NFC West: Jordan Gross
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Thanks to those who contributed to the chat. One item from each team in the division:
John (Boston, MA): How can anyone actually believe Arizona has a shot in this game? They lost 48-20 to Philadelphia less than two months ago. People who pick them say that they can win because their defense will force turnovers and because that crowd will be deafening. Um, do they not realize that McNabb is not exactly Matt Ryan or Jake Delhomme when it comes to turning the ball over? And do they also forget that the Eagles went into the dome in Minnesota and won? Eagles 31-13.
Mike Sando: The Thanksgiving game seems irrelevant. If the Eagles and Ravens advance, are people going to write off McNabb and Philly based on what happened when in the Eagles-Ravens game months earlier? I would think not.
Ruben (Highland, Ca): Hey Mike, If the Rams stay at no. 2 and no. 35, who do you see them taking? If they are able to move down a few spots and pick up an extra 2nd, will the targets be the same?
Mike Sando: It's always good to start with a Rams-related question. We need more of them. The Rams need to help their offensive line, but the draft might be deep enough in tackles for St. Louis to find a starter with that 35th pick. They could then use the second pick to find more of a play-maker. That would be one theory. As for names, I'd be guessing. We might have a better idea when the team names a coach and settles on schemes for the 2009 season.
Joe (Davis, CA): Sando, do you foresee the 49ers being players in the offseason FA market?
If so, do you think they'll go after FA OT Jordan Gross?
Mike Sando: That route has worked so well in the past (Jonas Jennings). I see the Panthers re-signing Gross and the 49ers going the draft route.
David (Bellevue, WA): Hey Sando. In your mind, what are the chances of the Seahawks sticking with the #4 pick and drafting Crabtree? I know this question is like beating a dead horse but with players choosing to stay at school, I'm starting to get worried. (Bradford staying at OU and even Mays at USC, someone might trade up now to grab Crabtree) AND do you see us picking up a big free agent like Haynesworth? Thanks! Go Hawks!
Mike Sando: I don't necessarily see Seattle spending big on a free-agent defensive lineman. The Seahawks have so much money tied up in Patrick Kerney, and they have invested high draft choices in a Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp. The feeling I got at Jim Mora's news conference Tuesday was that Mora and GM Tim Ruskell expect their new defensive staff to push some of these younger players harder than they've been pushed. As for the draft, I do think the Seahawks might go for an offensive playmaker if available.
I'll hit the mailbag in a bit. Full chat transcript here. We discussed at some length how much to read into the Cardinals' game at Philadelphia in Week 13.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Doug from parts unknown writes: Mr. Sando, I know it's almost too early to think about this, but, how do you forsee Boldin and his contract situation to play out? With the emergence of Breaston, they're already looking at a great trio. On top of that, if (big if as of now, can't predict the future) Doucet turns out to be what the Cards think he can be, they'll be over-loaded with WR's. Weren't many thinking Doucet was going to be a factor this season if it weren't for his pre-season injury? It all leads me to wonder where this leaves Boldin and the Cards. Does there come a time to think about some sort of deal that would bring in players to fill more pressing needs? Again, thanks for a great season of blogging.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Doug, and you're welcome. I don't see the Cardinals relenting easily on Boldin. They own his rights for multiple seasons. They have other priorities this offseason, starting at quarterback and including franchise player Karlos Dansby. Early Doucet would have been more of a factor as a rookie this season if he had stayed healthy, but Steve Breaston's emergence also changed the rotation.
I suppose Boldin could make his situation untenable enough to pressure the Cardinals into doing something. But no one should be able to force the Cardinals into a bad decision.
This situation presents the Cardinals with an opportunity. They need to treat Boldin with respect. They should explain clearly the situation and their reasoning, putting Boldin's situation in the context of other priorities. General manager Rod Graves or president Michael Bidwill could help the situation by shielding coach Ken Whisenhunt from the type of criticism Boldin directed the coach's way in July.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Martin from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Mike, I have been a diehard 49ers fan since I was a very young. I have enjoyed some great times and as of late, I have suffered with my team's ineptitude. It appears with the hiring of Mike Singletary (couldn't be happier) that we are on the right path. With Singletary taking the reins for good, it appears that Martz is on his way out. Which means another year with another offensive coordinator. Do you think this is a good idea? You need consistency, and if we change OC every year, how can we achieve success?
As the past 49er teams achieve success with a short passing game in place of a power running game, which is the opposite of Singletary's philosophy. My question is, do you think a marriage of the two philosophies much like the Washington Redskins offense with the West Coast passing and a power running game work with the Niners? Who do you see as possible candidates for offensive coordinator and will they stay longer than one year?
Mike Sando: All things being equal, the 49ers probably would have hired an offensive head coach who called the plays. That would have provided protection against the coordinator instability that has hurt the franchise in recent seasons.
All things were not equal, however, after Singletary led the 49ers to four victories in their final five games. Singletary's strong leadership, backed by the 49ers' on-field improvement, made him the only choice the 49ers considered for the job.
If Singletary determines Martz isn't a good fit for his offense, he needs to make the change now. Yes, such a move would come at the expense of continuity, but these are the breaks. Singletary might get only one chance to set up his staff the right way. Now is the time to get that done. Singletary needs in place an offensive staff he trusts, one that shares his philosophy. Singletary and Martz made things work over the second half of this season, but their philosophical differences might be harder to reconcile over the long haul.
The fact that the 49ers were willing to risk continued instability at offensive coordinator speaks to a couple of things.
One, 49ers management wasn't onboard when former coach Mike Nolan hired Martz (we know this because general manager Scot McCloughan said as much before Nolan made the hire).
Two, Singletary proved enough over the second half of the season to make his hiring worth [in the 49ers' eyes] whatever staff fallout might ensue.
Singletary's rise is a great story at this point. Things were not looking good for him after his memorable debut game against the Seahawks. My criticisms of Singletary then related to his unstable behavior during and after that game. Singletary later acknowledged that he needed to project himself differently. He did that, and it worked. He deserves credit for that.
Unlike Nolan, who never seemed to admit an error, Singletary worked to get better. Had he continued in the vein he displayed in that first game, I would still be questioning that behavior and the 49ers would probably be looking for that offensive-minded head coach.
As for coordinator candidates, I don't have a firm list. I would think former Rams coach Scott Linehan might be a good fit. If the team goes for an unproven coordinator, that would seem like quite a risk. It's not like the head coach could take over the offense in a pinch.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The 49ers are excited about Joe Staley taking over at left tackle. Others are taking notice as well. Former NFL scout Tom Marino, now with Scout.com, ranks Staley among the 10 best left tackles in the NFL, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Marino's top five: Buffalo's Jason Peters, St. Louis' Orlando Pace, Seattle's Walter Jones, Dallas' Flozell Adams and Carolina's Jordan Gross. Marino then lists Staley among five players receiving honorable mention.
Marino's assessment draws three of the 10 left tackles in the league from the NFC West. Pace has hardly played over the last two seasons, however, and Jones has battled through injuries that have prevented him from dominating as thoroughly. Pace and Jones are feeling better this summer. Their teams will improve if they regain top form.