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Saturday, October 3, 2009
Mailbag: Frugal team hoping to relocate?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Aric from Tempe writes: This is a multi-part question. One, does the NFL have a minimum average occupancy/ticket sales that a team must be below for a new owner to move a team? Two, if son, the Rams' offseason seems like the movie "Major League" where the owner signed a bunch of nobodies and did everthing he could to make them fail. Maybe I'm wrong, but why havent the Rams made any attempt to get at least one decent receiver? Three, are they tight on cap room? Why cut Torry Holt instead of trading him? I am a huge Rams fan, I have been a season-ticket holder since they came to St. Louis and I keep my season tickets even though I live in Arizona. Please help me understand what is oing on.

Mike Sando: I see the Rams as a rebuilding team that decided to go young at most positions when feasible. Saving money might have been partly behind some moves. However, the team spent big on free-agent center Jason Brown. The team held onto the second overall choice in the draft and then paid a slight premium to Jason Smith in an effort to get him into camp on time. The Rams re-signed cornerback Ron Bartell and committed more than $6 million to Oshiomogho Atogwe as a franchise player.

To answer your questions, relocation rules require three-fourths of owners to approve a move, but the Raiders succeeded in relocating without such approval. Also, the Rams have been relatively tight on cap room for some time.


Dave from 49er Country writes: Mike, I, like many of my 49er faithful brothers and sisters, are riding quite a 'high' so far this season. We are one very close play from being 3-0 (gotta give Brett Favre his props ... the man can still rip the ball) and now the Rams come to Frisco all banged up and probably expecting, deep down, to lose this game. What are they putting in the water in Santa Clara these days? The roster is not that much different than last year's team. Is Mike 'win or or else' Singletary willing the talent from these guys or was Mike Nolan just a bad head coach?

Mike Sando: Singletary has the 49ers playing more intelligently. The team is no longer trying to run a Kurt Warner offense with J.T. O'Sullivan at quarterback. That is the No. 1 difference on the field. You no longer see the 49ers blowing games. Some are getting a little impatient with the conservative approach, but it's clear to me Singletary wants to prevent losing while this team is learning how to win. Shaun Hill has continued to provide stability at quarterback, also. And then the defense is playing a more straightforward style.


Jason from Morongo Valley, Calif., writes: I predict the Niners going 10-6, winning their division and making the playoffs. I also think that they could be dangerous once in the playoffs because of their motivation and toughness. I know the Niners have been bad for a long time, but do you think this is reasonable to suggest?

Mike Sando: I think it's possible for the 49ers to get to that level. I do not think the team is currently at that level offensively. Most playoff teams would be able to outscore the 49ers, I suspect. The toughness and motivation are helpful, but other playoff teams would possess those traits as well.


Terry from Seattle writes: Did the NFL really contact the Seahawks and openly admit the Matt Forte fumble/review was called wrong by the officiating crew?

Mike Sando: Hugh Millen said so on KJR radio in Seattle. He played with Jim Mora at the University of Washington. The two were roommates. They remain close friends. Just a guess, but Millen would probably be able to verify that information.

I do not think it's a big deal. Teams complain about calls all the time. The league promises to review the plays in question. Sometimes the league acknowledges an error. Sometimes the league says the official made the right call. These sorts of things happen regularly. It's not like the league would have made a special call to the Seahawks, apologizing for horrible misdeeds. They probably said a mistake was made. It's not like it changes anything.


Collin from Liverpool, N.Y., writes: Why is Michael Crabtree still the Subway guy and have all these endorsements? The public image of him is low, so and I think it's bad advertising to have him. I hope they drop him from it. Maybe it's a reality check that things are going very bad for him and that signing will change that.

Mike Sando: The endorsements will not last forever. He needs to play at some point. Some of the endorsements were probably in place before training camp.


jverhei from Longview, Wash., writes: How can you post somthing so idiotic as compairing the Seahawks and the Rams? Yes, the records are comparable, but he is basically compairing Seattle's JV (second string) record to the Rams' record. Plus, they are making a compairison over one year and three games. How responsible is that statistically when Seattle has been a CONSISTENTLY better team for the past four years? So, after one record year of games lost to injury, the Seahawks are comparable to the Rams? You make me sick for even posting something so stupid.

