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, love your thoughts on what the Rams will do to add some playmakers at the WR position for 2011. Am I wrong to think we can add either Braylon Edwards or Plaxico Burress in free agency, then select Julio Jones at No. 14 in first round, then re-sign Mark Clayton and let the remaining receivers from last year duke it out.
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
We'll see to what degree free agency comes into play this offseason. Smart teams do try to address positions before the draft. The idea is to go into the draft with greater flexibility and few dire needs. The Rams could accomplish that at receiver by taking a chance on one of the veterans you mentioned. I also think Josh McDaniels' record with Brandon Lloyd suggests the Rams might be able to get more from one of the existing receivers. There should be no need to target a receiver at No. 14 necessarily. I think it'll be wiser to let the board fall how it falls, then react accordingly. The Rams have enough need areas to steer them toward the best available player at an impact position. Receiver may or may not be that position.
Rob Rang recently wrote that the Seahawks will focus on the OL, DL and QB in the draft. Shouldn't we look at upgrading the CB position if the talent is available? Despite racking up a ton of sacks this year, we still gave up a ton of passing yards.
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Yeah, and some of that could hinge on what the team does at the position. Marcus Trufant is 30 years old. Does he come back? Do the Seahawks look to move him? Those are questions to keep in mind given how active the Seahawks have been in the trade and talent acquisition markets. We should expect Seattle to lean harder on Walter Thurmond, who should be better as another year separates him from that horrible knee injury he suffered in college.
Toby (Lost in Idaho)
Mike, I really enjoy your work, keep it up! Just wanted to get your gut feeling on how the QB situation will pan out with my Seahawks this offseason. Do we draft a stud or address the lines and give Matt and Charlie another season?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
Thanks, Toby. I would think Seattle would re-sign Matt Hasselbeck, bring back Charlie Whitehurst and then take its chances in the draft. I do not think Seattle will force a QB choice in the first round, but if the Seahawks feel the value is good, they would take one there, or anywhere. We should also consider potential trade options. I would not be surprised at all if the Seahawks went after a quarterback in the trade market. Kevin Kolb or even Matt Flynn could make some sense. I'm thinking Seattle would be less apt to pursue Carson Palmer, who is older, has had injury problems and isn't very mobile.
Stetson (Burlington, VT)
Yo Sando, tell me Harbaugh and members of his new staff are raiding the old Walsh West Coast Offense Films at Niner headquarters.
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
Jim Harbaugh has expressed respect for the 49ers' offensive heritage. I think he will have his own ideas, too, and those will prevail -- whether or not they overlap closely with what the team did years ago.
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
OK, had a phone call there. Back in the saddle.
Ismael (Omaha, NE)
It appears to me that the 9ers may go defense in the first round. Either a DE or a much needed CB. Do you see the 9ers going for a QB in the 2nd round. If so, which one? I would not mind Locker at all. I feel that Harbaugh could definitely work with him. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Quick, name the best second-round quarterbacks. Not very many in recent seasons. Drew Brees was one.
Can we assume Mr. Carroll was being a bit disingenuous when stating he does not recall "whats your deal?" altercation after the Stanford/USC game with Mr. Harbaugh? Could this be the beginning of a beautiful rivalary within the NFC West?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
I think it is the beginning of a beautiful rivalry within the NFC West. I'm anxious to see how the coaches respond to repeated questions about their rivalry at the college level. Both will probably try to downplay it, but they are both so outwardly competitive. Gonna be fun!
Miner49er4984 (San Francisco)
Hey Mike way to make a horrible division interesting. I read your article about how Aaron Rodgers could be on the 49ers right now. What do you think would be different if Rodgers was on the 49ers and Alex Smith was on the Packers?
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Impossible to answer that one definitively, but I suspect Alex Smith might have failed to meet the Packers' expectations, and they might have cut their losses. I say that because Ted Thompson, like mentor Ron Wolf, seems to have little trouble moving on from mistakes. Smith would have been better with the Packers than he was with the 49ers, for obvious reasons. But I'm not convinced he would have become a Super Bowl-type quarterback.
I think if Matt Hasselbeck leaves, then St.Louis is the favorite to win the division, but if Matt comes back, I think it's Seattle. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
We need to see how the quarterback situations change in San Francisco and Arizona. Right now, I would make the Rams the favorites, followed by the 49ers (assuming even marginal improvement at QB), then Seattle and then Arizona. Hasselbeck impressed me during the playoffs, but can we really bank on those final two games as what to expect over 16? It's too early to make these projections, however. Let's see how the QB positions change. I could see Seattle winning the division again, but we need to know more.
