the second pick despite having at its disposal selections more valuable than the ones Washington traded, starting with the fourth overall pick. Griffin seemed to fit the Mike Shanahan offensive profile better than the Mike Holmgren/Pat Shurmur profile, however. That made the Redskins a more likely trading partner, I thought.

2012 Kiper mock 3.0: Rams thoughts

March, 8, 2012
Mel Kiper Jr. is back Insider with his third 2012 NFL mock draft for the first round.

We discussed the previous one before the combine and covered the updated one relating to the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.

The St. Louis Rams, owners of the second overall choice, round out the series.

2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Kiper's give: Go ahead and put a big asterisk here, because I think this pick will be taken (most likely) by the Browns, with the Redskins also right there. The Browns can do a little more in terms of draft compensation, all things being equal, but if Dan Snyder really wants his man, I'd never assume he'd come in second in a bidding war. Blackmon we know could fit with the Rams, even if they draft at No. 4 or No. 6, just based on how the picks could line up.

Sando's take: The Rams' maneuvering ability will depend upon how teams value Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, and also upon which teams land veteran quarterbacks before the draft. Cleveland (picking fourth) and Washington (sixth) appear to be the prime candidates for moving into the No. 2 overall spot. Griffin's mobility would seem more valuable for Mike Shanahan's version of the West Coast offense than for the one Pat Shurmur runs in Cleveland. That wouldn't matter much if the Redskins landed a veteran quarterback. Having Peyton Manning land somewhere other than Washington would seem to give the Rams their best chance at maximizing trade value for the second pick. Kiper sent Blackmon to the Rams in his previous mock as well. The general idea makes sense. The Rams do need playmakers, no matter where they wind up picking in the first round. Their leadership is committed to Sam Bradford and must find weapons for him.
The Washington Redskins look like an early favorite to acquire the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft from the St. Louis Rams.

Jim Thomas' update for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch covers quite a few angles.

Another came to mind while reading the piece. What if the Redskins were the only team drafting among the top six with serious interest in Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III?

Such a thought seemed improbable while Griffin was lighting up the NFL scouting combine recently, but a post-combine report from Fox Sports' John Czarnecki lingers in my mind.

According to Czarnecki, Browns president Mike Holmgren and the team's coaching staff aren't necessarily sold on Griffin.

Under this thinking, Holmgren would prefer a quarterback to fit his system, not the other way around. Griffin's winning personality and phenomenal athleticism might make him a great prospect, but would the Browns see him as an ideal fit for their system -- enough so to justify parting with significant draft capital to get him?

Holmgren is not the Browns' coach, but he is particular about his offense and quarterbacks. He hired Pat Shurmur as head coach in part because Shurmur shared his vision for offense. Then again, Shurmur worked under Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Reid has obviously adapted his offense for a range of quarterbacks, notably Michael Vick.

All of this might be over-thinking things. My AFC North colleague, Jamison Hensley, thinks the Browns have little choice but to make a strong play for Griffin. That would serve the Rams well.

But if the Browns aren't all in for Griffin, what team represents the Redskins' competition for the second pick?

Minnesota picks third and Tampa Bay picks fifth. Both teams have invested in quarterbacks recently. Jacksonville, which picks seventh, has publicly committed to Blaine Gabbert as its franchise quarterback. Miami picks eighth, and as Thomas notes, the Dolphins might not be interested in dealing with St. Louis after the teams battled over Jeff Fisher. Miami also has ties to free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn.

Carolina picks ninth and already has Cam Newton. Buffalo picks 10th and has already publicly ruled out trading up for Griffin. Kansas City holds the 11th choice and could have interest even though Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli has said Matt Cassel is the clear starter. Seattle (12th) and Arizona (13th) hold the next two picks, and both can forget about the Rams sending a franchise quarterback their way.

Griffin might be worth taking second overall. That doesn't necessarily mean the market will allow the Rams to maximize the value of that choice.

