NFC West: Scott Pioli

Chat moved to Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
8:00
AM ET
Good morning. We've moved the NFC West chat from Thursday to Wednesday this week. This one will begin at 3 p.m. Here is the link.

Thursday doesn't work this week because I'll be traveling to Boston that day for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which begins Friday.

NFC West executives Kevin Demoff (St. Louis Rams) and Paraag Marathe (San Francisco 49ers) are among those listed as speakers this year. They will be joining Scott Pioli and Aaron Schatz on a panel discussing football analytics.

I'll be participating in a Saturday discussion called "ESPN's Use of Analytics in Storytelling."
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.

McDaniels' situation and the Rams' future

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
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Adam Schefter's latest "10 Spot" gives Josh McDaniels credit for seeing what others could not see in Tom Brady, Matt Cassel and Tim Tebow.

McDaniels
McDaniels
One passage stood out from all the others from an NFC West perspective:
No one around the league would be surprised if Kansas City and its general manager, Scott Pioli, who worked with McDaniels in New England, made a hard run at him as the successor to Todd Haley. New England would always have a spot for McDaniels. And St. Louis wants to keep him even when change is likely to shake up the organization.

McDaniels' situation complicates whatever decisions the team makes regarding its coaching staff. If the team does decide to part with Steve Spagnuolo, asking a new head coach to retain an existing coordinator could make the job less appealing to potential candidates.

Seeking continuity for the sake of continuity can also be counterproductive. The San Francisco 49ers found this out when they embraced a second season with the Mike Singletary-directed Jimmy Raye as their coordinator in 2010. The team spent all offseason talking about how stemming coordinator turnover would finally pay off, only to fire Raye a few games into the season.

McDaniels has a stronger pedigree than Raye, but there are other reasons the Rams must be careful about making big decisions with continuity in mind. The Rams have known all along McDaniels could ultimately leave for another job within the next couple seasons. Schefter lays out the possibilities in his 10 Spot.

The Rams cannot go out of their way to keep McDaniels as coordinator if they think he might leave anyway. Naming McDaniels as Spagnuolo's replacement stands as another way to maintain continuity. Rams fans would probably revolt given how poorly the team has played on offense this season. McDaniels' tenure as the Denver Broncos' head coach was short and did not end well.

The Rams hired McDaniels because they thought the risks were worth the potential shorter-term rewards. They thought he could help Sam Bradford become another Brady, or close to it. There have been no rewards for St. Louis so far, however.

The Rams' offense has fallen apart. Bradford has been injured and has arguably regressed. Some of the players St. Louis acquired for previous coordinators -- center Jason Brown and other offensive linemen come to mind -- appear to fit less well under McDaniels. Perhaps those players were on their way out anyway. The Rams have decisions to make.

Keeping an eye on Daniel Graham

March, 4, 2011
3/04/11
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The Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos battled hard over Patrick Kerney and Daniel Graham during the 2007 free-agent signing period.

When the Seahawks landed Kerney, the Broncos made sure they signed Graham, a powerful blocking tight end coming off a successful run with New England.

Kerney has since retired and Graham reached a point this offseason where his contract became untenable for a Broncos team with cash concerns and a new coaching staff seeking to start over. Denver released him.

Graham could resurface as a candidate for Seattle once the NFL and its players have a new collective bargaining agreement in place. The Seahawks' new assistant head coach/offensive line, Tom Cable, was on the staff at Colorado when Graham played for the Buffaloes. That connection could help now.

Seattle needs to upgrade its running game. Graham, 31, started 16 games last season, but the Seahawks wouldn't need him to do much more than blocking. They'll be looking to upgrade their running game through an improved offensive line, and Graham would serve as an extension of that line.

Seattle released veteran tight end Chris Baker on Thursday before his contract called for a $500,000 bonus.

The St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs also have ties to Graham -- and to Baker, for that matter. Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was with Baker and Graham in New England, and with Graham in Denver. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli was with both in New England.

McDaniels' immediate ties to Graham and the Rams' stable quarterback situation could make St. Louis an attractive landing spot for him, should the Rams decide they want to shake up their situation at tight end. Billy Bajema has played well for them, and Mike Hoomanawanui looks like a keeper.

Breaking down the 2010 NFL draft

April, 24, 2010
4/24/10
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PM ET
The 2010 NFL draft offered a few surprises.

