NFC West: Tim Lewis

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' coaches are stressing mechanics with their quarterbacks. Somers: "I know many people are going to read about the work on fundamentals and assume (Matt) Leinart is still having problems entering his fifth NFL season. But (Chris) Miller strikes me as someone who would work on fundamentals with any quarterback. And it's important to remember that Ken Whisenhunt and his staff emphasized ball security to Kurt Warner and worked with him on keeping two hands on the ball while moving around in the pocket. And Warner had already won two MVP awards. Leinart, I thought, improved as last week's minicamp progressed. He was erratic the first day but I thought he settled down and looked in command the last two days."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Steve Breaston would like to remain the Cardinals' punt returner, but Breaston knows it's a losing battle because he's too valuable as a receiver. Urban: "Breaston has broken his share of big returns -- Minnesota last year, for instance, and the franchise-changing TD against Pittsburgh in Whisenhunt’s first year that led to a milestone victory -- but it is his sure-handedness (Ken) Whisenhunt loved (he’s never dropped a ball), to go with Breaston’s complete fearlessness back there.)

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says it's unlikely the NFL will vote on Stan Kroenke's bid to purchase full control of the Rams until sometime this summer at the earliest. Thomas: "In the case of Kroenke, indications are that he might be given a period of time to come into compliance with cross-ownership rules, perhaps a couple of years. Kroenke may need that time given the tax complications of selling or transferring a team to family members."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says Steven Jackson's back surgery puts a damper on the Rams' offseason. Balzer: "It's certainly not a stretch to believe that any hope of (Sam) Bradford being on the field for the season opener at home against Arizona on Sept. 12 is now tied to Jackson’s health and ability to play at a high level. With the Rams now two weeks away from beginning OTAs, the identity of Jackson’s backup remains unknown. In reality, the Rams need more than just a backup, or a change of pace, as some have suggested, for what Jackson can do. They need a legitimate starter that could carry the load if Jackson has to miss games, which has happened for the last three seasons."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says new 49ers cornerback William James is scheduled to earn $755,000 this season, plus a bonus if he earns a spot on the 53-man roster. Maiocco: "He will likely compete against fellow veteran cornerbacks Karl Paymah and Keith Smith, and well as seventh-round draft pick Philip Adams, for spots on the team. Nate Clements, Shawntae Spencer and Tarell Brown are expected to be the 49ers’ top three corners."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News has no problem with the 49ers' confidence, as expressed by Mike Singletary and Patrick Willis. Asked if the 49ers were a playoff team, Willis said they were a championship team. Singletary: "I said last year, I thought we were a playoff team, we missed it. Do I think we’re a championship team? I agree with Pat. You put us on the field today, no. But when it’s all said and done… we’re going to do OK. I’ll put it that way. We’ll do OK."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune provides a transcript from an hour-long chat featuring Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson. Wilson on the transition from Jim Mora to Pete Carroll: "Yeah, all the way down the line it's different. Carroll is of course different than Jim Mora, just by his knowledge of winning. He's just trying to get us to that next level, but I guess for me as a defensive guy. Gus Bradley is the same guy. But going from Tim Lewis to Jerry Gray, who's a four-time Pro Bowler. And he knows football. I've got a couple friends from the Redskins that just say he is the 'Football Czar.' It's been fun working with him. He's already shown he knows a lot about the and about getting us in good situations."

John Morgan of Field Gulls revisits Deon Butler's rookie season with the Seahawks. Morgan: "Deon Butler did not do a whole lot, negative or otherwise."
Getty Images
Kurt Warner’s Cardinals and Jake Delhomme’s Panthers have gone in different directions since their playoff meeting last season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando and Pat Yasinskas

The Arizona Cardinals did more than knock the Carolina Panthers from the 2008 postseason.

Their 33-13 victory in Charlotte delivered a knockout blow from which the Panthers' organization has yet to recover. What should be a Week 8 grudge match between playoff contenders is looking more like a mismatch.

