NFC West: Tom Heckert

Alcohol abuse has been a common denominator for a run of incidents involving NFL personnel.

News that Denver Broncos executive Matt Russell registered a .246 percent blood-alcohol reading after ramming into a police cruiser put an ugly exclamation point on the situation this week. Tom Nalen, the Broncos' retired former center, called the team cowardly for how it handled another team exec, Tom Heckert, following a DUI arrest a month earlier.

A witness in the murder case implicating New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, since waived by the team, said Hernandez and Odin Lloyd were drinking in excess days before Lloyd's murder. In an unrelated case, authorities arrested Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard on suspicion of DUI.

Here in the NFC West, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks could face charges following a June incident reportedly involving alcohol. Brooks allegedly used a beer bottle to strike teammate and designated driver Lamar Divens in the head three times.

The NFL and the 49ers have not yet taken action regarding Brooks, but as the alcohol-related incidents pile up around the league, the issue begs for renewed emphasis.

The league has been focused hard on player safety. Public safety is important, too. As Nalen said regarding the Broncos, perhaps swift and decisive public action against Heckert would have dissuaded Russell from registering a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit for driving.

It's unclear what will happen regarding Brooks. He had revived his career with the 49ers after a rocky tenure in Cincinnati that included a 2008 assault allegation. The 49ers signed Brooks to an extension last offseason. At the time, Brooks pledged to make sure he remained in good standing to avoid being cast off the way Cincinnati let him go.

"I pretty much told myself that I would never let that happen," Brooks said in February 2012. "Regardless of what goes on in my life, I will never let this happen again. I pretty much had to reevaluate myself as a player and a person to become the best person and the best football player I could be, because it's not going to last forever.

"And then once you retire from the game or once the NFL says no to you, we don't want you to play anymore, you want to go out knowing you did all you can do. And that's where I'm at with myself."

The 49ers had three linebackers named first-team Associated Press All-Pro last season. Brooks was named to the second team. Rookie third-round choice Corey Lemonier and former veteran starter Parys Haralson give the 49ers alternatives at outside linebacker.

Brooks, 29, saw his 2013 salary drop from $4.3 million to $2.7 million when contract incentives were not met. His deal carries $1.5 million in annual bonus proration through 2016, money the team still must account for under the salary cap whether or not Brooks remains with the team.

A few thoughts on Andy Reid's potential hiring as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, a move ESPN's Adam Schefter reports is close to happening:
  • Firing Ken Whisenhunt after six seasons wouldn't make sense in the absence of a strong alternative. Reid would be a strong alternative. He would bring credibility to any organization. His time was up in Philadelphia, but he remains relatively young at age 54. This hiring would make sense. The team would not be taking a step down from Whisenhunt even though Whisenhunt's Cardinals were riding a three-game winning streak against Reid's Eagles, counting playoffs.
  • I think Arizona could instantly become a playoff contender by hiring Reid, re-signing Kevin Kolb at a reduced rate, drafting a quarterback and signing Michael Vick as a short-term starter. Reid, Vick and Larry Fitzgerald would combine to give the Cardinals more star power than they have had since Kurt Warner was behind center.
  • Reid's background is on offense. Hiring him as head coach would allow the team to keep Ray Horton as defensive coordinator provided Horton doesn't get a head coaching job elsewhere. The Cardinals could do much, much worse than having a Reid-Horton coaching combination.
  • Reid had control over personnel in Philadelphia. I'm assuming he would not take a job with the Cardinals without having significant personnel control. The Eagles usually had a good feel for when to part with veteran players. Reid presumably informed the team's judgment in that area. If Reid takes the Arizona job, former Eagles and Cleveland Browns executive Tom Heckert would be an obvious choice as general manager. Under that setup, team president/owner Michael Bidwill would keep a low profile.
  • The Eagles were a model franchise during Reid's tenure. Turning the Cardinals into Philly West sounds like an upgrade.
  • The Cardinals have never had a television blackout for a game at University of Phoenix Stadium. That streak would have been in jeopardy, in my view, had the team stayed the course after finishing 5-11 this season. Reid would get fans excited. Adding Vick would generate national buzz in the short term. For all his struggles recently, Vick was exponentially better than the quarterbacks playing for Arizona most of this season.
  • There would be other options at quarterback. The fact that Reid was with Vick and Kolb in Philadelphia doesn't necessarily mean he would want to proceed with either one in Arizona. He unloaded Kolb to the Cardinals, after all. Vick and Kolb would know the offense, at least. They would represent a significant upgrade from Ryan Lindley, John Skelton and Brian Hoyer.
  • An NFC West with Reid, Jim Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and Jeff Fisher sounds good to me. Call it a Mt. Rushmore of coaches still seeking Super Bowl rings.

