Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kolbe from Scottsdale writes: Do you think this NFC Championship puts Kurt Warner in the Hall or does he have to win the Super Bowl (again)? Also, has Warner given any hints lately as to whether he still wants to play for another couple years? Do you think he might retire, as some have suggested, and go out in a blaze of glory if the Cardinals somehow win it all?
Lastly, had a 9-7 team ever been to the Super Bowl before? What was the worst regular season record for a team to go to the Super Bowl? and what to win? I know the NFL as a corporation probably likes the story lines of a Cinderella like the Cards but from a business standpoint, do they like having a team that was so mediocre in the regular season and does not represent a big East Coast market representing the league in the Championship?
Mike Sando: Tough to say on Warner. If Arizona loses, one more strong statistical season would certainly help. Warner is one more strong season from having numbers similar to those Steve Young amassed during a Hall of Fame career featuring one Super Bowl title as a starter. If Arizona wins, Warner's resume might not need those stats. That is just my feeling. The process will be slightly more involved than that, of course.
The 1979 Rams went 9-7 during the regular season before advancing to the Super Bowl. I remember it well. Frank Corrall's three field goals provided all the scoring in a 9-0 Rams victory at Tampa in the NFC Championship Game. Those Rams lost to the Steelers, 31-19, in the Super Bowl. I'll pass along something more definitive as I get the information.
Julian from Tempe writes: Mike, longtime reader, but just finally registered on ESPN.com for posting. Huge Cards fan and long time follower. Can't begin to tell you how much the win means for the franchise. It used to be me and my dad's favorite activity to listen to KTAR sports radio talk after cardinal losses back in the day and hear disgruntled fans call in and talk about their drinking (football) problems.
Now it's a total 360! Everyone is buzzing with excitement already for the game (never high fived so many random strangers in my life until after the game outside the stadium). I think we showed we are who we thought we were.
I have one major concern though going into the game with Pittsburgh. I think Francisco is a major MAJOR liability at Free Safety. He always gets to the play way to late and is pretty bad in helping coverages down the field. Was wondering if you had any stats to prove my point or quell my fears? Maybe the numbers won't show it, but I am super worried about Ward/Holmes down field and arriving late to outside runs to make big tackles. Thanks for making the NFC West a respectable column in a year that the NFC wasn't so respectable...
Mike Sando: Thanks, and you're welcome. Antrel Rolle is the starting free safety. Aaron Francisco would factor into the nickel and dime defenses. If he is your biggest concern entering this game, the Cardinals must be in pretty good shape. Arizona should have an outstanding defensive plan for this game based on what the Cardinals' offensive staff knows about the Steelers' personnel, including Ben Roethlisberger.
Colton from Scranton, Pa., writes: Hey Mike, how come there's been little to no interest shown in Todd Haley or Clancy Pendergast for the various head coach vacancies around the NFL? All the attention is on Rex Ryan and Steve Spagnuolo. I just don't get why nobody is interviewing these guys. Haley you would think would garner some attention because of his pedigree and this season's high production level. Pendergast because of his exotic use of schemes, which you would believe would make him desirable as a head coach (meaning he could fit in to any existing scheme and gradually change it.)
Mike Sando: The Cardinals haven't won enough until the playoffs to make their assistant coaches hot candidates. Arizona lost four of its final six regular-season games. That hurt those coaches' standing in the short term. If Arizona posted a 13-3 record during the regular season, more teams probably would have called. That would be one theory. Making it to the Super Bowl should help those coaches command stronger consideration.
Haley's stock is definitely rising. His handling of the play calling has worked out very well for Arizona. His emotional nature is something Haley might want to control better on the sideline. Camera shots of him jawing with key players might not endear him to all owners.
The subject reminds me of what Jim Mora said at his news conference in Seattle last week. Like Haley, Mora is an emotional coach. Mora said he needed to be himself. Haley needs to do the same. But Mora he also said he learned much from watching how Mike Holmgren handled situations. Like Holmgren, Ken Whisenhunt also seems to handle situations well. He projects control and authority on the sideline and when speaking after games. That can be important for a head coach.
