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Thursday, January 1, 2009
Mailbag: In defense of Cardinals fans

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Paul from Phoenix writes: Sando, I think you need to give the AZ fans another 5 years to build a loyal ticket buying fan base and I want to emphasis that there is a difference between a loyal ticket buying fan base and a plain old fan base.

I am 25 years old and probably at the old edge of Arizona natives who grew up with the Cardinals in the Phoenix area. Anyone much older than me probably had time to develop a fondness for another team outside of the state, and the Cardinals haven't been good enough over the last 20 years to steal any fans from other teams.

Anyone younger is probably feeling the economic crunch just as bad as I am. (25 year olds as a rule do not have a lot of money to spend on playoff tickets.) I am a loyal Cardinal fan and I hope to make it to the game but I can understand how anyone in my position or in even a slightly tougher economic spot would be smart to cut a luxury item (I don't care how much of a bargain everyone says Cardinal tickets are) out of the budget.

Give me 5-7 years to start earning a salary worthy of season and playoff tickets and Ill be there every week. Right now Im going to focus on buying Christmas presents and meeting essential needs for my family while I watch the games on tv with my jersey on.

When the Arizona-native Cardinal fans like me hit their 30s and 40s, you can start looking for a serious increase in ticket buying diehard fans. Ill probably even bring my son and start a whole new generation of Redbirds.

Mike Sando: That makes a lot of sense. The Cardinals moved to Arizona for the 1988 season. You were roughly 5 years old at that time. Anyone even 5 years older than you would have had time to develop an allegiance to another team. And with the Cardinals struggling so profoundly, Arizona natives had little reason to latch on. The area also features quite a few transplanted residents who developed allegiances elsewhere.

I was 25 years old when the Raiders moved back to Oakland. I had grown up in Northern California. I naively bought into the initial hype predicting long waiting lists if fans didn't act quickly to purchase tickets. I could not afford two tickets. I could not really afford one ticket, but my former neighbor and I each purchased one ticket costing about $50 per game to sit near the front of the third deck. I watched a lot of bad football from that seat.


Mark from Olympia writes: Since the NFC West is basically just watching for the draft now...what positions are each of the teams looking for in the upcoming draft and what players could you see fulfilling those places?

Mike Sando: I'm heading to Phoenix on Friday for some football, so we're not quite in draft mode all the way, but the positional needs seem pretty well established. I wouldn't guess on specific players yet given that we don't even have a coaching staff in St. Louis, we're still expecting staff changes in Seattle and San Francisco, and the combine is still weeks away.

If draft needs match available talent, I would give the Rams a franchise offensive lineman second overall. The Seahawks would get a pass-rusher fourth overall. The 49ers would get a right tackle or defensive player at just about any position. The Cardinals would find a starter for their offensive line or possibly a linebacker to give them flexibility should Karlos Dansby leave in free agency.


Jared from Bend, Ore., writes: Sando, wouldn't Al Saunders be a logical new OC in SF? Of course I'm assuming he wouldn't be retained by St. Louis, but he's a Coryell disciple (like Turner) and plays a similar system. He also has Bay Area ties with San Jose State and Stanford. Do you think he will become available and if so, do you think he would be a fit in SF?

Mike Sando: Good idea. Also, Saunders would know the NFC West quite well. I'm not sure what will happen to Saunders in St. Louis, but that might be a pretty good fit if he became available. He is an established coach, too.


Jeremy from Portales, N.M., writes: Sando, Has there been any word on Staff changes for the Seahawks? I figured Mora jr would bring in his own people as soon as possible. Thanks

Mike Sando: Nothing yet. Mike Holmgren is still in the building this week. I'm thinking we'll see more movement once the dust settles a little bit.


Doug from Garden State writes: Hey Sando great job this season with the blog. Quick question I was wondering if you know who is on the list of potential OC for my niners and if Singletary plans to hire a WCO guy?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Doug. My understanding is that the 49ers have a list, and that Scott Linehan's name is on that list, but that doesn't necessarily make him a favorite. I know of no preference for a West Coast offense guy.


Chad from Oshkosh writes: Sando, Do you think there is any regret that the Niners pulled the trigger so quick on Singletary now that Shanahan is available? Let me go on the record as saying I have no problem with hiring Singletary after the way the team rallied around him and I thought those that poo-pooed the decision as having been made too quickly were just complaining to hear themselves talk.

However, now that Shanahan is on the market I can't help but wonder if the team wouldn't have been better served to wait and at least interview Shanahan. Perhaps he wouldn't have been interested, but he has ties to the bay area and has a history of success. Plus it may have brought some consistancy to the offense which has been lacking.

Mike Sando: I think moving so quickly on Singletary left the 49ers vulnerable to criticism on the matter, and that the criticism is founded even if Shanahan wouldn't have taken the job. The organization could have scheduled a meeting with Singletary for Monday or Tuesday with full intentions of naming him the head coach at that time. I see no tactical advantage in naming Singletary the coach minutes after the final regular-season game. He wasn't going to take a job elsewhere in the first 48 hours after the final game.

On the other hand, if Singletary was going to be their choice no matter what, then nothing was lost by hiring him at that time.


Mpier from Tucson writes: At the Cardinals and Seahawks game on the last face-masking penalty of the game, I believe it was the Seahawks last scoring drive, it appeared that the runner grabbed his own faskmask on the replay. There was a facemask penality called a couple of plays prior and it appeared legitimate, but on this play it looked like a good open field tackle. When they showed it on the jumbotron they stadium booed so I thought the saw it too. I have not seen any replays of this so I am wondering if I really saw what I thought I saw.

Mike Sando: You saw it the way others saw it. A league official in the press box wondered if the runner had been suggesting a facemask occurred earlier in the play, but the referee specifically said the facemask occurred at the end of the run.


Matt from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Sando, You seem like a great numbers/breakdown kind of guy. Would you be a good fit for a advance scout for an NFL team? Assume your family was cool with everything and had no impact on your decision, would you take a scouting job with an NFL team? Would the team interested in hiring you sway your decision? If not a scout, do you think there is a position with a team that would better suit your skillset?

Mike Sando: I don't know football well enough to do that sort of job well. I would have loved that sort of job in my 20s but, as noted, I would not have been qualified, then or now. I do enjoy the analysis stuff, and so
me NFL people I know humor me by looking at it, but that's as far as it goes.