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Friday, July 17, 2009
Mailbag: Pennington and the Top 20 quarterbacks

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Eric from Millette, Ga., writes: Are you tired of the beating you are taking over Chad Pennington not being in the top 20? Maybe you should stick to the NFC Less and leave NFL topics to the experts.

Mike Sando: Now might be a good time to re-read that blog entry. The ranking device we were using did not list Pennington as one of the choices. Hence, his omission.


Sean from Tampa writes: Top 20 QBs and you've got Kyle Orton and Trent Edwards ranked ahead of Pennington. Are you serious? 'Penny' had better stats than both of them across the board and somehow they're better? How did you even get a job with ESPN with rankings like that anyway? Awful, just awful.

Mike Sando: The ranker probably should have included Pennington's name on the list. It did not.


Mike from Rapid City, S.D., writes: I'm not going to bash you like others do, but are you serious? I know that every fan thinks their QB should be on the list. Chad Pennington is behind Kyle Orton, Trent Edwards, David Garrard, Matt Schaub and even your very own Matt Hasselbeck? Are you saying that these guys had a bad season was a fluke and its not going to happen again or that Chad's season he had was a fluke?

I have a question for you. Who is the most accurate QB in history? Who threw the least amount of INTs last season? A lot of these other guys did not even play all season long.

Mike Sando: In reference to Eric's mailbag submission above, yes, now I'm getting tired of the beating. Another guy wrote ripping me for leaving off Carson Palmer from the list. He then wrote back and apologized after finding Palmer ranked seventh.


Kyle from Tempe writes: Great job, Mike. All of the teams in the NFC West have made great strides -- the Rams getting a franchise tackle, the Seahawks getting an elite WR and arguably the best player in the draft, the 49ers getting the best WR in the draft, the Cardinals getting a running back to add versatility to their offense, etc.

That being said, who do you think has made the greatest improvement, and who is your favorite to win the division?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Kyle. The Rams and Seahawks should make the greatest improvement. They had more room for improvement, obviously. Seattle can go from 4-12 to 8-8 or better by having fewer key guys in the training room. The Rams' moves on their offensive line could make them competitive overnight and give them needed identity. The 49ers' late rally last season inflated their record to the point that their improvement, if made, might not be as obvious in the standings, I think they could be significantly improved even if their record jumped from 7-9 to 8-8, in other words.

I envision a more competitive division with Seattle as the team most likely to overtake Arizona based on the potential strength of their quarterback. The Cardinals would still be the favorites in my mind because they have fewer questions to answer health-wise.


Ayaz from Dallas writes: Mike, why don't the 49ers take a flyer on Graham Harrell? I heard on the radio he signed with a Canadian team recently. Instead of having an old Damon Huard, why not bring in a successful college QB and see if he has NFL stuff? Why not bring him to camp just to see what he's got?

Mike Sando: The 49ers wanted a veteran backup on their roster as insurance. Nate Davis is their developmental quarterback. They drafted him and will try to develop him.


Vince from St. Louis writes: Alright, the Rams have certainly rebuilt the team with quite a few additions. I like our secondary and we have certainly got some blocking help for Steven Jackson. But we don't have a solid receiving corps by any means.

It seems to me that even more pressure is being put on Jackson to succeed since our lack of experienced WRs will hurt our offense. No real deep threat leads to more men in the box more often. Are we already a one-dimensional team? And if Jackson gets hurt, we are an offense that is dead in the water. Is there anything the Rams can do, trade or free agency, to improve our offense? Do the Rams have enough cap room to do so? Or am I not giving the offense enough credit?

Mike Sando: Cap room is relatively scarce. It's unlikely the Rams will add a big-time receiver at this late stage. Steve Spagnuolo and new Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur were with the Eagles in 1999 when they opened the Andy Reid era with a 5-11 record. Torrance Small and Charles Johnson were the leading receivers in yardage.

The Rams are also starting fresh. Unlike that 1999 Eagles team, the 2009 Rams have a veteran quarterback and a workhorse back in his prime. They are also running a West Coast system that has succeeded elsewhere without big-name receivers.

The Rams certainly need to develop their young receivers and consider adding a veteran if and when it's feasible. But we also need to remember that this team is starting over and trying to establish an identity in the running game first. The offense will need time to develop. The Rams would surely settle for 5-11 this year if it meant following a path similar to the one the Eagles have taken over the last decade.