Eric from Seattle writes: Mike, I'm a confused Seahawk fan. I don't know who to root for in the Super Bowl! I mean, I suppose I could always get drunker than usual and not really pay attention or care, but I'd rather enjoy the game. I feel somewhat compelled to cheer on the Cardinals (they stunk for years, they deserve it more than the Steelers, etc.).
Also, as a Hawks fan, I find it hard to cheer on the Steelers. But do I really want to take crap from Cardinal fans forever because they did something we couldn't (go to the Super Bowl and beat the Steelers)?
So please, tell me: do I root on the team that beat us in the Super Bowl in 2005 so they can earn their 6th Lombardi Trophy or do I cheer on a hated division rival who's never won the trophy by beating the team we lost to (therefore giving HUGE bragging rights to the Cards) for the sake of NFC west redemption? HELP! Thanks, Eric
Mike Sando: I'll advise you to take the high road. Root for the Cardinals and congratulate their fans when you see them. What can a Cardinals fan say to you after you've congratulated them? The history between the Seahawks and Cardinals isn't strong enough to warrant the sort of animosity that might come naturally between other teams.
Noah from Tucson writes: I can't wait to read your article on Larry Fitzgerald breaking Jerry Rice's record for yardage in the postseason. enjoy the weather in tampa.
Mike Sando: Yes he did. Fitzgerald has gone for 419 yards in the postseason. Rice held the record at 409 yards in one postseason.
Shane from Tempe writes: Hey Mike, I'm a few hours removed at screaming my lungs off at UOP Stadium, but I'm still irritated about that kickoff late in the second quarter. It obviously looked like the ball stayed in bounds and the Cards recovered. Now that you've had a chance to watch the game back (I'm assuming), what are your thoughts?
Mike Sando: I watched the replay repeatedly and can only conclude that referee Walt Anderson and his crew would have liked another chance at that one. The ball never went out of bounds. Officials should have awarded possession to Arizona on that play.
Branden from Scottsdale writes: Mike, Hey g
reat job as always covering this amazing game! Thanks again for stopping by our tailgate and including us in the Cardinals lore ... it was great to meet you and a pleasure talking football with you for a while. Good luck the rest of the year, and enjoy TAMPA!
Mike Sando: Thanks much. I had a great time out in the parking lots before the game. Let me know if you make it to Tampa for the game. Same goes for other Arizona fans. We can get together back there.
Mike from Seattle writes: Sando, In your rapid reaction post you referred to personnel decisions by the Cardinals staff that helped them in offensive schemes, were you inferring the benching of Boldin? Fox coverage at one point showed Boldin in a heated argument with the offensive coordinator.
Last week I questioned you whether the Cards would trade Boldin, I am now convinced in two weeks Boldin will be playing his last game as a Cardinal. Do you have any thoughts or more detailed descriptions of what went on during the course of the game to get Boldin that fired up? Similarly related, I have been saying for awhile to blitz and pressure Warner and he will look his age. Philly did that in the 3rd quarter and dominated Arizona.
Sure enough Warner was on the sidelines and Fitzgerald was not making incredible catches. It seemed after Philly got the lead they stopped pressing on defense and started, perhaps, a more conservative approach, which led to the game winning drive by Arizona. If my stats are correct, Warner went 2 for 6, 20 yds, and 1 sack for -5 yds in the 3rd quarter and carry over drive of the fourth, in the go ahead drive he went 5 for 5, 56 yds, and td pass. I am thinking those stats speak for themselves as far as the qb pressure goes, do you agree? Thanks again Sando. Always appreciated.
Mike Sando: I was talking more about the Cardinals' increased use of two personnel groups. One of those groups -- the one with two backs, two tight ends and one receiver -- left Boldin on the sideline. But my reference to personnel decisions wasn't specific to Boldin.
Fitzgerald's improvement and the Cardinals' team success probably makes it easier for the organization to move on without Boldin, should the team make that decision. But I still think every team is wise to keep its best players, particularly when those players are in their primes.
As for the Eagles' blitzing, I did not chart it, but ESPN Stats & Information produced numbers suggesting Warner had his way no matter how many defenders rushed the passer. I'll take a closer look as time permits.