Mike Sando: If you were a Colts fan and someone said your team lacked a franchise quarterback, you would probably shrug it off. The rebuttal would be self-evident. In this case, the comparison really seemed to get a reaction.

No one was comparing the long-term accomplishments of these organizations. No one was saying the Rams have been as successful over the last three, four, five seasons. One Rams fan simply pointed out similarities between the records since the start of last season, suggesting Seattle fans might be in denial.


Tomahawker from Palmer, Alaska, writes: As always, love the material and the effort you put forth. Could not log in to ask you yesterday, but who is the most penalized player at Qwest Field? I think it is the Rams' Richie Incognito.

Mike Sando: Thanks much. I'll assume you're talking about visiting players. I do not have that information off the top of my head, but Incognito would be the leading suspect. He plays at Qwest every year and he has been the most penalized player in the division. He's also very versatile in his ability to amass penalties. He can jump early for a false start, he can hold, he can hit someone after the play, he can yell at officials. Not many players are a threat to draw flags in so many ways.


Chad from Oshkosh, Wis., writes: Mike, I know there is more than a month before the deadline for Crabtree to sign, but do you have any sense of what the Niners could hope to get for him in March if he does sit out the year? I wouldn't think the team would be high on receiving additional draft picks when they already have two first-rounders.

Mike Sando: I do not think Crabtree would have tremendous value at that time. I could be wrong, but every team would hear the clock ticking for the 49ers. Every team would know the 49ers' rights to Crabtree were going to expire. Why give up a lot for a guy who might be available in the draft?


Deric from Twin Falls, Idaho, writes: Why does it always seem you have a verifiable expectation for the Seahawks to be injured? Even outside of Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones and Patrick Kerney, you assume that the loss of Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, Josh Wilson, etc., was expected and the norm for Seattle? Are you sure there is not a little remaining bias against them born from your days as a Raiders fan?

Mike Sando: I'm a big proponent of providing balance to debates and discussions. The Seahawks have been perpetually looking forward to this magical point in the future when everyone is going to be healthy. That point never seems to come. I might have pointed this out during my regular Tuesday and Thursday segments on 710ESPN Seattle this week.

On the silver-and-black front, the hardest part about being a one-time Raiders fan has been shaking images of James Trapp drawing 15-yard penalties for starting fights between plays. The 1 percent of people who "get" that reference will appreciate it enough to cover for the remaining 99 percent. Ah, the good old days.


David from Hartford, Conn., writes: Hi, Mike. With Carolina struggling, it's looking like the 49ers will be looking at a top 15 pick. What do you think they should go after? I know most people think QB, but I feel that they need to upgrade the offensive line. And with the second pick, maybe a pass rushing OLB or even a DB.

Mike Sando: I think you take a quarterback if a franchise-type player is there. The 49ers would have to make sure they weren't taking a quarterback just to take a quarterback (shades of 2005). But if they were convinced a franchise quarterback were there for the taking, that decision would be a no-brainer. Beyond that, I think you're on the right track with the offensive line. This team has a good left tackle in Joe Staley. I could see drafting an elite right tackle or even an elite guard if available, not necessarily in the first round but early enough to find a starting-caliber player. Getting a pass-rusher early would definitely make sense.


Mark from Antioch, Calif., writes: Hey, asked you a couple questions in the chat, but you didn't get to me. Do you think the Niners see Nate Davis as their future and if not, do you see them using either of their first-rounders on a QB like McCoy or Sneed? And where do you see Alex Smith going when he's done with the Niners? Do you think a team with a weak or unhealthy QB situation takes him as a potential starter (Oakland, St. Louis, Seattle, etc.) or do you see him going to back up a strong, experienced QB like Philip Rivers in San Diego?

Mike Sando: No team would name Smith its starter outright. He would be better off going somewhere without that type of pressure. San Diego would make sense because Norv Turner is there. On Nate Davis, the 49ers do not yet view him as their future. They do not have enough information. They need to see more. They cannot proceed on the assumption that Davis will become that guy. They can try to develop him and see if it happens. But there are too many unknowns to make such a determination now.


Harry from San Francisco writes: Hi, Mike. As a Niners fan, its been hard watching them try to run the ball against 8- and 9-man fronts. It seems that the more they struggle, the more Jimmy Raye tries to pack in the formation (2 TEs, extra tackle, etc.). I'm wondering why they haven't tried to spread out the defense with four receivers and try to run the ball out of that formation? Maybe three wide receivers and one tight end.