I wasn't sure how teams would rank the top offensive tackles or quarterbacks in particular.

One anticipated theme did seem to pan out. The Chiefs drafted Tennessee safety Eric Berry, a move consistent with general manager Scott Pioli's draft history. That move was important for the NFC West and Seattle in particular because it left Russell Okung available for the Seahawks at No. 6 while leaving Earl Thomas as the highest-rated safety remaining.

A broader related trend also continued.

Pioli's Chiefs and his like-minded former team, the Patriots, combined to draft 10 players from the SEC. The other 30 teams combined to draft 39 players from the SEC, including five by the Eagles.

That was one of the trends I noticed right away when looking through the draft file I maintained this year. The file includes final draft order with player names, positions, colleges and college conferences. Additional sheets feature tables breaking down the data from multiple angles.

You can download the file here.

A few other notes specific to the NFC West:
  • The Rams drafted three players from the Big East, a league high, and three from the Big Ten, tied for the league high.
  • The Seahawks, led by former USC coach Pete Carroll, drafted a league-high three players from the Pac-10.
  • Seattle was one of seven teams to draft three defensive backs. No one drafted more.
  • The 49ers and Broncos were the only teams to draft two offensive linemen in the first three rounds. The 49ers were the only team to draft two in the first round or two in the first two rounds.
  • Five of the seven choices Arizona exercised changed hands first. Only the picks they made in the first and seventh rounds were with choices they owned.
  • Seven of the nine choices Seattle exercised changed hands first.

That is probably all from me Saturday night. Enjoy your evening and, while it lasts, the feeling that your favorite teams fixed all or most of their problems. Reality doesn't bite until September.

Mapping out the draft's top five

April, 8, 2010
4/08/10
4:43
PM ET
Let's say the top of the NFL draft goes pretty much as expected.

The Rams take Sam Bradford first. The Lions and Bucs go with defensive tackles. The Redskins take an offensive tackle.

That leaves Kansas City as a pivotal wild card at No. 5, one pick before Seattle.

If the Chiefs take a tackle and Seattle also wants one, the Seahawks would have to weigh whether to use the sixth overall choice on what could be their third-rated tackle. Under this scenario, the Seahawks would have better options if Kansas City drafted for defense.

What might the Chiefs do?

Their general manager, Scott Pioli, has a close association with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, leading to speculation that the Chiefs could draft Hawkeyes tackle Bryan Bulaga. Perhaps not. A chat question from Taylor in Salt Lake City offered an opportunity to address Pioli's draft history -- more specifically, the draft histories of his teams. My answer:
I think KC goes defense. I was looking at the picks Scott Pioli's teams have made since he entered the NFL and noticed this: His teams have taken nine players in the top 13 overall picks and seven were defensive players, including five from the SEC. Four were defensive linemen and three of those were from the SEC. I think they go with Eric Berry if available. Then Seattle could probably get the second tackle. I'm thinking it would be Williams or Okung. It's a guessing game with the tackles that early, to an extent.

Pioli's teams have drafted seven players among the top 13 since 2000. All seven played defense: Tyson Jackson, Richard Seymour, Jerod Mayo, Shaun Ellis, John Abraham and Ty Warren. That gives us a pretty good feel for how things might play out (even if the Chiefs do not take Berry, a safety).

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Devin from Burlington, Conn., writes: Sando, Matt Hasselbeck at 15????! If you were going to start a franchise tomorrow, you would take Aaron Rodgers over Matt Hasselbeck? I think your GM career would be short lived. Hasselbeck struggled with injuries to his receivers and a crummy offensive line over the last two years. He is top six easy.

Mike Sando: My GM career might be short lived, but not for that reason. Any general manager starting a franchise would select the 25-year-old quarterback coming off a 4,000-yard, 28-touchdown season over the nearly 35-year-old veteran coming off two down seasons in the last three years, plus a back injury.

You mentioned injuries to Hasselbeck's receivers and problems on his offensive line. I think you're overlooking the fact that Hasselbeck has struggled with his own injuries. Let's see how well he bounces back this summer and into the season before assuming that two of the past three seasons were aberrations.

We all know Hasselbeck is a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback and one of the 10 best in the game when he is at his best. It's just been a while since he's been at his best -- long enough, I think, to not blindly assume he'll be at his best this season.