The Rams do not necessarily need to make a killing in a trade. Griffin isn't in their plans, so they could conceivably get the player they really wanted a little later, plus whatever comes their way by trade. That would still represent a net gain.

Things to consider while the Rams weigh their options.
Tigre from "South of the Border" asks about new provisions allowing NFL teams to carry over unused salary-cap space to future years. He wonders why a team would ever decide against carrying over some of the unused allotment.

Mike Sando: NFL teams have, for years, tried to push unused cap space into future seasons. They previously did this by writing into players' contracts "likely to be earned" incentives that were, despite the label, very unlikely to be achieved. John Clayton explained the practice in detail back in 2004.

The new labor agreement legitimizes how teams carry over unused cap space. Teams simply tell the league how much unused cap space they would like to carry over.

Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt recently explained some of the particulars. Clayton provided numbers as they pertain to the 2012 season in this update.

Any team failing to carry over unused space might appear cheap, but carrying over the maximum would not necessarily make a team less cheap. It would not affect spending, only the amount a team could spend.

Salary-cap machinations are not always straightforward. A team could conceivably decide against carrying over unused room to accommodate late-hitting incentives, a contract option or the acceleration of guaranteed money.

Charlie from St. Louis asks whether the Rams might be wise to "secretly" make Sam Bradford available to teams intending to draft Griffin. "Don't get me wrong," Charlie writes, "I think Bradford will be a good player. But given how expensive he is, the new regime in St. Louis could make a shrewd move by starting over with Robert Griffin III."

Mike Sando: The Rams are on the record saying they will not trade Bradford. The rest of us are free to debate the merits of that stance, so here goes.

First, would such a move even be doable? I think it would be.

The Browns might logically prefer Bradford to RG3. Browns coach Pat Shurmur already has a strong background with Bradford from Shurmur's time as the Rams' offensive coordinator. As impressive as RG3 has been to this point in the process, the Browns would know with greater confidence what they were getting with Bradford, a player they know well. Bradford also has a verifiable track record in the West Coast offense Cleveland is running, a selling point for Shurmur and also for Browns president Mike Holmgren.

There would be risks. The Rams have already said Bradford is off-limits. Dangling him as trade bait would damage the new regime's relationship with Bradford if such a trade fell through. Also, Bradford's traded contract would count nearly as much against the Rams' salary cap as it counts right now.

What could the Rams get for Bradford? Could they get the fourth overall pick from Cleveland, or would they have to settle for a package worth less? That is tough to know, and pivotal to any imaginary deal.

Craig from Knoxville has a theory as to why the Cardinals did not offer more power to Todd Haley, letting Haley go to Pittsburgh. He thinks adding Haley would have made it tougher for the team to bring on another strong personality in Peyton Manning. "I know Haley and Kurt Warner were a good mix," Craig writes, "but that was because they grew together. If we signed Haley, I think that would have been negative toward Manning."

Mike Sando: Interesting point. Ultimately, I think coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn't comfortable rearranging his offensive staff and essentially demoting the current coordinator, Mike Miller. It would have been a bit awkward. The team did make a Manning-friendly move by adding Manning's former position coach, Frank Reich, as receivers coach.

Ryan from Atlanta wants to know what Ahmad Brooks' new contract with the San Francisco 49ers means for teammate and fellow outside linebacker Parys Haralson.

Mike Sando: Haralson and Brooks played on opposite sides. The plan was for Aldon Smith to take Haralson's starting job no matter what happened with Brooks. Haralson is scheduled to earn $2.45 million in base salary and $300,000 in offseason bonuses. The combined number is not prohibitive for a part-time player or backup. We can safely say Haralson's playing time will decline and his future with the team is in some question.

Fox from San Jose says New Orleans' Marques Colston and Carl Nicks could hit the market if the Saints use their franchise tag for quarterback Drew Brees. Under that scenario, he wonders whether Nicks could fit for the 49ers in free agency.

Mike Sando: Doubtful, in my view. Nicks would cost a lot of money. The 49ers drafted Daniel Kilgore with the thought Kilgore could grow into the starting role at right guard if needed. San Francisco has not been a team that overspends in free agency, at least of late. Signing Nicks would go against their recent approach.