Arizona is 4-2 and riding high following a nationally televised victory over the Giants, the Cardinals' fourth consecutive road victory dating to their divisional-round upset of Carolina. The Panthers are 2-4 and contemplating whether to bench veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme, who has more interceptions through six games (13) than he had in 16 starts last season (12).

What happened?

NFC West blogger Mike Sando and NFC South counterpart Pat Yasinskas pick up the discussion.

Pat Yasinskas: That playoff game changed the momentum for both franchises. Going into that game, the thinking was how the Panthers would thump the Cardinals. Arizona had beaten Atlanta in the wild-card round to get its playoff victory, but the Cardinals were ultimately a 9-7 team from a weak division. They would be no match on the road against a 12-4 team. The upset vaulted the Cardinals toward the Super Bowl while absolutely crumbling the Panthers. Carolina hasn't recovered from it, starting with the quarterback and extending to the defense. The game led to changes on the coaching staff. The Panthers still could have a mental block heading into the rematch at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Mike Sando: These teams share quite a few similarities. Both re-signed older quarterbacks during the offseason. Both made significant changes to their coaching staffs. Both faced salary-cap limitations in free agency after naming franchise players. The results have been vastly different.

Fateful QB decisions

Chris Keane/Icon SMI
Jake Delhomme and the Panthers haven’t been the same since last season’s playoff loss to Arizona.
Pat Yasinskas: After the playoff game, I personally had some doubts about Delhomme, as did a lot of fans. He threw those five picks and I thought there was a chance they would at least bring in someone to compete with him -- not to replace him, but to compete with him. They did not do that. He had one year left on his deal and they signed him to a contract extension. I understand the loyalty coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney felt toward Delhomme because he has obviously done a lot for that franchise and he is a leader in the locker room. But in hindsight, that game against the Cardinals and even a few late-season games last year showed that he was declining and they should have sought out alternatives.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals had little choice but to re-sign Warner. In the back of their minds, though, they would have been entitled to wonder when Warner might hit the wall. Quite a few other quarterbacks have faded at around age 38. Would Warner be next? He made the trip to San Francisco in free agency, but there was still a sense the Cardinals were bidding against themselves. Committing $22 million to him over two seasons was a necessary risk. In the end, Arizona could not walk away from the quarterback who put them ahead in the final stages of Super Bowl XLIII. The Cardinals made the right move.

Coaching turnover

Pat Yasinskas: I think the playoff debacle against Arizona contributed to a rift on the Panthers' coaching staff over the direction of the team. Defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac decided he no longer wanted to be a coordinator. His departure started a near-total disbandment of the defensive staff. Line coach Sal Sunseri left for the University of Alabama. Linebackers coach Ken Flajole bolted to become defensive coordinator for the Rams. Secondary coach Tim Lewis left for the Seahawks. On the offensive side, Delhomme's longtime position coach, Mike McCoy, became offensive coordinator in Denver. Fox had passed over him for the same position on his staff a couple of years earlier. Some on the staff felt McCoy should have gotten that job.

Jason Bridge/US Presswire
Kurt Warner has thrown for 1,672 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
Mike Sando: The Cardinals had a good thing going on the offensive staff when coordinator Todd Haley left to coach the Chiefs. I think Arizona is still sorting through the aftermath of that one. Haley and Warner were tight. Haley knew how to push players' buttons. He called the plays and the offense was in a rhythm. The offense is still finding its identity a little bit. On defense, Whisenhunt failed to land Keith Butler from the Steelers after firing coordinator Clancy Pendergast. He promoted linebackers coach Bill Davis instead. Either way, the defense was going to become more straightforward, with an emphasis on reducing big plays allowed. It's still too early to pass judgment on Davis, but the defense has played very well recently. Overall, Whisenhunt is certainly on the rise, whereas there's a perception Fox has possibly run his course in Carolina.

Pat Yasinskas: Absolutely, Mike. There’s a sense of that. Julius Peppers asked out after last season, shocking given that Fox is supposedly a defensive wizard. There was precedent for this. Kris Jenkins asked out for two years before Peppers did. People shrugged and said Jenkins was a flake. But when Peppers, who was born and raised in North Carolina, asked for the same, it raised some eyebrows. Fox used to build his team around the defensive line and suddenly you had the two cornerstones of that line asking to get out of there. That tells you something pretty major right there.

