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Friday, February 6, 2009
Mailbag: Gore and a two-back offense

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kevin from New Jersey writes: Do you think heading into next season the 49ers will want to feature a dual-RB system? I know that other teams have used it and have been quite successful with it (Panthers, Giants, etc.) but what do you think about that type of running in San Francisco?

For me, I wouldn't like to see Gore sharing carries. I know Gore wants his 25 carries a game, I know Gore wants to carry this team on his back. I think he's definitely capable of putting up the same number of carries as Clinton Portis and Adrian Peterson so I would really hate to see the 49ers implement a dual-RB system. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: I wouldn't want to significantly limit Gore, either. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was coaching the Jets' running backs from 2006 through 2008. Thomas Jones carried 290 times during the 2008 season. Leon Washington carried 76 times. Jones carried 310 times in 2007. Washington had 71 carries. The Jets did have running back by committee in 2006, before they signed Jones.

Gore shouldn't get 25 carries per game, but he should get the vast majority of carries for the 49ers unless the team adds another dynamic back. Gore can do everything, including break longer runs. Keeping him on the field across situations doesn't make the 49ers vulnerable, either. They could save some wear on him by using another back in short-yardage situations, but Gore needs to get the ball frequently.

No one asked Raye about a two-back system when Raye conducted a conference call with reporters covering the 49ers. The assumption has been the Gore will remain the focal point of the running game. I expect that to remain the case unless the team's personnel changes.


Ryan from Denton writes: Hey Mike, I'm writing because I would really appreciate your input on a draft situation I was thinking about for the Rams. Do you think it would be a wise idea for the Rams to go after George Selvie sometime around the 3rd - 4th round if he lasts that long? I was thinking about this because the games the Chris Long excelled the most was when Leonard Little got injured and he had to move over and play his position, this was also his natural position at Virginia and I believe that if you were able to move Long over and put Selvie opposite Long, in his natural place at USF, then you would have a pretty aggressive pass rushing unit? Again, I would appreciate it if you could tell me if I have something here or if I'm just delusional, thanks.

Mike Sando: I'm intrigued. I did watch every Rams game this season but I did not chart Long's production based on what side he lined up on. That is something for me to look into at the combine. Remind me which games he lined up on the left side and I'll take a look at them as time permits.


Terry from Seattle writes: Hey Mike, some random things : Why do NFL players who make multiple millions not shell out cab money after having a few beers. I don't get that. It is mind boggling to me that players don't just get a cab ride which is probably under $ 50 in the first place. There seem to be so many DWIs nowadays.

Next, why do some (more than you think) alleged "fans" at 'Hawk games not cheer loudly or make some noise. At least SOME time in the game I mean.I have seen people near me who won't get up and won't ever make noise and help our team out. If you want to sit and be quiet, why did you come, couldn't you have stayed at home, and had that stadium seat occupied by someone who wants to "bring the noise". It seems if you don't wanna be loud, go to a sports bar or stay home. But don't fill a home 'Hawks seat with silence.

Next, do you foresee any change(s) anytime soon coming as to "regular" fans being able to buy individual home game tickets any easier ?It is so frustrating that ticket brokerage companies have near all the tickets with ten minutes of them being on sale. People buy season tickets and then don't even go to games, they sell them online. It is maddening. Thanks in advance and GO 'HAWKS 2009 !!!

Mike Sando: You're right. NFL players should be able to afford cab fare. I suspect a lot of us (not just football players) enjoy the freedom and independence our vehicles provide and represent. NFL team parking lots are filled with customized vehicles. A lot of these guys like their cars. They spend lots of money on their cars. They want to drive their cars. Sometimes they drive them when they should not. However, if each roster features 53 players, how many of those will turn up in the drunken-driving reports during a given season? Not many.

As for fans and cheering, Qwest Field is one of the loudest stadiums around. I have a hard time thinking the stands are populated by large numbers of wallflowers. Perhaps you could politely implore those around you to get with it.

On the ticket front, money and determination will rule the day there. I'm not sure I see relief for you on that one.


Kevin from Claremont, Calif., writes: Hey Mike, Now that I feel like I've given myself ample time to cool down from the Super Bowl, I figured I'd try to explain how much this game meant to some of us.

I was born in 1987 and was basically raised to cheer for all of the home teams. This makes me a rarity -- a life-long Cardinals fan. As I grew up, the Cardinals still didn't have a particularly strong fan base. I would walk around with my Kyle Vanden Bosch jersey (which I still wear to this very day) and people would ask me how I could support the Cardinals. It was a really easy answer for me, since they were my home team.