Joey from Hawaii asks whether Brock Osweiler would be a good second-round choice for the Seahawks. Would he be better than current third-stringer Josh Portis? Or should the Seahawks keep building their roster, then do what it takes to land Matt Barkley in 2013?

Mike Sando: The Seahawks have been 7-9 twice while rebuilding. They probably aren't going to finish with a poor enough record in 2012 to position themselves for Barkley or another top quarterback. They cannot put off the decision simply because Barkley could be an option next year. Osweiler does have the mobility Seattle's Pete Carroll values in quarterbacks. Todd McShay says Osweiler is highly competitive, another must for Carroll. Based on those things, then, Osweiler might be an intriguing prospect.

Jason from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho thinks Seattle should try to acquire the second overall pick from the Rams, then shop it around. They could always take RG3 in that spot. Jason thinks Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning will go to Miami, leaving Washington and Cleveland desperate. He does not think the Seahawks can "out-Alex Smith" the 49ers with Tarvaris Jackson behind center.

Mike Sando: The Rams most likely will not trade the second overall pick to a division rival. The Seahawks most likely will not give up what it would take to get into that No. 2 spot. Those are my opinions. Why would the Rams arm a division rival with a potential franchise quarterback?

Nick from Salt Lake City asks whether teams with interest in Robert Griffin III might "call the Rams' bluff" in the 2012 draft. Instead of acquiring the No. 2 overall choice from St. Louis, these teams might trade into the third spot, figuring the Rams weren't going to take a quarterback, anyway. Nick asks whether the Rams might get more value by drafting Robert Griffin III, then trading his rights.

Mike Sando: The question shows why the Rams will want to trade the pick before the draft and possibly before free agency. There's no use taking undue chances when getting value for the choice is the most important thing. The Rams do not need to get a huge bounty in return. They need a fair trade.

Any team trading into the third spot to select Griffin would have to worry about the Rams trading the second pick to another team with the same intentions. But if the Rams wait around, some teams will have addressed their quarterback situations, perhaps in ways that diminished their appetite for Griffin. That could lower the price for the second pick.

Fabian from Germany asks whether the Rams should trade the second overall choice, plus the first pick of the second round.

Mike Sando: Depends what they could get in return. They would not want to give away too much quality just to acquire additional picks.

Once and for all, no Sam Bradford trade

February, 24, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- Coach Jeff Fisher answered succinctly when asked Friday whether the St. Louis Rams would "ever consider" trading quarterback Sam Bradford.

"That wouldn't be an option," Fisher said.

Fisher, speaking at the NFL scouting combine, fielded the question from an Ohio reporter.

The connection between Bradford and Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur, the Rams' former coordinator, made for intriguing possibilities even though St. Louis has never wavered in its stance that Bradford represents its future at the position.

The Browns hold the fourth overall pick in the draft. They do not necessarily have a franchise quarterback. Bradford enjoyed a successful season by rookie standards when playing in Shurmur's system two years ago.

Around the NFC West: Combine coin men

February, 24, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- Among the lasting visuals from this Friday morning at the NFL scouting combine: West Coasters perched on their nightstands at 4 a.m. PT, eagerly awaiting coin-toss results for 2012 draft order.

I loved hearing from some of them via Twitter while the minutes counted down before Kansas City prevailed over Seattle for the 11th overall choice. The Seahawks will pick 12th, which some fans found appropriate in light of the 12th Man.

The difference between picking 11th or 12th should be relatively small, but it's a big deal to the teams and some of the die-hards. NFL officials tossed a special coin to break the draft-order tie. It was a fun way to begin the morning.

Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli arrived first. He ribbed his Seattle counterpart, John Schneider, by looking at his watch when Schneider arrived a few minutes before the scheduled 7:30 a.m. ET toss.

The ceremony took place behind closed doors. The parties dispersed after a few minutes and had little to say.

Also in the NFC West ...

