Around the NFC West: High-stakes search

The NFC West teams with head coaches have done a pretty fair job in hiring them.

The Arizona Cardinals have a Super Bowl appearance and only one losing record in five seasons under Ken Whisenhunt. They had posted losing records 20 times in the 22 seasons before hiring him.

The San Francisco 49ers went 13-3 and ended a decade-long playoff drought in their first season under Jim Harbaugh.

Seattle won a playoff game and has gone 7-9 twice under Pete Carroll after going 5-11 and 4-12 in the two seasons before Carroll arrived.

The St. Louis Rams are on the clock now. Owner Stan Kroenke's pursuit of Jeff Fisher is commanding our attention. Adding Fisher to a division featuring Whisenhunt, Harbaugh and Carroll would complete the NFC West's transformation into a rough-and-tumble division, in my view. Fisher's teams were known for their hard-nosed play during his years in Tennessee.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sifts through various reports on the Rams' pursuit of Fisher. Miklasz: "Fisher would be a good choice for the Rams. Kroenke prefers a confident and experienced coach, much like he has in two of his personal favorites: George Karl and Arsene Wenger. Karl is the coach of Kroenke's NBA Denver Nuggets. Wenger is the acclaimed manager of Kroenke's Arsenal soccer club in the English Premier League. Fisher is an established leader and the star of the available coaches. Some in St. Louis are busy nitpicking his overall record (142-120) with the Tennessee Titans. I find that hilarious given that the Rams have had four winning seasons since 1990, and are 15-65 since 2007. And Fisher isn't worthy of the Rams' job? Please."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests the Rams could interview Miami Dolphins assistant Todd Bowles for their coaching vacancy.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers owner Jed York has done a good job letting football people make the football decisions, including when the team was hiring Harbaugh. Barrows: "It was one year ago that 49ers owner Jed York, general manager Trent Baalke and then-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh met at the home of a mutual friend and retired into the pool room. It was about noon. Sandwiches were waiting for them.York introduced himself to Harbaugh, said a few words about his vision for the 49ers -- he wanted a coach who knew how to handle quarterbacks -- then sat back and let Harbaugh and Baalke talk football until the sun went down. And that, said York's uncle, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., during a Wednesday phone call, is the most brilliant maneuver any owner can make."

Also from Barrows: Kyle Williams is cleared to practice.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers are focusing mostly on New Orleans because the percentages favor the Saints advancing to the divisional round.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with current and former 49ers, plus others, for a piece on what goes on under pileups while players fight for possession of the ball.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Baalke is riding high while other GM types flounder.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle names Justin Smith the 49ers' MVP this season.

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle noticed some of the "extra stuff" Seahawks coach Pete Carroll referenced regarding the Cardinals' treatment of running back Marshawn Lynch in Week 17. Henderson: "One came in the first quarter after Lynch dragged a pile of defenders for several seconds. Darnell Dockett, one of two Cardinals to finally bring Lynch down, put his knee into his facemask while getting up. During the end of a tackle in the second quarter, Adrian Wilson pulled Lynch's helmet off and pushed it away from the pile. Lynch was visibly miffed while talking with Carroll on the sideline following that play."

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle breaks down Leon Washington's 48-yard run against Arizona.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team felt improved from 2010 despite having the same record. Farnsworth: "They upset the playoff-bound New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens, and also had two-point losses to the NFC West Champion San Francisco 49ers and playoff-bound Atlanta Falcons. They even had victories over the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears that helped derail their postseason aspirations. In 2010, they beat only one team that even came close to making the playoffs -- the Bears -- and were repeatedly abused while going 2-6 on the road."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals players know they're in for a rough offseason workout program after the lockout prevented strength coach John Lott from working with them last offseason. McManaman: "If you don't know anything about Lott, let's just say when it comes to training the Cardinals, especially during the offseason, he's a cross between a demented drill sergeant and the male version of Cinderella's wicked stepmother. And considering that the NFL lockout prevented him from getting his clutches on Cardinals players this past offseason, he might even be worse on them this year. That figures to be especially true when it comes to the bevy of young players on the roster, including those who just wrapped up their rookie seasons like (Patrick) Peterson. Those players didn't have an offseason with Lott after being drafted last April. And oh, are they about to pay for it."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says rallying from a 1-6 start, as the Cardinals did in 2011, hasn't ensured success the following season for previous teams. A couple fared well, however. Urban: "The 1981 Redskins -- featuring current Cardinals assistant head coach Russ Grimm on the offensive line -- are going to be the team to point to for any team with a strong finishing kick. They went 1-6, got to 8-8, and then in 1982 (despite a strike-ravaged schedule) Washington rolled to an 8-1 regular-season record and won all four postseason games to capture a Super Bowl championship."