NFC West: Stump Mitchell

Recently hired Arizona Cardinals assistants Tom Pratt, 77, and Tom Moore, 74, stand out for their age in a young man's game.

Moore has given assurances that age will not hold him back, particularly after knee replacement surgeries restored his energy. Pratt has explained how focusing on the present makes the distant past less relevant.

The idea that age is only a number works both ways. How else to explain the news that Freddie Kitchens, the Cardinals' quarterbacks coach and one of the team's youngest assistants on staff, required heart surgery Tuesday?

Kitchens, 38, sat up in bed and showed a sense of humor hours after undergoing the surgery for a defective aorta, coach Bruce Arians told reporters Wednesday.

That seems like a positive sign for Kitchens, who was stricken by dizziness during organized team activities Tuesday. It's too early to know a longer-term prognosis. For now, Moore will coach quarterbacks as well.

Moore's status as a long-time NFL offensive coordinator and Arians' background as a quarterbacks coach puts the Cardinals in position to carry on from a coaching standpoint. Supporting Kitchens and his family through a difficult time is the immediate focus, of course.
A few thoughts after the Arizona Cardinals announced Bruce Arians' initial coaching staff for the 2013 season:

  • More resources: Former head coach Ken Whisenhunt had 16 assistants last season, three or four fewer than the NFC West norm. The number wasn't alarmingly low; New England has had the same number at various points. Arians has 20 assistants, counting four holdovers whose names I've bolded in the chart below.
  • OL committee: The Cardinals do not have an offensive line coach by title. With Arians calling offensive plays, coordinator Harold Goodwin will take the lead with the line. Larry Zierlein, the Pittsburgh Steelers' line coach for three seasons ending in 2009, is the assistant O-line coach.
  • Familiar name: Former Cardinals running back and return specialist Stump Mitchell will coach running backs. He spent nearly a decade on Mike Holmgren's staff in Seattle before following Jim Zorn to the Washington Redskins. He was then head coach at Southern University. Mitchell still holds the Cardinals franchise record for all-purpose yards (11,988).
  • Experience rules: Arians is a first-time NFL head coach, but his staff has veteran seasoning. Tom Moore, Tom Pratt, Zierlein, Rick Christophel and Nick Rapone each have more than 30 years of NFL and/or college coaching experience.

The chart compares the Cardinals' final staff under Whisenhunt to their current one under Arians.

Around the NFC West: 49ers' WR options

February, 21, 2012
The San Francisco 49ers signed David Akers, Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner, Jonathan Goodwin and Braylon Edwards as unrestricted free agents from other teams last offseason.

None signed for more than $4.25 million per season.

That track record could remove the 49ers from serious consideration for the big-name wide receivers scheduled to hit the market next month. Those options could be diminishing anyway.

Matt Maiocco of says Kansas City's decision to sign former Oakland Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt could indicate the Chiefs will use the franchise tag on receiver Dwayne Bowe, winnowing down the list of free agents San Francisco might consider this offseason. Maiocco: "Bowe is another significant wide receiver who will probably not be on the open market for the 49ers to explore. And without Bowe available, it might drive up the prices for the other receivers, most notably Vincent Jackson. Also, it could make it more difficult for any team wishing to make a run at restricted free agent Mike Wallace, as his price could be rising, too." Noted: I would not expect the 49ers to sign a high-profile wideout from another team to a lucrative deal. Last offseason, the 49ers bowed out of the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes and came out ahead by signing Rogers to a one-year deal. That course seems likely at receiver as well.

