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!
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
Ready to go here. Some technical difficulties appear out of the way. I'll stay a full hour.
JohnB (St. Loo)
Mike, do the Cards have any realistic shot with all the injury disruption? It's a real irony that Ken tried to play safe but got bit while McCarthy did the opposite and didn't get burned.
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Never rule out the Cardinals even though it's beginning to feel as though things are not going their way. We have to remember to throw out completely anything beyond injuries that might be lingering in our minds from the 33-7 defeat last week. Arizona must get pressure on Aaron Rodgers. I think the Cardinals still have a chance to do that. Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson will be keys.
I expect the Cards vs. Packers to be the best game of the weekend. The Cards are gonna want to show the world that last week was just a glorified preseason game and the Whiz is gonna have his team ready and motivated. Even though both teams have good defenses, I think a close game with both teams scoring in the 30's is almost a certainty. How do you see the game playing out and what is most crucial to each teams success? Thanx
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
Pass protection is key for so many reasons, including turnovers. I've been looking at playoff defenses in terms of which ones limit opposing quarterbacks to the lowest passer ratings. The Packers ranked fourth in the league on that front during the regular season. They've had some injuries late in the year, but to me pass defense will be huge.
CanadaHawk (Vancouver, BC)
Is Mora waiting on pressure from a new GM to be "forced" to deal with Knapp? Is he even allowed to make changes at this point on his own?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Jim Mora might need to find out his own fate before he starts making changes to the coaching staff. That is one possibility. I tend to think Mora will return and that he will make a few staff changes. Personnel is probably the No. 1 problem in Seattle right now, though. And if the new GM sees things that way, the Seahawks might make fewer changes to the staff than they otherwise would.
Yo Sando! I'm not sold on any of the projected early round QB's for the 49ers, but I'd certainly like to see a veteran QB added for insurance/competition for the right price. Do you see any free agent QBs with upside that may suit the Niners? Or perhaps an established veteran QB being released unexpectedly? Thanx for the intel!
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Those types of players can be difficult to find and it's tough to say if they would automatically be better than Shaun Hill in a backup role. Miami was able to acquire Chad Pennington a couple years ago. Sometimes teams can trade for backups. Seattle did that with Matt Hasselbeck. Houston did that with Matt Schaub. I haven't heard anything linking anyone to the 49ers along those lines.
Hey Mike, this morning Matt Barrows wrote "As far as tackle talent goes, this year's draft is not as good as the previous two, but there is enough talent that the 49ers should come out of the first round with a right tackle if not a left tackle."The 49ers wouldn't really go for a left tackle right? Staley is a good, young player and the 49ers have more pressing needs along the line and the secondary. I would be hugely dissappointed to see them take a left tackle in the first half of the draft.
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
The 49ers will likely proceed with Joe Staley as their left tackle. Barrows knows that. I don't think he necessarily meant to imply otherwise. Last year, I sometimes considered scenarios whereby Staley could go to the right side. That would only happen if the 49ers drafted someone who was even better than Staley. For example, if the 49ers somehow drafted the next Walter Jones or Orlando Pace, certainly they would play those guys on the left side and it would be no knock on Staley.
Also, I look at the Playoff Picture and if Cardinals reach the NFC Championship they will have played only in dome stadium which should give us an advantage.
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
Yes, that was a consequence of Philadelphia not securing a higher seed. Every team seeded higher than Arizona in the NFC plays indoors.
Andy (Ann Arbor)
Word is that Bulger will either retire or not comeback as a Ram. Do you see the Rams potentially taking a QB #1 or trying to trade down?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Marc Bulger's status with the Rams was in question anyway. His salary is $8.5 million in 2010. There's no way the Rams would pay that, in my view. Whether Bulger retires or is released, the Rams' plans would be the same. They could consider a quarterback first overall, but this far out, it looks like they might not move in that direction so early in the draft. The teams picking second and third aren't necessarily in the market for quarterback help. I suppose Washington could trade into the top spot, but that seems unlikely.
Matt Hasselbeck is done, right?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Hasselbeck will probably play another season or more, but his career trajectory has definitely taken a downward turn.
Chris (Danville, Ca)
The 49ers let go of Al Everest despite having a reliable kicker, Pro-Bowl punter, and Pro-Bowl alternate Special Teamer. Yet, in returns the team made mistake after mistake. Thoughts on the firing? Also, who should replace him?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
Al Everest inherited those Pro Bowl and borderline Pro Bowl players on special teams. He doesn't get full credit for discovering or developing them. The botched handoff at Seattle contributed to keeping the 49ers from posting a winning record. There was clearly a communication issue between Everest and Mike Singletary. That probably factored into the decision either as a singular event or as an indicator that something needed to change.
