Mailbag: 49ers better than expected?

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Dan from Lafayette, Calif., writes: Mike, last year the 49ers were the sexy pick to win the division or gain a Wild Card spot. They flopped mainly because of horrible QB play which resulted in no offensive production and a dead-tired defense. This year, with the team being improved on both sides of the ball and with some competent QB play from O'Sullivan, why can't the 49ers pull off 8 wins? If anything, they're a better team now than they were last year when they were the trendy pick.

Mike Sando: I wouldn't assume J.T. O'Sullivan will provide competent quarterback play. He might, but we have no evidence of that, unless you're going to rely upon a couple of preseason games against vanilla defenses. The 49ers turned to O'Sullivan almost by default after Alex Smith and Shaun Hill failed to seize the job. Again, he might become a very good quarterback. I just would not assume that.

Dan from parts unknown writes: Hi Mike, this is an extremely premature question, but after watching the Huskies get creamed by Oregon last week, this scenario could happen. If at the end of the season, Ty Willingham gets fired and the UW offered the job to Mora, his "dream job" as he stated, It brings up several questions. Does Mora even have an option or is a binding contract set. Did the Hawks, or are they even allowed, put any protective clauses in the offer? I'm sure all parties knew about Willingham's job instability. I'm also sure none of the involved parties would respond to this line of questioning. I just wondered if you had any factual information that if Willingham was fired and Mora was offered the job, COULD he refuse the Seahawks job and take it?

Mike Sando: I haven't seen Mora's contract, but I think the Seahawks wouldn't hire him without assurances he would indeed fulfill the contract. My take would be that Mora would probably rather have the Seahawks job than the UW job, anyway. He has unfinished business in the NFL and a better shot at winning in the short term.

Scott from Mesa, Ariz., writes: Mike, I'm the lead blogger for raisingzona.com. I generally like your stuff, but I think you guys were off base on the fan rankings. I'm looking forward to the season though! Go NFC WEST!!
Mike Sando: The rankings were subjective. We had eight people ranking four teams apiece. We tried to apply similar standards, but eight people are not going to produce one standard. It's more of a fun thing than something fans should take personally. The Cardinals, like every team, have some great fans. I personally exclude the great ones from this type of ranking.

Dave from parts unknown writes: Not sure if you realize this, but the Bills aren't in the NFC West.... though half of your questions centered around the Buffallo Bills. You should probably check which teams are in what divisions b4 you do something like this in the future.
Mike Sando: I'm assuming you're talking about the Thursday chat. It's likely we received Bills-related questions in advance of the Seahawks-Bills game Sunday.

Capt757 from Rochester, N.Y., writes: Do you think any body willpick up shaun Alexander?
Mike Sando: I see no evidence of that yet. Perhaps he'll have to wait until a team suffers a serious injury at the position.

Dan from Chicago writes: Hey Sando, Been reading up on the lack of depth on the Cards O and D line for week one. How big an impact will that have on the 9ers chances?
Mike Sando: The Cardinals have pretty good depth in the defensive front seven, but the nose-tackle situation is problematic with Gabe Watson and Alan Branch hurting. The depth on the offensive line isn't a problem unless the Cardinals lose a player to injury. I think the 49ers' offense could have some success if Mike Martz commits to the running game.

Joey from New York writes: Mike, Keeping Matt Hasselbeck healthy maybe more important than anything on the offensive side of the ball. With Sean Locklear being banged up and doubts whether Ray Willis can be a #1 right tackle some insurance on the offensive line could not hurt, and I am sure they have enough cap space for an addition. Any thoughts on Seattle being interested in recently cut Willie Anderson?
Mike Sando: Sorry for getting to this after the Ravens signed Anderson. I don't think Seattle would trade Ray Willis for three Willie Andersons, given Anderson's age and the way Willis played most of the preseason. Willis has a future in the league. Anderson would be a stopgap at this point in his career. He has given so much. Not sure how much his body has left to give. Perhaps escaping Cincinnati will give him new life.

Toby from Granada Hills, Calif., writes: Mike, Not sure if you approve of his actions in your forum/comments section, but Guest49er's act is getting old. I can handle a passionate sports fan. I have no desire to be personally attacked by some overly angry individual hiding behind a keyboard.
Mike Sando: My philosophy is to raise the level of conversation and to ignore those unwilling to do so.

Conallin from Syndney, Australia, writes: This is not specific to the NFC West but do you agree with me when i say taht teams that continually change coaches especially offensively that this limits the offensive effectiveness that team enjoys througout the season. eg: the niners with 4 new offesnsive coaches in 5 years or somethign along those lines. do your also agree this severely effects players eg alex smith
Mike Sando: Yes, I do believe this is the case, and I believe it's the case emphatically with San Francisco. Alex Smith's career would surely be on a different course had he stuck with Norv Turner or another competent coordinator for the long term.

Peaboy from Seattle writes: I'm trying to decide if this is a very banged up Seahawks team or a very deep Hawks team who can afford to rest folks with minor injuries who might on other teams be forced to play. Great coverage of the NFC West now I actually follow more than the Hawks! -p
Mike Sando: Thanks, Peaboy. Much appreciated. Seattle's depth provides a bit of a luxury. For example, the Seahawks figure the dropoff from Locklear to Willis at right tackle is not dramatic. Locklear is a better technician. Willis looks like more of a slugger.