Mike Sando: The 49ers do not think they can protect the quarterback well enough to spread the field consistently. They have used three wide receivers with one tight end 21 percent of the time, but only once on first down and four times on second down. That is their preferred third-down offense when the team needs at least 3 yards for a first down. The team has used two tight ends on 17.4 percent of snaps.


Road dog from Sacramento writes: This game against the Rams for the Niners is feeling like more than a game they should win. This is a must win. With Frank Gore out, and Glen Coffee unproven, they cannot afford a loss to drop to 2-2 with a tough Atlanta team the week after. All the momentum they built up early would be gone, and really, the one thing I can imagine jump-starting the fan base is a Crabtree signing. Maybe improved play from Shaun Hill or the offensive line would get the team moving in the right direction. What do you think?

Mike Sando: The team seems to be going in the right direction already. The hit-and-miss nature of the 49ers' offense could make them vulnerable, in theory, to an upset. But I see no evidence the Rams are going to score the 20-plus points they would likely need to score in order to make it happen.


Brock from Seattle writes: Mike, I'm originally from Portland but live in Seattle and am a huge Seahawk fan and season ticket holder. The team hasn't played well on the road in a LONG time and I wondered if they have tried a different approach to travel like the Trailblazers did. Thoughts?

Mike Sando: The Seahawks are no longer leaving on Fridays to play games in the Eastern time zone. That is one change. Also, the team is practicing at 11 a.m. PT during the week, which lines up more closely to those 10 a.m. PT kickoffs. In the past, Seattle would generally begin practices a couple hours later.


Paul From Ronkonkoma, N.Y., writes: Why haven't the Cardinals been running the ball more with Chris Wells? He has ran the ball very well when given the chance. I know they talk about his fumbling issue, but Tim Hightower has been fumbling a lot since he's been in the league.

Mike Sando: Hightower had never lost a fumble in an NFL game until Week 3. He fumbled twice last season and he has fumbled twice this season. I do think the Cardinals need to find a way to get Wells onto the field. Somehow they have to work him into the mix as part of their three-receiver offense. That is the only way for them to get their best players onto the field.


Mark from Fremont, Calif., writes: With Isaac Bruce getting older and most likely done after this season, and assuming Crabtree doesn't sign, do you see the Niners going after a big-time WR in free agency or the draft again?

Mike Sando: That has not been their approach. They were quiet in free agency last offseason.


Ed from Jacksonville writes: Regarding MVP voting after Week 3, keep an eye out for Charles Woodson. He single-handedly kept Green Bay in the game against Cincy and had the game-sealing interception against St. Louis right when Packer fans everywhere expected a Woodson pick.

Mike Sando: Appreciate the heads up. I've always liked his game.


Alex from Chicago writes: I'm sorry, but your MVP list is a joke. How in the world are Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Brett Favre on the list? Why not a guy like Jay Cutler? He has better stats than Brady or Rivers and has meant the most of any of those three to his team, and that is a big part of a being considered a MVP. It's a good thing you don't vote for the MVP.

Mike Sando: Cutler could stand to put a little more distance between himself and that horrific showing in Week 1. Tom Brady appeared on the list because he's Tom Brady and I wanted to update his status. Rivers leads the league in passing yards. Favre made a Hall of Fame play to win the game for Minnesota.


Brent from Amarillo, Texas, writes: Sando, love your blog, read it every day, but your listing of Tom Brady on MVP Watch is absolutely ridiculous! Aaron Rogers has one more touchdown and two less picks. His passer rating is 15 points higher. He just has a little less yards. Even Shaun Hill has a better passer rating and less picks. Are you giving this suggestion based on his name, which wouldn't be fair? WHAT GIVES?

Mike Sando: Yes, Brady's name factored into my decision to list him. The MVP Watch looks at likely leading candidates for the award. The later we get into the season, the more the list will reflect what players have done so far this season. Brady's reputation, accomplishments and potential mean more early in the season.


Kkroyu from Dallas writes: Coffee, Gore running in place article -- good article, Sando! Have you sent this to anyone in the 49ers organization? If not, someone needs to Twitter or something to do so.

Mike Sando: I'm sure the 49ers read the blog closely before settling on their game plans.