Jeremy from Phoenix writes: Hey Mike. Thanks for posting your ranking of all the QBs in the league. Glad to see Kurt Warner in the top five. My question doesn't necessarily relate to the NFC West. However, it relates to former Cardinals OC Todd Haley, so I will ask and hope for an answer. What do you think about the Chiefs giving Matt Cassel such a big, long-term contract this soon?

Speculation in the media has had the Chiefs waiting to see how well Cassel performs for at least 4-6 games before throwing a big contract at him. What if Cassel was successful last season simply because he was on the Patriots? What if the Chiefs start the season 0-6 or 1-5 and Cassel posts terrible numbers?

I understand the Chiefs are in a rebuilding phase and losses are expected in that process. But do you think it was a mistake to pull the trigger on a big contract so soon? Is there any particular reason or advantage the Chiefs would have for getting Cassel taken care of now? Or does Scott Pioli just have that much faith in him?

Mike Sando: The Chiefs were already paying $14.65 million per year to Cassel. The extension brings down the average and redefines Cassel as an average starter in terms of compensation. If you're willing to trade a second-round draft choice for a player earning $14.65 million per year, you had better think highly of the player.

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NFC West draft analysis

April, 26, 2009
4/26/09
6:27
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The St. Louis Rams had just selected Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith with the second pick in the 2009 NFL draft when the Seattle Seahawks, picking fourth, placed an anxious call to the team picking third.

NFC West Draft Picks
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
St. Louis Rams
Seattle Seahawks
"Do you know who you are taking?" Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell asked his Kansas City Chiefs counterpart.

"Yeeees," Scott Pioli answered.

Then there was silence.

Pioli wouldn't show his hand. And so the Seahawks sweated out the remaining time before the Chiefs selected LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson.

"This worked out for us," Ruskell said after the Seahawks selected Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, the player Seattle wanted.

And that was pretty much how the draft started for the NFC West. All four teams got what they wanted early, even if they sometimes had to endure a few nervous moments.

The Rams had it easy, getting their choice of offensive linemen. The Seahawks drafted the highest-rated player remaining on their board and arguably the best defensive player available. The 49ers lucked into the highest-rated receiver, Michael Crabtree, while the Cardinals found their successor to Edgerrin James in Ohio State running back Chris Wells.

The first four players NFC West teams drafted should become starters quickly. The Rams' second-round choice, Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis, could find his way into the lineup as a rookie, as could second-round Seahawks center/guard Max Unger, from Oregon.

"It's hard for a rookie to start in the NFL no matter where you are drafted, so you certainly don't ordain them the starter," Rams general manager Billy Devaney warned. "That being said, I think the other teams [in the division] have done a phenomenal job with their selections, and it got that much better."

Best move

The 49ers and Seahawks both landed 2010 first-round choices in trade-down deals involving second-round choices. San Francisco paid less than the Seahawks paid in terms of the draft-value chart, but the pick Seattle acquired might wind up being earlier in the round.

The 49ers sent the 43rd and 111th choices to the Panthers for Carolina's first-rounder next year. The chart values the 43rd choice at 470 points and the 111th choice at 72 points. That means the 49ers spent 542 points for the Panthers' first-round choice in 2010.

"We did not see a player of the value at that pick for us," 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan told reporters. "Carolina called and sweetened the pot pretty good with next year's one (No. 1 pick). I just don't want to sit there and say, 'Well, geez, it's our pick, we're going to take a player' if we don't think the value of the player is there.

"As everybody is well aware, ones are huge, especially if we want to do anything with that pick anytime here out to next year."

Seattle parted with the 37th choice, worth 530 points, for the Broncos' first-round pick next year. If the Broncos falter without Jay Cutler -- no sure thing, but a possibility -- Seattle could maximize the trade.

Either way, the Seahawks and 49ers have made themselves players in the 2010 draft no matter how well they fare in 2009. They'll have the draft capital needed to bid for a franchise quarterback if either team wants one.

Riskiest move

 
  Howard Smith/US Presswire
  Drafting linebacker Aaron Curry with the fourth pick has major implications for the Seahawks.
Drafting Curry was supposed to be the safest move a team could make in this draft. The consequence for Seattle -- immediately withdrawing the franchise tag from Leroy Hill -- seemed premature and perhaps even unnecessary.

The risk evaporates if the Seahawks still manage to sign Hill on a long-term deal. The risk is diminished if the Seahawks use the $8.3 million in salary-cap space previously allocated for Hill to sign Ken Lucas, Derrick Brooks or other players who might upgrade the roster.

