NFL Nation: Tom Rathman

Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' three-year extension through 2017 of fullback Bruce Miller on Thursday:

Miller
Smart move: These are the types of signings good teams make. Miller was to be a free agent next year. But as they did with center Daniel Kilgore, the 49ers secured Miler early.

Miller is one of the best fullbacks in the NFL. He is very versatile. He is an outstanding blocker and a reason why the 49ers move the ball so well on the ground. He also has a role as a receiver and as a short-yardage back. He is only getting better. San Francisco missed Miller when he broke his scapula in Week 15 and was out for the rest of the season. Miller said Thursday he is completely healthy.

Popular move: The former seventh-round pick is a great player off the field. He is very popular in the locker room. Teammates love his work effort. He's the type of guy who mixes well with every part of the locker room. He is also a fan favorite for the same qualities. Again, this is the type of player who teams keep.

Switch worked: Miller was a defensive end at Central Florida. He had no idea he'd become a fullback -- until 49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman called him the day before the draft.

The next thing Miller knew he was being taken by the 49ers in the seventh round and moving to the other side of the ball. It kind of worked out nicely.

“It's been a long journey and a lot of hard work,” Miller said Thursday. “But it's been blast and I couldn't have planned it out any better than what has happened.”

Culliver likely next: Don't be stunned if the 49ers work out an early deal with cornerback Chris Culliver. They have designated him as a priority as they did with Miller. There will be high-dollar discussions with Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati to deal with next year as well, but Culliver, like Miller, may be easier to do. Also like Miller, it would be smart to secure a solid, young player like Culliver.

Tony Gonzalez and what might have been

January, 22, 2013
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With Tony Gonzalez leaning toward retirement after 16 NFL seasons and 1,242 receptions, I turned back the clock in my mind to 1997, the year San Francisco tried to draft the tight end from California.

The 49ers were in a wheeling and dealing mode in that 1997 draft. They came away with three players -- Jim Druckenmiller, Marc Edwards and Greg Clark -- after trading away all picks in the fourth through seventh rounds.

"While they rated [Jim] Druckenmiller as the best player available at the 26th pick, the 49ers tried to trade up for Miami's No. 15 in order to take Cal tight end Tony Gonzalez," John Crumpacker wrote at the time in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Alas, Kansas City moved up to 13 in a trade with Houston and tabbed the Golden Bear."

Alas, indeed.

Druckenmiller would play in six NFL games, starting one. Edwards, a fullback the team envisioned in the Tom Rathman mold, started 82 of the 134 regular-season games he played. Clark, a tight end, started 39 of the 55 games he played.

As for Gonzalez? He has 237 starts in 254 games and ranks second to Jerry Rice on the NFL's list for all-time receptions. His total for receptions is 50 percent greater than the career total for any tight end. Shannon Sharpe is second with 815 receptions.

The chart ranks 1997 draft choices by most Pro Bowl appearances. Two NFC West players, Walter Jones and Orlando Pace, made the list. Also in 1997, the Arizona Cardinals drafted cornerback Tommy Knight with the ninth overall choice.

Best 49ers Team Ever: 1989

June, 24, 2010
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Notable players: QB Joe Montana, QB Steve Young, WR Jerry Rice, WR John Taylor, RB Roger Craig, FB Tom Rathman, TE Brent Jones, G Guy McIntyre, FS Ronnie Lott, OLB Charles Haley, DE Pierce Holt, DE Kevin Fagan, OLB Keena Turner, LB Matt Millen.

[+] EnlargeJoe Montana
Andy Hayt/Getty ImagesJoe Montana and the 49ers were at the height of their success during the 1989 season.
Analysis: The San Francisco 49ers had multiple teams worthy of consideration as the best in franchise history. I'll take the one that outscored its opponents 126-26 during the postseason, including 55-10 over the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Denver led the NFL in scoring defense that season.

The 1989 team featured the 49ers' offense at the peak of its powers.

Joe Montana averaged 9.1 yards per attempt with 13 starts that season. The figure for three-game starter Steve Young -- 10.9 yards per attempt -- was even more ridiculous. Drew Brees set a career high at 8.5 yards per attempt last season. Tom Brady's average was 8.3 during his historic 2007 season. Dan Marino was at 9.0 in his 1984 career season. None could match the 49ers' top two quarterbacks during this special season.