Mike what if anything did you read into Singletary's comments when he would not commit to Alex Smith as the 2010 starter and only would say that right now he is the starter.
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Mike Singletary wants to leave open his options. He cannot commit fully to Alex Smith when he does not know what other options might arise. Smith played well enough to be the starter if nothing changes personnel-wise. But if the the 49ers have a chance to upgrade at quarterback, they are not going to pass up that chance.
Chris (Walla Walla, Wa)
Do you think the Seahawks would be better off retaining the offensive coaching staff for the sake of continuity, or starting over?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
The Seahawks should focus mostly on upgrading the personnel. They should only change assistants if they can obviously upgrade. It's tough to run an offense without playmakers or an offensive line. It's tough to run a defense without good pass-rushers.
What sort of grade do you give Singletary as a coach for last year. We all agree he is a great motivator, but his ability to game plan and his knowledge of X's and O's remains questionable. Can Singletary and Raye really create game plans that will lead to playoff wins?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
Greg Manusky is probably most responsible for the defensive plans. The risk in hiring Singletary was that he would be dependent on his coordinators to a degree some coaches were not. If one of the coordinators left or was not effective, Singletary might be vulnerable. I did not think coaching was a significant limiting factor for the 49ers. Neither was I as critical of Jimmy Raye as some fans seemed to be. Overall, the 49ers seemed OK on those fronts. Nothing special, nothing too bad, a few bumps along the road. I do think Singletary has the capacity for growth. And if the 49ers made it to the playoffs, I don't think coaching would prevent them from winning a game.
Seattle has picks No. 6 and No. 14 next year. What do they do?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
They should hope to find an impact pass-rusher with that first choice and an offensive tackle with the second one. They could also consider running back in there if a special one is available. Those three positions seem critical this offseason.
Sargon Merza (Phoenix)
Hey Mike!Where do you think the biggest area of need is for the Rams on defense?Do you see them taking a shot at Suh that high in the draft knowing we've taken chances on so many DT's in the past that havent panned out?(for us atleast,they do fine when they leave)
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Billy Devaney, Steve Spagnuolo and the new Rams leadership will not worry about decisions previous ownership made. I could see the organization, which is for sale and facing economic challenges, thinking hard before investing the resources necessary to take a quarterback first overall. That would seem like more of a factor than whether a previous regime missed on Jimmy Kennedy. As far as the biggest needs, I would rank them as QB, WR and defensive front seven.
ChrisW (Santiago, Chile)
How well do you think that Alex Smith will adjust to formations where he takes snaps from under center this off-season, so the 9'ers can start utilizing all aspects of their offense in a more dynamic way? As Steve Young has talked about in his show on KNBR
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
We don't have any indications yet that Alex Smith will be a special quarterback. He looks like he can continue to get more comfortable in all aspects of the offense, and that he can be competent. Still not sure whether he can be more than that.
Andy (Ann Arbor)
After drafting Long and Carriker in the first round, do you see the Rams still going with Suh #1? That's a lot of picks and money tied up in the DL for a team with a ton of needs.
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
That could be a consideration. Adam Carriker was not a top-five pick, though. He was the 13th player chosen in 2007. I don't really see them being able to count on him.
What are the chances that the Niners make a move for Josh Cribbs? Thanks.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Wow, now that would spruce up the return game. The 49ers have not been big free-agent spenders recently, though. They seem committed to building through they draft. They leaned heavily on outside veteran talent when they were plugging holes during the Mike Nolan transition. It just doesn't seem like a direction they want to go right now.
Greg (Bellingham WA)
With the Seahawks vacant GM spot and our poor showing this season, what are the chances of seeing Mora fired and someone looking for a coach/gm spot (Cowher) coming to Seattle
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
That doesn't seem to be the way CEO Tod Leiweke wants to head. The Seahawks like Jim Mora and believe one year isn't enough time for an organization to fairly and fully evaluate a head coach. We could have a better idea once they hire a general manager. From here, though that doesn't seem like the most likely tack.
Mike a lot of so called draft experts last year and this upcoming draft are saying the 49ers need to find a pass rusher, but how can that be a pressing need seeing that they finished tied for third in the league with sacks at 44. Pass rusher does not seem to be an immediate concern.
Mike Sando (2:07 PM)
Justin Smith had 3.5 sacks against the Rams in Week 17. That does not make him a great pass-rusher. The had 1.0 combined sack in games against Atlanta, Houston, Chicago and Philadelphia. Eight sacks against the Rams in Week 17 sure padded the numbers.
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
What teams can you think would be interested in moving up to #1 to take Suh? It seems like there should be some place to find a good match where the Rams can move down and get a QB like they want and still make gains in picks while another team is happy with a top DT.
