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Mailbag: Cardinals after Kurt Warner?

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Ryan from Greeley, Colo., writes: Hey Mike, thanks a bunch for your great posts on the NFC West. I love my Cardinals, and until now, there's never enough coverage on them unless they're doing good. That being said, what do the Cardinals have to look forward to as far as the QB situation goes? Now, I don't think Leinart has gotten his fair shake, but is he really the answer in the coming years? What does life after Warner look like? Thanks!

Mike Sando: Thanks, Ryan. The team would have a hard time going with anyone other than Warner next season if the Cardinals were to win the division this season.

Some of the scouting people I know do like Matt Leinart and think he can become a good quarterback. I would just ride Warner as long as feasible and then give Leinart a try. I think the Cardinals will need to strengthen their running game in preparing for the Leinart era. Warner is better suited for throwing it around without as much support from the ground game.


Kevin from Turnersville, N.J., writes: Hey Mike, two years ago we saw the emergence of Frank Gore as one of the top backs in the league, though there was one problem, he fumbled too much. Especially on the goal line. I live right outside of Philadelphia and I can't stand the Eagles but when Gore fumbled at the goal line against them 2 years ago, I was so frustrated because after the game I realized that had he scored, they could've pulled that one out.

He's cut down on the fumbles but sometimes he still puts the ball on the ground. My question is, what has Gore done to improve on his ball carrying? How much does it frustrate him knowing that he is one of the most passionate players in the league? Also, Mike Singletary is highly respected among the league. Mike Smith is also highly thought of. Other coaches respect him and his players respect him. In my view, that's the most important thing of being a coach, getting your players to respect you.

So with that in mind, what do you think of Singletary being promoted to head coach after Nolan is fired? What do you think its effect on the team would be? I see the effects of a coaching change in St. Louis last week so how do you think the team would respond?

Mike Sando: Frank Gore has fumbled once for every 64.5 touches this season. He fumbled once every 78.25 touches last season. So, he is fumbling more frequently, strange as that sounds.

Fumbles lost is the number that has improved for Gore, from one every 71 touches as a rookie to one per 74.6 in his second season, one per 104.3 in his third season and one per 129 this season.

The hand injury Gore suffered going into last season didn't help on that front. Overall, we haven't seen wild swings in fumbles per touch from Gore.

As for identifying potential future head coaches, the 49ers seem to need someone with a proven record of winning as a head coach. The organization could use the credibility such a coach would bring, in my view.

On a short-term basis, the 49ers might also respond well to a change. But I'm not sure a new coach would prevent the offense from suffering fourth-quarter turnovers.


WilliamBryan from Vancouver, Wash., writes: In your last mailbag there was a question about Holmgren's offense being predictable and not using any trick plays.

Well I agree on the predictability, I know what play is coming at least 75% of the time(It may only be 50% but it is still a lot) by formation and the situation. But Holmgren did try a trick play once, it was a flea flicker that failed miserably, I can't remember the game but it was within the last two seasons (it may have even been a preseason game?)

I'm not crazy about trick plays myself but i have wondered why Holmgren hasn't used them just a little more considering how many times we have been victimized by them. Super bowl, Buffalo this year, Redskins game when Spurrier was the coach...

Mike Sando: I recall Holmgren using a flea flicker in his first game as Seahawks coach. Jon Kitna got drilled by someone on the Lions, as I recall. Holmgren does become more predictable when he thinks -- correctly in this case -- that the personnel dramatically limits his options. Charlie Frye threw two picks when Holmgren tried to open it up a little.


Brian from Walnut Creek, Calif., writes: Sando, you really let us down. You have to at least get Frank into the discussion for best RB in the league. Leading the league in yards from scrimmage (at least he was before the weekend, not sure if he still is) with a average at best O-line and being the only real weapon on the team. C'mon Sando, you know he belongs in the discussion and as the NFC West blogger that was on you!
Mike Sando: Except it wasn't a discussion. I was asked to name the running back I considered the best in the league through the first six games. I chose Portis for the reasons given. There wasn't room for me to bring up other backs. That's why I brought it up on the blog. As noted, I would take Gore ahead of Portis and lots of runners if I were establishing a team from scratch. The 49ers' production gets discounted a bit because the team is 2-4 and riding a three-game skid. Team success played into my thinking as well.