But if Hill walks away for nothing, the Seahawks will have lost one of the more hard-nosed players on their defense. They will have gone from having Hill, Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson at linebacker to having Tatupu and Curry.

Most surprising move

Crabtree's fall from likely top-five choice to the 10th overall spot seemed unfathomable a few months ago. The 49ers had needs elsewhere on their roster, notably at right tackle, but Crabtree represented a more dynamic value at No. 10 than Mississippi's Michael Oher.

Landing the highest-r
ated receiver in the draft was a pleasant surprise for a 49ers team that hasn't had much at the position since Terrell Owens left following the 2003 season.

"I really didn't think it would happen," McCloughan said. "That's a long way for a guy like that to fall."

While every team talks about not reaching to fill needs, even the 49ers had to figure they would find an offensive tackle somewhere in the early rounds.

It didn't happen, in part because Crabtree was available later than expected.

The 49ers are now counting on the injury-prone Marvel Smith and possibly Adam Snyder as their right tackles. That's almost as surprising as having Crabtree fall to them.

File it away

Arizona, despite picking later than its NFC West rivals, could emerge from this draft with the most dynamic draft choice in the division.

Wells' talent is undeniable. He has the physical ability to become a Pro Bowl player.

"If you could have told me going into this draft that we would have had a chance to get him with our 31st pick, I would've been very excited," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters. "He's a big back with some speed that I think will fit in nicely with some of the things we're going to do with him."

The question, based on scouting reports, becomes whether the Cardinals' staff can push Wells to become more consistent and to shake his image as a back who shies away from contact.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Leesters from parts unknown writes: Hey Mike. Just a silly thought, maybe you could use it: 2009 Off-Season Dunce Awards.

  • The masterful player management skills of a new coach that alienates his franchise QB in a matter of weeks. Isn't he a QB coach? Nice skills.
  • The other smooth player management skills of Todd Haley alienating his entire team with his charming responses. This team will hate him by the end of training camp.
  • T.O. for being such a diva that not even the Cowboys want to deal with you.
  • The Eagles for firing a concession guy for showing passion on his personal Facebook page.

Any other complete blunders that rank up there? NFC West only?

  • Graves' near blunder of losing Warner
  • Singletary has a few candidates
  • Hard to find a dunce in Seattle lately? I like what they're doing.
  • Hmmm.. How are the Rams doing? Who follows the Rams, for crying out loud? Oh. Sorry.

Mike Sando: I'm sure we all qualify for dunce awards from time to time. The challenge becomes analyzing what really went wrong.

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New boundaries for Haley as head coach

February, 21, 2009
2/21/09
6:45
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

INDIANAPOLIS -- As offensive coordinator, Todd Haley was sometimes among the most engaging personalities in the Cardinals' locker room following a game.

I remember him holding court following the team's playoff victory over the Eagles, regaling reporters with details about how backup quarterback Brian St. Pierre helped call a trick play for a long touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald. Haley spoke his mind.

Images from Haley's first weeks as the Chiefs' head coach have differed in style and substance. Haley offered almost no information of value during a question-and-answer session with reporters at the scouting combine Thursday. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli stood watch while Haley spoke, creating an even more formal atmosphere.

And when Haley stayed after the session to answer additional questions -- standard procedure for these combine interviews -- Pioli at one point held up his watch and tapped it.

Around the NFC West: Sizing up Haley

February, 7, 2009
2/07/09
10:30
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star relays first impressions from Todd Haley's introductory news conference as the Chiefs' head coach.

Sportsradiointerviews.com links to KTAR's interview with Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith following Clancy Pendergast's departure as defensive coordinator. Smith, scheduled to become a free agent, says he wouldn't want to play in a pure two-gapping 3-4 defensive scheme.

Also from Sportsradiointerviews.com: Scott Pioli and Tyler Thigpen discuss Todd Haley.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals would likely hire a new offensive line coach if they named Russ Grimm offensive coordinator.

Jaymes Song of the Associated Press says Haley's departure could affect Kurt Warner's thinking about retirement, according to Warner. Warner: "I don't want to go backward as far as what we're doing, or having to readjust everything. I want to be able to continue to move forward and to build off where we were this year. I think it's definitely going to be a factor in me weighing everything and making a decision."