Salary-cap limitations

Pat Yasinskas: Franchising Peppers cost about $18 million total in cap space. The Panthers re-signed tackle Jordan Gross to a long-term deal. With those moves, they tied up their cap to a point where they could not do anything else. They did not sign any free agents. They had to let veteran cornerback Ken Lucas go. They could not even re-sign veteran snapper Jason Kyle, even though the savings for letting him go was only $600,000. That severely affected their depth across the board, which was demonstrated when defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu went down with an injury on the first day of training camp and there were no decent replacements behind him. The Panthers have struggled on the interior of their defensive line ever since. They bragged coming into the season that they had 21 of 22 starters back, but the salary-cap issues meant they had absolutely no depth behind those starters.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals charged $9.678 million against their cap by naming Karlos Dansby their franchise player. They paid more than $10 million per year to Warner. Larry Fitzgerald was already making that kind of money. Re-signing Adrian Wilson ate up another huge chunk of cap room, although some of that seemed by design. Arizona did manage to sign cornerback Bryant McFadden from the Steelers in free agency. When defensive end Antonio Smith left in free agency for $8 million a year, the Cardinals plugged in second-year player Calais Campbell, who has played well. Again, the Cardinals' moves have simply worked out better.

Divergent outlooks

Pat Yasinskas: I think we're seeing the end of the Fox era in Carolina. The Panthers still have talent, but Delhomme appears finished. It’s time to blow up the roster and rebuild.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals are a good team with the potential to get better. The Cardinals were 4-2 at this point last season heading into their 30-24 regular-season defeat at Carolina. They should beat the Panthers this time. The rest of the schedule sets up favorably. Some of the games that once appeared toughest this season -- at Seattle, at the Giants, at Tennessee -- are either in the bank already or looking like they will be.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic senses the Cardinals are about to awake following a sleepy preseason. Bickley: "From an Arizona perspective, the worst preseason imaginable might be the best thing that's ever happened to this team. Warner said the team was successful only in "embarrassing ourselves" and, fortunately, it seems like a missing fire suddenly has returned. A rebound performance in Week 1 atones for everything."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Ben Claxton and other Cardinals players feeling fortunate to have landed spots on the team's initial 53-man roster. Somers: "After signing contracts with eight teams, spending two seasons in NFL Europe and two seasons out of football, Claxton survived the final cut of training camp for the first time."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals' 2008 opening-day starters have now been cut by two other teams.

More from Somers: Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson wasn't biting when asked about matching up with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. "Who?" Wilson asked. Somers also explains how Herman Johnson's emergence at backup right tackle gives the Cardinals the flexibility to move Levi Brown to left tackle if something happens to starter Mike Gandy.

More yet from Somers: Anquan Boldin is resting a hamstring injury.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Larry Fitzgerald is eager to open up the playbook and play to the Cardinals' offensive strengths.

Taylor Price of 49ers.com takes an early look at the Cardinals heading into the season opener. Price: "The Cardinals held the 49ers to an average of 18.5 points per game in the team’s two meetings last season and they’d like to continue that trend this Sunday when the teams kick-off the 2009 regular season."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee singles out receiver Josh Morgan as a player to watch on the 49ers this season. Barrows: "Josh Morgan is a 220-pound wide receiver who can run 40 yards in less than 4.4 seconds. He's the best leaper on the 49ers, a strong blocker in the running game, and he's an infrequent visitor to the training room."

Also from Barrows: The 49ers need Dashon Goldson to force turnovers.