Leesters from Phoenix writes: Mike, What's the Cardinals looking at doing for travel plans? We know how well the last one went. With a bye week, there are lots of options. Any idea what they're trying to change their fortunes on east coast road games? How can a team be so good at home, and so bad three time zones away? Any idea if they're going early, flying out late, or anything different than the typical Friday flight that hasn't worked?
Mike Sando: I thought about asking Ken Whisenhunt if the team would be leaving Friday or Saturday -- of this week -- for the upcoming game at Carolina. It would have been a tongue-in-cheek thing. I expect them to leave Friday of next week. Emotions and confidence are a big part of football. Home crowds facilitate those things. Teams just play better at home most of the time.


Mark from Fresno, Calif., writes: Sando, I'm not saying JTO is the answer, but I think it's safe to say Alex Smith is going elsewhere to restart his career. Where do you think he'll end up? Possibly back with turner in San Diego as a backup. What are your thoughts? Thanks, Mark
Mike Sando: You're right about Alex Smith probably landing elsewhere. The Norv Turner connection makes the most sense for a few reasons. One, Turner coached Smith in San Francisco. Two, Smith could stand to learn from a guy like Philip Rivers. Three, Smith is a West Coast guy.


Ryan from Seattle writes: Love your work Sando, but often times I feel like you are "pressing" for blog information just for the sake of posting. I'm curious, are you required to post a certain amount of information? I find myself sifting through the posts for the "best of" in an effort avoid the "I posted this just so i could have another post."
Mike Sando: We're not required to post a certain number of times. I want to be the eyes and ears for the division, so sometimes I'll post stuff that doesn't go as deep from an analysis standpoint. The note on Pisa Tinoisamoa would be an example of that. I ran across it in Jim Haslett's comments and thought it might make a short note. I spend much more time focusing on the analytical stuff. But I do want this to be a place where people can stay abreast of things large and small. Thoughts?


Stephen from parts unknown writes: Hasselbeck has been called one of the elite QB's but the fact that he isn't playing at a time when the team desperately needs him, particularly in l
ight of the well-documented playing-with-injury types, Romo and Rodgers, has me questioning his moxy and leadership. Thoughts?
Mike Sando: Did you see him stay in the game against the Giants after suffering the knee injury? The guy has played with all sorts of ailments of the years. Knee, rib, hand, finger, shoulder, etc.


Ryan from Chandler, Ariz., writes: Sando, absolutely fantastic job with the blog, I would like to comment on Jared from LA's question in the last mailbag along with your answer.
Cam Cameron was available to the 49ers when they hired Martz. Cameron uses the same system that Norv Turner uses, and Alex Smith had his best year (in that system). In my opinion the 49ers should have gone aggressively to sign Cameron instead of Martz. Your thoughts please. Thanks, Ryan

Mike Sando: Thanks, Ryan! Another question: Did Cam Cameron want to come to the 49ers? That might be a pertinent question too.


Mike from Phoenix writes: Mike, Will the Cardinals resign Kurt Warner in 2009 (provided he doesn't retire)? In addition, do you think they will draft a QB (mid to late rounds perhaps) in this coming draft to put a little pressure on Leinart for future years...perhaps so he doesn't get complacent with his ascendancy to the job.
Mike Sando: I don't see how they could let Warner leave to another team if the Cardinals win the division. Their current third-team QB, Brian St. Pierre, has looked better than a late-round rookie would likely look in 2009.


Ben from San Francisco writes: Sando, as an avid fan of Seattle sports, please give me something to look forward to in these dire times. The Sonics are gone, the Mariners are aweful, and the Hawks are at the bottom of the NFL. Anything.
Mike Sando: Tough one. I recommend putting on blinders and watching only Brandon Mebane on defense for Seattle. Block out everything else.