Also from Song: Anquan Boldin says it's "gratifying" for the Cardinals to command respect as a team. A photo of the Cardinals' Pro Bowl players shows all but Boldin smiling.

Also from Somers: It was unclear whether the Cardinals had fired Pendergast or if Pendergast was leaving for another job. XTRA radio called it a firing.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune wonders if a Super Bowl team has experienced this much turmoil immediately following the game. Bordow: "All of this has to be difficult for Whisenhunt. He had, oh, about 15 minutes to breathe after the Super Bowl, and now he has to hire two coordinators, deal with a disgruntled wide receiver, go to the scouting combine and start preparing for the draft."

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 lists Steve Breaston as the Cardinals' most improved player for 2008. Neil Rackers, J.J. Arrington and Antrel Rolle also made the list.

The 49ers' Web site provides an interview transcript featuring Jimmy Raye's thoughts. Raye has watched every one of Alex Smith's throws from the 2006 season -- twice. He rewatched Shaun Hill's game against the Jets. He has spoken mostly to offensive linemen at this point. Raye: "The size, athleticism and physicality of the offensive front are the starting point. Front to back, it gives you a reason to be excited with the offensive line and the depth that we can add there."

Also from 49ers.com: an interview wtih running backs coach Tom Rathman.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat expects the 49ers to resolve Smith's contract situation by the end of the month. Smith gets married Feb. 21. Also, Maiocco explains why free-agent receivers might have little interest in joining the 49ers.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News shows where Raye's offenses have ranked in points per game.

John Morgan of Field Gulls thinks Alabama running back Glen Coffee could fit into what the Seahawks have planned offensively. Morgan: "Coffee is projected to go in the second day. Exactly when depends a bit on how he performs at the combine. Cracking the third would be an accomplishment. He's a one-cut rusher that brings a little fight to the defender. You'll read knocks on his size -- he's 6-1 and plays at 200 -- but Coffee ripped up his local Rivals event."

Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts sizes up a weak crop of free-agent wide receivers. The market drops off quickly after T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

VanRam of Turf Show Times recaps the week of Rams-related happenings.

Also from VanRam: The Rams need a bigger, stronger center. He looks at four veterans scheduled to become free agents. Three are in their 30s.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Todd Haley's departure from the Cardinals to become the Chiefs' head coach will give the NFC West six new coordinators for the 2009 season, including all four on offense.

Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky are the division's only holdover coordinators from 2008 (update here). The yellow shading in the chart below shows open coaching positions in the NFC West.

Haley's hiring in Kansas City makes sense philosophically. His father, longtime scout Dick Haley, has a tremendous background in player personnel. The Chiefs' general manager, Scott Pioli, comes from New England, where he valued coach Bill Belichick's personnel knowledge.

Given family history, the younger Haley might be in better position than some coaching candidates to understand personnel and how personnel evaluators think. That might have made Haley a more comfortable fit for Pioli. The two also worked together previously, and they have strong ties to Bill Parcells, as has been widely reported.

What will the Cardinals do next? We touched on that late Thursday night. The Cardinals' intentions are not known at this time. The team released the following statement from coach Ken Whisenhunt:

"This is a tremendous opportunity for Todd and one that I know he is ready for. He was a big part of the offensive success that our team has had over the last two years. Todd is a smart, passionate coach who gets the very best out of players and those attributes will serve him well as a head coach. For us, it is flattering whenever your coaches are sought after and is a byproduct of the success our team has had. I think it speaks to the progress we have made and will continue to make as an organization. Obviously we knew this was a possibility and developed contingency plans. We now begin the process of activating those plans."

Position
Cardinals 49ers Seahawks Rams
Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt
Mike Singletary
Jim Mora
Steve Spagnuolo
Off. Coord.
(unnamed)
Jimmy Raye
Greg Knapp
Pat Shurmur
OL Russ Grimm
Chris Foerster
Mike Solari
Steve Loney
QB Jeff Rutledge
Mike Johnson
Bill Lazor
Dick Curl
WR Mike Miller
Jerry Sullivan
Robert Prince
Charlie Baggett
RB Maurice Carthon
Tom Rathman
Kasey Dunn
Sylvester Croom
TE Freddie Kitchens
Pete Hoener
Mike DeBord
(unnamed)
Def. Coord.
C. Pendergast Greg Manusky
Gus Bradley
Ken Flajole
DL Ron Aiken
Jim Tomsula
Dan Quinn
Brendan Daly
LB Bill Davis
(shared)
Zerick Rollins
(unnamed)
DB Teryl Austin
(shared)
Tim Lewis (unnamed)
Special Teams
Kevin Spencer
Al Everest
Bruce DeHaven
Tom McMahon

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

While Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt recently accepted a call from the president, offensive coordinator Todd Haley has reportedly taken one from the Chiefs.