More from Barrows: Allen Rossum came up big for the 49ers in the return game last season.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks confirmed Lawyer Milloy's role as a backup to Jordan Babineaux, as expected. Milloy: "I'm trying to get in and fit in. If I have to be a backup, that's what I have to do. I'll accept that role. As a backup, you're always pushing to be the starter. It was like that my rookie year and it's going to be like that now."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Milloy worked out for the Lions last week, but Seattle was his preference all the way. Defensive backs coach Tim Lewis after Milloy's first practice: "I thought he did a great job. He's very smart. He’s experienced. He's easy to get him acclimated to our defensive system. We have that Gus Bradley system, and it's one that requires the safety to be smart, instinctive and a good feel player."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams players who felt fortunate to earn roster spots. One of them, David Roach, set up his family as though the Rams had cut him, only to surprise them with the good news. Of course, roster spots can be fleeting and the Rams will adjust their personnel.

Also from Thomas: Adam Carriker's shoulder surgery is scheduled for Wednesday. Recovery time is expected to be four months. Carriker said he suffered a 75 percent tear of the subscapularis muscle.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says rookie guard Roger Allen III found it "eerie" to see friends' names removed from lockers at Rams Park.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says new Rams defensive lineman LaJuan Ramsey focused on football after his preferred sport, swimming, became an unrealistic one to pursue. Coats: "He was a swimmer, a 50-meter sprinter, but his size -- he's 6-feet-3 and 300 pounds -- wasn't exactly suited for the pool."

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis details the Rams' plans for Marc Bulger this week.

Carthon's departure was in the works

February, 19, 2009
2/19/09
6:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cardinals had already hired Curtis Modkins to coach their running backs. They didn't say anything publicly until the Chiefs announced Maurice Carthon's hiring as assistant head coach.

Carthon coached running backs for the Cardinals in 2007 and 2008. Modkins coached running backs for the Chiefs in 2008.

When Todd Haley left his job as Cardinals offensive coordinator to become the Chiefs' head coach, he wanted to bring along Carthon from Arizona.

The Cardinals allowed Carthon to pursue the promotion. They quickly lined up Modkins, who broke into the NFL with Kansas City in 2008 after six seasons coaching running backs defensive backs at Georgia Tech.

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

The chart provides a general overview of NFC West coaching staffs. Yellow shading highlights changes from last season. Titles are imprecise in some cases.

For example, the Cardinals do not have an offensive coordinator. They have a running game coordinator in assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm and they have a passing game coordinator in Mike Miller.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

NFC West coaching staffs are mostly complete after the Rams assigned titles to Frank Leonard, Paul Ferraro, Andre Curtis and Clayton Lopez.

The chart shows which coaches retained their titles from the end of last season (gray shading) and which coaches are new to their current roles (yellow shading). The Cardinals could face additional changes if they fill vacancies from within.

Title Cardinals 49ers Seahawks Rams
Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt
Mike Singletary
Jim Mora
Steve Spagnuolo
Off. Coord.
(open)
Jimmy Raye
Greg Knapp
Pat Shurmur
OL Russ Grimm
Chris Foerster
Mike Solari
Steve Loney
QB (open)
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
Frank Leonard
Def. Coord.
(open) Greg Manusky
Gus Bradley
Ken Flajole
DL Ron Aiken
Jim Tomsula
Dan Quinn
Brendan Daly
LB Bill Davis
(shared)
Zerick Rollins
Paul Ferraro
DB Teryl Austin
(shared)
Tim Lewis (shared)
Special Teams
Kevin Spencer
Al Everest
Bruce DeHaven
Tom McMahon

All four offensive line coaches remain in their roles from last season (subject to change if Russ Grimm becomes the Cardinals' offensive coordinator). Every other core staff position features at least one change in the division.

The 49ers and Rams have the largest staffs with 20 members apiece, counting head coaches. The Seahawks reduced to 18 after moving assistant offensive line coach Mike DeBord to tight ends and eliminating the job of assistant special teams coach John Jamison. The Cardinals have 13 coaches, a number that figures to rise by at least three.

The 49ers and Rams have full-time administrative assistants assigned to their head coaches. The Cardinals do not formally list an assistant strength and conditioning coach, although Pete Alosi does help John Lott in that area.

