NFC West: Ryan Slowik


Kicker Jay Feely, 37, is the oldest player on the Arizona Cardinals' roster. Now, he undoubtedly feels like it.

"Signs you're getting old: One of our Rookies told me in meetings today he thought all offseason I was a coach," Feely tweeted Saturday.

Feely is indeed older than assistant coaches James Bettcher, Ryan Slowik and Kevin Garver, who turns 26 on Sunday. Age is a relative thing, of course. The Cardinals' oldest assistant, Tom Pratt, turned 78 last month.

Feely made his NFL debut with Atlanta in 2001 after playing for two teams in the Arena League.

The Cardinals' youngest rookie, Tyrann Mathieu, was born in 1992, when Feely was about to turn 16.

The chart shows ages for the Cardinals' assistant coaches. Feely tied for ninth in overall field-goal accuracy last season, making 25 of 28 tries (89.3 percent). He might not be finished playing yet.

Recently hired Arizona Cardinals assistants Tom Pratt, 77, and Tom Moore, 74, stand out for their age in a young man's game.

Moore has given assurances that age will not hold him back, particularly after knee replacement surgeries restored his energy. Pratt has explained how focusing on the present makes the distant past less relevant.

The idea that age is only a number works both ways. How else to explain the news that Freddie Kitchens, the Cardinals' quarterbacks coach and one of the team's youngest assistants on staff, required heart surgery Tuesday?

Kitchens, 38, sat up in bed and showed a sense of humor hours after undergoing the surgery for a defective aorta, coach Bruce Arians told reporters Wednesday.

That seems like a positive sign for Kitchens, who was stricken by dizziness during organized team activities Tuesday. It's too early to know a longer-term prognosis. For now, Moore will coach quarterbacks as well.

Moore's status as a long-time NFL offensive coordinator and Arians' background as a quarterbacks coach puts the Cardinals in position to carry on from a coaching standpoint. Supporting Kitchens and his family through a difficult time is the immediate focus, of course.
A few thoughts after the Arizona Cardinals announced Bruce Arians' initial coaching staff for the 2013 season:


  • More resources: Former head coach Ken Whisenhunt had 16 assistants last season, three or four fewer than the NFC West norm. The number wasn't alarmingly low; New England has had the same number at various points. Arians has 20 assistants, counting four holdovers whose names I've bolded in the chart below.
  • OL committee: The Cardinals do not have an offensive line coach by title. With Arians calling offensive plays, coordinator Harold Goodwin will take the lead with the line. Larry Zierlein, the Pittsburgh Steelers' line coach for three seasons ending in 2009, is the assistant O-line coach.
  • Familiar name: Former Cardinals running back and return specialist Stump Mitchell will coach running backs. He spent nearly a decade on Mike Holmgren's staff in Seattle before following Jim Zorn to the Washington Redskins. He was then head coach at Southern University. Mitchell still holds the Cardinals franchise record for all-purpose yards (11,988).
  • Experience rules: Arians is a first-time NFL head coach, but his staff has veteran seasoning. Tom Moore, Tom Pratt, Zierlein, Rick Christophel and Nick Rapone each have more than 30 years of NFL and/or college coaching experience.

The chart compares the Cardinals' final staff under Whisenhunt to their current one under Arians.
We interrupt our steady diet of San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl coverage to check out where the Arizona Cardinals stand in filling vacancies on their coaching staff.

The chart lists the team's coaches from last season and those the team announced as having joined Bruce Arians' new staff. Reports have listed other coaches expected to join the staff, but sometimes plans change. Those hires are not yet official. Mike Caldwell (linebackers) and Amos Jones (special teams) are two potential candidates.

Bold lettering in the chart shows which 2012 Cardinals assistants remain with the team until further notice. Some could remain as part of Arians' staff. None has been released from his contract.

General manager Steve Keim has said he expects the new staff to place heavy emphasis on the offensive and defensive lines. I'll be watching to see whether the Cardinals give Arians additional resources. Arizona had fewer assistants than other NFC West teams employed last season.
Steven Jackson's yards per carry jumped to 4.4 last season, his seventh in a row with at least 1,000 yards rushing.

The sustained production suggests the St. Louis Rams' running back has not slipped appreciably after eight seasons, a franchise-record 9,093 yards rushing and more than 2,500 offensive touches.