Steelerincinci2 from Cincinnati writes: Hey Mike, being a Steeler fan, I read a lot of James Walker's AFC North Blog. Super Bowl 43 got me reading some of your stuff, being that you cover the Cards. You do a pretty good job, my man, I've kinda kept following your stuff.

Yesterday, I saw on your blog about 'the NFC West being a better division, some Niner fans asking why you didn't mention their team in your post, and then some of them mentioned some tidbits of news. I saw that you personally left a comment replying to the guy thanking him for "picking up the slack" for you.

I don't know if you were being serious or sarcastic with the response, but either way, that's cool. It's cool knowing you guys pay attention to your readers and read our opinions on what you guys write. I know it's probably not much, but I respect that. Very cool. Keep up the good work.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Steelerincinci2. I do read the comments and reply regularly, and I was not being sarcastic in my response to bcook. He is one of our regulars on the blog and a valued contributor.

Some of our better NFC West discussions are taking place on my Facebook page. I'm happy about that, but I've been going over ways in my mind to improve the experience in the comments section. My philosophy over the years has been to respond to comments personably and profess
ionally, without ever engaging or even acknowledging personal attacks. A divisional blog invites some of the attacks; fans are passionate.

Longer term, I want to find more ways to promote an environment that leads to a more vibrant community via comments. All ideas welcome.


Josh from Corona, Calif., writes: Not sure if you noticed but the 49ers have a new website and it looks nice. I am pretty sure it must of been deployed today. Nice up-to-date features compared to the old site. I like that you can click on a players name and it will take you to a bio of the player. Just thought I would let you know as I didn't see an article on it and not sure if you noticed it or not.

Mike Sando: I did notice. The new look is cleaner. The roster was updated to include Brit Miller's jersey number. Taylor Price cranks out quite a few articles on their site. From Price to Darren Urban (azcardinals.com) to Nick Wagoner (stlouisrams.com) to Clare Farnsworth (seahawks.com), NFC West fans have some solid team writers to choose from. The 49ers in particular make it easy to find all their stories in one place.


Charlie from Lexington, Ky., writes: Hey Sando! I don't get why people are so hard on Mike Singletary. They act like the man doesnt know what he is doing. Yes, this is his first year as head coach. No, he doesnt have that superstar QB yet, and neither was the offensive coordinator his first choice, but 'Sing' seems to have that instinct many coaches lack. 'Sing' took the same roster Mike Nolan had and improved in 'almost' every category. I just think 'Sing' is a good judge of talent. That's all a head coach is really is ... getting the most out of your talent. 'Sing' can do that!

Mike Sando: The best part about the coaching change was the realization that the 49ers would be more apt to use their offensive -- and probably defensive -- personnel as intended. They had gotten away from that over the years, in part for reasons beyond their control (contstant change at offensive coordinator). A year ago, they took a chance on Mike Martz because they wanted someone credible to run the offense. The scheme did not match the personnel, in my view, and that shouldn't be the problem in 2009.


Jeremy from Phoenix writes: Hey Mike. I have a strong perception that this may be the last year Karlos Dansby plays in Arizona. I'm sure I'm not alone on that one. Dansby's comments in regards to Terrell Suggs and the deal he recieved from Baltimore are a little concerning.

Don't get me wrong, I love Dansby and understand that he is simply trying to capitalize on a great opportunity to cash in on his talents. Who wouldn't? But is he really worth the type of money Suggs received? I think he may be jumping the gun on that one.

It's just like Darren Urban said, it's like comparing apples and oranges with Suggs and Dansby. Suggs brings great versatility, in that he can play both DE and OLB, as well as a premier pass rush. Dansby is more of a traditional LB in that he is a sideline-to-sideline guy who generally plays the ball.

If Dansby is expecting Suggs dollars, then he can likely expect not to receive it from the Cardinals. Of course, there is always at least one team that is willing to pay a player more then the general population considers him to be worth. The chances of the Cards using the franchise tag on Dansby for a third straight year are incredibly doubtful if not out of the question. All that being said, what is your opinion on the likelihood of Dansby remaining in AZ for 2010, Mike?

Mike Sando: Each of us is worth only what we can get. I agree that Dansby is more likely to find those riches with 31 other teams bidding. The Cardinals were the only bidders this time, so his value wasn't going to be the same, most likely. We also need to see how the defensive scheme evolves and what role Dansby plays in that scheme.

Naming Dansby a franchise player for a third time would jack up the price to prohibitive levels, putting his one-year salary on par with elite quarterback salaries.