(Read full post)

Around the NFC West: Mocking the Hawks

February, 11, 2009
2/11/09
8:53
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer cites seven mock drafts to get a feel for what the Seahawks might do with the fourth overall draft choice. Four favor Michael Crabtree. Malcolm Jenkins, B.J. Raji and Jason Smith comprise the other choices.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times provides a transcript of Jim Mora's interview with KJR radio in Seattle. Mora on whether Bobby Engram wants to return: "I believe that he does. I believe that Bobby at some point would like to be part of this organization. Not as a player, but a part of this organization in some capacity. And he's indicated that to me so I think that that gives you some wiggle room."

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune also did some transcribing. Mora: "I think if Matt Hasselbeck is healthy for 16 weeks this team has a chance to do some special things because he's an outstanding player. And we'd love to see that happen. And right now all indications are that he's going to be fine."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic sizes up five key contract situations facing the Cardinals this offseason. He suggests the team might again use the franchise tag on Karlos Dansby.

Also from Somers: He confirms Jeff Rutledge's firing as quarterbacks coach.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com explains why the Cardinals might want to revisit Antrel Rolle's contract sooner rather than later.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle casts the 49ers' recent roster moves as Mike Singletary's moves. FitzGerald on Keith Lewis: "Lewis, a Sacramento native who was a sixth-round pick by the 49ers out of Oregon in 2004, couldn't displace Mark Roman in the lineup the last two years even though Roman didn't have a single interception in that time."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers have no comment on Jonas Jennings' likely release. A shoulder injury sidelined Jennings most of last season. Here's what general manager Scot McCloughan said in November: "Everybody's built different and some guys are more injury-prone than others, but there's no reason why he can't come back from this once rehab's over and play again. There's no reason, whatsoever."

David Fucillo of Niners Nation takes a look at how the 49ers' tight ends fared in 2008.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Ron Milus, the Rams' secondary coach in 2008, will take a similar job with the Panthers. The Rams already hired the Panthers' linebackers coach, Ken Flajole, as defensive coordinator. The Panthers' former secondary coach, Tim Lewis, is also in the NFC West, with Seattle.

VanRam of Turf Show Times outlines five "improvements" fans won't see at a renovated Edward Jones Dome, including "Richie Incognito's 'I can't hear you' interactive scoreboard."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Corbett of USA Today says Anquan Boldin remains unhappy with the Cardinals. Boldin: "I don't think the relationship can be repaired with the organization. It takes more than, 'Well, we did you wrong and we'll pay you this.' It's not about the money. It was always about the principle. Guys being true to their word. I guess I was expected to uphold my end of the bargain, and it wasn't reciprocated."

Bob Romantic of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals are making strides in building the depth required to survive free-agent departures.

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind says the Cardinals need to sign coach Ken Whisenhunt to a contract extension.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have opened contract negotiations with linebacker Karlos Dansby. Using the franchise tag on Dansby would cost $9.7 million in 2009.

The Arizona Republic pulls from FoxSports.com and the Kansas City Star in detailing Todd Haley's expected departure to the Chiefs.

VanRam of Turf Show Times links to 19 mock drafts, with an emphasis on which players the Rams might select. Tackle Andre Smith shows up repeatedly.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch clarifies the Rams' front-office structure. General manager Billy Devaney is in charge of player personnel, with input from coach Steve Spagnuolo. Kevin Demoff will negotiate contracts. Also, director of football operations Samir Suleiman is leaving the Rams after nine years with the team. He has interviewed with the Browns.

John Morgan of Field Gulls takes an in-depth look at Seahawks defensive tackle Red Bryant.

Also from Morgan: potential evidence suggesting the Seahawks might not draft a receiver early.

Florida Danny of Niners Nation puts the performance of Jimmy Raye's offenses in perspective.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks assistant head coach/defensive line coach Dan Quinn, whose ambition helped him catch Jim Mora's attention years ago.

Also from O'Neil: The Seahawks expect to have a "diverse" and "dynamic" defensive scheme after drawing concepts from people with varied backgrounds.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Tim Lewis, Quinn and receivers coach Robert Prince. Prince has ties to receiver Reggie Williams.

