Branching out

Posted Feb 28, 2011

Combine leftovers: From coaching trees, to shutdown corners, to a heavy-duty effort by Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea, to a wonderful Wonderlic score.

A lot was made of the Mike Holmgren “coaching tree” during his 10-year stay with the Seahawks, and rightfully so.

Holmgren is now president of the Cleveland Browns, but the former assistants under him while he was coaching with the Seahawks and Green Bay Packers who became head coaches in the NFL include Andy Reid, Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci, Mike Sherman, Ray Rhodes and Dick Jauron, Jim Zorn and Marty Mornhinweg.

Holmgren, of course, was one of larger branches of Bill Walsh’s tree during his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers, which also includes Mike White, Sam Wyche, George Seifert, Dennis Green, Bruce Coslet and Rhodes.

Now, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Reid, the longest tenured head coach in the league, has a pretty decent tree of his own going: Steve Spagnuolo of the St. Louis Rams, Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings, Pat Shurmur of the Browns, Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers, John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens and former Vikings coach Brad Childress.

All of them were assistants under Reid in Philly.

When Harbaugh was asked about that at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last week, he cracked, “I’ll claim Rex Ryan. And that’s a big branch, a sturdy branch.”

Ryan, coach of the New York Jets, was the defensive coordinator on Harbaugh’s first Ravens staff in 2008.

MISLABELED: After the way Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams played in the Packers’ run to winning the Super Bowl, who better to ask about the importance of having a shutdown cornerback than Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson?

Especially with LSU’s Patrick Peterson being labeled – and calling himself – a “shutdown corner” as the top-rated player at the position in this year’s draft class.

“Certainly he’s a very accomplished player on defense and a very accomplished player as a return specialist,” Thompson said when asked about Peterson. “But ‘shutdown corner’ may be something that somebody made up, because there’s really no such thing. This game is made for offensive players.”

ROYAL TREATMENT: Prince Amukamara, the highly rated cornerback from Nebraska, has five sisters. Their names? Princess, Precious, Promise, Peace and Passionate.

Asked how his sisters treated him growing up, Amukamara offered, “Like a prince.” 

HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S A BEAVER: Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea broke the combine record in the bench press on Sunday by doing 49 reps with 225 pounds.

Lifting was all Paea could do because he tore meniscus in the right knee early in the first practice at the Senior Bowl last month. Paea did not come to the United States until he was 16, after being born in New Zealand and growing up in Tonga.

“I think I could go back and do another one,” Paea told the NFL Network after his record-setting effort.

While 50 would have been nifty, it really wasn’t needed. The old bench-press mark had been 45, and belonged to three players: Arkansas offensive lineman Mitch Petrus (2010), Ohio State defensive end Mike Kudla (2006) and UTEP defensive tackle Leif Larsen (2000).

HEADY STUFF: Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy could not work out at the combine because he broke a bone in his right hand during the Senior Bowl last month. But there’s obviously nothing wrong with his head.

McElroy scored a 48 out of a possible 50 on the Wonderlic test that is given to all players at the combine. Results of the impressive score were attributed to several sources, including his father. It should not come as a surprise. McElroy graduated with a degree in marketing in three years and was a finalist for a Rhodes scholarship last year.

YOU DON’T SAY: “Everybody that’s here is good. Now you try to find better and best as you go through this process.” – Jim Harbaugh, new coach of the 49ers.