Dan from Long Island writes: Your early MVP rankings are a joke! Brett Favre on your list? Are you kidding me! I don't know how you have your own column on here. A monkey could do a better job. Eli Manning, are you serious! You're leaving off a quarterback who ranks in the top five in stats! Matt Schaub, maybe. Ever hear of him? Now, I'm a Niners fan, so I have no biases here. He's put up Brees-like numbers the last two weeks and you don't even have a mention of him. Please, please, let me do your job, because you obviously have not a clue of what your doing.

Mike Sando: I'm really the only guy who can produce Mike Sando's MVP Watch. I've got plenty of time to throw Schaub and others into the mix.


Will from Bonney Lake, Wash., writes: He,y Mike, maybe you can clear this up for the frustrated fans here in your neck of the woods. The Seahawks have been arguably the most injured team in the NFL the last couple years, and it seems a large portion of the injuries are of non-contact variety. I listen to the media and players on our local sports radio stations and they tell us how awesome Mike Clark, the strength and conditioning coach for the Seahawks, is. At at some point, do they start questioning his training methods? He's the guy teaching them how to stretch and lift and train, right? Is there someone or something to point the finger at for the injuries? Coaching? The field? Dumb luck? There's gotta be a reason.

Mike Sando: I hear you. There's nothing tangible suggesting anyone is doing anything wrong. Clark is indeed decorated in his field. The team cannot sit back and let this happen every season, even if answers remain elusive. I just do not have a good answer to the question. I certainly understand your frustration. The team is surely frustrated, too.


Geoff from Puyallup, Wash., writes: Sando, the NFL's blackout policy is getting a lot of talk, but I want to know the reasoning behind the 'reverse blackout' -- when the Seahawks are playing at home and sell out (like always), why does the second game of the double-header on the other network get blacked out? Why are the fans being punished for selling out a game when all the TV revenue is shared across the league?

Mike Sando: I think you can find the explanation here. I'll quote from it here: "The NFL rules prohibit other NFL games from being shown on local television stations while a local team is playing a sold-out home game. The rules are designed to make sure ticket-holders show up at the stadium instead of watching the other game on TV. When the home team is being shown on the network with the NFL singleheader, the doubleheader station can only air one of its games. So when this happens, there are only two games shown in the market. When, however, the home team is being shown on the network with the NFL doubleheader, all three games can air in the market."


Michael from Corona, Calif., writes: Hi Mike. I love the blog; read it everyday. My question for you is: Why on Earth is it so hard for the 49ers to earn some respect? We are one fluke play (one bad play -- I hate Mark Roman) from being 3-0. We are going to dominate our division this year, and our loss was to the No. 5-ranked team, the Vikings. How can the 49ers go down from No. 13 last week to No. 15 when we showed that we belong in the upper echelon of the NFC on Sunday?

We are only a couple spots higher than the Titans. I'd say only the Cowboys are getting less respect than us. We are the last two 2-1 teams in the power rankings. ESPN is saying the Broncos are better than the 49ers and Cowboys? The inconsistent Chargers, Packers, and Bears are better? The 49ers' defense is playing at a high level, and Shaun Hill looks great. Only our running offense has been inconsistent, but it's not like we played slouching defenses. Please work some magic and open up some eyes for the rest of the ESPN analysts.

Mike Sando: First off, I would not blame Mark Roman for allowing Brett Favre's touchdown pass. I think Favre and Greg Lewis made a sensational play. Roman was pretty much doing his job. On the rankings, remember that a team's ranking does not exist in a vacuum. A team moves up following a victory only if teams ahead of them move down. The 49ers lost a game and sometimes it's difficult to elevate a losing team over a winning team. I ranked the 49ers higher than some others did, but they did lose the game.


Andy from Minnesota writes: How do ties work on your power rankings?

Mike Sando: Recently I have elevated the team that received the highest vote from a panelist. Head-to-head results also could factor into the tiebreaking.


Kris from Everett, Wash., writes: Hey, Mike, I wrote to you about a month ago and asked what you thought about Mike Holmgren's chances on returning to the Seahawks. I really feel after the loss to the Bears and how mora handled the situation by basically blaming the loss on the kicker was a lttle ridiculous. Seneca Wallace is a 5-foot-nothing quarterback with speed and no accuracy. Seneca lost the game for us, not the kicker. It's time to start over with a new GM, new head coach and, most importantly, a new strength and conditioning coach. If this season continues the way it's going, I see Holmgren back and taking charge next year.

