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!
Brad (Visalia, CA)
Good morning Mike. I have a 2 part question about San Francisco's potential head coaching change at the end of the season. What can be read into Jon Gruden meeting with University of Miami officials? Do you think this means he would consider leaving MNF after the season?Next, I agree with you that Gruden should be the top choice based on his history with the franchise and offensive background, but let's say it doesn't work out for whatever reason. Who are some guys you think they should then look at? Would Jim Harbaugh factor into the mix and what pros and cons do you see with him as an NFL head coach? Thanks so much and keep up the good work.
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Thanks, Brad. Coaches like to keep their names in the mix even when they aren't actively looking for jobs. Jon Gruden has nothing to lose by listening. I think he would certainly return to coaching if the right situation came along. If not Gruden, what about Mike Holmgren? He wants to coach. He wants to be more relevant. Front-office guys disappear into the background during the season. I do not think Holmgren would fire Eric Mangini lightly, just to take his job. If Mangini does enough to keep that job in Cleveland, does Holmgren consider looking elsewhere? Would the Browns feel good enough about their situation to allow Holmgren out of his $8 million-a-year deal? I do think Holmgren wants to coach again.
Christian (Martinez, CA)
Hey Mike. Do you know if the Niners are going to keep Moran Norris? I know that the front office re-signed Norris a couple of years back because of Frank Gore's insistence, but now that Gore is out for the season I think it's a good idea to release Norris and free up a roster spot. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
That would make some sense from a pure personnel standpoint. I think the team needs to consider what leadership Norris might offer to a young offense. The 49ers also should consider personnel needs. Do they have a great enough need at another position to consider going without a true fullback? I think their identity will change without Gore. Will it change so much that a fullback will not be part of the equation? They have used Nate Byham in the fullback role at times. Something to consider.
Alright Mike, you've answered enough 49ers questions for this chat. Let's talk about the team thats going to win this division, the Seahawks. What do you see as the biggest draft needs for this team? QB, DE, OL?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Wait a minute, if we're talking about the likely division winner, is this the time to talk about the draft? In this division, probably. If the Seahawks could choose a future Pro Bowl player at any position, I would go with quarterback first, then defensive end, then offensive line. The offensive line probably needs the most help, but the value of a franchise quarterback or elite pass-rusher is greater on a one-player basis.
Will (ST Louis)
With the Rams' win in Denver and the Seahawks' loss at home, do you think the Rams are the favorites to win the division if they beat Arizona on Sunday?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
That depends upon what kind of Seattle team we see over the next couple weeks. I think your thinking is sound and I tend to think the Rams would be favored under such a scenario, but it's also possible we'll see a more competent Seattle team. The next two games will tell us where Seattle stands. Victories over Carolina (in Seattle) and at San Francisco would keep the Seahwaks in prime position, even if the Rams won at Arizona.
Are the hawks done? Why is everyone acting like they are? I mean, we're tied for first.
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Because when the Seahawks lose, they tend to look hopeless. The defeats to Oakland, the Giants and Kansas City left the impression Seattle might never win another game, ever. I'm exaggerating, of course, but you get what I'm saying. They are not done, of course.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sand-O: I generally like what Coach Whiz
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
The Cardinals remain only two games out of first place, so they have to make every effort to turn around their season and see what happens. They've already seen enough from Max Hall to know he is not ready. They should see what happens with Derek Anderson over the next couple weeks, then reassess.
Ken (Redondo Bch)
Hi Mike, I was wondering what you thought the Rams' biggest area of concern is, having watched their defense just about gave the game away in the fourth.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
I watched the Rams-Broncos game about three times Wednesday thanks to Short Takes on DirecTV. I kept thinking how great it would have been for the Rams if they could have drafted Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh, not just Bradford. I like what Fred Robbins has given them, but they need a difference maker in the middle of that defensive line to put James Laurinaitis, Chris Long and others in better position to take the next step. They could use a weak-side linebacker. Those are areas I would consider upgrading first.
Do you know if the Rams are interested in keeping Mark Clayton? I know he just had one year, but I think he'd be a great receiver to have next year. Or do you think the Rams should just go out and get some help in free agency or the draft?
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
This does not have to be an either-or situation. Bring back Clayton, bring back Donnie Avery, keep Danny Amendola, see what happens with Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander, develop Mardy Gilyard and see what else you can get in the draft and free agency. Get as many weapons as possible for Sam Bradford. That would be my approach.