Darren Urban of says Williams' rehab from a broken arm is progressing slowly and steadily, with Williams recently passing the 100-pound mark in the bench press, a weight just about anyone in relatively good health could press without much trouble. Urban: "Williams actually believes his weight has been one of the easiest things to handle since he got hurt that miserable day against the 49ers, when the helmet of teammate Stewart Bradley slammed into his arm, shattering the bone to the point he needed two rods to be inserted. His foray into the bench press has been important, a 'sign of encouragement' for a man who normally benches more than 300 pounds. Right after the surgery, Williams said he was told he could only pick up things like a bottle of water, 'and only the 16-ounce bottle, not the 20-ounce one.' Living everyday life and doing things like getting dressed was difficult."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says former St. Louis Cardinals running back Stump Mitchell interviewed to coach running backs on Jeff Fisher's staff amid questions about whether Mitchell will return as head coach at Southern University. Thomas: "A versatile player, Mitchell was an accomplished receiver, punt returner and kickoff returner, finishing with nearly 11,000 all-purpose yards and scoring 42 touchdowns. He even threw a 15-yard TD pass in 1986. At the conclusion of his playing career, Mitchell was a head coach at the high school and college (Morgan State) levels in the 1990s before joining Mike Holmgren's inaugural staff in Seattle as running backs coach in 1999. He was with the Seahawks for eight seasons then joined Washington's staff as assistant head coach/running backs coach in 2008."

The Associated Press says former Seahawks guard Steve Hutchinson could become a salary-cap casualty for Minnesota as the Vikings implement a youth movement. Hutchinson says he played "great" last season after an injury rehabilitation slowed him in 2010. Hutchinson has one year remaining on the controversial contract he signed with Minnesota after the Seahawks named him their transition player following their 2005 Super Bowl season. Noted: Hutchinson would upgrade Seattle's line if he returned to the Seahawks, but with Robert Gallery under contract and familiar with the team's blocking scheme, the team does not have an immediate need at left guard. Second-year right tackle James Carpenter is a candidate to play there after Seattle re-signed Breno Giacomini amid expectations Giacomini will remain at right tackle.

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle suggests recent comments from Seahawks general manager John Schneider could indicate an unwillingness to draft Ryan Tannehill or another quarterback with the 11th or 12th overall choice. ESPN's Todd McShay had this to say about Tannehill: "He still has a lot to learn in an offense that struggled this year at times and was very inconsistent in terms of the supporting cast, but I think with his athleticism, his arm, his ability to make throws on the run and create after the initial play breaks down, there's a lot of potential there. And certainly if you have time to develop him properly he has a chance to be a really good starter in the NFL."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams receiver Donnie Avery recently clocked 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash, an indication he's nearly recovered from serious knee surgery. Thomas: "That's nearly one-tenth of a second off Avery's personal best in the 40-yard dash -- 4.27 seconds -- but still a sizzling time. Since he's not 100 percent healthy, the NFL lockout actually has been a positive for Avery." Another positive: Avery suffered the injury nine months ago, so he'll be more than one year removed from the injury when the regular season is scheduled to begin.

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis joins Thomas in casting the Rams' continued firings of longtime employees as damaging for morale. Balzer: "At the end of the day, wins and losses will be what really matters to fans. But sometimes there's more to it than that. As Thomas explained, there is an iciness in the air, a cold feeling at Rams Park that is only exacerbated by the lockout. Good feelings seem like a distant memory."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee puts into perspective the 49ers' participation level in player-organized workouts. Barrows on the 49ers: "A group of 12-15 players, mostly those who live in the San Jose area, have been working out together. The sessions have focused mainly on conditioning, although quarterback Alex Smith has worked with a handful of receivers on pass routes from the team's new playbook. Offensive lineman Joe Staley and defensive lineman Justin Smith have been the main organizers."

Matt Maiocco of revisits 49ers assistant coaches' contract situations after the NFL Coaches Association spoke out on the lockout. Maiocco: "49ers assistant coaches had it written into their contracts that 20 percent of their salaries would be withheld immediately if there were a work stoppage. The lockout has been in effect since March 12. In August, if there is still a lockout, an additional 20 percent -- or 40 percent total -- will be withheld from the salaries of 49ers assistants." Coaches would get the money back if there is a full regular season.

Taylor Price of checks in with the team's new preseason color commentator, Tim Ryan. Ryan played with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh when both were with the Bears.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat speaks with former Texans tight end Billy Miller, a former wide receiver, regarding 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Miller: "Greg obviously taught me so many things because I’d never played tight end, but I think the biggest thing he did was make me comfortable. Greg allowed me to do things in a progression … There was a lot of compromise between Greg and me. And that compromise allowed me to become the player I became."

Clare Farnsworth of lists Fredd Young and Julian Peterson as the only players in team history to achieve Pro Bowl status every year they were with the organization.