This was the first 49ers team of the 1980s without Bill Walsh, but offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren was still there, as were nearly all of the team's iconic offensive players from the decade. Tight end Brent Jones emerged as a starter. Roger Craig topped 1,000 yards rushing. Fullback Tom Rathman caught 73 passes. Montana set a career high for passer rating at 112.1, completing 70.2 percent with 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Rice caught 17 touchdown passes while averaging 18.1 yards per reception.

The defense was typically overlooked except by those forced to play against it. John Elway completed only 10 of 26 passes for 108 yards and two interceptions against the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

"Their defense doesn't get enough credit," Broncos coach Dan Reeves said afterward. ''I can't say enough about them.''

Walsh later regretted retiring. This team made it easy to see why.

Most impressive win: Having already touched on the Super Bowl victory, let's focus on the victory that delivered the NFC West title to San Francisco that season. Montana passed for 458 yards, including 286 to receiver John Taylor, and the 49ers twice overcame 17-point deficits to edge the division-rival Rams, 30-27, on the road.

Transcending Walsh: This 49ers team became the only one in NFL history to win back-to-back Super Bowls with different head coaches. The change from Walsh to George Seifert might have actually helped this team, at least for a season. The offensive-minded Walsh left the defensive-minded Seifert with a veteran offense trained to function at a high level without much big-picture help. Holmgren took the best of what Walsh taught him and made it even better with his own tweaking. In that sense, the 1989 team might have gotten the best of what Walsh and Holmgren had to offer. Montana was also at his best. He never enjoyed a finer season.

Honorable mention

1984: This was the team that knocked off Marino in the Super Bowl after the quarterback shredded defenses for a then-record 48 touchdown passes. This was a great 49ers team with a franchise-best 15-1 record, but the best group in 49ers history needed to include Rice, I thought. He arrived the next year.

1994: Proponents of this team will point to a defense featuring Deion Sanders, Rickey Jackson, Ken Norton, Merton Hanks, Eric Davis, Tim McDonald, Bryant Young and others. They'll point to Young's record six touchdown passes against the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl.

1948: Let's save some recognition for one of the early 49ers teams. This one outscored opponents by more than 17 points per game on its way to a 12-2 record. Frankie Albert put up modern-day numbers with 29 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and a 102.9 rating.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Niners scout Quentus Cumby predicts a Panthers victory over the Cardinals. He think the Panthers' cornerbacks match up well with Arizona's receivers.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says Tom Rathman has gone from blocking Mike Singletary to coaching with him.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat quotes Rathman as saying he enjoyed a positive experience with the Raiders.

Also from Maiocco: A story about Rathman's hiring topped by a photo of Rathman breaking up a 1999 fight between Derrick Deese and Ken Norton Jr.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sizes up Rob Chudzinski and Scott Linehan as candidates to become the 49ers' offensive coordinator. Both have enjoyed success as coordinators, but neither would come to the 49ers with much momentum.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with Rathman. Meanwhile, a 49ers spokesman said the team did not interview any coordinator candidates Thursday.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Mike Martz would like to become the Rams' offensive coordinator under Jim Haslett. Martz says he wouldn't accept that role under any other coach. Haslett called Martz on Thursday to ask if Martz would consider such an arrangement. 

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat gives the Rams' defensive line a D-plus grade for its performance during the 2008 season.

3k of Turf Show Times provides a tidy chart showing candidates for the Rams' head-coaching job.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic posts a transcript from his conversation with Cardinals nickel cornerback Ralph Brown, whose interests include financial planning.

Also from Somers: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has matured in his approach to the game since the start of the regular season.

More from Somers: The Cardinals could use Anquan Boldin in a situational role Saturday.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle has a knack for finding the end zone once he gets the ball in his hands. Perhaps it's a Miami thing.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Ben Graham became the third punter in NFL history to punt for three NFL teams in the same season. Graham helped pin the Falcons inside their 10-yard line three times.

Somers and McManaman look at key matchups in the Cardinals-Panthers game.

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic profiles Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, with input from Warner's wife.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer summarizes Tim Ruskell's interview session with reporters covering the Seahawks. Matt Hasselbeck will remain the team's quarterback for the 2009 season, Ruskell said.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Ruskell, entering his fifth season as Seahawks president, does not plan a major overhaul following the team's 4-12 season.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Ruskell as saying he kept a low profile during the season to avoid the appearance of looming over outgoing coach Mike Holmgren.

John Morgan of Field Gulls takes an initial look at the offense Greg Knapp ran in Oakland, a one-play snapshot revealing a few wrinkles less familiar to the Seahawks.