At some point about 3-4 years before the new stadium opened, we picked up season tickets in the upper deck in the visitor's side, which meant we endured, in addition to the 130-140 degree bleachers, all the opposing fans that ever came to visit. But it was still pretty much the only father/son bonding activity my father and I had, which made it pretty special to me. Every year we'd find ways to get optimistic about the new season.

About four years ago, I went off to college, so I stopped going to all the games, but I managed to go to a few of them on breaks. This included the travesty that was the MNF game against the Bears, and the home loss to the 49ers last season. I got back home the day of the Patriots game this year, so I managed to make Week 17 and the playoff games after. We had had a really rough semester (as I'm sure many people did given the economic collapse), and so my dad had seemed super stressed. I'm not sure I had seen him happier in the last six months than when we saw the Cardinals beat the Falcons, except for after the Eagles game. I know it's just sports, but what that team did seemed like it elevated the mood of not just our family, but the whole town.

The morning before the NFC Championship game, you saw Cardinals jerseys wherever you went, when before I'm pretty sure I was the only person in the city I ever saw wearing one. It was just amazing for the whole city. Even though they ended up losing, they put on a memorable performance that Cardinals fans will never forget.

Anyway, I know that was rambling and incoherent at points, but it was just nice to see how unbelievably rewarding this year was for those of us who have been Cardinals fans for a very long time. Thanks for the excellent work on the blog, Mike. I'll be following it daily as always. -Kevin/Needs More Alaszun

Mike Sando: Thanks very much for sharing that, Kevin. I don't minimize the emotional impact sporting events can have. When Larry Fitzgerald scored that touchdown to take the lead, I knew the significance that play would carry for fans. It doesn't make a lot of sense and it's difficult t
o explain, but if you've ever been a fan, you just know.


Paul from Toronto writes: Mike, Why isn't anyone talking about James Harrison's unsportsmanlike conduct during the game? Has he been fined for his actions? His interception/run back was amazing but let's not forget the rest. The announcer suggested he be thrown out of the game immediately. I'd love to hear your feedback. Paul

Mike Sando: Yeah, I thought they could have ejected him based on his actions, but officials are not going to eject a star player from a Super Bowl without being absolutely sure about it. At first, I thought Harrison punched Aaron Francisco with a closed fist. I do not believe that was the case, however.


Speedwolf from Tucson writes: You know doing a bit more research into the "Holmes having both feet in" subject, there are a good amount of websites from both camps, so I guess it's a fairly moot point. Good job on the blog anyways, I'm looking forward to your combine coverage.

Mike Sando: Thanks. I never questioned whether Holmes got both feet inbounds. I thought it was fairly clear that he did, and I never saw anything that made me think there would be enough evidence to challenge the ruling or reverse it.


Speedwolf from Tucson writes: Sando, I'm sure you have been bombarded with garbage like this recently, but have you happened to come across a growing number of websites that show supposed picture proof that Santonio Holmes did NOT have both feet in? The following link might not be the best example but it was one of the first sites that popped up in a google search. Take a look and let us know what you think. -john

Mike Sando: Thanks. I wonder if technology will take us to a point of certainty on these rulings. Will we be able to tell when a cleat grazes one blade of grass? What if that blade's roots were out of bounds, but a breeze had blown the blade itself inbounds?

Perhaps we could introduce DNA evidence to the replay process. We could have retired detectives in the booth as consultants on when to challenge. We could have leading DNA scientists providing testimony to the referee as to whether the player's foot disturbed the turf in a matter consistent with a reception.


Kory from San Mateo writes: Mike, if history continues, Super Bowl losers don't make the playoffs the next season. It looked sure that the Pats would end that streak this season, but then we all know what happened with Brady. So who's your early, 2009 season prediction, NFC West winner?

Mike Sando: Super Bowl losers from the NFC West do make the playoffs, though. At least the Seahawks did, and they did it partly because they played in a weaker division. Someone has to win the NFC West each season, and the Cardinals would seem to have a pretty good chance. The 49ers can make a run if they get consistent play from the quarterback. A healthier Seattle team would challenge. The Rams? Let's see how their offensive line looks.


Travis from parts unknown writes: Mike lets talk defense, Julius Peppers wants out, Albert Haynesworth is a superior force, and it is clear that Jeff Fisher wants leaders in that locker room, and he wants to shut down opposing offenses, let's start the rumor mill going...lol...

Say Tennessee re-signs Haynesworth and gets Peppers on a recession discount, so to speak. At this point, peppers is looking for a super bowl ring and I think Tennessee is looking for an anchor on the left side of that defensive line? What do you think? could it happen?

Mike Sando: That hasn't been Mike Reinfeldt's approach to free agency, so I would consider it unlikely.


