Greetings. I've won the prechat coin toss and will defer to the second half. That means your questions come first.
I enjoy the any era articles that are being posted, although Tim Tebow doesn't belong. Can you pass on a guy like Fitzgerald in this?
The Any Era project is pretty cool, but that doesn't mean I agree with all the choices. There are a couple omissions I'm going to address on the NFC West blog. Patrick Willis even said he would give up his spot on the list to make room for a guy who did not make it.
What do you see the Seahawks doing in the offseason to improve the team and contend in the NFC West again?
Priorities will include getting their offensive line healthier, adding a pass-rusher, improving depth at linebacker, replacing one of their change-of-pace backs (likely Forsett) with another power runner closer to the Marshawn Lynch mold and, of course, exploring all options at quarterback. Just not sure if those QB options are going to be all that great based on where they are drafting.
Out of all the 49ers free agents, which one is most important to get signed? And do you see them using the tag on any player?
Alex Smith, far and away. That one should get done easily. Smith is not signing with another team. He has too much of a good thing going in San Francisco. Regarding the tag, I could see the 49ers using it for Dashon Goldson to keep him at a pretty reasonable rate. The tag prices for non-glamor positions can be pretty affordable. The problem comes a year or two later. See the Oshiomogho Atogwe situation in St. Louis a couple years back.
Hey Mike, rough one last week. I noticed something at the start of OT that I thought was worth mentioning, even though it probably didn't affect the game. The Niners chose to defend the north end zone, even though 31 of 34 regulation points were scored in the north end zone. Smith had thrown for nearly ten times the yards and both TDs going toward the north, and the only effective drive either team put together heading south was on David Akers' FG, when the Niners only threw for eight yards, all inside the red zone. Do you have any insight on this? Did any of the reporters think to ask about it?
This escaped my notice. I have not verified what you are saying, but it's worth following up. It could be coincidence. The 49ers would obviously know which direction they wanted to go, based on weather or other considerations.
Hey Mike! Cards fan here. I am wondering your opinion on Patrick Peterson as a corner. I know he had a great year returning the ball but do you think he can get to a Revis level as a cover guy?
Patrick Peterson is well on his way to becoming an elite corner. I don't know about becoming another Darrelle Revis, but he should become a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback in the next two seasons, based on what we've seen so far. He stepped in as a starter after having no meaningful offseason. There were some growing pains, but he played with confidence, he played aggressively and he improved. He's so dynamic with the ball in his hands. Seems like he needs to get more interceptions.
Do you think Peyton Manning will be in a Cardinals uniform?
Tend to think not, mostly because if he becomes a free agent, what will his health be like? I just don't get a good feeling about his health.
I keep hearing Miami is offering Jake Long and their first pick to move up into the rams spot to take Robert Griffin III. Is this a fair trade for both teams?
I would do a deal long those lines in a heartbeat if I were running the Rams, but I would also try to get additional picks, based on the value of a franchise quarterback. The Rams would have their left tackle, they could move Rodger Saffold to guard or right tackle and they would have the first two players from the 2008 draft (both named Long, and both good players).
OK, since we discussed this a few minutes ago, I reached out to someone who was on the sideline during the game. His thought at the time was that wind was the consideration. The direction the 49ers chose meant the wind was favorable should they get into a situation where it came down to a David Akers field-goal attempt.
Mike, it still hurts. Can we trace this back to Jim Harbaugh running up the score against Tampa? Josh Morgan was our best wide receiver, and he got a broken leg late in the game when the outcome was not in doubt.
At the time, Harbaugh's comment was that you cannot take a knee with four minutes left. You have to play the game. My take then was: "The 49ers had only four receivers active for the game. Michael Crabtree, Morgan and Ted Ginn Jr. were the ones most important to the 49ers' success. Kyle Williams was the fourth, and in retrospect, the team would have been better off with Williams in the game at that point, particularly after Harbaugh had removed starting quarterback Alex Smith from the game with nearly a full quarter remaining."
I think the 49ers showed they're a big-play WR away from getting to the Super Bowl. Do you think they'll go after someone like DeSean Jackson or Vincent Jackson? Could you see them trying to trade up in the first round to grab one of the top receivers in the draft?
I do not see the 49ers upsetting order in their locker room by overpaying for a marquee wide receiver who, by definition, would be leaving the team that knew him the best. While it is tempting to say a team is one player away from the Super Bowl, the reality is that each season is different. Josh Morgan's injury wound up hurting quite a bit. Next season, the team could be weaker in another area, also due to injury. There is no question the 49ers need another receiver. I just think they'll go about it with some restraint, not with an over-the-top signing. Acquiring Ted Ginn Jr. was one of the first moves Trent Baalke made as acting general manager. That was a mid-level, non-flashy move.
Hearing the comments and feelings about the 49ers wide receivers is a great reminder about what a crap shoot the draft is. The 49ers were ecstatic when Crabtree fell to them a couple of years back. He was/is supposed to be a big play receiver, but from what I read has had trouble learning to separate in order to get open. Not being critical of him, but of the draft "gurus" who tell us how phenomenal a player is when really not one person knows whether someone can pan out.
Everyone loves to criticize the draft gurus. Teams in particular love to do this. They get tired of armchair GMs telling them what to do. I get it. But the teams themselves get it wrong all the time, too. Think the 49ers could have used Doug Baldwin on some of those third-down plays? Jim Harbaugh had him at Stanford, but used a late-round pick on USC receiver Ronald Johnson, who did not even earn a roster spot. Meanwhile, Baldwin became one of the most productive third-down receivers in the league.
Dilfer referred to the 49ers passing game as the simplest in all the NFL. So is it the WRs or the structure of the offense and QB play that needs upgrading?