Darren Urban of sizes up the Cardinals' quarterback situation with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton competing. Urban: "I think John has earned the ability to be given consideration for the position, just because of what he did, his record and the way he played. But I also think we’ve got a lot invested in Kevin as well for that position. There is nothing wrong with competition. I think it makes both players, all players, better. If we can get somebody to beat Larry Fitzgerald out that guy will be a pretty good football player. There will be competition, absolutely."

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic recaps a wild week of reality television for Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson. Strange stuff. No idea what to make of it.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times updates the Seahawks' contract negotiations with various free agents. O'Neil: "Each NFL team has only one franchise tag, and the Seahawks could have two priority free agents in [Red] Bryant and [Marshawn] Lynch, which would seem to leave the Seahawks vulnerable to losing one. There's still time left, though, as the deadline for applying the franchise tag is March 5, and free agency doesn't begin until March 13."

Also from O'Neil: the Seahawks' quarterback outlook heading into the draft.

Clare Farnsworth of offers notes on free agency, the draft and injuries for Seattle. Farnsworth: "Tarvaris Jackson did not need surgery to repair the pectoral he tore during the Week 5 upset of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, which John Schneider said surprised him. But he said that wide receiver Sidney Rice has had surgery on each of his shoulders -- one to repair the labrum he damaged during training camp and tried to play with, as well as an injury to the other that Rice had played with since entering the league in 2007 with the Minnesota Vikings."

Matt Maiocco of offers a transcript from Jim Harbaugh's media session Thursday. Harbaugh on the unsigned Alex Smith: "Yeah, Alex is our guy. That's well-documented. He had a tremendous season. Definitely as a coach, you worry about a lot of things. And when the quarterback's not signed and is a free agent, that leads to some lost sleep. But I'm excited to be back at work, very excited to be here and see what kind of improvement we can make from year 1 to year 2, and I hope all our guys feel the exact same way."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee asks whether the 49ers' can maintain their chemistry this offseason amid potential changes.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers general manager Trent Baalke remained in character after signing a contract extension.

Also from Branch: a look at the competition for veteran long-snapper Brian Jennings.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Browns could be a trading partner with the Rams for the No. 2 overall pick. Browns coach Pat Shurmur, formerly of the Rams' staff: "Yeah, we're willing. With two first-round picks we have flexibility. We can just stand pat and take two really fine players, guys that we would hope to be starters for us. (But) having two first-round picks, you have flexibility if you want to do something."

Also from Thomas: USC's Matt Kalil could be a fit for the Rams. Thomas: "He certainly will be a player the Rams study with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. True, in Jeff Fisher's 16 full seasons as head coach at Tennessee, the Titans never selected an offensive tackle in the first round. Then again, the Titans had an anchor at left tackle for 13 seasons in Brad Hopkins, including Fisher's first 11 seasons as head coach. It's not as if the Rams have gone nuts selecting offensive linemen in the first round, either. In 17 seasons in St. Louis, the Rams have had 20 first-round picks and used just three of them on offensive tackles. Orlando Pace, taken first overall in 1997, made seven Pro Bowls, was voted to the NFL's all-decade team for the 2000s, and is a potential Hall of Famer."

Mailbag: Backlash against QB desperation

February, 21, 2012
Frequent hand-wringing over the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback situation has struck a nerve with some.

"After seeing the 'Why not trade up for a QB' piece, I have to say I am getting a little frustrated with all the talk of how Seattle HAS to get a QB," Javier from Renton, Wash., wrote.

Javier then ran through all the first-round quarterbacks drafted from 1998 through 2007, noting that only about one-third of them met expectations.

"My question to you is, would you make a trade for a 34 percent chance on getting a franchise QB?" Javier asked.

There's no sense in taking the wrong quarterback just to say you addressed a need. But would you rather have a 34 percent chance or a zero percent chance? At some point, a team has to risk failure for a shot at success.

History might ultimately vindicate Seattle for drafting James Carpenter over Andy Dalton last year. Which one would you rather have right now? Only one of them has a shot at becoming a top quarterback.

