Insider: Willis is lacking passion in his play

Posted Dec. 16, 2012 @ 6:35 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on the condition of anonymity:

• “I don’t know how badly (49ers LB Patrick) Willis is injured, but he’s not playing with the same passion and fire that he did earlier in his career. When he knows he is blocked, which is happening a lot more often than it did in the past, he is not getting to the ball. Teams are doing a better job scheming, too, and making sure they are getting a body on him. (Fellow Niners ILB) NaVorro Bowman has been much more impactful this year.”

• “The Bears went from 7-1 to out of the playoffs and there is plenty of blame for everybody. They need a total housecleaning, including (team president) Ted Phillips. It’s two years in a row it fell apart like this. It runs a lot deeper than just the head coach.”

• “The NFL is tightening its belt. A lot of owners do not believe in paying coaches $7 million a year. They’ve looked at every area of the organization trying to find spots they could cut back. I think it’s going to open the door for more young assistants to take over (head-coaching) jobs and you’ll see more retreads coordinating. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ken Whisenhunt and Lovie Smith had to fall back into the food chain and work their way (back) up.”  

• “(Patriots DT) Vince Wilfork is fun to watch. He walks over anything in his way. He’s as dominant as any defensive tackle I have seen this year.”

• “One of the problems I see in Arizona — they ran out a lot of their best evaluators and put a lot of ‘yes’ men in place so no one would argue with them. The problem in a lot of places — leadership is too insecure to accept being challenged. All the scouts that I know that are worth their salt have conviction —­ they are not afraid to speak their mind. They are not trying to figure out what side of the room to side with ­— they have their own opinions. A lot of those guys are on the street now. It’s the sad state of the times and a result of the league getting younger and more insecure.”

• “Pittsburgh is not getting as much production from its linebackers. For a long time, the (Steelers)  had the best in football. LaMarr Woodley has been beat up and James Harrison is on the way down. (James) Farrior is gone. Lawrence Timmons is their best linebacker right now.”

• “(Former commissioner) Paul Tagliabue made Roger Goodell look like a chump (with Tagliabue's Bountygate appeal ruling). He bent him over his knee and paddled him. Tags gets it. He knows you can’t uniformly treat every situation with a hammer and swing away. I think Roger’s intent has always been good. How he goes about delivering it needs a lot of work. We’re not dealing with robots — humans need a more gentle touch.”

• “I don’t hear many people talking about it but John Harbaugh could be seeing some heat after the season. I think the world of the guy — he stands for everything you want in a football coach and is a class act. … Cam Cameron was one of his best friends. Do you think John wanted to let him go? What a lot of fans never see is how involved owners are. They walk around at the owners’ meetings and talk more business than a lot of GMs. This move had Steve Bisciotti’s name written all over it. Bottom line — the quarterback (Joe Flacco) is hitting free agency, and if they want to keep him happy, they needed more harmony on the staff.”

• “Why have Texas quarterbacks under Mack Brown never done anything in the NFL? There is a history there. Look at USC and Florida and Alabama quarterbacks. It’s not an accident. Some teams are not looking for game changers. Has (Nick Saban) ever developed a quarterback? He looks for game managers who are not going to lose the game for his defense. … You get a pretty good product out of an Iowa offensive lineman. They have a little bit of a track record there. That is history — you have to pay attention to it and do the research on it.”