Quarterback-needy Cardinals playing for pride

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Quarterback-needy Cardinals playing for pride

The 49ers are playing for the NFC West title and a possible first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.

Their opponent Sunday in the regular-season finale at Candlestick Park is the Arizona Cardinals, losers of 10 of their past 11 games. And what are they playing for?

"It's a division game. (The) 49ers," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "It's an opportunity for us to finish well and going against a good football team."

The 49ers and Cardinals have experienced some heated and close games in the recent past. However, earlier this season the 49ers trounced Arizona 24-3 in a Monday night game. Whisenhunt believes the familiarity and rivalry will help the Cardinals show up to play before heading into the offseason.

"I'm sure that doesn't hurt," he said. "I know we have a lot of respect for that football team. They've been very good the last two seasons, and you also want to win. It's important for us to play well. And I think our team will be motivated to come in there give it our best shot."

Alex Smith was the quarterback the last time the 49ers played the Cardinals. In his final full game at quarterback before sustaining a concussion and getting benched, Smith completed 18 of 19 passes and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

"I can't comment much on a quarterback because we've had our share of making moves with quarterbacks during the year," Whisenhunt said. "He played well against us. And he's played well for them, and I have a lot of respect for that. But they've done a good job all year. (Colin) Kaepernick's got in there and played well, also. There's not a lot to complain about when they have the record they have. They have a chance to win the division."

Injuries and poor play have led the Cardinals to play quarterbacks Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley nearly equal amounts this season. Brian Hoyer could be in line for a start Sunday. Whisenhunt said he will make an announcement Wednesday afternoon which quarterback will play against the 49ers.

In any event, the Cardinals' main objective in the offseason will be to solidify the quarterback position.

"I'm sure that's a question, if you look at teams in the NFL, the ones that have stability at that position, consistency of play, it's an important component," Whisenhunt said. "We haven't gotten the consistency out of that position that we needed. And that's something you always look to try to attain."

--In six quarters without the services of 49ers' All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Smith, the 49ers have surrendered nine touchdowns on defense. Smith is out indefinitely with an unspecified injury to his left arm/elbow.

"I haven't noticed anything different from an attack," Whisenhunt said. "I think the 49ers still look good defensively. I mean, when you're a good football team like they are, the next guy steps up and plays well. We're certainly very aware of how good of a player Justin Smith is. But I think they still play very well even without him."

49ers announce more hires to Shanahan's staff

49ers announce more hires to Shanahan's staff

Kyle Shanahan put together some of the final pieces of his coaching staff on Tuesday.

The 49ers announced the hirings of seven coaches, including confirmation of John Benton as offensive line coach.

The team hired former NFL standout linebacker DeMeco Ryans as defensive quality control coach. He was a second-round selection of the Houston Texans in 2006 and spent 10 seasons in the league. He finished his career playing four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 49ers also hired Daniel Bullocks as assistant defensive backs coach, Stan Kwan as assistant special teams, Vince Oghobaase as assistant defensive line, Adam Stenavich as assistant offensive line, and Michael Clay as strength and conditioning assistant.

Benton, 53, was hired away from the Broncos after being on the job for approximately a month. Benton served as Jacksonville’s assistant offensive line coach last season. He worked the previous 13 seasons as offensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams (2003-05), Houston (2006-2013) and Miami (2014-15).

Benton and Shanahan worked together for four seasons with the Houston Texans.

Bullocks worked in the same role with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. The Jaguars' linebackers coach last season, Robert Saleh, is the 49ers' new defensive coodinator. Bullocks appeared in 31 games in three NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions in 2006 and '08.

John Lynch: 49ers will be up-front with Kaepernick

John Lynch: 49ers will be up-front with Kaepernick

The only promises new 49ers general manager John Lynch made quarterback Colin Kaepernick for this offseason are open communication and honesty.

Kaepernick has spent all six of his NFL seasons with the 49ers after being a second-round draft pick in 2011. He has started 58 of the 49ers’ past 71 regular-season games.

Kaepernick has the contractual ability to opt out of his contract in March. If he does not, it seems likely the 49ers would release him – even if they want him back – to avoid being on the hook for his scheduled $14.9 million pay for the 2017 season.

“The one thing we will do very well with Kap is we’ll communicate,” Lynch said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game. “And I think that’s very important for both sides. Like everything else, that process is well in the works. We’ll continue to do that and we’ll be very up-front with him, in terms of what we’re thinking and we’ll want to know what he’s thinking, as well.”

Lynch said he developed trust and a good rapport with Kaepernick during the time when the 49ers were among the top teams in the NFL. Lynch was a broadcaster for FOX-TV and had occasion to meet with Kaepernick multiple times during production meetings.

“Every time we talk about Kap, I think of the guy who was in the Super Bowl not too (long ago),” Lynch said. “Things happen in guys’ careers. Injuries happen. Different things happen.”

Kaepernick began last season as the backup to Blaine Gabbert. After regaining his starting role in Week 6, Kaepernick put together his best season since 2013 – his first full season as a starter.

Kaepernick completed 59.2 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 90.7, and he added 468 yards rushing.

Lynch said he and coach Kyle Shanahan have been evaluating the players on the 49ers’ roster. The other three quarterbacks on the roster – Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis – are not under contract for next season.

“Like we said we would – and like we told Kap we would – we’re assessing everything,” Lynch said. “Both Kyle and I believe wholeheartedly that position is the most-important position in football.

“From every side of this thing, we’re evaluating. And we’re continuing to watch the film. We’ll continue to work toward that until we have made a decision.”