Simple does not mean bad. That is an interesting observation from Trent. The thing is, the 49ers are known for having a very intricate, multi-dimensional running game -- one that surpasses just about all others in the NFL in design quality/scope. I'm not sure what Trent means when he talks about the simplicity of the passing game.
Watching the NFC Title game, I was shocked to hear the 49ers fans booing images of the Giants during the National Anthem. I understand fans have a right to boo, but don't do it during the Anthem. Is this something that happens all the time, and we don't notice it because the Anthem is rarely televised?
I also thought this was in bad taste.
Are the Cards happy enough with how Kolb finished the season that they'll go forward with the position depth unchanged?
Happy enough? Not sure I'd go with that phrasing, but I'd say they anticipate Kolb being their best option, most likely.
Lynch staying in Seattle? Do they need to use the tag to keep him?
The Seahawks will re-sign him. I anticipate them signing him to a long-term deal under threat of the tag.
I am very happy for the 49ers, and the success that they had. I do feel that karma comes into play with Harbaugh. The one player he said take less money or else, became the most impactful player and didn't even play in the game. Perhaps they value Ginn a little more from now on . . .
There was <a href="http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/45102/save-the-big-picture-49ers-storylines-please" target="_blank">tremendous irony</a>. The 49ers are not the only team to force paycuts on players, though. Happens all the time. Lots of teams would have taken the same tack with Ginn heading into last season simply because Ginn was still playing under that first-round contract, but he had gotten to a point in his career when his value was less than that.
Do you think Brandon Lloyd should stay in STL or go follow his BFF McD in New England? In other words, do you think he would be a good fit for the new system?
Brandon Lloyd should definitely try to follow Josh McDaniels to New England. He would then be in a system that is optimum for him, with Tom Brady as the quarterback. That is more appealing than anything awaiting Lloyd in St. Louis. And I do think it's not clear whether Lloyd can return the same value in another system. There is reasonable doubt on that front. Put him in the Patriots' offense and he could make a tremendous impact.
Do you think Pete Carroll was forward thinking with getting a big corner like Brandon Browner.
Carroll was finding players to fit his scheme and preferred style of play.
I know Kiper has Seattle selecting a DE with their pick, but I feel an OG would be a better choice. What are your thoughts on this?
No, I would rather have a defensive end. Here is why: Breno Giacomini played well enough to project as the starting right tackle. The team could bring back James Carpenter from that injury, let him have some extra time on the PUP list, then consider easing him into the lineup at guard based on need. Perhaps he would be ready to replace Robert Gallery at that point, depending on Gallery's health. Longer term, a left side with Carpenter and Russell Okung could be nasty. And then Carpenter could kick to right tackle in a pinch if needed.
Sando, I always feel QB-WR positions are chicken and the egg analysis as we don't really know who's at fault. I haven't seen film exclusively on the Niners' WRs. Obviously, we need to re-sign Alex Smith as he played well against New Orleans and we need a QB. But how should we be on Alex?
You're on the mark. I re-watched the fourth quarter and overtime recently. Some of the passes for Crabtree were not catchable. They were throw-away passes in some cases. Overall, 49ers fans should feel good about Smith as the starter for 2012. They should expect continued growth in the offense. And then they should watch for Colin Kaepernick getting a chance either through an injury to Smith or eventual poor performance.
Why are you going to the Super Bowl? What are you going to be covering there for the West?
Lots of people from the division will be there at various times throughout the week. I'll catch up with them and post to the blog. I'm also a voter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which meets the day before the Super Bowl. Because of those voting responsibilities, I need to be at the Super Bowl anyway.
In regards to "simplest" I believe Dilfer is referring to how most of the 49ers' pass plays are designed one read to one guy or dump off. Just look at the 3-yard catch by Crabtree. After the lack of opportunities for Edwards, I don't see how any elite WR would want to go there.
That is an angle to explore further. This was largely a safe offense.
You are the Cardinals GM, and your up in the first round. 13th overall pick, both Martin (Stanford) and Upshaw (Alabama) are available. Who do you choose? Does the fact that you've had a bad experience with an OLB named Cody affect your decision?
You learn from past mistakes only after identifying exactly what was the mistake. What was it about Cody Brown that did not work out? He was on the small side and got bullied in camp, as I recall. If the Cardinals like an outside linebacker type, they still need to take him. As for the guys you mentioned, I haven't done the scouting and am not yet in position to provide a feel for the prospects.
The Niners made a living on their +48 turnover differential this season. Don't you think that the fans of many teams who lost to them due to turnovers also said, "They didn't beat us, we beat ourselves?"
Yeah, I think that probably happens. The 49ers were plus-28 in turnovers during the regular season and plus-two during the postseason. A lot of the teams ranking high in the positive turnover differential category were high-revving offensive teams with questionable defenses. The 49ers played pretty conservatively on both sides of the ball. They forced their turnovers through solid play, not through overly risky tactics. They were a fundamentally sound turnover-forcing defense. That helped them win despite being a bad third-down team offensively.
Honestly, Mike, will the Cards debut Kolb next season only because they shelled out $$ for him, or because they still feel he has potential?
Does Steven Jackson need a backup who's a thumper or a speed back?
Speed back. Change-of-pace back. Brian Schottenheimer believes in having multiple backs with different styles. I fully expect the Rams to seek such a back this offseason.
Time to draft Frank Gore's replacement? It seemed like he pulled himself out of the game quite a bit ("come in for me" hand gestures clearly seen on TV).
I noticed this other times during the season as well. They already drafted Kendall Hunter. I could see Hunter getting more work.
Thanks for dropping by the latest NFC West chat. It's been a great fourth season on the blog.