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!
Paul (Albany, OR)
Mike, please tell me the Rams will not screw this up this year. We cannot blame anyone else for taking the guy we want right in front of us this time. The kid Suh from Nebraska HAS to be the pick right? No down side, great kid, great motor, difference maker. ALL the right things. I know they need a qb, but the chance of missing on a qb early is significantly greater than any other position. For every Matt Ryan, there are more Jamarcus Russell's, Cade McNown's, Akili Smith's, Ryan Leaf's etc. (are you getting my point here?). They could draft the kid from Central Michigan or Sean Canfield from Oregon State in the later rounds and not have to pay as much and come out way ahead. If they draft a qb as #1 and pay him #1 money, they will feel forced to play him and oy will that hurt whatever kid it is. Suh should be signed the day after the combine, right? Am I wrong here Mike? Honestly???
Mike Sando (12:46 PM)
I'm with you based on what we think we know. The Rams have failed to land playmakers while picking second overall in each of the last two drafts. That must change. They cannot take a QB just to take one. There has to be a QB there worth the risk. Suh seems to be the early consensus best player.
Mike, we love your blog, especially the "Silver Linings" entries. Anyway, who among us won't have a job next year? And who is going to be replaced by some punk college kid?
Mike Sando (12:50 PM)
The assumption here is that Jim Mora will likely return for another season. We could see staff changes even if Mora comes back. The first player Tim Ruskell drafted in Seattle, Chris Spencer, seems to have run his course. It's tough to see him returning for another season. Deion Branch and Patrick Kerney are high-priced players unlikely to return next season. Walter Jones' future is in question for medical reasons. Deon Grant's future might be worth talking about. Lots of people could be at risk depending on who takes over as GM.
Amro (Peoria, AZ)
In the wild card game, AZ could be playing against GB, NYG, or even DAL. In your opinion, which one is easier for the Cardinals?
Mike Sando (12:51 PM)
The Cardinals would have to like the matchup against the Giants in terms of attacking that Giants defense.
Dan (Indian Head, MD)
Mike, do the 49ers have enough cash in an uncapped year to get Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis and Aubrayo Franklin wrapped up in the right contracts? Is Jed York going to be the owner he needs to be and fork over the $$$? New stadium needs big-time players! Thanks.
Mike Sando (12:56 PM)
The presence of a cap isn't affecting whether the 49ers can sign any of those players to long-term deals. The franchise tag seems suited for Franklin. He would get some money in his pocket, which he has earned, but the 49ers would not have to commit long-term resources to a player who hasn't shown consistency over multiple seasons. I think the 49ers will step up to re-sign these players. They have shifted their focus from finding quick fixes in free agency to taking care of their own guys. Joe Staley's deal comes to mind.
Matteson (Washington, D.C.)
Mike- Are the 49ers planning on trading/using any of their (2) 1st round draft picks next year to go towards FA? Or do you think they will stick with building through the draft?
Mike Sando (12:57 PM)
The 49ers will be inclined to build through the draft. I think they would be careful about trading away draft capital, meaning the deal would have to be irresistible.
Mike (Mill Creek, WA)
Who do you see as a strong candidate for the Seahawks GM position? Do you see them hiring someone to fulfill both open positions (President/GM) Ruskell once had, or will they be hiring two different people?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
The Seahawks hired Tim Ruskell as president only in the beginning. Ruskell then asked to have the GM title added, and they complied. His role did not change. He was hired to oversee football personnel, and that is where he focused. CEO Tod Leiweke will continue overseeing the business side, whether or not the next person hired has the president's title.As far as who the team might hire, I do not know. The team does not know, to my knowledge.
Sando - Happy Holidays! Like you I was lucky enough to watch the Seahawks get beat down by the Bucs in person on Sunday. It really looks to me like the players have just quit playing for Jim Mora. Matt Hasselbeck looks lost in Greg Knapp's system and the defense is underachieving as usual. All I want for Christmas is a new left tackle, a pass rush, and Jake Locker in 2011.
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
Those would be pretty good Christmas gifts for any Seahawks fan. I also feel as though the team has not responded to Mora's challenges. Hasselbeck's unusual run of turnovers made it harder to fully evaluate the Seahawks in that game. I sense the team thinks there were some positive signs, namely from the offensive line, although I keep coming back to the fact that the Bucs were a 1-12 team.
Hey Mike, I had a question about the Rams. Do you think Keith Null has an opportunity to solidify a position as a starter by playing well the rest of the year, or do you think they are set on finding a new franchise QB in the first round next year?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Null cannot win the starting job with two good games, in my view. The Rams will likely find their 2010 starter in free agency, the draft or via trade. If it's in free agency or by trade, we might see them paying average starter money to an average starting quarterback. They could then bring along a draft prospect to take over when ready. Marc Bulger looks like an average starter making better than average money. The baggage he carries from so many Rams disappointments seems to make him an unlikely candidate for the job beyond this season even if he were amenable to a pay reduction. The Rams could also always draft a quarterback first or second overall. I just do not know how many quarterbacks would seem to justify that sort of standing in 2010.