William Tomisser of Seahawk Addicts breaks down the Seahawks' receivers.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic checks in with injured Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin. As much as Boldin wants to play on a bad hamstring, the receiver also realizes he shouldn't risk further damage to the muscle.

The Arizona Republic says Phoenix-area officials have planned an airport sendoff for the Cardinals as the team heads to Carolina.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt will join players in participating in the rally.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals' defense knows it must stay focused and disciplined to contain the Panthers' running attack.

More from Urban: Rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie knows the Panthers' Steve Smith is a big-play threat at all times.

David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune says the Bears should make a free-agent push to sign Kurt Warner this offseason. Warner visited the Bears as a free agent in 2005. When I think of cold-weather quarterbacks, Warner does not come to mind.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune catches up with Cardinals tight end Stephen Spach, whose unexpected contributions have helped Arizona this season.

Also from Tulumello: Boldin's tone of voice casts the receiver as a likely long shot to play against the Panthers.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Greg Knapp's version of the West Coast offense features fewer three- and four-receiver personnel groupings.

Nick Rousso of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says most mock drafts have the Seahawks taking receiver Michael Crabtree. Quarterback Matt Stafford and linebacker Aaron Curry also received mention.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times, following up a report from Scout.com, confirms that former Bears receiver Mike Hass signed with the Seahawks. Expect a steady stream of these "future" signings as teams move closer to the 80-man offseason roster limits. Fringe players are becoming available after practice-squad contracts expired this week.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Knapp's offenses have a history of success in the running game.

Also from Williams: Knapp's offense in Seattle might not be so run-oriented.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' coaching search is taking on more urgency after the Browns became the first team to hire a head coach from outside their organization this offseason. General manager Billy Devaney says he hopes to have the Rams' next coach in place by the end of next week.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with interim Rams coach Jim Haslett for a look at the remaining NFC playoff teams.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says new 49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman inherits one top-flight rusher (Frank Gore) and a few question marks. Crumpacker: "Backup DeShaun Foster's contract is up and former practice squad member Thomas Clayton is untested. Furthermore, the only real fullback on the roster, Zak Keasey, spent the last nine games of the season on injured reserve."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat addresses perceptions about what Mike Singletary said when talking about building a staff. Singletary said he would let the next coordinator hire the quarterbacks coach. He said nothing of the sort about hiring the next running backs coach.

Also from Maiocco: Rathman is happy to rejoin the 49ers, noting that Singletary "has things headed in a positive direction."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee thinks the 49ers will wait until after the playoffs before hiring an offensive coordinator.

Also from Barrows: Rathman appears to be an "ideal" fit with the 49ers.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Rathman's interview with Singletary was very much to the point, according to Rathman.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks followed through on long-established intentions to hire Greg Knapp as their offensive coordinator. Knapp replaces Gil Haskell. The Seahawks have advised several holdover assistants to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Haskell has ties to the 49ers and the Bay Area, but his coaching future remains uncertain.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Knapp's arrival could force the Seahawks to learn a new offensive scheme. How much will change remains unknown.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have scheduled interviews with Josh McDaniels and Rex Ryan. The team does not plan to interview the Bucs' Raheem Morris.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat gives the Rams' offensive line a D-minus grade for its performance in 2008.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have interviewed Tom Rathman as a candidate to become running backs coach. Rathman was previously expected to accompany Knapp to Seattle, but he would apparently prefer to remain in the Bay Area.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes that Rathman followed Steve Mariucci from the 49ers to the Lions before landing in Oakland.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are one of six current NFL teams never to play in a Super Bowl, and the only one of the six with a chance to get there this season.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic sizes up the Cardinals' offensive line, noting that opponents have sacked Kurt Warner only once in the last two games.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Anquan Boldin's status for Saturday remains unclear.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers have not interviewed a candidate for offensive coordinator in the week since the team fired Mike Martz.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Mike Singletary would like to speak to Tom Rathman about a job on the 49ers' staff. Rathman has been mentioned as a candidate for a job in Seattle, but word around the league says Rathman wants to remain in the Bay Area.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee weighs the positives and negatives associated with hiring Rathman as offensive coordinator in San Francisco.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have found the right coach in Ken Whisenhunt, who could be turning Phoenix into a football town.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Edgerrin James never came close to quitting on the Cardinals this season, but his benching still doesn't sit well with him.

