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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Nicholas from New York writes: hey mike, long time reader, first time writer. do you think that tim ruskell needs to worry about his job up in seattle?
I really don't like how the nfl has so much turnover. I believe continuity is what makes great franchises but i cannot ignore some of his mistakes over the years... Hutchinson's loss i will never forgive. the past years would have been radically different if we held on to him. signing alexander to a huge deal ... drafting tiny corners in a league dominated by big recievers ... trading a #1 pick for a small reciever with pedestrian speed who cannot stay on the field. Sure, julian petersen and lofa tatupu and patrick kerney were good, but all of them are small which contributes to them getting worn down in gritty games.
signing like 8 backs in the offseason and paying them all wayyyy tooo much ... please stop the bleeding ... i hope holmgren can stay around and be the gm after he retires this year. he is the best thing to ever happen to this franchise!
Mike Sando: I don't think Tim Ruskell needs to worry about his job right now. I will attempt to provide some balance to your thoughts, which are naturally born of frustration.
All of your points make sense if the team is 1-4. Then, we must ask why the team is 1-4. If we think the injuries at receiver and quarterback are the difference between 1-4 and, say, 3-2, then we need to revisit the premise. I personally think an offense without such a drastic injury situation would have been enough for Seattle to win the home games against the 49ers and Packers, but not enough to reverse the other unfavorable outcomes.
The stability thing works both ways. Everyone wants stability, but if Shaun Alexander had gotten away, fans would be ripping Ruskell for failing to keep the league MVP. Even if Alexander had left and gotten hurt elsewhere, people would make the case that Alexander would have continued to flourish in the Seattle system. This would have been a reasonable point. The decision on Alexander had risks either way.
Five or six years ago, no one was emailing me to suggest Mike Holmgren should remain GM. I was getting a lot of email suggesting he should be fired as GM and even fired as head coach.
Let's wait to see what happens next season. If the team tanks, we'll have some more answers.
Mike Sando: Martz would probably have the most credibility based on what is happening on each side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky would also be a candidate in that situation.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Pav. There aren't enough good players to go around with 32 teams and 53 players per team. I don't see anyone out there who is going to make a difference. The 49ers haven't either, or else they would have signed one.
But my question (since Anquan is going nowhere this season) is just how lethal can these three guys be together, once Anquan is back? What do think is the best way for the Cardinals to utilize these three receivers? And how will opposing teams try to stop them and if they do try will that not open up the running game?
With Hightower and Arrington the Cards now have some speed at running back. Wow, defensive coordinators are going to have their hands full!
Mike Sando: Thanks much, Mark. Appreciated. Having each of those three players should help the running game as well as the passing game. I think it opens up the possibility of more two-back, three-receiver groupings. The Cardinals can use those groupings to dictate mismatches in the slot. If teams try to match coverage, the Cardinals should have an easier time running the ball. Seattle used that group very effectively during Shaun Alexander's best years. The key is forcing defenses to defend the slot receiver with a defensive back. It makes sense as long as you don't have a great tight end. The Cardinals have been banged up at tight end.
Mike Sando: Thanks, R.J. Amazing we're talking about such a high possible pick. Seattle has done well taking a safety early -- Kenny Easley comes to mind -- but in general teams do not value the position that high. I would think the defensive line would be a place to target again.
Mike Sando: I think they'll draft a quarterback in 2009, probably in the first few rounds. They considered it heading into this draft. Chad Henne was a possibility.
Do you think Holmgren would be willing to step out mid-way through this season so that Mora can start coaching and rebuilding this team? I see no point in Holmgren lingering around for the rest of this year once the Seahawks are out of the playoff race. This would give the Seahawk's players a half season to get acquainted to Mora's coaching style, and hopefully give the Seahawks an advantage heading into next season.
Mike Sando: That doesn't strike me as Holmgren's style at all. I did briefly consider how tough it might be for the organization to play for the future while the head coach plays for the present. That thought evaporated when I thought about the makeup of the team. Young players are already playing.
Mike Sando: The Cardinals' smaller, quicker players seemed to flourish in this game against the Cowboys' big, slower offensive line. Watson played about a dozen snaps against the Bills. I didn't see how many he got against the Cowboys, but Arizona rotated players up front. That would probably explain it.