Amro (Peoria, AZ)
I am tired of hearing NFC West is a weak division. 4 of the last 10 NFC teams in SB came from NFC West. How about NFC North, NFC South or AFC West, they have teams with bad records but we don't hear they are weak!
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
The NFC West has had some good teams, but the division has not been strong top to bottom. The Rams and Seahawks are not good teams this season. The 49ers are average. This is not a strong division. Teams' non-division records can confirm as much.
Looks like the Niners' and Panthers' first-round picks will be around the same place at maybe the 10 spot. Would it be in the best interests for the Niners to try and trade the picks for a high pick with a team rebuilding like the Rams? Niners could use a player like Suh. Are the niners thinking about trading the No. 1 pick back to the Panthers for Julius Peppers?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Teams rarely trade into the top five picks from lower in the round. Scot McCloughan is a pure personnel guy. He loves picks! It probably hurt to part with second- and fourth-rounders in 2009. While having two high picks affords the 49ers flexibility, I think moving up would make the most sense if they could get a big-time quarterback prospect. The Rams could use one as well. Just not sure if that type of deal would be very likely.
Ray A. (San Francisco, CA)
Could you see the 49ers trading Carolina's pick back to them for Julius Peppers? I think adding Peppers would make the defense nearly unstoppable if Bly, Brown, and Clements can handle the secondary!
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
That does not appear to be the way the 49ers are going recently. The problem with that type of deal is this: The 49ers would be parting with a first-round pick for the right to overpay for a veteran. That's not always easy to justify.
Paul (New Jersey)
Hey Mike, what about David Carr for the Rams next year?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
As a backup? I would have lots to write about if they signed Carr as their starter.
Jordan (Provo, UT)
Sando, has Alex Smith done enough to earn a starting spot next year? I don't see Clausen or Bradford as an upgrade, and they can't afford to start rebuilding again.
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
I think we're asking the wrong question here. The question should be, "Is Alex Smith the 49ers' best option at quarterback next season?" Teams should make changes only when they can make upgrades, not based on whether someone has "earned the right" to keep his job. I take this tack with head coaches as well. It's not about whether the coach deserves to be fired. It's about who you're going to get. For the 49ers at QB, Smith does appear to be the best option based on potential and likely alternatives.
Amro (Peoria, AZ)
What's the Cardinals top priority in off-season?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
There are so many. They need to resolve Karlos Dansby's situation because otherwise he'll be eligible for free agency. Do they pay him $10 million a year? That's about what he is getting as a franchise player, so that is probably where his agent will start with Arizona. And if Dansby is going to take less, he'll probably take less elsewhere (it's human nature). From there, the Cardinals might need to figure out something with Anquan Boldin. His value to Arizona diminishes as he gets closer to the end of his deal. At some point, trading him might become more appealing than keeping him. When do they get to that point?
Marcos (Sacramento, Ca)
Do you see Nate Davis earning any playing time in the last two games for the Niners?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Seems pretty unlikely unless something happens to Alex Smith or a game is way, way out of hand. They want to see Smith as much as possible. Mike Singeltary said so this week. And I agree with him on that. These regular-season snaps have great value for Smith even though the team has nothing to play for in terms of playoffs.
Mike (Mill Creek, WA)
Thank you for another great chat, Mike! Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Thanks much. I'm sitting in my mother's family room right now while kids run around. Tis the season, indeed. Have a great week.
Hey Mike, Happy Holidays! I have to ask, in your opinion, is the Hawks' bad year a sign of inability by Jim Mora, the players not buying to Mora, or did Mike Holmgren just get more out of the personnel?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
The team was 4-12 under Mike Holmgren last season. I'm not sure how much more he got out of the personnel even though injuries were a bigger problem last season, particularly at receiver (and later along the offensive line). That said, the team has not responded well to Mora. We're left to wonder how bad the talent might be. It's not looking good, either way. Mora challenged the team pretty harshly after the Dallas game, only to have the Seahawks come out the next week and fall behind 14-0 at home against the Lions. He challenged the team harshly after the Houston game, only to have Seattle suffer a 24-7 home defeat to the 1-12 Bucs a week later. Those are bad signs for any coach.
