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Friday, January 23, 2009
Mailbag: QBs key to Super Bowl hangovers

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Mike from Seattle writes: Sando, I have one topic for the upcoming bye (that is not needed) football weekend. Super Bowl hangovers. Here are the stats from 2000-present:

As you very well know, only one team, our beloved Seahawks, managed to salvage a season after the super bowl run. What is it about losing the super bowl that makes it so difficult to rebound next year? Do you see one of these two teams being affected in that way if they lose next weekend? Has there been any effect of assistant coaches leaving to go elsewhere that has fallen under the radar of those stats? Thanks again, Mike

Mike Sando: Quarterback issues link most of those teams.

Kurt Warner's injury situation affected the 2002 Rams. He struggled early and then suffered a broken finger.

The 2003 Raiders began their demise when center Barrett Robbins went AWOL at the Super Bowl. Rich Gannon wasn't the same in 2003, and he lasted only seven games before an injury ended his season.

Donovan McNabb's injuries hurt the Eagles after a fast start in 2005.

The Bears' Rex Grossman struggled early in the 2007 season, leading to his benching. He had been hot-and-cold during the Bears' Super Bowl season.

And then we all know what happened to Tom Brady in 2008.

The Cardinals could be vulnerable to similar forces depending on what happens with Warner. Warner's age and contract status raise questions about his future beyond this season.


Rob from Allentown, Pa., writes: Mike, keep up the great work, you are my number one source for Cardinals material online. Now, not only was i able to fly out to Phoenix for the NFC Championship game (can't even begin to describe what an amazing experience it was), but my brother (another lifelong Cardinals fan) and I are going to be in Tampa for Super Bowl 43 to see our Cardinals in the big game!

This season has gone so far above and beyond my expectations, and here we are a little over a week to go before the biggest sporting event in our team's history!! Tell me Mike, Does it get any better than this for Cardinals fans?!?!?!?!? I honestly believe we can win this game, and I can't wait to be there in person to see history!!!

Mike Sando: It only gets better if your team wins the game. Arizona's defense might have to win this game, and I think that is possible. The Cardinals are going to hear about the Steelers' defense every hour of every day next week. This will get old for the Cardinals' defensive players.


Brandon from Bellevue, Wash., writes: After reading the article that you linked by John Morgan of Field Gulls which stated how Seneca Wallace was playing above himself instead of "turning the corner," I was wondering about the plays that Holmgren were calling. It seems that Morgan points out a lot of good points but he is also missing a key one. He doesn't give data on the type of play calls.

While Seneca did really well during the second half of the season it seems to me that Holmgren wasn't asking a lot of him. Dinks and dunks for the most part. I was curious if this was true and if a large reason for Seneca's good numbers were because he only had to worry about getting the ball 5-15 yards down the field?

Mike Sando: Scaling back the offense for a backup -- even a backup at position other than quarterback -- is indeed classic Holmgren. He would regularly talk about "playing the game a certain way" in light of an injury and/or unfavorable matchup. I don't think that necessarily diminishes the analysis of Wallace. We all know Wallace is a backup. He played well for a backup. The Seahawks are not considering him as a long-term starter.


Edwin from Ft. Lauderdale writes: I am an east coast Niners fan and i was wondering if the niners are going to do anything to shore up the QB situation for this season. Do they have anything in the works that you may have heard. I mean Shaun Hill did a very nice job leading the second half surge but i don't see him leading the Niners back to where they belong, atop the NFL. Thanks alot. Ed

Mike Sando: The options will be limited. Teams generally do not let good quarterbacks leave their roster. I see the 49ers considering one in the draft and possibly picking up a veteran stopgap. Also, what kind of quarterback is going to target the 49ers? Mike Singletary has said he wants to run the ball and then run it some more.


Mike from Las Vegas writes: How does this Super Bowl Cardinals team compare to the Greatest Show on Turf. I mean, same QB, 2 superstar receivers, a not-so-awesome D. All that is missing is the superstar RB. I mean, imagine if the Cards had Adrian Peterson. This team would be just as good, or even better.

Mike Sando: Quite a few analyses have called Marshall Faulk the key player in that Rams offense. He essentially gave the Rams another wide receiver, almost like having two personnel groups on the field at one time. That Rams team also had Orlando Pace in his prime, which helps.


Mark from Parsippany, N.J., writes: Mike, I love reading the blog each day; by far the best one on ESPN. I've always lived in North Jersey and have been a Cardinals fan since they were in St. Louis. I've taken a ton of heat from my friends over the years (mainly Giants fans) as you can imagine, so this year has just been fantastic.

Anyway, while the team continues to get no respect from the national media, it seems that the Cardinals have been the most balanced team in these playoffs with the offense being exceptional. Because of that, I just don't see the explosive offense that they've displayed being shut down by a Steelers defense that's on par with the Eagles, and maybe a smidge better. Curious to know if you see it the same way. Keep up the good work.

Mike Sando: Thanks for the support. I've tried to have one of the top eight NFL blogs on the site, so glad to see that goal remains realistic.

I'll admit, I've made the mistake of overestimating the Cardinals' opponents during the playoffs. As you probably know, I watch every game involving each NFC West team. I do not watch every game across the league, however, and so I'm not as familiar with some of these other teams. The Panthers were not who I thought they were.

I tend to agree with your premise. When the stakes have been high for Arizona, the team has scored points. I question whether the Steelers will score more than 20 points. And while I think the Steelers' defense is good enough to hold any offense under that total, the Cardinals are very capable offensively. Kurt Warner's ability to get rid of the football differentiates the Cardinals from other offenses, and it gives the Cardinals a chance to win this game.


