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Thursday, January 20, 2011
Chat wrap: Smart to keep open options

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The latest NFC West chat has come and gone like so many assistant coaches around here. Transcript here. Highlights below:
PokerRay (NinerNation): Mike, Jed York was interviewed about 30 minutes ago on our local sports radio station in the Bay Area. "I don't think we've made up our mind on that," York said of the possibility of Alex Smith returning. Basically, the Niners haven't officially cut the cord with Alex Smith. What do you think of Alex Smith coming back under Harbaugh?

Mike Sando: I think teams have nothing to gain from limiting their options. What do the 49ers gain from saying categorically that Alex Smith will not return? What do the Seahawks have to gain by signing Matt Hasselbeck right now as opposed to later? Smart teams keep open their options. I think it's likely the 49ers and Alex Smith will part ways this offseason, but it's premature to say it will happen for sure. Jim Harbaugh is only now settling into the job, evaluating the talent, figuring out what options the team might have and plotting strategy for a potential lockout. I know fans and some reporters want hard-and-fast answers right now, but I see no reason for teams to provide those types of answers when they are still considering their options.

Chris (Broadview Heights, OH): How do you see Arizona addressing their glaring QB need in the offseason? My belief is they need to add a proven veteran AND draft a prospect in the first two rounds as their future QB prospect. But it's Arizona and the Bidwills, so I was wondering what you think will happen.

Mike Sando: They have to sign a veteran. I think that is a given. Write it in stone. They will not go into the 2011 season with John Skelton, Max Hall and another rookie as their quarterbacks. Once they sign a veteran, we'll know how badly they need to draft a player. Signing or acquiring a legitimate veteran starter (or someone they view as such) could make it easier for the Cardinals to avoid drafting a quarterback early. If they draft a quarterback fifth overall, they win the press conference that day because everyone will say they addressed their primary need, but it will not matter long term unless they drafted that quarterback for the right reasons. I do not think it's a slam dunk at all for Arizona to draft one in the first two rounds.

Jae (St. Louis, MO): Do you think there is conflict already with the Rams coaching staff and new hire Josh McDaniels? The QB coach retired a day after McDaniels signed. Is this a coincidence?

Mike Sando: Conflict? No, I would not read it that way. Pat Shurmur took the lead with Sam Bradford. Dick Curl, the quarterbacks coach, was someone Bradford could lean on at times. There would be no place for Curl on a Josh McDaniels staff. I think Curl saw the writing on the wall and decided this was the time to step away. Beats getting let go. Curl is at retirement age anyway.

Nathan (Coralville, IA): Carroll said yesterday that re-signing Hasselbeck would be the team's number one priority in the off season. Do you think that this is the absolute truth, and if so, is it a wise move?

Mike Sando: No, it is not the absolute truth. We should not hold Pete Carroll to the letter of his words when he is answering questions for which there cannot yet be absolute answers. It's an exercise in futility. I think Carroll likes Hasselbeck, and vice versa. The Seahawks would like to have Hasselbeck back next season. But in what capacity? What other options are out there?

By the way, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was holding court Thursday. Kent Somers and Darren Urban have the details. One note from Somers: "Assistant coaches not under contract for 2011 can interview with whomever they want on the second Tuesday after their team's season ends. In the week prior, their current team has to grant permission. It's possible some teams might not grant such permission in order to give themselves a time of exclusivity in negotiations."