I'll tip my Stein of Black Butte Porter on Sunday night in hopes that we can surprise Tampa Bay on a National stage, yet I won't be surprised to see yet another double digit defeat. I do expect Holmgren to start getting creative again with Seneca Wallace. Upon Hasselbeck's return, I look to see more of the Branch, Engram, and Wallace 3 WR sets with Hasselbeck throwing a go route to Wallace to kick off a game a la 2005 NFC Title Game vs. Carolina. Thanks for writing such a great Blog and column, I look forward to reading them daily.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Jess. Some thought I was giving the defense a free pass, but the idea was to provide a bigger picture. Glad you saw it!
Mike Sando: To play devil's advocate here, would you like another trade along the lines of the one that brought Deion Branch to Seattle for a first-round choice?
Mike Sando: I'll try my best here. Unknown on Hasselbeck. Don't hold your breath. Wallace has a chance this week but I'm not sure if he can last a game. Same for Branch at this point. Yes, I think Seattle misses the playoffs. You should look forward to the draft at this point, with one eye on the field.
Mike Sando: Coaching hires go in cycles. Tough guy replaces nice guy, and vice versa. The 49ers need credibility. If things don't change and a coaching change becomes inevitable, I think they might be wise to hire someone with more credibility than the organization currently enjoys.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Jared. I think we're seeing tradeoffs here. The 49ers weren't going to get anyone more qualified than Martz to restore the offense. Now they are living with the fact that their personnel doesn't ideally suit the offensive system. It's better than last season, no question, but still not perfect.
Mike Sando: That type of strategy reflects what Nolan thinks about his safeties. He's not trusting them in coverage. Would you?
Mike Sando: Trick plays are fun but they are not going to fix an offense. Seattle's offense has ranked among the league leaders in recent seasons. I wouldn't trust backup quarterbacks and backup receivers with trick plays requiring flawless execution.
Mike Sando: Thanks much. They're keeping two kickers because Mike Holmgren likes the veteran, Olindo Mare, and Tim Ruskell likes the young prospect, Brandon Coutu. The arrangement seems to be working well. Mare is responding to the pressure with a great season so far. With the punter, there's not much to choose from. The offense isn't good enough to put Jon Ryan in position for inside-the-20s. His net average is only 34.4 yards, low. I can't say that situation ranks in the top 10 things affecting Seattle right now.
Mike Sando: The Seahawks could no longer count on Alexander to stay healthy and produce. They have unquestionably upgraded the running game this season even though the passing game is a mess. Alexander could benefit from competition in Washington. He never had that in Seattle and it showed, in my view. He's in a position now where he must produce in the short term or risk being released after two or three games. The Redskins signed him as short-term insurance.
Mike Sando: I'm against anything that requires additional calculations by me. Seriously, though, I would need to see how the figures might come out differently.
Mike Sando: And to think, the Cardinals can't lose this week.
Mike Sando: I can't say for sure that Cam Cameron would have resonated with players the way Mike Martz has resonated. Cameron is a laid-back guy who was coming off a 1-15 season. Martz has a bigger name, and I think the 49ers needed someone with that type of name recognition to catch their attention, at least in the short term.
Mike Sando: You've hit the bull's-eye on this one. Turnovers at the quarterback position kill a team's chances. O'Sullivan seems to have a knack for the fourth-quarter miscue.
Mike Sando: Long term, the Seahawks could be in for an interesting offseason as Ruskell gets a shot to remake the roster without concern for what Mike Holmgren might be thinking. On the officiating front, I thought the two penalties in the San Francisco game influenced the outcome. Both were bad calls. One wiped out the Deon Grant interception. The other was the holding call against Floyd Womack, which was one of the worst calls I've seen this season (and there have been plenty from which to choose). I thought the holding call against Mike Wahle was more defensible. I also think teams tend to make their own breaks. Nothing is going right for Seattle at this point.
Mike Sando: Agree completely. The Cardinals did a nice job fortifying their front seven. The move will continue to appear smart as long as Okeafor and Berry are healthy. Their recent injury histories expose the front office to criticism if they can't finish the season.
Mike Sando: They have to go 5-6 to even reach 6-10. I do see the very real potential for five or fewer victories.