Also from Williams: a quick look at mock drafts as they pertain to the Seahawks.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News uses Jimmy Raye's past offenses to project how current 49ers players might fare. A similar approach told us what to expect from Mike Martz (lots of sacks, relatively few catches for the tight end).

Niners general manager Scot McCloughan says he expects the 49ers to rank among the NFL's top 10 in most salary-cap space heading into free agency.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at potential draft choices for the 49ers with the 10th overall choice. 

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers and Raiders need one another more than either might admit.

Seahawks starting over on defense

February, 5, 2009
2/05/09
8:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Tim Lewis, the Seahawks' new secondary coach, offered a view into how the new defensive staff is putting together its playbook.

Head coach Jim Mora has been on staff the past two seasons, but he wasn't running the defense. That will change now that Mora is in charge. The new staff features assistants pulled together from diverse football backgrounds. The new defensive line coach, Dan Quinn, was most recently with the Jets. Lewis comes from the Panthers. Coordinator Gus Bradley comes from the Bucs. They are pulling together a playbook.

Here's how Lewis described the process during a session with reporters Thursday:

"Although Jim [Mora] has been here and worked with [assistant secondary coach] Larry Marmie and [assistant defensive line coach] Mike Phair on the defensive side, and [defensive quality control coach] Tom Headlee, the fact of the matter is, we're starting to put the book together from the very basics: terminology -- what we call what, what we call this, what we call this -- pass game, run game, run structure.

"It's kind of amazing, but it's very good. It's kind of refreshing. I moved into a new situation in Carolina where the system was already in place, so I just had to learn it, but here we're kind of putting it all together. We're just putting it together from scratch, just the way we line up in the huddle. It's good."

We'll see a new Seattle defense in 2009, in other words. I hadn't realized the changes would be so fundamental in nature.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams are interviewing former Cowboys defensive coordinator Brian Stewart to coach their secondary, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Stewart spent the last two seasons with the Cowboys before the situation became untenable. Stewart reportedly asked for his release. The Cowboys fired him.

Clarence Hill of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram described the situation in Dallas this way:

"The Cowboys finished ninth in the league on defense last season in Stewart's first year as defensive coordinator and eighth this season. But things began to unravel early in the season when the Cowboys' defense struggled and [owner Jerry] Jones demanded that [coach Wade] Phillips take over the play-calling duties from Stewart."

In the same story, linebacker Bradie James expressed strong support for Stewart, suggesting Phillips got the credit for what went right, while Stewart took the blame for what went wrong.

James: "I got the helmet on and Stewart was making the calls to me. But being in that position, it's always going to feel like he is being undermined. He never got his just due and the respect he deserved."

Adding a former coordinator to coach the secondary sounds like a good move. The Seahawks did it when they hired former Steelers and Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis to coach their secondary. The Rams already have a defensive-minded head coach. They have a first-year defensive coordinator in Ken Flajole, but Stewart would add experience. He was previously defensive backs coach with the Chargers and Texans.

Sizing up NFC West coaching staffs

February, 5, 2009
2/05/09
4:20
PM ET
Title Cardinals 49ers Seahawks Rams
Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt
Mike Singletary
Jim Mora
Steve Spagnuolo
Off. Coord.
Todd Haley
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

NFC West coaching staffs are mostly complete. The chart provides a general overview showing which coaches are primarily overseeing key areas.

Some coaches have fancy titles. I'll list those below. Including those titles in the chart would have served them but not us.

The 49ers have two coaches assigned to linebackers and two assigned to the secondary:

  • Jason Tarver is a defensive assistant/outside linebackers. Vantz Singletary is coaching inside linebackers. Coach Mike Singletary and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky are former NFL linebackers, so the 49ers have that position covered.
  • Vance Joseph and Johnnie Lynn are both listed as secondary coaches.

The Rams have not named coaches at tight
end, linebacker or secondary. However, they have hired Andre Curtis and Paul Ferraro as unspecified defensive assistants. They have also hired Frank Leonard as an unspecified offensive assistant.

