Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando stopping by to talk about the latest NFL happenings.
Sando joined ESPN.com in 2007 after nine seasons covering the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. He previously covered Washington State University football and basketball for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. Mike grew up in Northern California before attending Whitworth College, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in political studies. He lives in the Seattle-Tacoma area with his wife and their two sons.
Send your questions now and join Sando on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
Aaron (San Diego, Ca)
What would you give the 49ers chances againt Philly, They have had strong performances in every road game they have played this year, having a hard time finishing out, I am hearing it is likely to snow in Philly and if the 49ers are learning how to run again and Philly hates to try and run (passing in the snow isnt very easy) and Alex continues to be efficent do you think this is a game we could realalisticly win?
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
This is such a great opportunity for the 49ers. They really have nothing to lose. Everyone, including me, has pretty much written them off as a playoff team. They are playing with house money a little bit right now, simply because they were so down after that loss to Seattle. It is a really tough test for them, though. They travel cross country on a short week to play an early game against a playoff-caliber team in tough conditions. Mike Singletary has to secretly love it. In the end, though, it just seems unlikely that Alex Smithy will stare down that Philly defense and do enough to win the game. If he does, wow, what a great moment for him and for the 49ers.
Tatoman (Orange County)
Mike, what is the over-under on the 49ers getting the wild card? 40 percent?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
That would be a highly optimistic forecast. This site has some projections.
Jay (Cincinnati, OH)
What is it about the niners that's made them run hot and cold this season? Seems like they are clicking and outplaying better opponents (Cardinals x2, close losses to Vikings & Colts), but then come out completely flat in other games (Falcons, Texans, Packers). And sometimes they dominate the teams they're clearly better than (Rams, 1st Seahawks game) and other times they're underachieving (2nd Seahawks game). So what gives? Can I expect them to be more consistent next year with some more continuity (especially on offense)? Or is something just seriously wrong there?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
The 49ers are finding their identity. Alex Smith wasn't ready to be the starter heading into the season. Michael Crabtree was not even available. Vernon Davis was still emerging. The team overestimated its offensive line. The pieces weren't really in place until midseason. Now the 49ers are figuring out some things offensively. The next three games are important not only for trying to qualify for the playoffs, but also for establishing their identity in light of the changes.
Loved your comment in the Arizona rankings about how the 49ers own the Cards 2 days a year. That was brilliant! The 49ers and Cards seem to suffer from the same inconsistency issues (as does many NFL teams these days). As far as next year, assuming each team has good drafts, who do you handicap as the front runner for 2010 NFC West division winner?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Glad you got a chuckle out of that, James (I had said the Bidwills own the Cardinals 363 days a year, with the 49ers owning them the other two days). Arizona is still the favorite if Kurt Warner is playing at a reasonably high level. Warner does look old sometimes. He is old by NFL standards. I could see the 49ers overtaking the Cardinals next season, though. They just need to keep working through some things offensively.
Mike, why are so many Seahawks fans so critical of Jim Mora? I love his fire and intensity, and his coaching style. He's not afraid to speak his mind, or to get in his players' faces. And after all, I never saw a coach miss a blocking assignment, or run a wrong route, or drop a pass.
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
Jim Mora cannot win with fans unless he wins on the field. Fans will compare him to Mike Holmgren, and when they make the comparison, they will reference the 13-3 Holmgren (2005), not the 6-10 Holmgren (2000) or 4-12 Holmgren (2008). There will be no grace period in fans' minds.
Let's scare the Seahawks-homers. What are the odds on Holmgren taking a VP/GM position with the Redskins and being reunited with his old QB Coach, Jim Zorn?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
I'm not sure whether Holmgren would want to work for an owner so involved in the day-to-day operation. That would otherwise be a pretty good fit, though. Mike Holmgren and his wife, Kathy, might fit well in Washington, D.C., circles.
Rex Hughes (Troy, MO)
Ok, so now we can't get Jake Locker and I'm hoping we aren't stuck with Jabba the Bulger much longer. Who is on Mel Kiper's Big Board at QB that you think the Rams will come with and take a hard look at? Selecting a QB early for this team seems as easy as a one piece puzzle. Oy vey and Happy Holidays, Sando!
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Marc Bulger's contract calls for him to make more money in 2010 than the Rams would ever pay him. He will very likely be gone after this season. It's time, anyway. Let's watch to see how the Rams allocate their financial resources. How willing will they be to invest massive capital in a high-risk franchise quarterback when they have so many other needs? Might they be more inclined to look for a cheaper version of Bulger, meaning a veteran quarterback? The Dolphins added Chad Pennington, for example.