The Seahawks haven't drafted even one quarterback since Pete Carroll became head coach. That has actually helped them build up their roster in a short period of time.

Instead of taking a chance on quarterback Ricky Stanzi in the fourth round last year, they found a starting linebacker in K.J. Wright. Instead of using a fifth-round pick for quarterback Nathan Enderle, the Seahawks found a terrific cornerback in Richard Sherman.

Instead of taking a chance on Tim Tebow in the 2010 first round, the Seahawks found a Pro Bowl safety in Earl Thomas. They took Golden Tate when Colt McCoy was available. They took Walter Thurmond when Mike Kafka was on the board. They went with Kam Chancellor when they could have had John Skelton.

Most of those moves were the right ones under the circumstances. The team does need to find a quarterback, however.

Hashem from Palestine thinks the Arizona Cardinals should cut ties with Kevin Kolb and go all in for Peyton Manning. He thinks Skelton would benefit from working under Manning, and he thinks the Cardinals are built to win now.

Mike Sando: What if Manning isn't ready for minicamps or training camps? What if he never plays again? What if he plays one more season and never recaptures previous form? Those scenarios seem plausible given Manning's long layoff and repeated surgeries.

The risk would be worth taking if the Cardinals thought Kolb would be no better than Skelton. If Arizona does think Kolb can become a top player, however, it's tougher to part with him amid serious questions about Manning's health.

Arizona must make a decision on Kolb by March 17. What will teams know about Manning by then?

Brian from Visalia, Calif., wonders whether the St. Louis Rams would consider trading Sam Bradford to Cleveland, where Bradford would be reunited with Pat Shurmur. Under this scenario, the Rams' new leadership would draft its own quarterback.

Mike Sando: We discussed this during the regular season, before the Rams made a coaching change. The Browns have additional picks this year, giving them leverage for trading. They need a quarterback. Bradford would fit with Shurmur.

I do not think the Rams would do this, however. Salary-cap implications would come into play. To my knowledge, the team still thinks Bradford will become a top quarterback.

These are fun scenarios to consider, but in my opinion, Bradford will stay put.

Bill from Clearwater, Fla., wants to know which direction the Rams might go in the draft with Jeff Fisher and Les Snead in place.

Mike Sando: Bill asked this question a few days ago. I honestly did not see it before putting together an item addressing this very subject.

Fisher and Snead have worked for teams that never (Fisher) or rarely (Snead) used a first-round choice for an offensive lineman. Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will want to add swagger to the defense. Fisher and Snead will want to add a playmaking element to the offense.

What the Rams do in free agency will influence their draft plan. I lean toward thinking the Rams will wind up with Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, figuring they need help for Bradford. But it's still too early to have a great feel.

Steven from Lakeville, Minn., wants to know which players, besides their own, the San Francisco 49ers might target in free agency. He thinks New Orleans Saints guard Carl Nicks would shore up the line for years to come, allowing them to target receivers and defensive backs in the draft.

Mike Sando: I'm thinking the 49ers will target middle-tier free agents. Carlos Rogers was one of them last offseason, and a good one. Nicks would be a luxury signing and more expensive than the free agents San Francisco has targeted recently. I would expect the 49ers to develop their younger offensive linemen instead. Daniel Kilgore is a candidate to start at right guard if he develops this offseason.


Sam Bradford and Alex Smith, early years

February, 9, 2012
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.
Frustrated New York Jets fans might chuckle over the St. Louis Rams' interest in their team's ousted offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, for the same job in St. Louis.

Frustrated Miami Dolphins fans might feel similarly about the Jets hiring their team's former coach, Tony Sparano, as offensive coordinator.

Such is life in the NFL, where the scapegoats are often indistinguishable from the true villains. Was Schottenheimer the reason the Jets' offense went backward and the team finished 8-8? Tough to say.