Juan from New York writes: Cardinals number 6. What are you drinking because they beat the bills and cowboys you rank them that high. Why not Miami, didn't they beat the two teams that competed in the AFC Championship game. Didn't the cardinals get spanked by the Jets why aren't the jets ahead of the Cardinals.
Mike Sando: Like I said, none of these rankings are going to hold up in court. I do recall watching the Cardinals and Dolphins play this season. I thought the Dolphins' effort in pass defense was one of the worst I could recall, at least until the Cardinals played the Jets. Weird league. Tough rankings.


Mike B. from Los Angeles writes: Sando, Now that the Seahawks season is basically over, do you think that the team might consider going to a 3-4 next year under a new defensive coordinator? It seems to me they could use Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant at nose tackle, Rocky Bernard (they?d have to resign him) at one end and rotate Kearney and Jackson at the other end.
They could move Darrell Tapp back to be a stand-up OLB. They'd have Tapp and Julian Peterson at OLB, and Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill at inside LB. I've always felt that Bernard was a 3-4 end and Tapp an OLB anyway. And what about bringing Michael Boulware back as a 3-4 OLB? I always thought that was his natural position. I never saw him as a safety.

Mike Sando: I do not recommend that type of change. Guys who run the 3-4 have it in their blood, it seems. Jim Mora is not a 3-4 guy. I would advise Mora to stick with what he knows.


Jax from Madison Heights, Va., writes: Mike, I'm a die-hard fan for the 49ers. We have had some great glory days and even worse dog days. Heck our former Hall of Fame quarterback (Young) cringes when he has to analyze a game for us. That being said, when is enough enough?? When does the front office see through Mike Nolan's smoke screen? When does his defensive mind be recognized as well LESS THAN AVERAGE?? Mike Nolan you had your shot. You traded away two future stars (J. Peterson, Brandon Lloyd) just to make headlines in your camp. I guess i'm just asking, Mike when do the 49ers return to glory?
Mike Sando: I understand your frustration but at what point in the future is Brandon Lloyd going to become a star? The Chicago Bears would like to know. Haha.

Seriously, Lloyd has 40 catches in three season since leaving the 49ers. His numbers this year do look good, but I wouldn't downgrade Nolan for giving up on Lloyd at that time.

To your broader question: I don't think the 49ers can return to glory until they find the right quarterback. Perhaps that quarterback is J.T. O'Sullivan, but they can't know that yet.


Brian from Missoula, Mont., writes: Sando, great job on the blog, always enjoy reading your work. When Shaun Alexander returns to Qwest Field on Nov. 23rd as a member of the Washington Redskins, he deserves nothing less than a standing ovation from the Seattle crowd.
As far as I'm concerned, he sold his RB soul (explosiveness, quickness, pinnacle offensive line) for a super bowl run & MVP season. He's a class act and never deserved to be booed while he was transforming to Jamal Anderson version 2001. As someone who covered his career what are your thoughts on his return to the NFL & his role with the Redskins? Thanks

Mike Sando: Thanks, Brian. A few thoughts: Alexander might not be on the Redskins' roster by Nov. 23. Washington signed him as short-term insurance. Alexander will have to earn that roster spot. Two, I think Alexander deserves an ovation for the record-setting career he enjoyed with the team. He was the most productive back in team history. Production is a pretty good measure of a back.


John from Akron, Ohio, writes: Hi Mike, As an NFL fan, I enjoy the chance to read your blog whenever possible. Recently, I decided to conduct my dissertation on sports fans (NFL fans) perceptions each other, as well as winning and losing and how it affects fan behavior. As a part of this, I have decided that I could get much better feedback from NFL fans online than I could ever get from a room full of college students rushing through a survey for class points.
Therefore, I would like to ask you to assist me by providing a hyperlink to my online study and simply mentioning my study on your blog. Please understand this is non-profit, academic research that will be used for my dissertation, and then potentially journal articles, book chapters, and conference presentations. Please feel free to browse (or even take) the questionnaire yourself. I would genuinely appreciate your support and want to thank you for your time.

Mike Sando: Sorry, I cannot link to your study. Wait, I just did. Good luck with it and let me know how it goes.