Jackson's new coach, Jeff Fisher, looks beyond the numbers when determining whether an older back still has what it takes to play the position at a high level.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Fisher watches to see whether running backs are getting tackled or increasingly absorbing big hits. Fisher: "You lose a step, you lose the ability to avoid, and then all of a sudden the vision changes and then you start getting hit. Steven is still a very aggressive runner." Even so, Fisher's affinity for running backs makes the Rams a candidate to select Trent Richardson in the draft. Noted: Jackson turns 29 this summer, which means it's time for the Rams to line up his successor, even if Jackson defies the odds by remaining productive for a couple more seasons. Fisher wants a strong ground game for the long term. A 29-year-old back is a short-term bet.

Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com says Eagles defensive tackle Trevor Laws indicated via Twitter he would be signing with the Rams. Noted: Laws, 26, played 14 games, starting one, while playing one-third of the Eagles' defensive snaps last season.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team grades draft prospects in relation to its own players. General manager John Schneider: "We build our (draft) board based on our team and what we have currently. So we compare these players to our current roster, and that’s how we build our board. We don’t build our board for the league, per se. ... So while people in a mock draft might feel like we need a certain position or a specific player, it’s just really who has the highest grade -- and if it fills a specific need, that’s great. But it’s a grade comparable to what our team is and how we see our own players at each position. That’s why it’s so important to know your team and evaluate your team first and foremost."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have promoted Ryan Slowik from defensive quality-control coach to outsid- linebackers coach. Somers: "There was no immediate indication from the Cardinals if a new quality-control coach would be hired, or if Slowik would continue doing those duties. Either way, it's a good move for Slowik, who joined the Cardinals in 2009. His father Bob is the Redskins' defensive backs coach."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com thinks the Cardinals could still have room for unsigned veterans Clark Haggans and Vonnie Holliday.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers' roster appears strong enough for the team to avoid reaching to fill needs in the draft.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee does not expect the 49ers to try Anthony Davis at right guard, but he thinks such a move could make the offensive line better. Barrows: "The 49ers traded up two slots to nab Davis in the 2010 draft, and he improved last year after an up-and-down rookie season. The 49ers love Davis' potential at right tackle, he's about to have his first full offseason under Jim Harbaugh's coaching staff, and he is unlikely to be moved. Still, it would seem that an offensive line in which Alex Boone plays right tackle and Davis plays right guard is better than one where they are switched."

Also from Barrows: The 49ers appear to be a poor match for HBO's "Hard Knocks" series.

Sizing up NFC West coaching staffs

April, 10, 2012
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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.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle quotes Trent Dilfer as saying Andy Dalton will be a first-round draft choice and a candidate for the Seahawks at No. 25 if available then. Dilfer: "I can't tell you how much Aaron Rodgers I see in Andy Dalton. They have tremendously quick releases, they can throw from multiple foot platforms, meaning they can be off balance, very aggressive by nature, (they can) extend the play, and they understand the value of a completion. I think that's one of the biggest things in evaluating a quarterback that goes unnoticed is which guys understand the value of completing the football. It doesn't have to be glamorous all the time, but they're going to get a completion, they're going to move the chains and they're going to get completions in the biggest moments of games. That's what I see with Andy Dalton. If there's one guy in this draft -- if I was coaching -- that I would want to coach, it's Andy Dalton."

Don Banks of SI.com sees no reason the Seahawks wouldn't pursue Kevin Kolb this offseason. Coach Pete Carroll: "It's good that people think that. Because every opportunity that's available, we investigate. We want to [take] every opportunity, and that's one that's been out there. They've said he's a guy they would possibly move. So those kind of discussions, it doesn't matter where it's coming from, we're trying to be privy to all of it. We just want to know what's going on."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says retired defensive end Michael Sinclair is grateful to land a spot on the 35th anniversary team, as voted by fans online.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic isn't reading too much into the Cardinals' workout with Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Somers: "The Cardinals will have private workouts and/or meetings with several of the top prospects, as you would expect from a team with the fifth overall pick. Their interest in Gabbert is genuine, but I'm still doubtful they will take a quarterback with that high of a selection. I believe they are leaning more toward a player more likely to make an immediate impact."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Darnell Dockett realizes he needs to come out of games at times to remain fresh and most productive.