Also from Farnsworth: Young and fellow linebacker Rufus Porter earn spots on Seattle's 35th anniversary team. Farnsworth: "Each made the team as four linebackers were included because the Seahawks played a 3-4 front from 1983-89 and have been using a 4-3 since 1990, as they did from 1979-82. Porter also was the overwhelming choice as the special teams player with 1,251 votes -- 840 more than Young, the runner-up. Porter is the only player voted to two spots on the reader-selected team."

Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean says Seahawks receiver Golden Tate recently trained with members of the Titans.

Darren Urban of says Stump Mitchell and Frank Sanders were among the former Cardinals players participating in an alumni-sponsored kids camp at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Marty Callinan of ESPN Stats & Information questions whether Kevin Kolb would fit the Cardinals' offense based on struggles against some of the defensive personnel groupings Arizona faced frequently last season. The sample size is small, however, and the Cardinals faced those groupings in part because they trailed so frequently. The team has subsequently used early draft choices for a running back and a tight end. Might the Cardinals plan on emphasizing the run a little more?
Matt Maiocco of says Vernon Davis' low-keyed approach toward his contract situation is refreshing and one reason the 49ers are taking him to London as a representative of the organization. Davis has always worked hard. He just needed to become more consistent in his demeanor and in his catching. Maiocco: "In 2007, then-offensive coordinator Jim Hostler did one thing well: He made it a priority to get the ball into Davis' hands. The 49ers' passing game was horrendous that season. The team's combined passer rating was an abysmal 64.3. Davis caught 52 passes. Sure, he had a few drops along the way. But 52 receptions from a second-year tight end on a team that struggled to complete a pass was quite an accomplishment. The next season, Mike Martz came in with a different approach. Because seven-step drops were such a large portion of his approach, Martz kept Davis in as a blocker in a lot of passing situations. There were games in which he was involved in the pass route fewer than 50 percent of the time. As a result, Davis was targeted for fewer passing attempts than he caught the previous season under Hostler. How did Davis react? He did not complain publicly."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Davis has become a face of the franchise. Barrows: "Davis, it seems, has become the 49ers' go-to player not only when they need a touchdown on the field but when they need to sell the team and the league off of it. And why not? He's confidant (just ask him), he's good-looking (just ask him), he's eager to please and he has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy. Patrick Willis may have received a whopping contract extension through 2016 that makes him the face of the franchise this offseason. But it's Davis, whose contract expires after the 2010 season, who has been showing his face around the globe this year. He's not only an offensive MVP, he's a PR MVP."

Taylor Price of says Tom Rathman and Joe Staley are among those offering expertise to youth football campers.

Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News updates the 49ers' efforts to build a new stadium in Santa Clara.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along a chat transcript featuring these thoughts on whether Seattle overpaid for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst: "Actually, this particular dead horse called me personally last week to request -- politely of course -- that the beatings stop. I can understand your point, Chuck, and particularly when you compare it to what Philadelphia got McNabb, I certainly agree that there's a compelling case to be made the Seahawks overpaid. But the package didn't come out of left field, either. It was similar to the packages that Green Bay got in trading backups who were seen as potential starters. Guys like Mark Brunell, Aaron Brooks and this Hasselbeck character, too. Ultimately, the measure of whether it was worth it is Whitehurst's performance on the field. Is he capable of being an NFL starting quarterback? If the answer turns out to be no, then, yes, Seattle gave up too much."

Clare Farnsworth of profiles special-teams coach Brian Schneider. Farnsworth: "No matter what positions he coached, Schneider always has been involved with special teams. It happened at USC last season. It has happened again with the Seahawks. It's a strange twist for the former linebacker from Pomona High School in Arvada, Colo., and Colorado State, because he had not played special teams since his freshman year in college."

John Morgan of Field Gulls says the Seahawks' interest in 3-4 defensive personnel comes amid great demand for such players across the league, making it harder to find good ones. Also from Morgan: "Long story short, I think Seattle will allow a lot of passing yards. If the formula works, Seattle will counter that weakness with a strong run defense and a rapacious secondary. The linebackers will neutralize the underneath passing game and the safeties will keep big plays in check. The Seahawks will attempt a bend but don't break defense, and this time next year, have hopefully reloaded at pass rusher."

