Green with envy

Arizona coach Dennis Green would like to have his Cardinals in the same position as the 49ers right now, on the rise and still fighting for a playoff berth with two games remaining in the season. Here, Green talks Cards and 49ers and gives his takes on several subjects regarding the two teams and Sunday's game at Monster Park in San Francisco.

On how much the Cardinals have changed since Week 1: "I think we're probably similar to what we were in the beginning. We went through some very rough times in the middle of the season. We lost a lot of close games and some leads, but I think we are playing a little better now than we were in the middle of the season."

On what he thinks of the 49ers and how they have changed since Week 1: "They are impressive. Any time you can beat Seattle twice, and we looked at that before we played them. We watched them really take it to them, and have over 200 yards rushing in the first game, which is almost unheard of. Then we saw the game last week where they beat them again in Seattle. That's very impressive. I think they are physical, the running game and the passing games are there. Alex Smith had a very good, competitive game out there. Defensively, they were very stingy, not giving up much."

On if the 49ers are a team they will have to contend with in the future to get where they want to be: "I'm looking at right now, and I think everybody is. I think San Francisco is sitting at 6-8, and Seattle, who wants a number one seed, is going to San Diego and after that they go to Tampa. An 8-8 record got two teams into the playoffs in 2004, and I'm sure that's where San Francisco's designs are. That's where we have to be ready to go. We have to come into San Francisco and be ready to face a team that has designs on being a playoff team."

On both teams finding their identities since Week 1: "I think San Francisco's 6-8 record is a lot better than what we have. They have been very scrappy, and along with being scrappy they have won close ball games and have run the ball. You take a guy like Frank Gore and his ability to slash and cut up defensive teams, it has been a big plus. If you look at Norv Turner's teams over the years, they've got the runner who can run the ball and their formations keep you kind of soft. They then counter with the pass, and that has been very difficult to deal with this year as teams have had a very difficult time dealing with the 49ers offense."

On if Matt Leinart is maturing on a weekly basis: "Yeah, he's a lot better. He's been in a lot of close ball games, and some of those games we lost he was in position to rally the team and he did his part, but we didn't make some other things happen. He has played well, he's played a lot earlier than we expected him to play, but that's the way it is sometimes. I think he has made a lot of progress."

On if Smith and Leinart are even as far as development: "Anytime you have more experience you are a year ahead. You have that whole group that is doing what Alex Smith did last year. Alex was one of the few guys who played and everyone thought it was so different. Now, you look up and Vince Young, Jay Cutler, Matt Leinart, Tarvaris Jackson, and Bruce Gradkowski have been playing. I think that's just part of the new NFL where guys come into the League, and their expectation to play is higher and earlier whether you want them to or not. I think they are all very competitive. Alex Smith has been a great competitor his entire career, so there is no reason to think that when he gets to the NFL that he would not continue on that pace."

On if he feels fortunate to have Leinart since he could have come out a year earlier: "I don't think that way. Like I said, they are all good players coming out and when you are drafting, if you draft them high, you are going to get a good player. You don't want to draft high to be honest because that means that you didn't have a good year prior. I think all those guys who came out last year with Alex have all proven that they are good players and the teams that they are on are going to be the one's that they are going to be leading."

On the 49ers' development from Week 1 to Week 15: "They are more convinced that they can run the football now. I think they are also more convinced that they have two good tight ends in Vernon Davis, a young player, and Eric Johnson who has been good when he has been healthy. That puts a lot of pressure on people. Offensively, they are convinced that they can run the football and no one has been able to stop them. Defensively, Bryant Young is still the player that he has always been. Ron Fields is a big nose tackle type of guy who is always giving people problems. When you have a big nose tackle, you work it. In their secondary, I think they play a little more man-to-man than most people, and they play aggressively when they do it."

On if he is going to visit Bill Walsh during his trip: "I did the last time when we played Oakland. We had a great visit. Our wide receivers coach Mike Wilson, who played for him, Roger Craig, and myself all visited with him when we came and played Oakland. Mike, Eric Wright and I are going to go over and see Bill (Walsh) on Saturday. We hear that he is doing much better now. I didn't see the press conference when Stanford named Jim Harbaugh its new head coach, but I heard he was there and he looked good. That's exciting for everyone."

On what Bill Walsh means to him in his development as a coach: "It was incredible because Bill Walsh hired me three times and guys normally don't get a chance to do that. I guess that means I did a decent job. I first met him back in 1977 when I was at Stanford, and when I worked for the 49ers two separate times. Clearly, this modern game that we now play came on the footsteps of Bill Walsh and the many coaches that he influenced. If you look at the offenses that we are now using and everything that has taken place from the West Coast, Bill Walsh was an instrumental part of that. Also, he gave all those guys a chance to grow. I've said it many times that if you look at all the guys who were on the staff in the 80's, most of the guys do pretty well as head coaches but each of them have very different personality types. It wasn't like everyone had to be like this or like that. You got four or five guys, and everybody was themselves. They all had their different styles, but they all bring this concept that Bill Walsh had of being fair with the players, letting them understand that you are never going to waste their time and you didn't want them wasting your time. You get players who are smart about the game and then compete until the last play."

On Alex Smith's broken tackle/ scoring pass against Seattle: "Yeah, I saw it, it was a great play. I saw the entire game. I love an excuse to watch football, and because we were playing the 49ers next, I could run my computer at the same time I was watching the entire game. I thought the comeback looked like Seattle had control of that game and they didn't. That's another sign of how the 49ers will hang in there and play until the last down. That particular play, many times a play can become a defining moment, which is being slippery enough not to go down. How many times have you seen Joe Montana, Steve Young, or even Jeff Garcia get hit and not go down because they are basically slippery? I think Alex showed that he was slippery, and then he worked out to the left and made a perfect throw. I've also talked a lot about Frank Gore, who is a gamer, so you are not surprised that he made that catch and scored a touchdown. It's impressive and it probably becomes the defining moment of a growing quarterback."


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