NFC West: Vantz Singletary
Also from Maiocco: highlights from Jed York's news conference. York: "I've spoken to a lot of people that have been in and around the game this season to get their feedback on how to build a team. I think when you look at teams that have been successful out there, it's not about hiring the flashiest name as your head coach or GM or both. It's about making sure the GM and head coach are really working together. you need your general manager, and your general manager is a person who is going to live and die with the coach."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers a Mike Singletary timeline.
Also from Barrows: The 49ers are in a situation similar to the one they encountered in 2005.
More from Barrows: Unlike in 2005, the 49ers plan to hire a general manager before they hire a head coach.
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat wonders whether York has what it takes to hire the right general manager. Cohn: "Jed cannot allow himself to be alone in the interview room with general-manager candidates. He doesn’t know what questions to ask. So much depends on knowing the questions and evaluating the answers. Jed needs wise old heads in the room with him, men who have done it before. How about Carmen Policy and/or John McVay? How about people from the league office? I know for a fact the league wants to help the Yorks because it wants a stronger team in San Francisco."
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Singletary's firing was more emotional for linebacker Patrick Willis.
Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group says hiring Singletary was a mistake, with the team rushing into the decision as if eager to appease a fan base.
Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group says hiring a GM before hiring a coach is a wise move.
Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are in their current mess because York brought them there. Ostler: "Twice in a row, York -- with assists from his mom and dad -- hired spectacularly wrong coaches. York, 29, has to get it right this time, because you know what the rule is in hiring people to lead your team: Three strikes and you're out ... unless you own the team, in which case you can take all the mulligans you want."
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says York is conceding he needs help to field a winner.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are 2-1 with John Skelton as their starting quarterback even though Skelton has not completed even 50 percent of his passes in a game. Multiple return touchdowns put Skelton in position to win against Dallas. There was little sustainable about the performance on offense. Somers: "It's doubtful that Skelton will have shown the Cardinals enough to keep them from pursuing a veteran quarterback this off-season. Skelton has completed just 46 percent of his passes, and he has just one touchdown pass in 101 throws. But he does not have an interception, and he made two important throws during the game-winning drive against the Cowboys. The first was a 26-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald on fourth-and-15, and the second was a 19-yard pass to Max Komar, a play Skelton made after escaping pressure."
Also from Somers: Skelton does appear to do a good job keeping his composure.
More from Somers: Defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson has rejoined the team after a scare Saturday. Somers: "Secondary coach Donnie Henderson is back at work after missing last Saturday's game. Henderson apparently blacked out while driving down a ramp at the stadium and spent the night at a local hospital. Doctors are still evaluating tests, but it appears Henderson might have been dehyrdrated. He watched the game from the hospital. Given that two of Henderson's DBs returned interceptions for touchdowns, Henderson might have to beg to be in attendance for the finale against the 49ers."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says he thinks the Cardinals' defensive linemen are better suited for the 3-4 than for a 4-3 defense.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals are taking a wait-and-see approach at quarterback. Urban: "There was much praise coming from Whisenhunt Monday toward his young QB, but also much caution. Whisenhunt has repeatedly raved about Skelton’s accountability and temperament for the position. He noted the improvisation skills Skelton showed on the crucial pass to Max Komar -- on the move under pressure -- that set up the game-winning field goal, and the coolness in which Skelton found Larry Fitzgerald on fourth down. He likes the idea Skelton can scramble for a few yards when necessary. Yet there are still issues like calling plays, communicating the offense, even fumbling the snap that teammate Steve Breaston was forced to fall upon to save a turnover."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo knows what critics might be thinking. Spagnuolo: "Here's what I know about this league: if you have one more point than they do at the end of the game, it all counts the same. The goal is to win the football game. Now again, I would say this. There may be another game going forward where you do it differently. We chose to do it this way, it happened to work out, so this time we were right. Could it have bitten us in the butt? Maybe, yeah. But just all things considered and the way it was going and what we were doing on both sides of the ball, I thought it was the right thing. ... And that's all on me. I'll take the full blame if there is blame, you put it that way."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Danario Alexander is getting more playing time for the Rams.
Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says moving the Rams' Week 17 game to prime time hurts the local affiliate that had been carrying Rams games this season.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks ahead to the Rams' game at Seattle and wonders whether the team, and specifically Spagnuolo, will be uptight.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams seem fine with the idea of playing in prime time. James Laurinaitis: "I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't excited to play in this game. It's exciting. It's exciting for the fans, and it's exciting for us to be in a situation where all America is watching."
Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks colleagues why the Rams were conservative with a lead against the 49ers. Thomas: "The Rams have a defensive-oriented head coach in Steve Spagnuolo, and that usually means a conservative approach offensively. Spagnuolo has enough confidence in his defense that he’s more than willing to put the game on their shoulders at various times. The tactic has worked most of the time against lesser teams and mediocre teams, but will it be the right thing to do when the Rams are matched up with elite teams in the future? Maybe we’ll find out in the playoffs."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team hopes to get tight end Mike Hoomanawanui back from injury this week. Also: "The Rams will not be adjusting their travel schedule at all. They will travel on Saturday afternoon to Seattle and get in around the same time they normally would. The only change is a little different game day because of the wait for the game. But other than that, it will be business as usual."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers notes as the team prepares to face the Rams in Week 17. Coach Pete Carroll on left tackle Russell Okung: "Russell did reinjure his ankle some. He’s still hobbling a little bit. If you watch him closely, he’s not 100 percent. But he was determined to get back. The docs were trying to sit him down for a bit and let it rest. He said, 'I can go. I can go.' So we shoved him back out there and he did. He did a nice job of finishing the game. It’s a factor in his play. It is what it is. We’ve just got to keep trying to help him get through it."