The Seahawks and Cardinals do not list administrative assistants as part of their staffs. Bill Nayes and Bruce Warwick fill those spots for the 49ers and Rams, respectively.

The following team-by-team list includes all the fancy titles, plus some coaches who did not appear on the chart:

(Read full post)

Around the NFC West: 49ers and Linehan

January, 23, 2009
1/23/09
9:48
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Scott Linehan's reputation will take a hit if he interviews with the Raiders after citing family reasons for turning down the 49ers' offer.

David Fucillo of Niners Nation echoes those sentiments.

Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee explains Linehan's potential interest in the Raiders. Linehan and Tom Cable played together at the University of Idaho. They also coached together at UNLV.

Niners scout Todd Brunner says college quarterbacks John Parker Wilson, Rhett Bomar and Pat White impressed him at the Senior Bowl.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers took a chance on defensive back Jimmy Williams despite the player's off-field troubles.

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic quotes Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson as calling Anquan Boldin a "stand-up guy" who probably needed time to cool off following a sideline exchange with offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

The Arizona Republic's photo gallery following the NFC Championship Game is definitely worth a look. Stunning photography.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Travis LaBoy plans to play in the Super Bowl despite his injury problems.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals would miss J.J. Arrington if the running back's knee injury prevented him from playing.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com tells the stories of two fans who survived game-day heart attacks. The men visited team headquarters and met with players.

Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic says Boldin should apologize for his recent behavior.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune examines how Boldin's sideline exchange with Haley might help Haley while hurting Boldin.

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind says Haley conceivably could have been the Steelers' offensive coordinator if he had accepted a job offer from Pittsburgh years ago.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times recalls how Haley could have been with the Bears -- along with Kurt Warner.

Jim Corbett of USA Today looks at the emotional impact of the Cardinals' success.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has confirmed the hiring of his coordinators. Spagnuolo: "Both are very strong leaders, character people. They're exactly what I laid out (Monday) in terms of faith, character, core values, and team first. I'm looking forward to working with both of those guys." 

VanRam of Turf Show Times wonders what the Rams might do if the Lions took an offensive tackle instead of a quarterback with the No. 1 overall draft choice.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says NBC has hired Mike Holmgren to participate in its Super Bowl pregame show.

John Morgan of Field Gulls sizes up potential free agent Shaun Cody and examines how he might fit in Seattle.

Gary Washburn of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson thinks the Seahawks should draft Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree. Cris Carter warns against drafting a receiver that early.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' hiring of Tim Lewis rounds out Jim Mora's coaching staff.

Adding Lewis a strong move for Seahawks

January, 22, 2009
1/22/09
12:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Adding Tim Lewis as secondary coach upgrades the Seahawks' defensive coaching staff. Lewis' experience as a two-time coordinator is significant.

The Seahawks excitedly announced the hirings of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and defensive line coach Dan Quinn. New head coach Jim Mora hailed both as rising stars in the profession. Mora might be right. In Lewis, he adds a coach with more established credentials.

The Steelers' defense ranked among the top 10 all four years Lewis was coordinator. When did the Seahawks last hire a defensive coach able to make such a claim? Perhaps you can think of one. I cannot. The Giants' defense jumped from 28th to 12th with Lewis as coordinator.

The Panthers' defensive staff is breaking apart. Yes, their defense struggled late in the season. But after letting Lewis and other assistants go deep into the 2008 season without new contracts, it appears as though some of those coaches would rather take their chances elsewhere. Linebackers coach Ken Flajole has left to become the Rams' defensive coordinator, for example. Coordinator Mike Trgovac has told the Panthers he won't be back. Even Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers wants out of Carolina.

The Panthers' loss appears to be the Seahawks' gain here. Lewis steps in for Mora. Larry Marmie remains as assistant secondary coach. That gives Seattle three very experienced defensive coaches with lots of experience overseeing the secondary.

On a side note: Lewis' brother, Will, is the Seahawks' pro personnel director.

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