On 49ers' Seely and Colts' coaching job

January, 24, 2012
Jim Harbaugh has pushed all three of his coordinators, including special-teams coach Brad Seely, for head coaching jobs.

Looks like the Indianapolis Colts are impressed, too.

Fox Sports' Alex Marvez mentions Seely as a candidate for the head coaching vacancy in Indianapolis. The 49ers' special teams were, by just about all accounts, the NFL's best until the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

Harbaugh said Monday he'd like to have all his assistant coaches return. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman previously interviewed by phone for the Penn State job.

NFL teams generally do not target special-teams coaches for head coaching vacancies, but Harbaugh's brother, John, has succeeded with Baltimore after following that path.

Seely was the special-teams coach in Cleveland for the 2009-10 seasons. The Colts' new general manager, Ryan Grigson, worked with Browns GM Tom Heckert for Philadelphia from 2004-09. That connection could help inform the Colts on Seely.

While Grigson and Heckert were with the Eagles, they watched John Harbaugh from special-teams and secondary coach to successful head coach with the Ravens. John Harbaugh coached with Philadelphia through the 2007 season.
Darren Urban of says defensive end Calais Campbell expects to play Sunday despite undergoing surgery to repair an injured thumb. Urban: "When I asked if he planned to play, I got that look that said it may have been the dumbest question I could have asked (and maybe it was). Campbell, as coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday, can play with it casted and that’s what he plans to do. He also didn’t seem worried it would affect his play. The best part, he said, was that even though he probably wouldn’t get to practice much if at all, the fact the Cards already got to prepare for the Packers last week puts him ahead of the game."

Also from Urban: Brian St. Pierre cherished the first regular-season touchdown pass of his career.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Larry Fitzgerald's contract does not include incentives for additional receptions, yardage or touchdowns. Fitzgerald was padding his stats against Green Bay in Week 17.

Also from Somers: Matt Leinart's spotty play in spot duty should concern the Cardinals. Somers: "Kurt Warner, 38, presumably will retire after the 2010 season, his last year under contract. That plan could change, of course, but that's the timeframe under which the Cardinals are operating. The club has to find out whether Leinart can play. And the fact that the question remains is troubling."

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' agitation extends to how coach Ken Whisenhunt feels about Packers counterpart Mike McCarthy. Bickley: "Whisenhunt has been agitated by McCarthy tactics in the past. He felt the Packers' coach game-planned for an exhibition contest against the Cardinals in August, a game in which the Packers went deep and led 38-10 at halftime. A needless embarrassment, in other words. After sleeping on Sunday's loss, Whisenhunt's attitude hadn't changed much. He reiterated his regret for playing Anquan Boldin too long. He made it clear that he was rewarding Fitzgerald, ceding to a player who is (thankfully) driven by great personal ambition (fame and money). And then he struck back at the Packers. He made it clear that McCarthy was doing nothing different on the other sideline, allowing Aaron Rodgers to throw the ball continually on the opening drive of the second half, even though the Packers led 26-0."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will evaluate their own players before determining which college prospect to draft first overall. Also, linebacker James Laurinaitis received no votes as the defensive rookie of the year. Brian Cushing won the award with 39 of 50 votes.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Ndamukong Suh appears to be the clear-cut choice with the first overall pick.

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring thoughts on the draft. Thomas: "I think Suh would help the run defense and the pass defense. Just with his inside push, he should force the QB out of the pocket more often, leading to more sacks by Chris Long and whoever the other DEs are. The Rams definitely need a starting weakside LB. And it would be nice to see another pass rusher added to the mix. I'd feel better about CB if I knew for sure that Bradley Fletcher would be ready for opening day. (The early assessments at Rams Park are optimistic on Fletcher.)"