Mike Sando: Holmgren certainly hasn't done anything to discourage such thoughts. He talks openly about his relationship with owner Paul Allen. I think it's a little bit of a long shot given how Holmgren's first run as general manager turned out.


Kmedic from Los Angeles writes: Mike, you seem to be particularly negative on the Hawks this year. Any reason why? I mean, the Hawks are only one game back of the division-leading 49ers, who aren't exactly scaring anybody off the field, especially when their best player just suffered an ankle sprain. Does that mean, then, that they are in trouble as well? You seem to be on their jocks pretty tight this season. Maybe it's because you are spending more time with them, not sure. But I wouldn't write off the Hawks just yet. Matt Hasselbeck doesn't look like he'll be out for long and, again, the Hawks are just one game out of first place in the NFC Worst. It's still early and a lot of things can happen between now and January.

Mike Sando: I might have been a little harsh in my initial assessment coming out of the Chicago game. That assessment looked at the schedule and saw a tough road. I think the Seahawks need to beat the Jaguars and Cardinals at home to have a good chance. They've got the Colts this week and then they return from their bye to play four of five on the road. I thought it was important for the Seahawks to beat the Bears at home. I'm also skeptical about the Seahawks' ability to get and stay healthy. It's definitely a long season and too early to write off the Seahawks. They could still win the division. I just think their chances took a hit with the home loss to the Bears.


Ed from San Francisco writes: Mike, I love reading your blog, it's great. Does the emergence of Vernon Davis as an offensive weapon change the way defenses play against the 49ers? Will the threat of Davis catching passes up the middle of the defense force a second linebacker or safety to stay back on him instead of crowding the box to stop the run? We need to figure out how to use the pass to open up the run.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Ed. I seem to be more popular among fans of winning teams. Funny how that works. I think the 49ers need to go to Davis more frequently to force defenses into making significant changes. The 49ers do not show passing formations and personnel groups on early downs frequently enough to surprise teams by running from them.


Chris from Portland writes: I've reserved judgment for a while Mike, but I'm starting to see why so many people question your harsh coverage of the Hawks as compared to the other NFC West teams. How do you respond? Your comment about the Hawks falling into oblivion? Give them a break, they put themselves in position to win a game against a good team that they had no business winning based on the personnel they were missing. Is your harsher critique of the Hawks similar to a father umpiring a game his son his pitching? Meaning, because you covered the Hawks, and live in the area, you feel the need to go a little bit harsher to show people you are not a Hawk homer?

Mike Sando: I never said the Seahawks were falling into oblivion. I simply posed the following question: "Are the Seahawks heading down the road to oblivion, or was this loss to Chicago merely a small bump in the road?" The question left open the possibility that the defeat was only a small bump in the road.


Neil from Jackson, Miss., writes: Sando, as a Saints fan, I never have much call to write to you, but I do peruse your blog from time to time. It is a well-done affair. But now I write on another matter: Please rank the Saints in the top three in next week's power rankings. I imagine you didn't catch their game at Buffalo, so let me give you the highlights: We humiliated yet another team by a 20-point margin, and did it with Drew Brees throwing under 200 yards and not a single TD. How many different ways do we have faceplant opponents before we get more respect than, say, the Vikings, who after beating up on woeful teams just sneaked by in their first challenging game of the season?

Mike Sando: You write compellingly. Look for the Saints to move up, provided they keep marching.


Matthew from Santa Cruz, Calif., writes: Sando, great blog. Thorough and insightful. I have a couple questions: (a), Am I the only person disgusted by Brett Favre faking a hurt knee to get a super late flag and the personal foul call that extended the drive? And (b), I had Minnestoa as the best team in the NFC and the Niners could have, maybe should have, won the game. What's your take on actually calling SF for real? Maybe? Please say, 'Yes.' It's been so long since I could say that.

Mike Sando: For real within the division? Yes. For real as an NFC contender? You've waited this long. Let's wait a short time longer to make sure. If they are on that level, they'll beat the Falcons at home in Week 5. On Favre, I do not think he was faking at all. He took a direct shot to the knee. It was a brutal hit. I didn't think Justin Smith did anything wrong, but watching the play live and in person, I thought Favre might have suffered a serious injury.