The fact that the Chiefs waited this long to interview Haley suggests the team could be serious about hiring him as head coach. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli has a history with Haley, so the two are familiar with one another. That also would seem to help Haley's chances.

If Haley leaves the Cardinals, the NFC West will have four new offensive coordinators and two new defensive coordinators for 2009. The Cardinals are in better position than their NFC West rivals to lose an offensive coordinator because their head coach has a background on offense.

Still, Haley has played a significant role in the Cardinals' success. From his rapport with Kurt Warner to the way he has pushed Larry Fitzgerald and others to improve, Haley has made his contributions felt. He has been calling plays since late in the 2007 season, and the Cardinals have consistently made excellent in-game adjustments on offense (one reason they led the NFL in third-quarter scoring during the regular season).

Whisenhunt could reassume play-calling duties if Haley were to leave. The offensive staff would remain strong with Russ Grimm as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach.

Mailbag: QBs key to Super Bowl hangovers

January, 23, 2009
1/23/09
11:32
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Mike from Seattle writes: Sando, I have one topic for the upcoming bye (that is not needed) football weekend. Super Bowl hangovers. Here are the stats from 2000-present:

As you very well know, only one team, our beloved Seahawks, managed to salvage a season after the super bowl run. What is it about losing the super bowl that makes it so difficult to rebound next year? Do you see one of these two teams being affected in that way if they lose next weekend? Has there been any effect of assistant coaches leaving to go elsewhere that has fallen under the radar of those stats? Thanks again, Mike

Mike Sando: Quarterback issues link most of those teams.

Kurt Warner's injury situation affected the 2002 Rams. He struggled early and then suffered a broken finger.

The 2003 Raiders began their demise when center Barrett Robbins went AWOL at the Super Bowl. Rich Gannon wasn't the same in 2003, and he lasted only seven games before an injury ended his season.

Donovan McNabb's injuries hurt the Eagles after a fast start in 2005.

The Bears' Rex Grossman struggled early in the 2007 season, leading to his benching. He had been hot-and-cold during the Bears' Super Bowl season.

And then we all know what happened to Tom Brady in 2008.

The Cardinals could be vulnerable to similar forces depending on what happens with Warner. Warner's age and contract status raise questions about his future beyond this season.

(Read full post)

Around the NFC West: 49ers move on

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
7:06
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are speaking with former Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski as a candidate to become offensive coordinator.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat suggests Jagodzinski pushed for the interview. Jagodzinski and 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan worked together in Green Bay.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Jagodzinski will meet with Mike Singletary in Mobile, Ala., site of Senior Bowl practices this week.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic links to a Jason Whitlock column suggesting the Chiefs should consider Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley as a head coaching candidate. Haley has worked with Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com provides perspective for Haley's emotional side. Quarterback Kurt Warner: "Sometimes you have to be the guy that stands up and says, 'It's not all about you guys liking me, it's about me getting the best out of every one of you.' That's what I see from Todd."

John Morgan of Field Gulls explains why he thinks Seahawks fans shouldn't necessarily fear the Rams' hiring of Steve Spagnuolo. Morgan: "Spagnuolo inherited a still dominant Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora in his prime, an entering his prime Mathias Kiwanuka and an emerging [Justin] Tuck. His genius was finding a package that fit them all. With apologies and admiration for the simplicity and effectiveness of Spagnuolo's package, that's not genius at all."

Also from Morgan: a look at the Seahawks' positions of greatest need, with players potentially available in free agency. The Seahawks have plenty of numbers at receiver, but they could use more quality.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have spoken with Eagles assistant Pat Shurmur and former Seahawks assistant Ken Flajole about joining Spagnuolo's staff. Flajole is a consideration as defensive coordinator, but Spagnuolo would presumably run the defense.

VanRam of Turf Show Times looks at potential free agents for Spagnuolo and the Rams to consider this offseason. Lito Sheppard and David Carr are on the list.

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