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers thoughts on the Rams' offense: "Over the past three seasons the Rams have averaged only 14 points per game, which ranks them dead last in the NFL among the 32 teams. I’m not saying Spagnuolo or offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur can be counted on to rebuild this offense and make it terrific again; we don’t know enough, either way. But you’d have to be fairly fruit loops to believe that the coaches should have gotten a lot more points out of the talent they had to work with at WR and QB in 2009."

Jeff Gordon of wonders whether the Giants' collapse on defense could help the Rams by making available players familiar with Steve Spagnuolo's defense.

Clare Farnsworth of says all was quiet in the locker room after players dispersed for the offseason.

Also from Farnsworth: awards for the Seahawks' most impressive players this season. Bruce DeHaven emerges as assistant coach of the year. Farnsworth: "The Seahawks’ special teams really were this season, so the nod goes to the coach in charge of those units. Getting record-setting seasons from Ryan and Olindo Mare was enough, but the Seahawks also ranked among the best in the league in opponents’ average starting spot after kickoffs (24.2 yard line) and punt return average allowed (7.5)."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks could be competing with Mike Holmgren's Cleveland Browns if they hope to hire the Eagles' Tom Heckert as general manager. The perception that Holmgren beat the Seahawks to a favored candidate would not make the Seahawks look good.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' struggles in the return game factored into Al Everest's dismissal as special-teams coordinator.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Everest was in the final year of his contract. A team spokesman confirmed Everest's firing.

Also from Barrows: a look at college prospects from Georgia Tech and Iowa, with insights from draft analyst Rob Rang.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers were mostly solid on special teams except for that punt return game. Crumpacker: "Otherwise, the 49ers were solid on special teams, especially up the middle with flawless long snapper Brian Jennings, holder/punter Andy Lee and kicker Joe Nedney. Lee finished second in the league to the Raiders' Shane Lechler in gross punting average. Nedney converted 17 of 21 field-goal attempts."

David Fucillo of Niners Nation offers thoughts on Alex Smith as the 49ers' quarterback. Fucillo: "The number some folks like to point to is his career high QB rating and the fact that is surpasses that of QBs like Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler. I think that, combined with the fact that he had two of his best rating performances the last two games of the season, would hopefully rope in the last few folks who think it's some kind of phenomenal statistic. I remain stuck on two things (some might say excuses/reasons for optimism) when it comes to Alex Smith. The first is the issue of his offensive line and the second is the idea of having an OC for two straight seasons."

Seahawks put in request for Heckert

January, 5, 2010
The Seahawks' search for a general manager remains a largely secretive process, same as when the team hired Tim Ruskell unexpectedly in 2005.

According to ESPN's John Clayton, the team has requested permission from the Eagles to speak with personnel man Tom Heckert.

This suggests the Seahawks could be relatively early in the process. It stands to reason that Seattle would not have a concrete list of finalists without first interviewing candidates.

Heckert might simply be a on a short list of people the team plans to interview.

CEO Tod Leiweke has kept a low profile, providing no updates on the process.

Hawks search as Holmgren introduced

January, 5, 2010
The sight of Mike Holmgren standing before a Cleveland Browns backdrop -- has the video -- doesn't look right just yet.

The former Seahawks coach and one-time general manager is a natural for these news-conference settings. He's likable, well-spoken, personable and disarming.

Seattle continues its search for a GM and has reportedly settled on five finalists -- 'candidates' might be the better word -- whose names have been mentioned throughout the process. One of them, the Eagles' Tom Heckert, has an interview scheduled with the Browns, Holmgren confirmed.

Steve Keim's name jumps off the list of Seattle candidates. He's built a solid reputation as the Cardinals' personnel director. He obviously has very strong knowledge of the division and what it might take to unseat Arizona.