Is it a fairly accurate assumption the Rams can win @ ARI, home 49ers, and @SEA, while dropping the Saints and Chiefs games and make the playoffs? They may even be able to steal the game against the Chiefs at home with probably more Chiefs fans than Rams fans in the Dome, and just make the road even easier?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Yeah, I think the Rams would go to the playoffs under that scenario. I also think that scenario is do-able for the Rams, if not necessarily probable.
Justin (Columbia, MO)
Do you think Sam Bradford wins rookie of the year? Are there any other viable candidates besides Pouncey in Pittsburgh? If he keeps up this play, and the Rams make the playoffs, could you make a case of Bradford for MVP? I don't think there would be a person in the league more "valuable," to his own team's success.
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
Sam Bradford is emerging as the best choice for rookie of the year. Ndamukong Suh is among those deserving consideration. You could make a case for Bradford being most valuable, but greater team success is generally required to win that award.
Jamaar (St. Louis, MO)
So now that we know Sam Bradford is the rookie of the year, do they go offense or defense in the first round of the draft? I was thinking that the team could really use a quality back-up for Steven Jackson and also going with your idea of treating Bradford like Peyton Manning and surrounding him with weapons. Although I wouldn't be opposed to getting better in the secondary or younger at DT. Do you think LaMichael James would be a good fit for the Rams?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Using a high choice for Steven Jackson's backup is a luxury this team might not be able to afford, although a change-of-pace back would certainly liven up the offense. James is 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, so he would certainly qualify as a change of pace. If the Rams could justify it from a value standpoint -- James would be the best talent available, in other words -- I would not protest too loudly. They also need help at defensive tackle, linebacker and on defense in general. But the top priority, I think, should be to do what it takes to maximize the investment in Bradford. The Rams have shown they can manufacture some things on defense.
Steve (San Jose)
Hey Mike, Am I the only one thinking Frank Gore's absense will be good for the team? I know he is an awesome player, but they rely on him too much and have literally driven him into the ground with injuries over the last few seasons. This will force them to use their other options (Davis, Crabtree, Morgan, Westbrook, Dixon) and balance out their offense instead of having 40 percent of it going through him. Look at past games where Gore has been out, like last season against the Vikings. Sure, the Niners lost, but they weren't hopeless without Gore.
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
I understand what you are saying but think the positives outweigh the one-dimensional negatives. I would just put it this way: The 49ers are more interesting to me this week after losing Gore. What will they do? How different will the offense look? I'm curious to see. They did need to get Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis more involved anyway.
If Seattle could play with confidence, win this weekend and get healthy heading into Week 14 in SF and at home against Atlanta, what do you think their chances are to win out and get the No. 2 seed at 10-6?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
I haven't seen that type of consistency. The matchup against the Falcons is a horrible one for Seattle given the way Atlanta can run the ball. The Falcons will be playing their third consecutive road game, however, and they could be looking ahead to a Monday night game against New Orleans the next week.
Mike, Seattle has only been able to beat Arizona in the last 6 weeks. Every other team the Seahawks have faced has dropped a 40 on them. Does Seattle have enough talent to match up with Carolina right now?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Those other teams scored at least 33 on Seattle. That is a good point. I think the Seahawks should have enough to beat Carolina at Qwest Field.
Adam R (Albany)
Mike, I've been a Rams fan since Kurt Warner was still stocking shelves for $5.50 an hour, but if I had been told before the season that the Rams would be in 1st place after Week 12, I would have called that person the biggest idiot in the world. What are the chances they actually win the West? And will they do so with a sub-.500 record?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
I'd say there's close to a 50 percent chance the Rams will win the NFC West -- especially if they beat the Cardinals this weekend. I'd say there's a better chance they would get to 8-8 if they did win the division, though.
What are the odds that the division comes down to Week 17 at Seattle?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
That seems likely. I plugged in some scenarios in our Playoff Machine and the Rams-Seahawks winner in Week 17 was the team that emerged from the NFC West. Lots can change before then, though.
Hi Mike, I was thinking the same way Steve is, but I am afraid that because Gore is gone they will become Jimmy Ray like since you have QB and a RB that were both not in camp. Sing said it himself they haven't been using Westbrook because he wanted him to observe and learn. So what's stopping them from closing the offense down completely?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
Yeah, that's a distinct possibility. Maybe they retreat even further. Game situations could force them to open it up, though.
Chris (Vermillion, SD)
I seriously don't think the NFC West winner will be 7-9. 8-8 will make the playoffs. Agree?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
Yeah, I'm with you on that.
Bobby (Salem, OR)
It looks like consistency is the key for any team. St Louis seems to have been the most consistent, which would indicate they have the best shot at winning the division. What will it take for Seattle to get consistent?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Hey, Bobby, saw your other question about me never answering your questions. Thanks for your persistence. I do not see every question every week, due to volume. It's not personal! I have said the Rams are the most consistent team in the division. The question was whether they could win a game or two on the road. They beat Denver, which was huge. If they win at Arizona, they probably become the division favorite.