Michael from Dubuque writes: Hello Mike. Haven't seen much of the Cardinals this year and was wondering how good their RBs are at blitz pickups? The Steelers got some good pressure on Flacco but the Ravens RBs picked up a lot of blitzes. Thank you.

Mike Sando: Ken Whisenhunt has praised the Cardinals' running backs in those situations. He would know, but I know scouts for other teams who think the Cardinals' backs are just OK in this area. I've seen plays where the running back's pass blocking facilitated touchdown passes. I've also seen occasional lapses put Warner in harm's way. I would say the Cardinals are pretty good in this area but they will not be air tight.


Ryan from parts unknown writes: Sando, today in the draft blog for the Hawks we are discussing the possibility of different FA acquisitions and the price of the #4 pick.

After taking the full hit for Alexander last year, what is our cap room? How much of that cap space must be saved for the #4 pick and the rest of the drafted players? Should we go after some big name players with the possibility of an uncapped year in 2010? Lastly, if an uncapped league actually happens in 2010, can you talk to Paul Allen about turning the Hawks into the Cowboys of the uncapped 90?s? Thanks, and keep up the awesome work!!! Ryan

Mike Sando: The fourth pick's contract could count as little as $3 million against the cap in 2009. That's not much. Seattle's cap room is impossible to predict without knowing how the team will approach Leroy Hill's situation, for starters.

The Seahawks will not be one of these teams with $20 million in cap room, though. I think the Seahawks will have enough to make a couple moves in free agency, but there won't be many players worth top dollar.

As for those Cowboys, how many playoff games have they won in the last 4,409 days?


Oz from Ft. Lauderdale writes: Sando - what are you hearing right now about Haley to KC? In an article on azcardinals he mentioned that "he's not going anywhere" but what else is he going say. He did turn down the interview for the Phins job last year too, though. I believe that was a HC interview as well. I really don't want him to leave as I want him to work with Matt Leinart (who i consider the future and the potential starter next year should warner hang em up - which I have a feeling he will if they win) for at least a year. But there will be a lot of good candidates next year too so he should strike while the iron is hot. Any inside info?

Mike Sando: I've got zero additional evidence of the Chiefs pursuing Haley. We can connect the dots -- Haley and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli have Bill Parcells in common -- but that's all we have.


Andrew from New York writes: Sando, I have a random Cardinals question but I'm hoping you can cut me some slack as a reader of your blog all year long and a Cardinals fan since the inaugural season (I was born and raised in Scottsdale and we did Sun Devil Stadium season tix for 10 years).

I want to pull the trigger on buying a Steve Breaston jersey this week but don't want to be like that guy I saw at the NFC Championship game who was sporting a Hightower jersey and now looks like a fool. I understand Steve is locked in for at least the 2009 season and then is a restricted free agent in 2010, is that correct? So he's essentially a Cardinal for at least one season? Do you have any thoughts on his longevity in AZ, especially given the 'Quan situation? THANK YOU and keep up the great coverage!

Mike Sando: Thanks, Andrew. I think you need to reevaluate your jersey selection ethics here. Jersey selection is serious business. You should not let others' perceptions influence you to such a degree. I would recommend choosing a jersey based on an exacting list of criteria -- whatever it is you like and value in a player. Once a player meets that criteria, you stick with him even if his role diminishes. The statement you're making by wearing a player's jersey transcends playing time. Am I out of date on this one?


Terry from Seattle writes: Mike, what's the likelihood the 'Hawks speak to Boldin ? He may be unhappy with his contract, and we could use a good receiver.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals own Boldin's rights for the next two seasons, so they'll control who speaks with him. Seattle would be tampering if the team initiated discussions with him otherwise.


Mr. Zero from Alameda writes: Sando, is there a rule in place that would have prevented the 49ers to interview Linehan before the season ended even though he was no longer employed by a team?

Mike Sando: I don't think so. I figured the 49ers would have had something worked out in advance.


Drew from Fife writes: Sando-Just reading your mailbag article in which you commented you do not think the Cards are the worst team in SB history. I'm not trying to take away from what they are doing now or the talent they have (Fitz is the best reciever the game has seen in a long while).

However, I do believe they are the worst regular-season team to make it. They only made the playoffs thanks to a 6-0 record against a division with no other team above .500. They were 3-7 in those other games. If this were college, they would not be in the Title game, that's for sure.

That being said, I do not wanna see the Steelers get to 6 before my 49ers ... so GO CARDS!!!

Mike Sando: Losing four of the final six does open the Cardinals to criticism as the worst regular-season team in Super Bowl history, but they have been impressive enough in the postseason to deserve our respect.

And I certainly disagree with the idea that the Cardinals were the worst playoff team in league history. Drawing only from my own first-hand experience, I would take these regular-season Cardinals over the 1999 Seahawks, who went from 8-2 to 9-7 and lost to a weak Dolphins team at home in the first round. The Dolphins then lost 62-7 at Jacksonville in the divisional round. Dan Marino finished that regular season with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

We can often benefit from taking a long-range view on these things. I would take that approach in evaluating Larry Fitzgerald as well. He's having a great postseason, but to proclaim him
the best receiver the NFL has seen in a long while? One of them, for sure. But I seem to recall Randy Moss putting up some decent numbers way back in 2007. Andre Johnson might fare halfway decently in the Cardinals' offense. And so on.