Also from Urban: a look at what quality control coach Ryan Slowik does for a living. Urban: "The job of quality control coach isn’t as vague as the name suggests. Slowik’s duties are very specific, breaking down game video – both the Cardinals’ games and other teams – building playbooks, analyzing stats. Slowik also serves as, essentially, an assistant linebackers coach and an assistant special teams coach. The goal is to move up the ladder, of course. Position coach. Coordinator. Head coach. Six seasons into his career, it’s about working and waiting."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have no plans to hire a quarterbacks coach. That means Sam Bradford will work directly with new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Thomas: "I think that's a safe statement. We're going to head that way, at least this year. And I think it's a good thing. Josh has done it that way before. I think it's terrific that Sam will get the direct how-to-do-it, everything Josh is thinking. Now, you can put a quarterback coach in there and it works fine, but for the first year of absorbing it. I feel real comfortable because Josh has done it this way. Josh is really efficient with his time and his work. And when they finally get together, I just think it'll be good."

Also from Thomas: Spagnuolo responds to a question I asked at the NFL owners meeting regarding Oshiomogho Atogwe's departure. Spagnuolo: "O.J.'s a special guy. But you know it happens in this business. This is year 13 now (for Spagnuolo as an NFL coach). I've had to go through these before. I understand it. I get it. I know O.J. feels the same. I wish him a lot of luck. I do. And we'll remain close friends, I know, forever."

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis breaks down the Rams' options at No. 14 in the NFL draft, listing players the team could move back to select. Softli: "The Rams and general manager Billy Devaney will know by Washington’s pick at No. 10 if they are going to trade out of this spot or if they will have their guy waiting for them. If their player is off the board, look for the Rams to trade out of the 14th pick and drop back. They must be careful not to go back too far with the possibility of getting jumped by other teams and taking a chance of losing a player they really like. In this case, Devaney must make sure there are 6-10 players the team would love to have if they find a trade partner and move back."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh did not know his dealings with quarterback Alex Smith during a dead period could invite a fine from the NFL.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says it was probably "money well spent" if the 49ers were fined for spending too much organized time with Smith this offseason. Barrows: "Given the 49ers' quarterback situation -- one player, David Carr, under contract - Harbaugh had to get to know Smith to understand whether he was a plausible possibility should the labor situation grind into late summer."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the NFL's new rules for kickoffs make the 49ers more apt to sign a strong-legged kicker and less apt to focus on landing a return specialist in the draft. Lynch: "Diminishing kickoffs could also mean a drop in LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson's draft status. But is it enough to allow Peterson to fall to the 49ers's seventh overall pick? Peterson's position on mock drafts ranges from first to seventh, however many draftnicks consider him the most talented player in the draft." It might be easier to justify using a starter on kick returns if the rules change produces more touchbacks, as expected.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says kicking off from the 35 instead of the 30 could make it easier for veteran kickers such as the 49ers' Joe Nedney to stick around longer. Nedney had four touchbacks in 37 kickoffs last season before an injury sidelined him.

Sizing up NFC West coaching staffs

February, 4, 2010
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MIAMI -- With the Seahawks announcing their 2010 coaching staff, I went through every NFC West team's staff to produce a chart allowing for easy comparison.

It's pretty clear the Cardinals do more with less than the other teams in the division. They have fewer assistants than the other teams in the NFC West.

In most cases, I have recreated official titles for each assistant coach. That explains why the Cardinals have no offensive coordinator listed (Russ Grimm coordinates the running game, Mike Miller coordinates the passing game and Ken Whisenhunt calls the plays). I did not create a special category for 49ers receivers coach Jerry Sullivan (he also carries the title senior assistant). Seattle's Carroll is also executive vice president. I did not create an extra category to reflect that title.

I have listed no offensive line coach for the Cardinals. Grimm handles those duties. The 49ers do not list a defensive quality control coach, but clearly someone must break down the upcoming opponents' offensive video (I am checking to see which assistant handles those duties). Update: Outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver handles those duties. Also, I updated the chart to reflect Curtis Modkins' departure from the Cardinals to become Buffalo's offensive coordinator. Ray Brown is the new assistant offensive line coach in San Francisco.

The Rams are expected to hire a receivers coach after Charlie Baggett left. They could hire an assistant offensive line coach to replace Art Valero, who took the same job with Seattle. The 49ers might need to find a new offensive quality-control coach (Shane Day is interviewing with the Bears to coach quarterbacks for Mike Martz).

The Rams and Seahawks list special assistants to the head coach. These are largely administrative positions.

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