I dont understand the message the NFL is sending when they suspend guys for doing there job and playing the game for hits and then just fine two guys for a true fight that kids and everybody see with no suspensions. What are your thoughts on this?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
I agree. If you're going to come down hard on guys for unintentionally putting other players at risk, shouldn't the NFL come down harder when players intentionally put others at risk? On the other hand, Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson were both willing participants in the fighting. Neither was hurt. If one had been seriously injured, I think the punishment would have been harsher.
I am a fan of a different team, but I live close enough to the St. Louis area that Rams games are usually on FOX here. I have been very impressed by Bradford. I thought he'd wash out. Has he exceeded your expectations?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
My expectations changed once I saw Bradford at training camp and in the preseason. At that point, I started thinking Bradford could have a good rookie season. He has exceeded even those elevated expectations, though. I am not surprised he's succeeding, though.
Matt Berland (Los Angeles)
How far do you see the 49ers going this season if Troy Smith holds up?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
I see them going through Week 17, not beyond.
slappy (san diego)
Sando, think Thomas has a chance for DROY over Suh?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
No, I think Ndamukong Suh beats out Earl Thomas and the other defensive rookies.
It's pretty obvious that looking at the schedule and chalking up wins and losses is pointless in this league, even more so in this division. You always rank the QBs, how would you rank the Head Coaches this year?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
I would go Steve Spagnuolo first, Pete Carroll second, Ken Whisenhunt third and Mike Singletary fourth. Spagnuolo goes first because they've overachieved on defense and they made the right call in identifying Sam Bradford as the starter before the regular season. Carroll goes second for handling Matt Hasselbeck effectively (giving him rest), getting the most from Mike Williams and squeezing out a decent record while the team gutted its roster and began rebuilding. Whisenhunt falls toward the bottom for botching the quarterback situation and not having the ability to stop the current free-fall. Singletary is last because he has done the least with the most talent in the division, and he has mishandled situations.
Was Hawthorne's recent 1-year contract signing related to questions about a new CBA and a possible lockout? It seems to me like they want to lock him up long-term but didn't want to overspend with the possibility of a new cap looming.
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
I do not think David Hawthorne's deal is financially significant enough to affect the team's thinking globally.
Jim Halpert (Sranton, PA)
Any reason the 49ers play back to back seasons IN Green Bay? Just a fluke in how the schedule works out?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
I'll ask Creed (rare pop culture reference on the NFC West blog). The Packers and 49ers were second-place teams in their divisions last season. The second-place teams from the NFC West and NFC North were scheduled to play one another this season.
Mike, assuming the Rams make the playoffs, do you think there is any chance of them winning their home playoff game with weapons like Brandon Gibson and Denario Alexander? Also, who would you expect them to play?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
The Rams have been pretty tough at home. They have a good quarterback. They could end up playing Drew Brees and the Saints, though. That would be a tough matchup for the Rams. I think New Orleans would probably win that game.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
Is it possible that Derek Anderson is one of the lower level concerns for the Cardinals? I'm much more concerned with their awful running game and incredibly poor defensive efforts. I'm not saying Anderson has been good, but the other elements have been worse.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
It is very possible. Anderson has reduced turnovers. The team has still found ways to lose. I still think the fastest way to improve would be to upgrade at quarterback. This team needs to score more points. Teams with decent quarterbacks can rally when they fall behind, particularly at home. This team cannot do that without special-teams plays.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sand-O: With regards to Derek Anderson's tantrum, I don't like to see my QB give the impression that he isn't taking things seriously and I thought Kent Somers' questions were fair. I did want D.A. to answer it. However, I think a fair question to Coach Whisenhunt would have been, "Why wasn't the coaching staff with D.A. going over the SF defense and trying to help D.A. figure a way to get in the game?"
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
The questions were fair. Anderson messed up. My understanding was that the video was shot during a timeout. I don't think the coaching staff has to be with Anderson every second of the time between series. It could not hurt, though, could it?
Michael Scorn (Scranton, PA)
If you were Gruden, Harbaugh, Holmgren, how would you view the 49ers opportunity? Also, wouldnt it make sense to trade the farm to get Luck - id trad Iupati, Mays and Davis for Matt Ryan in a heartbeat.
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Those guys would be operating from positions of strength. They should demand full control of football operations and no interference from ownership on key issues. Then we would find out how serious the 49ers might be about landing such a coach.