Saturday, December 18, 2010
Mailbag: Can Rams conquer two divisions?
By Mike Sando
Matt from San Bernardino, Calif., writes: When the Rams beat the Chiefs this weekend, instead of saying how the Raiders could win the NFC West, should we be expecting a Rams could win the AFC West? They would have a 3-1 record against the division.
Mike Sando: Let's see if the Rams can beat the Chiefs before anointing them as AFC West conquerors. Kansas City is 3-0 against the NFC West right now. The Chiefs could become virtual NFC West champs by winning Sunday. The Rams could have a hard time beating Kansas City if Matt Cassel returns and plays well for the Chiefs.
My sense, though, is that St. Louis should win this game at home. The Rams already beat San Diego in the Edward Jones Dome.
Of course, the Rams caught the Chargers at the right time (Week 6, as opposed to now). The Chargers usually are tougher late in the season. I don't think the Rams would defeat San Diego if the teams played at this point in the season. But there's no taking away that 20-17 victory in the Edward Jones Dome.
I thought the Rams should have defeated the Raiders in Oakland. They went the length of the field and got no points on one drive. They played well enough on defense early to get Jason Campbell benched. They were going to have one last shot to win the game until officials threw that somewhat controversial flag against Rams defensive tackle Fred Robbins for roughing the quarterback.
That was way back in Week 2. The Rams have improved since then. They've won a couple games on the road.
The Rams need to finish strong in their own division. They are only 2-2 in NFC West games. Seattle (3-2) and San Francisco (3-1) have been better. Let's see if the Rams can win the NFC West before saying they would be good enough to win the AFC West, too.
Jay from Kingsport, Tenn., writes: Love the blog, Mike. After watching the 49ers' pathetic showing Thursday night, I think it's time for major changes at head coach, quarterback and maybe others. What do you think about going after Jim Harbaugh as coach and maybe even Donovan McNabb, as it's obvious he's done in Washington? Draft a quarterback, maybe Ryan Mallett, and let him sit a year and learn behind Donovan. Or how about trading for Kevin Kolb, as Philly would probably be willing to listen to offers now that Vick has locked up the starting job?
Mike Sando: Hiring Jim Harbaugh would enliven coverage of this division given the history between Harbaugh and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll dating to Carroll's run at USC.
Harbaugh and Stanford upset USC a couple of times. Harbaugh once controversially cited sources on Carroll's staff as saying Carroll would be leaving USC after one more season. The prediction wound up being wrong. The fact that Harbaugh would speak so loosely about Carroll crossed a line and showed irreverence. Carroll is usually the looser, more irreverent figure in these coaching matchups. Might Harbaugh unnerve him a little or at least get on his nerves? No doubt, the Harbaugh-Carroll dynamic would help fuel the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry.
Should the 49ers hire Harbaugh? I would favor hiring an offensive-minded head coach, so it lines up from that angle. My ideal candidate would have more NFL coaching experience, in part because Mike Singletary was so lacking in that area.
McNabb's demise in Philadephia and apparently in Washington raises red flags about what McNabb has left to offer an NFL team. It's irrelevant to the 49ers whether Andy Reid disrespected McNabb by trading him within the division. It's irrelevant to the 49ers whether Mike Shanahan disrespected McNabb by benching him for Rex Grossman. The bottom line is that two Super Bowl coaches with offensive backgrounds thought they might be able to upgrade from McNabb. That is telling.
Travis from parts unknown writes: Do you think Derek Anderson would be more effective if the Cardinals were better at the tight end position? When Anderson was effective, he had Kellen Winslow Jr. I looked at Ben Patrick's stats and he only has 15 receptions for the year, averaging just under 10 yards per catch. If you think those numbers stink, consider he has gone without a catch in six games this year. I was watching the news and Ken Whisenhunt was giving another "team responding to their QB" speech in reference to John Skelton and he was acting like nothing was wrong at the position. I warned you in early November that we would see Skelton. I really think the Cards are going to usher Whisenhunt out the door. He looks and talks like he's in another world.
Mike Sando: There's no way in my mind I could see the Cardinals firing Ken Whisenhunt after one down season. They just signed him through the 2013 season. They are not going to pay him to stay away. He's better than most of the coaches they would probably hire to replace him.
The situation at tight end isn't the big problem. In fact, Anderson has been most efficient throwing from 12 personnel (one back and two tight ends). He has a 99.9 rating from this grouping, according to my charting. He has completed 22 of 33 passes for 335 yards -- that is 10.2 yards per attempt -- from that grouping.
Ben Patrick isn't catching many passes because he isn't playing very much. Jim Dray and Stephen Spach are taking most of the reps at that position. Neither is a great receiver, but the Cardinals have good options at wideout. Having a strong receiving tight end would help, but it might be a luxury for a team that has Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet.
Anderson is fundamentally an inaccurate passer. That is his problem. Having bigger targets -- such as tight ends -- could help in theory. But we have seen Anderson miss Fitzgerald quite a few times. Fitzgerald is a huge target in that he can catch passes thrown in his general area, not just right to him.
Arneet from Seattle writes: Matt Hasselbeck has been off and on this season, throwing for 300 yards one game, tossing four interceptions the next -- despite not being hurt as he has been in past seasons. I'm really beginning to believe that the Seahawks are putting too much faith in their bullpen because, despite his veteran experience, Matt isn't the answer. Charlie Whitehurst's inexperience and what he has shown thus far makes him another incorrect answer. And J.P. Losman? I really don't see it. Is it time for the Hawks to start shopping?
Mike Sando: Yes, but shopping means smart shopping. You don't throw out the old before you have the new. The Seahawks need to pursue upgrades at quarterback this offseason. They should not seek change for the sake of change, however. Hasselbeck is better than quite a few options the team might pursue to replace him. Bringing him back might be the best option even if it does not "fix" the position.
Seattle's top priority, I think, should be to improve its offensive line. Restoring the defensive line should be another priority. This team loses along the lines too frequently. The next quarterback -- whether it's Hasselbeck, Whitehurst, a draft choice or another veteran -- needs a stronger running game.