Mailbag: Why the 49ers' Hill must wait

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Evan from Los Angeles writes: Is Shaun Hill bad? Did he just get lucky? For a team with so many holes, I don't understand why we don't let the first winning QB we've had in ages keep going until he sucks.

Mike Sando: The 49ers wanted to bring back Alex Smith at a reduced rate. They couldn't do that as easily without promising him at least a chance at the starting job. And they couldn't promise him such a chance if they had already endorsed Hill as the starter. I think that explains some of the 49ers' reluctance to endorse Hill.

Also, Hill rarely looks spectacular doing what he does and I think that works against how he is perceived, even though he has a strong starting record. Did the 49ers' style of play have more to do with their success than what Hill brought to the team?

Joe from Davis, Calif., writes: Sando, with the Cardinals' recent re-signing of Kurt Warner and free agent signing of Bryant McFadden, there is a lot of talk around Arizona as this being a team poised to make another championship run. My question is, does it concern you that this was a team who barely made the playoffs last year in the first place? We know that when teams hit their peak at the right time in the season (ie. the playoffs) anything can happen, but getting to that point could be a different story altogether. I guess I am just a little skeptical given the Cardinals' 9-7 record in 2008 and 8-8 record in 2007 as that doesn't appear to warrant championship caliber.
Mike Sando: You and I have an agreement in principle. This is what I mean when I hit on the theme that teams do not just pick up where they left off the previous season.

Once the Cardinals beat Dallas last season, I thought they would win the division and possibly win in the wild-card round. They did that, and then they got hot and exceeded reasonable expectations.

Winning the division is a realistic goal for the Cardinals. If that happens, I like their chances at home in a playoff game. Beyond that? Let's see how they're playing and which team stands in their way.

Jarrod from Sacramento writes: This is from Mike Smith at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Rams general manager Billy Devaney was interviewed after the team released Orlando Pace. Highlights of the conversation: Alex Barron will be moved from right tackle to left tackle immediately. Rams will take a long look at Jacob Bell, last season's starting left guard, as the right tackle. Such a move would open a starting spot at LG for John Greco?

Do you think these moves would work out or are the Rams just saying this as smoke screens for the draft? Barron has the body type for a left tackle (6'7", long arms) and has been a decent blocker, although he is often criticized for his false starts. Bell was hurt most of last year, so it was hard to judge him, but he seems a bit undersized for tackle. If Barron and Bell both click at their new positions during OTAs, do you think the Rams would target LB Aaron Curry with the second pick in the draft?

Mike Sando: I'm having trouble seeing you, Jarrod, and smoke is the leading suspect. I really think the Rams need to identify a starting tackle in the draft. Whether that tackle begins his career on the left or right side is less important. I would be surprised if the Rams went into the season with Barron at left tackle and Bell at right tackle.

Roy from New Bern, N.C., writes: How do the coaches in Seattle feel about the QBs they have right now? If they don't take one in the draft to develop, do they feel Seneca Wallace can lead the team for multiple seasons and does Charlie Frye have anything left to revive the potential he showed as a rookie in Cleveland? Do either of these guys fit into Knapp's needs from the position?

Mike Sando: Frye is a free agent. I do not expect him back. I do not know what Greg Knapp thinks about Wallace's long-term prospects, but I do think the team will draft a quarterback in 2009. That draft choice could become the quarterback Seattle tries to develop for the long range.

Chris from Buckeye, Ariz., writes: With the draft coming up, a lot of people are throwing around the phrase "every down back". I think this is a useless term; what teams use a back on 1st, 2nd, AND 3rd down? For the NFC West, which running back was used on the highest percentage of snaps (not including 4th down punts or FGs, if you have it). My guess is Gore, especially after Singletary came in. I ask because the Cardinals really only need one decent run per set of downs. Say 4 yards. And a back that can catch a flare or wheel. Thanks!

Mike Sando: Love it, Chris. Playing-time numbers would be harder to compare for 2008 given that Steven Jackson and Frank Gore missed games. Also, Seattle and Arizona juggled starters. In talking to scouts, Gore easily played the most snaps among NFC West backs last season, followed by Jackson, Tim Hightower, Julius Jones, Maurice Morris and Edgerrin James. But a more dynamic back would help the Cardinals' offensive line look a lot better.

Kevin from New Jersey writes: Why does it seem every time Scot McCloughan is asked a question about the team he never, ever seems to give a straight answer? He always says something like 'Oh it's not out of the question" or "The door for that is still open".

Personally, I like an executive who's a straight shooter and doesn't beat around the bush. Hey, if you guys aren't intersted in Terrell Owens, just say it, don't beat around the bush and just give the normal 'Man in Charge' answer. The situation about Michael Vick, it'd be a complete PR mess if they actually brought him in or even signed him and McCloughan knows that, yet he couldn't have just dismissed the talk in the very beginning. He says he's all on board with Singletary's philosophy yet whenever he's interviewed he'll talk about thinking about this player when if signed, would completely be away from what Singletary wants. It just seems that McCloughan doesn't know what he wan
ts. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: A couple things here. One, general managers routinely do not show their cards publicly. It's nothing out of the ordinary for a GM to give vague answers on the record. Two, McCloughan might not be in position to speak definitively on behalf of the organization. Jed York is the team president. Mike Singletary has some control over the roster. The team also hasn't had a public-relations director for several weeks, so the message might not be as clearly defined.

Scott from Boise writes: Mike, Wanted to hear any info you had heard regarding Isaac Bruce coming back this year. What are your thoughts on his return chances? Also, do you think the niners have a snowball's chance in getting Torry Holt? ESPN is reporting 9ers are making a play for him right now. This could be that go-to WR we are lacking this season making it easier to grab a pass rush or RT in the draft.

Mike Sando: Bruce is under contract to the 49ers. I would think he'll continue playing. Holt would be a "right-price" signing if it happened, I think. In other words, I wouldn't think the 49ers would invest a great deal in an older receiver. And if I'm Holt, I might look for a team with superior prospects at the quarterback position.

Matthew from Federal Way, Wash., writes: I am a little worried about our [Seattle] coaches' ability to get the job done. I don't know where we ranked, but I seem to remember everyone making big plays against our secondary. Who was responsible for those big plays? And do you think we fixed the problem by changing his responsibilities?

Mike Sando: I think it was the same guy who coached the secondary in 2007. That was the year the Seahawks tightened up their coverage after replacing safeties Michael Boulware and Ken Hamlin with Deon Grant and Brian Russell. What changed in the subsequent year? The offense fell off dramatically and the defense also deteriorated. Mora stayed in his lane both seasons. He was not running the defense. I would withhold judgment on Mora until we see what the Seahawks have in store on defense this coming season.