Around the NFC West: Dockett's demands

December, 6, 2009
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Darnell Dockett vows to sign with another team in the NFC West if Arizona doesn't step up with a new contract for him. Dockett: "Honestly, I don't think they'll pay me. It's one thing to say there's a light at the end of the tunnel, but how many guys have been here who never reach that light? Look at Antonio Smith, Calvin Pace, Thomas Jones, Simeon Rice. Look at Anquan [Boldin]. Do you think going into his last season that he'll be interested in signing a contract at that time? You think I'll be anxious to sign a contract at that time? People say, 'Well, look what they did with [Larry] Fitzgerald.' Did you see the situation Fitzgerald had them in? Did you see what Kurt [Warner] had to go through? Kurt had to go to another team. Imagine that. An MVP quarterback took them to the Super Bowl for the first time in God knows how long, and he had to go to another team to get an offer to come back. Look at Karlos [Dansby]. They can't work out a deal with Karlos, because Karlos wants what he thinks he deserves, and the numbers don't lie. You know the saying: Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don't."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are focused on themselves, not the 49ers. Steve Breaston: "They need to watch us, basically. We're ahead. We're in the position that as long as we win games, it doesn't matter what anyone else does."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune lists 11 potential candidates to become the Seahawks' next general manager: Mike Holmgren, Randy Mueller, Tom Heckert, Ruston Webster, Steve Keim, Bill Kuharich, Ted Sundquist, Reggie McKenzie, Les Snead, Jimmy Raye III and Eric DeCosta.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the 49ers appear more talented than the Seahawks heading into their matchup Sunday. Boling: "The Niners even lose better than the Hawks. They lost close at Minnesota (27-24) and at Indianapolis (18-14), sites of two extreme defeats for the Seahawks (35-9 at the Vikings and 34-17 at Indy). I would still suggest the Seahawks have the advantage at quarterback, although the Niners’ Alex Smith (84.7) currently has a better passer rating than Matt Hasselbeck (81.0)."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Tim Ruskell's resignation reminds the Seahawks that jobs are on the line down the stretch. Hasselbeck: "We all know what's at stake. Every single guy in that locker room realizes that just like every other year, how you play will determine your status for the next year. Whether you're in this league or not, whether you're starting or not, whether you're on this team or not. That's unchanged."

Taylor Price of says the 49ers' Delanie Walker is happy for all of the attention Vernon Davis is getting these days.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers coach Mike Singletary wants his defense to improve its tackling. There's no excuse for the 49ers to be a poor tackling team given how much hitting they did during the offseason. Takeo Spikes: "Tackling is a mindset. I don't care how much you work on it in practice, at the end of the day, it's getting 'em down. What can you change in a week's time?"

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says how the Seahawks defend Walker could be a key variable Sunday. Much depends on whether the 49ers continue to shy away from their base offense featuring two backs. Jim Mora: "I've always had a lot of respect for him, and he's developed into a tenacious player. The combination of him and Vernon and [Josh] Morgan and Michael [Crabtree], and [Frank] Gore in the backfield, that's a lot of weapons. They've done a nice job of making you defend the whole field. Walker is a fine player. He might get overshadowed a little bit, but we have a lot of respect for him." More here.

Also from Maiocco: catching up with Nate Davis.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the playoffs are a realistic goal for the 49ers.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams remain unsettled in key areas heading into the final five games. Thomas: "Even if he recovers from his fractured shin bone in time to play a couple of games, quarterback Marc Bulger probably won't have enough time to reinvent himself in the eyes of the coaching staff and front office. Any decision on retaining him, or moving in another direction, will largely be based on what already has transpired."

Also from Thomas: Oshiomogho Atogwe's matchup with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is a key one.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says former Rams coach Mike Martz should be working in the NFL. Miklasz: "Martz's innovations in the passing game inspired a new generation of younger NFL coaches and coordinators. NFL teams are combining to average 66 passes and 471 yards passing per game this season, the second-highest averages since the 1970 merger. Even traditional smash-mouth teams (Pittsburgh) are airing it out and bombing away."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with the Rams' first-year coordinators. Coats: "(Steve) Spagnuolo never had served as a head coach at any level when the Rams tapped him to take over a franchise that had lost 27 of 32 games the previous two seasons. In turn, Spagnuolo hired two men who never had served as coordinators in the NFL: Ken Flajole and, on offense, Pat Shurmur. Toss in a rookie special-teams coordinator, Tom McMahon, and the expression 'starting from scratch' had real meaning."