Ron from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, writes: Good try Sando. Maybe you should get over Super Bowl XL. Unlike your weak Hawks of Seattle, Pittsburgh overcame one major bad call against them when Big Ben's TD early in the current game was called otherwise. A clearer better replay clearly shows a shadow under Ben's knee that supposingly was down before he made it into the endzone. Why don't you try real sports writing....Oh yeah that's right you don't live in a real sports town. They still won,2 in 4 I might add, and your Hawks will always suck!!!

Mike Sando: I'll run your rants and personal attacks in the mailbag, but if you're going to rip me, you'll have to do your own spellchecking.


Jjalmadrid from Austin writes: Waaaa! Somebody should start a website titled: Moveonseahawksfans.com. You missed at least 15 other reasons to cry about the Superbowl. For example, all the terrible towels twirling in the wind affected the relative humidity which caused the ball to fall right into James Harrison's hands and let's not overlook the fact that the referees were getting their cameras ready for the halftime show with the Boss and not actually paying attention the entire first half. Get a life 'hawk homer!

Mike Sando: Have you met Ron?


Tad from parts unknown writes: Arizona #81 Who? over rated, let him go. The half time interception that proves he one dimensional and not team oriented. He gave zero effort in stopping Harrison. While 300 lb lineman ran the 100, he trotted a few steps and stopped. No effort when it could have made a difference. Game of inches and he gave nothing. Fitzgerald 11 & 15 went the distance. Where was #81 Who?

Mike Sando: I did notice how many Cardinals players came closer than Anquan Boldin to running down Harrison. I wondered whether Boldin's hamstring situation entered into his thinking. Was he blocked on the play?


Dawn from Arizona writes: Hey Sando, I am a Cardinal fan, but man are we wimping out on the fact that we blew the game! I recorded the game and watched it again and actually saw a few penalties that should have gone against us that weren't called -- a personal foul (2nd Q), Warner took off his helmet twice (during the incomplete pass and fumble). The only ticky-tack penalty against us was the roughing the passer. Why cannot our fans see that the play calling was horrible in the first half (little of Fitz) and that we let Pittsburgh drive down the field at the end of the game?? The last play was a fumble, what else does everyone want? We had an excellent chance and blew it!!

Mike Sando: I don't think anyone blew the game. There were winners in this game, not losers. The Cardinals made the plays to take the lead in the final minutes. That was a case of Arizona succeeding, not the Steelers failing. I feel the same way about the great plays Pittsburgh made to retake the lead and win the game. Hats off to the Steelers. No shame for the Cardinals.


Ant from San Francisco writes: Sando, Something that has been overlooked on the final AZ play, the incomplete pass by Warner (that's how I would've called it): why did such an experienced QB make such a huge mistake in not throwing it away? When he was pressured, Kurt should have rolled right and thrown in out of bounds or at the feet of a WR. The play call itself should have been for a short sideline route to get closer to ally-oop range. They had 15 seconds when the play started, plenty of time to run 2-3 plays.

For all the talk of Warner as a possible HOFer (I would vote no) and his stats from the game, the fact is he made the biggest turnover of the game and the final one as well.

Also, you mentioned that even if a block in the back had been called on the Harrison INT (as it should've) that it would have only been offsetting penalties. True, but that means Pittsburgh would keep posses
sion of the ball but I believe they would return the ball to the place it was intercepted.

Thus, even though AZ would lose their scoring chance the Steelers would have lost their TD. That missed call, when combined with the roughing the QB and lack of review on the final play certainly takes some shine off a memorable fourth quarter from a rather average Super Bowl. I don't believe that five year from now we'll view either of these teams or players (except Fitzgerald) as all time greats.

Mike Sando: I agree that Warner should have gotten rid of the football and he never should have thrown that pass to Boldin before the half. His willingness to make the gutsy plays comes at a price sometimes, and the good outweighs the bad most of the time.

While these teams will not be viewed as all-time great teams, I do think we'll see some of the players that way. Warner will be remembered for doing great things even if some people don't consider him great. Ben Roethlisberger has a chance, too.


Aaron from Redmond, Wash., writes: Hey Mike, I really enjoyed your blog entry "Seahawks' Knapp outlines philosophy", but I have one question. In your outline of what he took from each coach he worked with, it says, "Shanahan: the play-action and keeper-action games". I know what play-action is, but what does keeper-action" mean? Thank you!

Mike Sando: You're welcome. We don't hear much about "keeper action" and I couldn't expand on it a great deal, but I took it to signify a quarterback faking a quarterback keeper, then throwing the ball. Boomer Esiason alluded to it some in this 1991 story in the New York Times. If we have any coaches out there, please help us out with a more detailed explanation.