This really is a Johnny-come-lately league... at least by the media that covers it. I seem to remember the Cardinals sweeping the 49ers last year. Sure, the 49ers kill the Cards last week, and barely won in week 1, but lest we forget last year. I'd love to meet the 49ers in the playoffs.
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
The 49ers play the Cardinals tough. It's not a great matchup for Arizona relative to other matchups. The 49ers make the Cardinals earn everything they get.
Hey Mike. Do you see a repeat NFC championship trip for the Cardinals? I believe that they have the talent, but they still haven't been able to be consistent for more than three weeks at a time. Also, what do you think the Cardinal's biggest need for the draft. I'm thinking LB is the biggest priority, but maybe you have another take?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Yeah, I could see the Cardinals getting back there. There's a decent chance they would have dome games on the road, and we know they can match up with the Vikings. I give them a decent chance. In the draft, I'm with you in singling out linebacker as a need position. The team could also use depth on the offensive line and possibly a tight end.
Chris (Danville, Ca)
Last year the Cards seemed to be in a very similar position as this year. Do you think that because the ran through the NFC as a surprise last year, teams will expect them to play well in the playoffs and be more prepared this year?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Teams might respect the Cardinals more, but the assumption here is that teams prepare hard for playoff games, regardless of the opponent. It's possible the Cardinals shocked Carolina on the road in the divisional round last season, and an upcoming divisional opponent might not let that happen.
Rob (Allentown, PA)
Which team do the Cardinals have a better chance against on the road in the playoffs: Minnesota or New Orleans?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
The Vikings, based on the regular-season result.
Does Holmgren's deadline of Christmas take him out of the running for a position with the hawks? It doesn't seem like the Hawks are in that big of hurry.
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
If Mike Holmgren has set a hard deadline of Christmas, yes, that would take him off the Seahawks' radar. I don't think the Seahawks had him atop their list anyway. If they did, they would be moving on him, probably. It takes a confident organization to not even consider Mike Holmgren as a candidate.
JGH (San Jose)
What do you make of the Holmgren-Browns dance and how it affects the Seahawks? Do you believe there are people in the Seahawks org who really don't want Holmgren as the football czar?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Of course there are people in the Seahawks' organization would not want Mike Holmgren installed as a football czar. The team currently has the same ownership that reduced Holmgren's powers following the 2002 season. The difference now is that Holmgren, if hired by Seattle, would not also serve as head coach. As I've said all along, though, Holmgren's handling of his potential candidacy has probably hurt his chances of rejoining the team. He has been too forward and aggressive.
408 (Santa Cruz)
Hey Sando,You said you'd research this question and get a good answer for it:If 2010 is an uncapped year, can the 49er's front load a bunch of players contracts (i.e. Davis, Willis, etc..) so they can keep their future cap space when a new CBA is negotiated? Example, pay Willis 20 mil next year (cause you know he's getting a lot of guaranteed money anyway), and have his next 4-5 years be 3/4 million.
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Yes, I do think a team could do that in theory. But the reality right now is that quite a few teams have enough cap room to take those steps immediately if they really wanted to go that route. Only a few teams have significant cap issues. The cap is not an impediment for most teams, so there might be little incentive to front-load deals in an uncapped year.
Mike - I am a realistic Seahawks fan, I understand we are in somewhat of a rebuilding phase. When do you think Seahawk Managment will figure it out? Walter, Kerney, Branch and more all need to go. Keep Hass only for one more year and let him tutor new QB. Both lines need major upgrades........Housh was a mistake he is too old I would even say unload him if we could......Thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Jim Mora has already figured it out. Look for significant changes this offseason. Patrick Kerney and Deion Branch are probably playing their final games under their current contracts. Adding T.J. Houshmandzadeh made sense if the Seahawks were close to contending. In retrospect, though, that was probably money the team could have spent more efficiently.
Vince (Wenatchee, WA)
Seahawks fans are critical of Mora because he had 2 years to evaluate the roster, blames players and not himself for their ineptitude, and fails to command a team in dissaray.
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Those are strong words, but I can't disagree totally. Mora was constrained by what Tim Ruskell wanted to do with the roster. But that is possibly one factor, not an excuse.
Chris (Danville, Ca)
With the recent play of Ahmad Brooks, it may be logical for the 49ers to only take a pass-rusher project in the later rounds and focus early on the line. Do you think that they go for RT-LG early in the draft? How do you see it actually playing out?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Yes, I see them drafting an offensive lineman in the first two rounds, most likely. It didn't fall right for them last season but it's probably more important they make that work one way or another. Let's see how Brooks finishes, too.