John Hageman of the Minnesota Daily reports from Larry Fitzgerald's camp through the eyes of former University of Minnesota receiver Eric Decker. Hageman: "The camp is modeled on Cris Carter’s FAST program, which was co-founded by Fitzgerald’s trainer Bill Welle and has been held on the Minnesota campus for two years. In addition to the immense amount of conditioning involved in the camp, Decker said he has been learning some of the technical aspects of being a receiver."

Darren Urban of provides a link to download the Cardinals' 2010 media guide.

Also from Urban: Four Cardinals players were born the year the team moved to Arizona from St. Louis. John Skelton, A.J. Jefferson, Andre Roberts and Beanie Wells couldn't tell Roy Green from Neil Lomax. Urban: "The Cardinals have been around since 1898 and are charter members of the NFL that emerged 22 years later. But these days, for these four players, the history is a little more shallow than that. For Wells, his first thoughts of the franchise are Emmitt Smith’s arrival in 2003. Same with Skelton, who grew up in New Mexico, where the Cardinals are geographically the closest team but where everyone was a Cowboys’ fan. Lomax? No. Roy Green? Nah. Roberts does know about former Cardinals’ running back Stump Mitchell, but even that is sort of cheating -- Roberts attended The Citadel, from where Mitchell is the highest-profile NFL product."

Jeff Gordon of offers a chat transcript featuring some Rams-related thoughts. Gordon: "Chris Long made nice strides last season, but I believe the Rams could really maximize his production by moving him around with different looks up front this year. Perhaps they can find a pure speed rusher in the pile of DE prospects they are bringing to camp."

Turf Show Times' VanRam provides a transcript from an interview with Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford: "I feel very good with where I'm at right now. I feel like I made a lot of progress during OTAs and minicamp. I feel like I've become a lot more comfortable in the huddle calling plays from the line of scrimmage, going through my reads. But I think it's just like anything else -- the more you do it, the more comfortable you become. I expect that as training camp comes, and as we get into two-a-days, the more reps I get, the more comfortable I'll become. So I look forward to getting to training camp and getting those reps."

From Khan to Whisenhunt and beyond

February, 13, 2010
Quick thoughts on recent events affecting the NFC West:
  • Cardinals secondary coach Teryl Austin, the new defensive coordinator at Florida, is the latest NFL assistant to seek career advancement in the college ranks. Nolan Cromwell left the Seahawks as receivers coach following the 2007 season to become offensive coordinator under Mike Sherman at Texas A&M, only to return to the NFL as a receivers coach with the Rams this week. Another former Seahawks assistant, longtime running backs coach Stump Mitchell, who spent the last two seasons with the Redskins, recently became head coach at Southern University. Coaching receivers and running backs rarely leads to becoming an NFL coordinator or head coach, a source of frustration for coaches hoping to advance through the ranks. The Cardinals had interviewed Austin as a potential defensive coordinator last offseason, but they hired Bill Davis instead.
  • The Dolphins' bungling of Joey Porter's release showed the value of a competent salary-cap manager. The Dolphins recently lost cap administrator Bryan Wiedmeier to Mike Holmgren's Browns. If the 49ers or Cardinals have interest in Porter, they now know for sure that Porter will be available. The Dolphins could clear cap space in the short term, allowing them to release Porter soon, or they could wait until the new league year begins March 5, at which point the salary cap will disappear.
  • Prospective Rams owner Shahid Khan has an interesting story, as outlined by Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Among my favorite revelations: "In a speech in 2000, Khan said his secret to success was heeding the lessons of ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tze, whose book 'The Art of War' gave advice on how underdogs can win against more powerful adversaries." I want to know more about Khan.
  • This looks like a good time for Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt to secure a contract extension. The team will have a tougher time replicating its recent success now that Kurt Warner has retired, no matter how skilled Whisenhunt might be as a head coach (and there's a lot to like about his approach to personnel matters and game management). Whisenhunt could do a better job in 2010 and still have a hard time matching the 9-7 and 10-6 records of the past two seasons. Might as well get that extension now instead of after finishing, say, 8-8 or worse with Matt Leinart under center.

Enjoy your weekend.