Mike Sando (2:07 PM)
In general, teams are not interested in moving into the No. 1 spot.
oz (fort lauderdale, Fl)
If with the potential of two different tags this year (franchise and transition) for teams this offseason, how do you see the Cardinals using both or either of those tags this upcoming offseason. I think Dansby is a goner no matter what personally.....
Mike Sando (2:09 PM)
That is a good question. Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett still have time on their deals. Adrian Wilson re-signed. I don't see a great immediate need to use those tags, do you?
What do you think will end up happening to Boldin in the off-season ?
Mike Sando (2:12 PM)
Anquan Boldin's trade value isn't getting any higher as he adds miles and fights through more injuries. I question whether the team could get a great compensation package in return. The timing is definitely right to trade him. Might as well get value before he walks. But what value can they get? It's tough to justify taking away weapons from this offense while Kurt Warner is the quarterback.
How do you see the 49ers CB situation? Spencer played well this year and Clements, while pricey, still has game. Beyond those two though Dre Bly is aging, though he was useful this year, and Brown needs to get better. Assuming no CBA, should the 49ers look to draft a return man (also a need) who can potentially fight for a role in the secondary?
Mike Sando (2:13 PM)
That sounds like a pretty good idea. Corner is certainly a position they could consider in the draft as they look to get younger in the secondary.
Hawk Fan (Renton)
Do you see the Hawks taking a RB with one of their two picks in the 1st round?
Mike Sando (2:15 PM)
I thought they would take one in the first three rounds last year. They have to consider it in the first round this year, no question. I think there's a decent chance. Just depends on what might fall to them. The team has enough other needs to go in other directions if the value is there.
Don't forget 5 sacks against St Louis in Week 4. That makes 13 out of 44 sacks being against one team.
Mike Sando (2:16 PM)
The 49ers aren't the only team to pile up sacks against weaker teams. That is how it works. Lots of teams played the Rams. But we should take that into account when determining how much to read into the sack numbers.
your response to the 49ers sacks question wasn't the entire story though. Brooks ended up with 6 sacks in limited time (didn't play in many games and then only played in Nickel formations). Overall the team greatly improved their sack numbers from 2008. This, with lots of youth and depth in the front 7, I don't see pass rush as a major need.
Mike Sando (2:17 PM)
Yes, you make a fair point. I still think pass-rushers are at a premium, they cannot necessarily count on Ahmad Brooks and they do not have proven top-shelf players at outside linebacker.
Heismania (Hollister, CA)
Niners could use another impact LB in their 3-4 scheme. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (2:19 PM)
Yes, I agree with that all the way. It's not like Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson siphoned Pro Bowl votes from one another.
Tom Luong (San Jose, CA)
Holmgren ending up in Cleveland and the shelf life of the Cardinals with Warner as an aging QB points to the niners to have a good early part of the new decade. Do you agree?
Mike Sando (2:21 PM)
The 49ers are in pretty good position that way. I like their chances better now than at any point in the last seven or eight years. They have a plan.
Mike how would you rate the safety play of the 49ers? Should they look at one of the top safeties in the first round like Mays or the guy out of Texas?
Mike Sando (2:23 PM)
They made the right call in putting Dashon Goldson into the lineup (probably a year late). Now they need to find Michael Lewis' replacement. The promise Goldson showed might mean they don't have to feel as compelled to draft one relatively early.
wakiki (cuba b)
What are the Niners going to do with Franklin??
Mike Sando (2:26 PM)
I'll assume you mean Aubrayo Frankling and not this one. The 49ers have been inclined to take care of their own guys by re-signing him. They probably want to do that with Franklin, but they could always franchise him to buy some time and make sure he's the real deal, not just a guy shining with a contract on the line.
Dave (Flagstaff, AZ)
A lot of attention has gone to Boldin's injury status, but what is the status on Campbell? If he doesn't go, then the Packers double Dockett all day.
Mike Sando (2:27 PM)
Calais Campbell has every intention of playing. I think he will play. Dockett will get doubled anyway, most likely.
Sean (Fort Worth, TX)
Lastly, The Rams cleared away a ton of money last season. Meaning they'll have plenty to spend this off season I hope. Who's going to be the top 3 free agents available this off season? Obviously the need in St. Louis is talented playmaking game-changers, do you see any players who fit that description coming available this off-season?
Mike Sando (2:30 PM)
Those types of players come available only with baggage most of the time. Sure, they could try to make a play for Brandon Marshall. The associated risks might make them think twice. Is that really the sort of guy they want to build around? There are some other receivers who have had good years, such as Miles Austin. The really sure-fire players in their primes rarely get away.
Mike Sando (2:31 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat today. My pleasure all the way.