Mike - Should the Cardinals be worried about how poor their passing game was against the 49ers? Is it a sign of bigger problems or is it simply that the 49ers match up well against the Cardinals? Also, does it seem like the Cardinals are trying to force the deep ball? What's the solution?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
The solution is to run the ball without fumbling. The Cardinals ran the ball better than expected against the 49ers. They can be a good running team. They need to stick with that. If they do, and if they protect the ball better, the downfield throws will open up. They probably forced the deep ball a little, but I think that is OK. They had Steve Breaston open, but Dre Bly made an excellent play. Larry Fitzgerald nearly caught that jump ball on the play resulting in his injury.
408 (Santa Cruz)
Do you really think the 49ers should have taken a look at Incognito? I just don't see him being any better than what the 49er's already have...
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
No, the 49ers did not need to take a look at him. Their guards have played better recently. I just thought Mike Singletary would be better equipped than most to handle such a player.
Chris (Danville, Ca)
the 49ers chances certainly are not good against the Eagles, but the possibility of snow, that would make Desean Jackson much less of a factor and the Eagles running game has improved, but the 49ers have certainly been the better the running team on both ends of the ball. Do the 49ers have a decent chance of pulling a second straight stunner?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
It wasn't a stunner to see them beat the Cardinals. The seven turnovers were stunning, but not the eventual outcome. Yes, I thought the Cardinals would win the game. But that's a matchup the 49ers have proven they can win. Does it apply to the Eagles? Not so sure. I give the 49ers a slim chance at Philadelphia. The Eagles will certainly take them seriously after the Monday night game.
CKing (San Diego CA)
if the 49ers finish 8-8 they still have a reasonable chance at the playoffs, assuming other teams (Giants, Cowgirls, Falcons) end up there as well. Do you think Alex Smith has shown enough to date to be the starting QB going into the offseason?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Yes, Alex Smith has shown enough to be the quarterback heading into next season. The 49ers should only make a change if there's a clear upgrade available. Otherwise, they should try to continue developing Smith. Getting to 8-8 would be significant, too, because it would mark undeniable progress in the standings.
Hey Mike, From what I have seen of the Seahawks this year, it seems that Mora has tried to institute both a offense and defense that is power based and not the speed based that our personnel fit in. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Hmmm. The Seahawks do not have speed at running back. They do not have speed across the board at wide receiver. They got bigger in the offseason, but apparently not tougher, according to Jim Mora. I just think they need more talent, particularly on the lines.
What do you think the Rams would be like now if they kept Kurt Warner and he was still playing for the Rams?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Kurt would be wearing a full body cast.
Scott (St Louis)
Thoughts on who the Rams should draft in April (yes, that's what I'm left looking forward to)? Suh at #1 probably and then try to get a QB in the later rounds. Or do you think they try to trade down and stockpile picks?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
Do not trade down unless it's an obvious win. This team needs difference makers, not the next role player found later in a draft. Drafting a quarterback in the later rounds probably isn't going to help over the long term. They did that last offseason.
Ethan A (West Memphis)
Mike Sando (1:49 PM): Kurt would be wearing a full body cast.Does that mean Bulger deserves a shot at starting for a different team?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Yeah, I would think he could compete for a job somewhere.
Anthony (Bowling Green ky)
I'm a fan of Josh Morgan mainly because of the what I read about on 49ers websites and columns. When I mention him around any non 49er fan I get weird looks like I'm Crazy. Where would you say he ranks among other WR, in terms of talent and potential? not stats? And do you think I may be sold on an average receiver because of my bias to the team?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Josh Morgan hasn't taken a huge step forward. He has nearly doubled his reception total from last season, but his yards per catch are way down. He blocks well and he hasn't been bad, but your affinity for the 49ers and Morgan's draft-day status might be influencing how you feel.
Do you think Warner is planning on playing after this year? I'm sure it depends on whether the Cards do something in the playoffs, but Warner is really getting up there in years. If Warner does retire, do you realistically think that Leinart is ready to take the reigns and run the offense? I don't think I would like seeing a whole year of checking down to Hightower and Wells, leaving Fitz and Boldin without catches.
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
The offense is already changing in preparation for Kurt Warner's retirement. This will become more of a run-oriented team. I would think Warner would come back for one more year.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week. Here's a formal invite to follow me on Twitter.