Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN's NFL "Caveman" himself, Gary Horton, stops in to talk some football and other news from around the league.
Horton, from Scouts Inc., works year-round on ESPN's NFL-related shows, including NFL32, where he breaks down film, earning him his Caveman nickname.
Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Send your questions now and join Horton Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Gary Horton (4:02 PM)
This is always my favorite week of the year, because I spend the whole week in the film room breaking down all of the plays for the Super Bowl teams for the telestrations that we take to New Orleans. So when you can spend your whole day watching film, it doesn't get much better than that.
Who are you leaning toward picking in the Super Bowl?
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I think San Francisco probably has a more talented roster. But I don't think you can underestimate the chemistry and the roll that this Baltimore team is on. It seems like every year that we have a team of destiny that plays above the level that any of us expect. I think it will be a terrific game. I probably favor the 49ers, just because of their versatility, but that's not a real comfortable feeling, based on how well the Ravens dominated the Patriots last week, which I didn't think was possible.
With the emergence of Kaepernick as the starter for the future of the niners, what is to be made about the future of Alex Smith? He has one more year in his contract, but would have more cap room without him. Do you see a trade, or flat out release? Plenty of teams need a Qb!
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
Oh, I think he'll get terrific offers this offseason, because there is not a lot of attractive free agent QBs and I don't think the draft is very good at that position. It's great to have great quality QBs on your roster, but Kaepernick is so great and strong that I think they feel pretty good about his future. I would be surprised if they don't get a good offer for Smith.
Derek (San Francisco)
Do you think the Ravens will be able to keep up with the 49ers zone read plays?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
Atlanta did a nice job on it last week. They made some adjustments and they took away Kaepernick and gave them the inside run. Having two weeks to look at it gives them an advantage. The Ravens played the Redskins late in the regular season, so they've seen a version of this with RG III, though they weren't great against it. Keep in mind that the 49ers can also add some new wrinkles. In breaking down their film, it seems like every week they have some differet plays associated with the Pistol formation.
Derek (San Francisco)
Will Patrick Willis end up having a better career than Ray Lewis?
Gary Horton (4:08 PM)
I don't think there's any question that he's headed for a Ray Lewis career if he stays healthy. I've heard that Ray Lewis wants to pass the torch to Willis after this game. He may already be the best LB in the league. With Ray retired, he will definitely carry that mantel.
Gary, what do you think of the hiring of John Dorsey in KC?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I think it makes sense. That has a chance to make a good coaching/front office team atmosphere.
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
I think it will be a good match.
Realistically do you see Tom Brady having much more of that magic left in him? Yes Brady is Brady and as long as he is playing he will be great and the Patriots will be great but do you see the same player that we saw even 5 years ago?
Gary Horton (4:12 PM)
I think he has 4 or 5 good years left. First of all, he really takes care of himself physically. He's also a guy who doesn't get hit a lot, because of the design of his offense. I always trust this organization to find out what their weaknesses are and fix them. I think that will be the case. I think it's important to remember that when you get to this stage of the season, everybody is a good team and anybody can move. While Patriots fans may think being one game shy of the Super Bowl is a failure, this is a tough league to win in and they play at that high level year in, year out. I don't think that will change. I think Brady will play at a high level until he's about 40. He and Peyton Manning will probably go out about the same time.
Will this be Randy Moss's last game? And if so, why don't we hear more about it?
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
It could be. I like the way Moss has been quiet and just gone about his job. He probably makes a few more catches than most realize, but he doesn't make the spectacular catches that he did in the past. The toughest thing is there are so many targets in SF that it's hard to get him the ball much. I've been told he's been a good role model and mentor for the younger guys. I wouldn't be surprised if he retires, especially if they win the Super Bowl. But I also wouldn't be surprised if he plays one more year.
