NFL Nation: John Brodie

Syncing up head coaches and QBs

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
11:30
AM ET
Sometimes it takes a while for head coach and quarterback to come into alignment.

Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith clicked right away in San Francisco. Smith has become an extension of the coaching staff, as reflected the way he manages risks.

Smith has zero interceptions in his past 253 attempts, counting playoffs. That is the NFL's longest active streak.

Elsewhere in the NFC West, Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is still working with John Skelton and Kevin Kolb to minimize turnovers. Coaches and quarterbacks in Seattle and St. Louis are just getting started together.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson appeared tentative at times in his first regular-season start Sunday. The Cardinals' defense was one factor with its frequent pressure. I also wondered how coach Pete Carroll's emphasis on ball security, typically heightened for defensive-minded head coaches, might affect Wilson. Two years ago, Carroll and then-starter Matt Hasselbeck needed about half the season to strike a balance.

That balance has already been struck in San Francisco.

Consider this note from ESPN Stats & Information: "Including the postseason, Smith has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions over his last eight games. Prior to his current streak, Smith had never gone more than three consecutive games without throwing an interception. The eight consecutive starts without an interception are two more than the previous franchise record held by Steve Young and John Brodie."

Not bad.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt from Kirkland, Wash., writes: So, what's up with Roger Goodell ruining the draft? I mean, it's not like on draft day me and my buddies all got together, ate wings, nachos, drank a few cold ones and enjoyed the day of football. Now that it's on Thursdays, I'll watch the first round, go to bed and wake up the next day and go to work.

Well, I guess since no one cares about rounds 4-7, anyway, I'll be free the third weekend in April. Way to ruin a good thing, Rog. While you're changing things up, how about making West Coast teams traveling East play at 4 p.m. ET so they actually have a shot?

Mike Sando: My guess is that prime-time advertising proved too tempting. I haven't experienced the draft as a fan -- with wings, cold ones and friends -- for quite a few years. Thanks for sharing what will be lost. Bummer from that perspective.


Ricky from Shelton, Wash., writes: Thursday? Friday? Hello! West Coast here. Is the plan to eliminate a quarter of the fan base? I am one of those guys where the draft is like another Christmas day. When the Super Bowl is over and the Lombardi Trophy is held high and the season is officially over, my obsession begins. I will be checking the blogs and web sites for just a morsel of information regarding players and who my team, the Seahawks, will pick.

I will be surfing extensively the internet for any scraps of information. I just got to know. Draft day is planned with precision weeks in advance so my total focus is the NFL DRAFT. I can dodge the to-do list and the wife, if required. I cannot dodge work or justifiably leave early. Either you like the draft or you do not.

Mike Sando: You and Matt from Kirkland need to get together on draft day. I mean, night(s).


Jim from parts unknown writes: Sando, is there a site or someone with the NFL that we can voice our displeasure to about the change in draft time?

Mike Sando: Check out commissioner Roger Goodell on Twitter and reply to him.


Greg from Seattle writes: I've got to admit, I don't care much for the three-day draft. First and foremost, for those of us who don't make our living on football (and yes, we are envious), it eats up three days to seriously follow. But beyond that, I am sure the timing of the draft will be East Coast-friendly, probably starting around 4 p.m. PT two nights in a row. That means many NFC West fans will miss the better part of the first 10 picks, if not more, wrapping up the work day.

Mike Sando: Watching on the DVR won't carry the same level of drama.


Marco from Las Cruces, N.M., writes: How strong of an arm does a QB need to play in the NFL? Particularly for [49ers coordinator Jimmy] Raye? I keep hearing a knock on Hill about lacking arm strength, but how far does he really need to throw it? Fifty-yard passes aren't the norm and I know it's a video game, but his throwing power on Madden wasn't that far behind Alex Smith.

Is it being able to heave it 50 yards downfield when called upon or the velocity on the ball when needing to zip it into tight coverage? Is this a real knock on Hill or a perceived knock? Is there any proof one way or another? Thanks for all the great work, as usual.

Mike Sando: Arm strength isn't hugely important. Here is what Todd Haley's dad, longtime scout Dick Haley, said for a package I wrote about great quarterbacks:

I've seen so many strong-armed guys go through our league and never make a dent because they just were not accurate enough and it took them too long to throw it.

So many other factors go into the position. When a quarterback delivers the ball, and how accurately, can offset the weakness of the arm delivering it. We still need to see over time how well Hill handles those other things. If he is just so-so in those areas, the lack of arm strength could hurt him more than it otherwise would.


Brent from Amarillo, Texas, writes: I wanted to get your input on the wide receivers in the NFC West. My thinking is that the receiver with the best stats for the Niners will be Josh Morgan (I think he will break out this year as Crabtree will be slowed).

The best receiver for the Cardinals will be Anquan Boldin (he is Kurt Warner's favorite, led the stats until he was hurt last season and will be overlooked because of Larry Fitzgerald). The best receiver for Seattle will be T.J. Houshmandzadeh (for obvious reasons). Donnie Avery will be the leading receiver for the Rams (he showed flashes last year and not many receivers there). This goes against the grain, especially with Boldin.

Mike Sando: Boldin has missed four games in each of the last two seasons. Fitzgerald has played 31 of 32 games over the last two seasons. Unless that changes, an ascending Fitzgerald has a good chance to be the most productive receiver.

The others you mentioned seemed like logical favorites to lead their teams. Avery might face some competition if the Rams throw to underneath to slot players frequently. Randy McMichael's return from injury could also affect distribution. Morgan has shown signs he can become that guy for the 49ers. I wouldn't take it to the bank just yet, but it sounds reasonable.

On a side note, Brent, thanks for mentioning the Rams. I haven't received anything Rams-related in the mailbag since publishing the previous mailbag. Some of this is because the comments sections and my Facebook page provide more efficient ways to interact. Why go to the mailbag when other avenues provide more immediacy?

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