Rams fans should know this: The Jets were not yet ready to cut ties with struggling quarterback Mark Sanchez. They weren't going to fire head coach Rex Ryan. They weren't going to stand pat, either, after their offense plummeted in the league rankings and Sanchez failed to develop on schedule.

Schottenheimer, once an occasional head coaching candidate, was the odd man out.

For the Rams, hiring Schottenheimer would return them to the general digit-based offensive system St. Louis ran with great success during the Mike Martz years. Sam Bradford would be learning a third scheme in three pro seasons. Then again, if Bradford had pleaded with Fisher to retain the previous system, the Rams could have kept Josh McDaniels, in theory.

Those seeking a better feel for Schottenheimer's coaching roots and what happened with Sanchez should check out Jenny Vrentas' piece in the Newark Star-Ledger from October. Basically, the Jets were asking more from Sanchez this season, and the results were insufficient.

Schottenheimer began his pro coaching career with the Rams in 1997, spent several years in the college ranks and then hit stride at the NFL level with San Diego beginning in 2002. He worked under Cam Cameron there, serving as quarterbacks coach for Drew Brees.

The Jets hired Schottenheimer in 2006. Reading through the story at the time will show just how circular these coaching hires can be. Fisher's former coordinator in Tennessee, Mike Heimerdinger, preceded Schottenheimer with the Jets. Schottenheimer beat out another familiar name, Pat Shurmur, for the Jets job.

The Rams appear unlikely to hire Schottenheimer or anyone else as coordinator without first making official Fisher's hiring as head coach. The sides are working out the particulars on a contract.

The chart shows Jets offensive stats under Schottenheimer. Sanchez was the quarterback for the three most recent seasons, when completion percentages fell.
NFC West life does exist outside the divisional playoff round. Our latest chat provided a platform to look beyond the San Francisco 49ers' matchup with the New Orleans Saints.
Kyle from New Jersey asks which coaching candidate could turn around the St. Louis Rams with the right personnel in place.

Mike Sando: Jeff Fisher and Steve Spagnuolo could. My point is that the personnel must improve for any coach to succeed there. Just about all we learned about the personnel in 2011 was negative. The Rams are close to starting over on their offensive line. They need more top-line talent at receiver. They need a young running back. They need outside linebackers and defensive tackles. They could use cornerbacks, too, now that Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher are coming off serious injuries.

Gino from Ohio asks about the Seattle Seahawks drafting a quarterback.

Mike Sando: In theory, they have to. In reality, they might do so only if they can get one early. They already have their short-term starter in Tarvaris Jackson. They already have a developmental quarterback they like in Josh Portis, unless their feeling on him have changed. With Jackson coming back as no worse than the No. 2, and with Portis in place, the Seahawks do not really have room for another backup quarterback. They need someone with the potential to start relatively quickly, and it's no sure thing they will find one drafting 11th or 12th overall.

Chris from Broadview Heights, Ohio asks whether the Cleveland Browns, with ex-Philadlephia executive Tom Heckert advising Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur, might send some of their draft bounty to Arizona for quarterback Kevin Kolb.

Mike Sando: That is a good "talker" but not something I expect to happen. Too many things would have to come about. Tom Heckert, Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur would have to like Kolb. Arizona would have to pay a $7 million bonus to Kolb in March just to have him on its roster heading into the draft. The Cardinals would have to feel good about drafting a quarterback early, something they have not done under coach Ken Whisenhunt.

49ertime from California asks about the Saints' ability to cover tight ends. He asks whether we should expect good things from Vernon Davis.

Mike Sando: I see opportunities for the 49ers in this area. Davis had some productive games late in the season. He needed time to grasp the offense and has turned a corner in that regard, according to Davis and offensive coordinator Greg Roman. That makes sense. Meanwhile, the Saints' Roman Harper is banged up and could not run with Davis, anyway. I do think this is an area for the 49ers to exploit.

Thanks again to those who contributed. Appreciated, as always. I'll be heading over to 49ers headquarters shortly to catch Jim Harbaugh's post-practice interview session. I'm sure he'll pass out full game plans to all.