Also from Farnsworth: Matt Hasselbeck is determined to play against the Rams, but the Seahawks are preparing as though Charlie Whitehurst will start at quarterback."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says, among other things, that the Seahawks cannot run against anyone. O'Neil: "Not even the Bucs, who were allowing a league-high 4.9 yards per carry entering the game with a defense missing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Marshawn Lynch's 29-yarder in the first quarter was promising. Trouble was that one run accounted for nearly one-third of Seattle's rushing yardage in the game. Seattle still hasn't had a back rush for more than 100 yards this season."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers highlights from Carroll's news conference Monday. Boling: "He acknowledged the oddity of a six-win team still contending for a playoff berth, calling it an 'interesting finish to the season.' "
Also from Boling: thoughts on this strange Seahawks season. Boling: "I saw this as a rebuilding season, with it taking time to assimilate and improve. Not one in which they would peak in October."
More from Boling: Whitehurst is the quarterback for now.
Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle says Carroll was in a similar situation when he coached the Patriots.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers' reported interest in Dan Reeves suggests the 49ers' search for an offensive coordinator has taken them far off course.
I've been trying to confirm the specific nature of the 49ers' interest to make sure Reeves is, in fact, a candidate for that job (update: Reeves is at 49ers headquarters and already interviewing for the coordinator's job). Coach Mike Singletary has consulted with Reeves in the past, seeking advice from the 65-year-old former Broncos, Giants and Falcons head coach.
Reeves, in turn, has recently expressed a desire to get back into coaching. He has not coached since the Falcons fired him following the 2003 season.
Hiring a coach removed from the game so long would open the 49ers to easy criticism. While I do think Singletary needs an established offensive coordinator to handle all aspects of the offense, I wasn't thinking of candidates with playing experience dating to the Ice Bowl.
Reeves would certainly bring experience, leadership, toughness and integrity. He could help Singletary with game management, if needed. But has the game passed him by? Would that even matter given Singletary's interest in establishing a run-oriented offense?
Either way, the 49ers' search for assistant coaches seems to lack coherence.
We have so far seen Singletary hire a nephew (Vantz Singletary) and former teammate (Al Harris) to newly created positions.
We have seen Singletary add former 49ers fullback and Raiders assistant Tom Rathman, who turned away other opportunities because he wanted to stay in the Bay Area.
We have seen Singletary offer the coordinator's job to Scott Linehan, who turned it down and then took a job with a Lions franchise coming off a 0-16 record.
We now apparently have Reeves joining Hue Jackson as candidates to become offensive coordinator, with Rob Chudzinski and Clyde Christensen already having interviewed.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Eagles' blitz schemes will test the Cardinals. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson: "He develops a smart defense. All the players on that defense understand what he's trying to get done with each call. You don't always see that everywhere, but with him, you see it. He's a pain to play against, for that reason."
Also from Somers, with Bob McManaman: Bertrand Berry appreciates the Cardinals' success after enduring four losing seasons with the team.
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald remains a bit of a mystery, choosing to keep a low profile.
The East Valley Tribune carries a 2005 story from the Philadelphia Daily News explaining how the Eagles once planned a move to Phoenix.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Jim Mora sounded like a political visionary in addressing reporters during Mora's first news conference as the Seahawks' head coach.
Also from Farnsworth: Mora heeds advice from Monte Kiffin in hiring Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times explains what Mora plans to do differently in his second stint as an NFL head coach.
Also from O'Neil: A quick look at changes to the Seahawks' coaching staff.
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times emerged from Mora's news conference convinced the Seahawks hired the right man. Brewer: "He was free, unrestrained, raw at times, as he talked about family, football and learning from mistakes. And yet, though he revealed himself with incomparable energy, he rarely stammered. He managed to be smooth and real at once, a levelheaded crowd pleaser."
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Mora showed respect for Mike Holmgren while remaining true to his own style and personality.
John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune says there's no denying the energy and passion Mora brings to the job.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch draws comparisons between Rams coaching candidate Leslie Frazier and outgoing Colts coach Tony Dungy. Thomas: "But Dungy is not Frazier's only coaching influence. As a cornerback for the Chicago Bears a quarter-century ago, Frazier played for one of the game's most successful and most colorful defensive coordinators in Buddy Ryan. Ryan's flamboyant personality didn't rub off on Frazier, but Ryan's flexibility and willingness to listen to his players did."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has praise for the Rams' coaching search, even if conducting interviews in Los Angeles might not sit well with everyone.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams appear most likely to hire a defensive head coach.
Niners scout Todd Brunner checks in from East-West Shrine week, where Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher is among those enjoying a strong week.
Taylor Price of 49ers.com says Allen Rossum hopes to re-sign with the team.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle checks in with Vantz Singletary, nephew of the head coach and new 49ers assistant.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Niners coach Mike Singletary has hired his nephew, Vantz Singletary, and Al Harris to his defensive staff, the 49ers announced.
Vantz Singletary, who coached current 49ers defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga at Hawaii, will coach inside linebackers. He was most recently coaching defensive tackles at the University of Buffalo. Harris, who played with Singletary for the Bears before retiring with Philadelphia, will specialize as a pass-rush coach.
These types of moves are easy to criticize as nepotism/cronyism, but head coaches tend to surround themselves with friends and longtime associates. In this case, Singletary is naming his nephew and former teammate to lower-level positions. These positions are also newly created, meaning Singletary isn't pushing out more established coaches.