49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 25, 2009
Q&A: Safety first

Question: Seems like the top teams historically have a top-notch safety and that 49ers stood out with Ronnie Lott. To me Nate Clements is a decent corner, but would be a great safety. What do you think?
Steve, Sacramento

Answer: I think two things: 1.) You're right and 2.) It'll never happen. Clements not only has a safety's body but a safety's mentality. He's not afraid to swoop in from the secondary and upend a ball carrier. He's smart and has the leadership qualities to run the secondary and to set up the defense. He's also been incredibly durable over his career. But he's a very good cornerback. And because that position is so valuable and because top cornerbacks are so rare and because the 49ers pay him so much money, I can't imagine the 49ers switching him to safety ... Now if they drafted Ohio State CB Malcolm Jenkins at No. 10, that would be interesting. It would be like getting two new players - a hotshot rookie corner and, if Clements switched over, a brand new free safety. Hmmm ...
- Matt

polamalu.jpg + Bob sanders.jpg = nate.jpg ?

Question: I hear quite a bit of talk about the 49ers' need for a play making free safety. Last year during training camp, there seemed to be more than a few comments on how Dashon Goldson was always around the ball a making plays. Why isn't he mentioned more? Is it his history of being injured or is he just not the answer?
Bob, Colfax

Answer: I think Goldson's injuries are part of the issue. A bigger part, though, is the position he plays. The free safety is like the quarterback of the defense. Coaches are as hesitant to put an inexperienced player at free safety as they are at quarterback. That's why Mark Roman - for all his lack of ball skills and play-making ability - has been the 49ers' starter for so long. He doesn't make a lot of mental mistakes. For that reason, I think the 49ers will try to find a free safety in free agency and not the draft. And if they draft a rookie free safety, I wouldn't count on him starting any time soon.
- Matt

Question: With the Niners looking as they're bringing back Smith for the '09 season, does that rule them out in anyway in drafting a Sanchez if he fell to the 10th spot?
Henry, Oakland

Answer: No, especially if Smith's salary, as expected, is modest. But I still think that the 49ers take a quarterback in the middle rounds. Just a hunch, though ...
-- Matt

Question: Hey Matt if that report about Linehan not being comfortable with coach Mike....well it had me wondering, if that is true, is it possible we haven't found the "right" coordinator b/c something about coach Mike just rubs them the wrong way...maybe that is a factor why none of them have wowed him to this point? It seems unlikely, but you never know, your thoughts?
Adrian, Oviedo, Fla.

Answer: I think the bottom line of the Linehan saga is that Linehan thought there would be better opportunities for him than the 49ers' gig. What made them better? I don't know for sure, but I would guess that Linehan felt he wouldn't have as much control with the 49ers. With the exception of quarterbacks coach, the offensive staff is already assembled. I also think that the prospect of coaching under an old-school, defensive-minded coach who doesn't have a lot of experience might give an offensive coordinator pause, especially if he sees other opportunities on the horizon.
- Matt

Question: Matt...I am a longtime season ticket holder (35+/- years) so I saw bad football then good football and then "now" football. I am as confused as I ever have been over why the 9ers don't use/play Thomas Clayton. He has looked so accomplished in the few times he has had the opportunity. Any thoughts?
Peter, Fairfield

Answer: I'm as puzzled on this topic as all of you. I thought Clayton's performance in that preseason game in Chicago was good enough to win him a roster spot. And if it wasn't the 49ers' roster, I figured another team would pluck him off the practice squad. But several teams that had injury issues at RB this season took a look at Clayton and passed on him. What is that they're seeing? I don't know ...
- Matt

Question: Hey Matt, I'm sure you've heard the Michael Vick rumors. Say it ain't so! Singletary is going to throw Shaun Hill under the bus for *this* guy?? Just when things were starting to look up, huh? When Vick goes down (not if, but when), he'll be taking Singletary, Jed York, and everyone else down with him. Drama aside, Vick's play wasn't even that impressive toward the end - and I can't imagine that the past few years have "vastly improved his game."
Rob, Madison, WI

Answer: I hear his prison-yard team is awesome - beat the guards 36-12 the other day. Remember, Vick first has to be reinstated. And with Sheriff Goodell running the show, that's certainly not a given.
- Matt

Question: Hey Matt, I just wanted to know if you thought the Niners would spend a lot of money in free agency this offseason and if so who you think their biggest signing could possibly be?
Aditya, San Diego

Answer: The signal I've been getting is that the 49ers will not spend a bundle this offseason. One guy who seems tailor-made for this team, however, is receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I wonder if Scot McCloughan could resist taking a run at him. Other potential FA's to keep an eye on: FBs Leonard Weaver and Moran Norris and safeties Jim Leonhard and Oshiomogho Atogwe.
- Matt

Question: It seems like hiring Reeves would put us right back in the same situation next year. At his age how long can the team expect to keep him around? I don't want to see 8 OCs in 8 years. Don't you think we should hire someone a little younger who is willing to stick around?
Tyler, Sacramento

Answer: Are you suggesting that Reeves only has a year to live? One of the teams the 49ers have cited in recent years is the Indianapolis Colts, whose offensive core - QB, receivers, o-coordinator - has been in tact for years. That offensive coordinator, Tom Moore, turned 70 in November. Reeves is 65. In terms of continuity, I'd be much more worried about an ambitious young coach moving on than an older one retiring. Seventy is the new 55.
- Matt

Question: If it's Reeves, what are the lessons learned from Joe Gibbs' second stint in Washington about once great coaches who -- after being away for an extended period -- return? Your thoughts?
Mike, Montclair

Answer: Gibbs certainly didn't bring the Redskins back to the Super Bowl, but he did take them back to the playoffs. Another successful example is Dick Vermeil, who, of course, won a Super Bowl in St. Louis after a long stint away from the game.
- Matt

Question: This is regarding the two "Bad Boy" longshots that will try to make the team ... Any word on how Jimmy Williams looked at his workout, did he look like he's been working hard to get back in shape? Now that it's the offseason, and Sing has some time to "teach", will Brooks be trained as a ILB, or will they continue to develop him as a pass rusher? I'm rooting for these two guys to step up, I know these projects often don't work out. But it should be interesting to watch.
Cools, Danville

Answer: I agree - both guys to this point have squandered their considerable physical talent and it will be interesting to see if that master motivator, Singletary, can inspire them. I'm told that the 49ers did an exhaustive background check on Williams, including a workout. I'd imagine the 49ers will take a long look at Brooks as an outside linebacker and as a back-up to Patrick Willis at "Mike" linebacker. Keep in mind that both players are low-risk in that if they don't work out, they get cut and the 49ers don't suffer any cap issues ...
- Matt

Question: Any indication on who the 49ers have interviewed in Mobile. I read at TFYDraft.com that we interviewed Raji and Sidbury. Do you know of any others?
Bill, Alameda

Answer: Don't put too much stock in reports about who the 49ers talk to. By the time the draft rolls around, someone from their organization will have either worked out of spoken with hundreds of prospects.
- Matt


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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