Mike Sando: Thanks much. I don't like critical jerks either. I don't see three getting into the Pro Bowl. Sometimes having more than one great receiver can diminish the appreciation for each as individuals. People think about Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, not one or the other, for example. I feel safe in saying a team has not put three receivers into the Pro Bowl after the same season. Let me flip it around. If anyone remembers that happening, let us know.
Mike Sando: Well, they have one more game, at home against Seattle, before the bye. Losses to the Giants and Seahawks might be enough to force a change at the bye. That is my feeling, not a fact.
My perception would be that San Francisco will be 3-5 at the bye unless Matt Hasselbeck can get the Seahawks' offense going in Week 8.
Mike Sando: Thanks much! You are right, Hopper. I need to shut up or I'll bear the responsibility for some sort of unforeseen setback. You notice I ended my Sunday night column by saying none of this matters if Kurt Warner gets hurt. Trying to cover myself.
Well, defend my Niners this week, I dare you. Why can't or why won't they bring more pressure on D? And, why in the world would Mike Nolan not run over and choke Martz until he called a run after they were up nine and had just picked Mcnabb off? Wouldn't a long sustained drive ending in points have broke the Eagles spirit and taken a helluva lot of time off of the clock, thus leaving the Eagles not enough time to score two touchdowns?
Help, I'm going crazy right now, with a much worse version of the Mike and Mike show going on in San Francisco, I might have to do like that Cub fan and sell my loyalty off to the highest bidder. If Nolan is axed, please tell me that Martz will be tossed right along with him and do you think we could get Bill Cowher or someone of that calibur or are there any up and coming coordinators that would build on the youth and promise we have now? Keep it up and you deserve a raise.
Mike Sando: If you're Bill Cowher, why would you take a job with the 49ers? I think that is the question. Any big-time coach is likely going to evaluate the overall health of the franchise. That includes the stadi
um, the quarterback, the ownership, etc. The 49ers do not have a lot going for them that way.
Mike Sando: I watched for signs of that in the Green Bay game but did not see it, really. The defensive guys seemed to be giving good effort. They had some big hits. On offense, I think the problems are personnel related. The "quitting" angle would be something to consider later in the season if things really spiral.
Mike Sando: It's important for the Cardinals to feel like they can win that type of game even though things didn't all go right. That makes it easier for Ken Whisenhunt to get across his message credibly. I do see the Cardinals winning this division at this point. It's easier to say now that Seattle has fallen off so dramatically.
Mike Sando: I respect your passion, first, and I understand the frustration. I've been a fan rooting for bad teams and it's a helpless feeling. Here's hoping that letter makes you feel a little better.
Mike Sando: Classic complaint from someone rooting for a bad team. As a Raiders fan years ago, I can recall lamenting with friends about the "Al Davis draw play" in just those situations. Running that play is an admission that you can't protect and/or you can't trust the quarterback to avoid disaster.
Dain from Sedona, Ariz., writes: I have yet another question on the officiating from the Cowboys/Cards game. This one has to do with Laboy's offside call at the end of the game though. Now everyone knows that if an offensive player is "injured" and they don't have any timeouts the refs run 10 seconds off the clock, or they charge the team a timeout if they have any left. So why couldn't they have just charged the Cardinals a timeout since they had two left? The clock still stops like the Cowboys wanted, the injured player gets off the field, and Nick Folk misses a 57-yard attempt. If the Cardinals are out of timeouts, then they get a 5 yard penalty. Doesn't that make a little more sense and helps keep a game from ending on technicality?
Mike Sando: The league decided this was a penalty because LaBoy was walking off the field. If LaBoy were still down on the ground, the Cardinals could have been charged a timeout. The rules do not allow teams to trade timeouts for penalty yardage in those situations. At least that was what I took from officiating director Mike Pereira's explanation.
Chris from Bakersfield, Calif., writes: Mike, so what I've learned in the last couple of weeks, is that you can't tackle the QB, and you can't move while scoring a TD. Does the NFL plan to make adjustments to the rule book regarding these fines, and penalties to clearly state what is legal and what is not? Thank you Goooo Cardinals!!!
Mike Sando: No known plans along those lines. Commissioner Roger Goodell is making his mark with fines on these issues, no question.