Gary Should NFL defenses be shaking in there boots since Jamarcus Russell is attempting a comeback? Really though, How affective can he be should he get back in the league?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
I think more importantly than the layoff is the physical shape he's in. I've been told that he's over 300 pounds and that's with a 20-30 pound weightloss. Last I looked, there aren't many 300 pound QBs in the league. When you're in that situation, at that position, you wonder if a guy can really come back. His work ethic was always questioned, even when he was drafted. It's hard to imagine that he has the concentration and the focus needed to get back into the league. I would think that physicall he is so far away from even being ready to start dealing with QB issues, that's a lot to overcome.
How does Kaepernick grade out as a passer relative to "elite" guys in the league? If you took away his running ability, is he still a quality NFL QB?
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
He's absolutely a good passer that's really improving. As I watch film on him this week, I know all of the athletic skills that he has, but he has a rocket arm. His accuracy is improving and what really surprised me is that it looks like he started reading his progressions and actually moves the safeties to look at his 2nd or 3rd guy. It's something I didn't think he could do, and it's still something he needs to work at. He's impressive throwing the football and he will only get better with more reps.
Austin (cheeseburger west side)
Is Christian Ponder the Vikings QB at the end of the year?
Gary Horton (4:19 PM)
I think so. He's certainly not perfect, but they don't have any viable other answers. With AD there running the football, Ponder probably doesn't have to carry this team on his back. He has to improve on his consistency. But with more weapons next year than this year, I think he probably will be a better QB. I like his upside.
Do you feel like the Colts will make a big free agent splash or will just stick to getting the O-line better for next season
Gary Horton (4:21 PM)
I think improving their OL is a huge need. Unless you look at their film closely, you don't realize how much Luck got hit last year. Most QBs couldn't take it. Keep in mind, he's a QB that can scramble a little bit and move up in the pocket to avoid getting hit. It could have been worse. When you add to that the fact that they don't have a viable running game yet, he becomes a guy they can tee off on every week. They are looking for a different kind of OL now than they did in the old days. They want big, physical guys and that makes it a little tougher and slower to build, but they'll get there. This group knows how to evaluate talent.
Derek (San Francisco)
If the 49ers are able to make the Ravens one dimensional by taking away the run, do you see Joe Flacco being able to beat the 49ers with his arm given that a lot of his completions are off play action?
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
He certainly has been good enough in the playoffs. I love the way he's throwing the ball right now. He has a lot of weapons on all three levels that he trusts. I love their ability last week to turn the tables on New England with their uptempo no huddle package in the second half, that wore out the Pats defense when everyone thought it would be the Ravens defense that would be tired. Right now, Flacco is playing with great confidence.
Derek (San Francisco)
Does the game these two teams played last year really have any impact on this years game? Not only do the 49ers have a new QB but last years game was on 3 days rest @ Baltimore?
Gary Horton (4:24 PM)
I don't think so, no. They are totally different teams, with different personnel in different frames of mind. In San Francisco's case, they're playing with a totally different QB than a year ago.
i think the pats quit in the 2nd half do you
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
I think Baltimore's ability to come out with a hurry up offense and a much faster pace really surprised the Pats. I thought their defense really wore down. I loved the fact that the Baltimore coaches allowed Flacco to start slinging the ball and opened up the offense. I thought when Talib went out of the game, it totally disrupted the Pats' coverage schemes and they never seemed to matchup well the rest of the game. When you add that to a pass rush that wasn't very good, I think they just weren't as good on Sunday as Baltimore. They weren't as physical. Baltimore is peaking at the right time. For example this was a bad OL for Baltimore for most of the season, but they looked like world beaters in the playoffs. How do you figure that one?
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
They made three gutsy OL changes in midseason that have worked out well.
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
Obviously, a lot is being said about two brothers coaching against each other. What I love about these two guys is they are not afraid to make tough decisions and changes rather than stay with status quo. These guys are always pushing the envelope to get to another level, even though they are already good teams. Players understand that and it makes them play to a higher level. Both Harbaugh brothers could care less by what we think. They are very secure in their own skin. We have two teams with exactly the same makeup. I believe that will make for a great Super Bowl.