Why if Karlos Dansby takes less, it'd be elsewhere? I believe he is happy here (he and his wife are very close with A-Dub and his wife) he has mentioned he is happy with Bill Davis and happy being apart of Arizona's turnaround. I don't believe he will take less, but why do you say its human nature to do it elsewhre?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Because it's tough for a proud athlete to walk back into a locker room when his teammates know he took less money. Players leave for less money or even money elsewhere quite frequently. Dansby can still be friends with Adrian Wilson or anyone else. You could be right on this one, but the reality could be that Arizona is only reluctantly paying Dansby this much money because the franchise tag compelled them to do so. Would they really value him at that level spread over the long term? We shall see.
Liam (Pleasanton, California)
Mike, it sounds like this draft will be weak for offensive Tackle. I don't want to see the 49ers reach with one of their first-rounders. Do they take a CB and DE with their two first-rounders? Or do they trade back? Could you see them taking Colt McCoy with a late first-rounder or second-round pick?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
We haven't seen teams find many top quarterbacks in second rounds. That is probably largely because the really good ones or even the promising ones are gone by then. The 49ers showed last year they will not necessarily target positions. They were not targeting receiver in the 2009 draft, but they happily selected Michael Crabtree when he was there. The 49ers went into that draft needing help for their offensive line, and for their pass-rush. I think the offensive line needs to be an area of focus in the first few rounds. If a quarterback slips to them unexpectedly in the second, sure, take him. But do not target that position there just to address the position.
Liam (Pleasanton, California)
What's all the talk about the 49ers trading for Julius Peppers? Isn't he a free agent this year? Are the Panther's really going to franchise him again at $16.5 million?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Franchising Peppers again would drive up the price higher than that. Peppers can earn nearly $19.2 million this year. So, yes, he could hit the market.
If Karlos Dansby can't be signed, will someone like Cody Brown be able to step in his place?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
That seems unlikely. However, the Cardinals have shown an ability to develop talent. Calais Campbell stepped in to replace Antonio Smith. Brown was really raw in training camp, then suffered an injury that set him back. It's unrealistic to think he would come in and be a good starter in 2010.
Matt (Spokane, WA)
What happened to Housh this year? Do you think it is more a function of the team, or was he not as good as everyone thought when he was with the Bengals but more a product of that system?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been OK. His numbers are fine. The offense isn't very good and that is affecting him (as opposed to it being the other way around). He is a good player. He would be a better player in a better offense.
Based on your answer to Jordan then, with Mike Holmgren going to cleveland and Mike Shanahan to Washington, is there a better coach out there for the Seahawks?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
Jon Gruden could be appealing if available at any point in the next few years. Off the top of my head, though, I do not see a long list of guys obviously better.
The Cardinals early season defensive strength (stopping the run) now seems like a weakness. While none of the WC teams they might play have a superstar RB, guys like Justin Forsett and Maurice Morris have torched the Cardinals the same. Is that a function of the Cardinals being complacent with winning the division and making the playoffs and they'll turn it up once the playoffs begin (like last year they did well on D) or is it an actual trend where they'll get burned in the playoffs.
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Defense can be about attitude and I think you're onto something. They need Gabe Watson, Alan Branch and Bryan Robinson to play well. Those guys have shown they can do it for certain games.
Amro (Peoria, AZ)
We can't talk about Cardinals without talking about Kurt Warner. The future after Warner is every fan concern. Should a QB be drafted this year? Or is there any possible trade?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
I'll assume you've seen enough of Matt Leinart. Would any quarterback they drafted be in better position than Leinart to develop into a good starter? I am not convinced. If I'm the Cardinals, I keep building the supporting cast, hand it over to Leinart when Warner is finished and see what happens.
By your logic then, the 49ers would do well to see what better options they have at head coach (ie. Shanahan, Cowher).
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Every organization should weigh those questions all the time. In this case, though, the team has responded well to Mike Singletary. Singletary still has much to prove, but it's likely he will take the team to an 8-8 record, which would mark improvement. And given all the instability the franchise has suffered through -- seven offensive coordinators in seven seasons -- the 49ers will place extra value on continuity. It would make less sense for them to change up things.
HEY Mike, Merry Christmas, can you help me understand how the Hawks went from great to bad so fast. I mean some of these players have talent, but it is clear they are not going to deliver it in Seattle. I predict that this team will be down for 3 - 4 years before it gets better. Oh and I am glad Holmgren is not the GM, way overrated if you ask me and you look the teams record during his reign
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
The Seahawks have no playmakers and weak lines. I think their offense covered for defensive weaknesses in the past. The offensive line has deteriorated. Walter Jones' situation has pushed it over the edge. The team went 4-12 last season and we probably overestimated the role injuries played. Without those injuries, let's say the Seahawks would have been a 7-9 or 8-8 team. Let's say they go 6-10 this season. That is not a huge dropoff as much as it is a steady decline.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat. Hope the early start worked out OK for you. Enjoy the holidays!