Dawn Gilbertson of the Arizona Republic looks at the costs associated with traveling from Phoenix to North Carolina for the divisional round.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals are one of six teams to start the same offensive linemen in every game this season. The Giants, Jets, Broncos, Texans and Bears have also started the same five every game.

Also from Urban: Veteran Bertrand Berry is relishing another trip to the playoffs. The Falcons had a hard time blocking Berry off the edge Saturday.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals and Panthers are downplaying the significance of their regular-season meeting.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune explains the nicknames for the Cardinals' defensive linemen. This might be a case of TMI.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with Hall of Fame finalist Cortez Kennedy, who says he's loving life eight years into retirement.

Also from Farnsworth: He lists the players Seattle signed to future contracts. Other teams in the division are doing the same thing.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune wonders if Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski will surface as a candidate to become offensive coordinator in Seattle. I think it's a long shot. Greg Knapp is still the favorite for that job.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams, backed by ownership's vow to spend whatever it takes on a head coach, have added Josh McDaniels and Steve Spagnuolo to their list of candidates.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gives Jim Haslett a slightly better chance to keep his job as Rams coach given the list of known candidates.

Also from Thomas: Haslett has already interviewed for the job, and Dolphins assistant Todd Bowles is expected to interview next week.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat issues an end-of-season report card for the Rams' receivers. He sees Donnie Avery's stock on the rise.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks back at opportunities the Cardinals missed the last time they faced the Panthers.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals are embracing the underdog role heading to Carolina.

More from Somers: Anquan Boldin's injury status remains unclear.

Still more from Somers: Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum is headed to Arizona to interview Cardinals assistant coach Russ Grimm.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com revisits the Cardinals' final possession against the Falcons. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley had long since decided against a conservative approach in that situation.

Chrissy Mauck of 49ers.com wonders what lies ahead for 49ers receiver Bryant Johnson, who is scheduled to become a free agent. A hamstring injury derailed Johnson in 2008.

Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle says Ted Robinson is eager to become the 49ers' radio play-by-play announcer in part because the job requires less travel. Known for his versatility, Robinson will have a chance to dive deeper into the NFL than he has in the past.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have benefited from coaching at the Senior Bowl in past years, but they won't get the chance in 2009.

Also from Maiocco: Robinson appreciates the fact that radio play-by-play announcers connect with fans of a team.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee takes a closer look at Scott Linehan as a candidate to become the 49ers' offensive coordinator. The fit appears right on the surface.

Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers need to hire Tom Rathman for their offensive staff. She says Rathman makes sense for the 49ers because he represents a smashmouth style with ties to the Bill Walsh era.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks expect to receive permission from the Bucs to interview Tampa Bay linebackers coach Gus Bradley.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Bradley came to the Bucs more than two years after current Seahawks president Tim Ruskell left the organization.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune wonders if the Seahawks can regain their edge in the NFC West. Arizona has won four of the last five games between the teams.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier's candidacy to become Rams coach. He also checks in with Cowboys assistant Ray Sherman, who says the Rams are in position for a quick turnaround.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will conduct a respectable coaching search now that they have football people asking the tough questions. But with big-name candidates apparently unavailable, the Rams are likely to hire a lesser-known coach.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The news that Al Davis is meeting with offensive assistants on the Raiders staff is evidence a change is near. Nothing is official, but this may be the sign that a coaching change is imminent.

Davis is meeting with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, offensive line coach Tom Cable and consultant Paul Hackett tonight.

They could be the candidates to replace Lane Kiffin. Earlier in the process, receivers coach James Lofton and running backs coach Tom Rathman were considered candidates to replace Kiffin along with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and linebackers coach Don Martindale.

There had been speculation Knapp would not want the job and that he would likely reunite with Jim Mora next year in Seattle. The two worked together in Atlanta. But Knapp would be a natural fit to take over in Oakland since he works so closely with quarterback JaMarcus Russell and running back Darren McFadden, the core of the offense. There would be little change in the overall scheme if Knapp took over.

Cable has also been linked to Mora's staff in Seattle. He could be attractive to Davis because he has done a fine with the offensive line. The unit has shown improvement, especially in the run game, under Cable's guidance. He uses a zone-blocking scheme that Denver has used for years.

Hackett is the most experienced of the group. He is a special projects assistant with the Raiders. He was brought in this summer. Hackett was the head coach at Pittsburgh and USC and has been an NFL offensive coordinator. He knows the Raiders' style of offense well.

Davis is meeting with these coaches for a reason. Stay tuned.

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