THIRTY-SIX THOUSAND FEET -- A few thoughts on NFC West happenings from somewhere high above the central United States during the flight home from St. Louis:
The San Francisco 49ers announced Michael Lewis' release two days after the veteran safety did not accompany the team to Atlanta for its Week 4 game. The 49ers were replacing Lewis with rookie second-round choice Taylor Mays. Lewis wasn't happy about it. Mays played well enough to justify the move in the short term. The move was going to be inevitable. Whether or not coach Mike Singletary handled the situation correctly matters, but the situation by itself does not set off alarms. Lewis wasn't going to last more than this season after the team drafted Mays and reduced Lewis' salary.
The Seattle Seahawks planned to re-sign guard Chester Pitts, as coach Pete Carroll suggested. Can Pitts return from microfracture surgery well enough to help the Seahawks for an extended period? That will be tough, but it's not as if Seattle is likely to find another lineman with more potential in the short term. Giving Pitts every chance to get healthy makes sense. Seattle needs all the talent it can get on its line.
Carroll has made turnover avoidance a top priority. Watching Matt Hasselbeck play Sunday made me wonder if the quarterback was taking the message too literally. There were times when Hasselbeck appeared reluctant to make throws. Hasselbeck has said he anticipates a time when the offense is further along and better positioned to play more aggressively. I just wonder how long Carroll will stick with Hasselbeck if the quarterback doesn't make more positive plays to go with the negative ones being avoided. Every coach remains committed to his quarterback until he is not, but how much job security does Hasselbeck really enjoy? "It’s hard for everybody to look at it that way -- the quarterback is such a focal point -- but there were contributing factors and he battled," Carroll told reporters Monday. "We need him to do better. A couple more throws here and there to just get us moving and a couple more third-down conversions and stuff like that and he’s capable of that and he knows that."
Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is projecting calm and good humor coming out of a 41-10 defeat at San Diego. Asked whether he would start Derek Anderson or Max Hall at quarterback, Whisenhunt put off making an announcement and said he wasn't trying to throw off the Cardinals' upcoming opponent. "To be quite honest with you, I really don’t think New Orleans is scared who we play there at quarterback," Whisenhunt said. "I’m trying to do it out of fairness to everybody that's involved and what I think is best for our team." The broader question is whether going into a season with Anderson and Hall as the top two quarterbacks was best for the Cardinals.
Seems like a followup question was in order when 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree had this to say about new coordinator Mike Johnson: "Mike Johnson did his thing. He did what he was supposed to do. He got everybody the ball. Only thing is, Mike Johnson can’t throw the ball. He can just call plays." Crabtree and quarterback Alex Smith haven't built on the rapport they seemed to share last season. This comment seems like a shot at Smith.
The Cardinals' Beanie Wells wasn't going to get many opportunities Sunday because Arizona fell so far behind, but he wants a more prominent role in the game plan. Wells to KTAR radio: "It's crazy. I have no clue what they're thinking upstairs -- I'd like to know." Perhaps he should ask.
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford tossed two third-and-10 touchdown passes against Seattle, pumping up his third-down rating to 93.1 for the season and 146.3 on third-down plays when the team needed between 8-10 yards for a first down.
You are now free to move about the cabin.