Sando, whats the deal with Seattle's pass defense? People often say that a strong DL will help with the Pass D, but we got plenty of sacks this year. Is it a question of having one person consistently get pressure to force the ball early? Doubt anyone available at #25 would be able to do that...
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
It's a combination of things. One, the run defense had issues quite a bit of the time after Red Bryant's season-ending injury (Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane also had injury issues for a while). Seattle's offense had trouble establishing the run and sustaining drives, putting even more pressure on the defense. Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman were the quarterbacks Seattle struggled to defend. Throw out the Tampa Bay game because Seattle had nothing for which to play. Cassel had the run game going, too.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
If the Cards sign a veteran QB like Bulger, where would you place them in the division projections?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
I would wait and see how he looked during training camp and the exhibition season. If he looked like the old, good Bulger, I would think Arizona could get back into that 8-8 range.
Hey Mike, what is, in your opinion, the best way to go about my Cardinals quarterback woes?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Sign a veteran with some experience and better accuracy than Derek Anderson possessed. It's a little surprising on the surface that Marc Bulger is a player Arizona likes. He's a small quarterback. Ken Whisenhunt had Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. He went after another big quarterback in Anderson. Independent of that, I think the Cardinals need to acquire a veteran quarterback one way or another. And then they need to consider drafting one as early as the first round.
Brandon (Fremont, CA )
What do you think the chances are of the 49ers trading for Matt Flynn?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
On the surface, I would put Seattle higher on that list, simply because the Seahawks' general manager, John Schneider, came to Seattle directly from Green Bay last offseason. I do not know what Schneider or the 49ers think about Flynn, however. But in looking at logical destinations, I might put Seattle ahead of San Francisco for now.
Chex Norris (Carlsbad)
Can Seely really make the niners special teams "that" much better? Ginn showed a couple glimpses of good returns last year...
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
I think the return games depend first on the talent level of the man returning the football. Coaching is very much secondary when it comes to big returns. Some special-teams coaches are better than others, but no special-teams coach is going to turn a mediocre returner into a dynamic game-breaking one. If coaching improves the 49ers' special teams, it could reflect renewed emphasis from the top. Head coaches help determine to what degree those 45-man game-day rosters are geared toward special teams or specific needs on offense or defense.
Hi Mike, love your work for the blog. Any chance we see a repeat of the NFC West "race" next season?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Thanks, Shaun. Sure, we could see a repeat. Three NFC West teams must stabilize their quarterback situations to improve. Seattle in particular needs to improve its offensive line. Until those and other improvements are made, these are the same teams.
What are you hearing from your sources about Jake Locker? It seems like he's getting mixed reviews at the Senior Bowl. Do you think he'll be available at 25? Could the Seahawks pass on him if he is there? The Seahawks don't seem like they're in a good position to trade up in the first round.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
My general feel has been that Locker's so-called stock, or at least the perception of it, bottomed out during his 2010 season and should rise between now and the draft, barring something unforeseen. I do think he could be there at No. 25.
Mike, all season long it seemed as though the 49ers were a QB and a coach away from being really dangerous. They've got SO much dynamic talent out on the field on both sides of the ball. With the hiring of Jim Harbaugh, a far more sophisticated coach than they've had in years, it seems as though even a marginal improvement in QB should make this team a true contender -- finally! Thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
I think the scenario you outlined falls on the optimistic side, but not beyond the realm of what could happen. Non-49ers fans will not want to hear that. They've been hearing for years about how close the 49ers are to breaking through. But I do agree that upgrades in the areas you outlined would help the 49ers become a playoff team.
Dennis (San Jose)
When Harbaugh was hired, didn't you expect that would be more involved in the draft that it appears he is going to be under Baalke?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Yeah, I expected the 49ers to identify Harbaugh as the primary power broker. They have made it clear Baalke would be in that role. In retrospect, it appears as though Harbaugh had less "juice" than anticipated when seeking NFL jobs.
So if the Rams don't grab Julio Jones with the 1st round pick, what position do you think they should target and why?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
If I were a Rams fans, I would love to see the team land a stud interior defensive lineman or a stud linebacker, but mostly the former. Even a top defensive end would be nice, given that James Hall, though still productive, is up there in years. The 14th pick is a little early to be looking at guards. I also would not argue against a defensive back.
Ken (Scottsdale, AZ)
If the Cards take Patrick Peterson with the fifth pick, does that essentially mean that they have given up on Greg Toler as a starter?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
That would be the reality no matter what thinking went into the move.
Jason (Rochester, NY)
Can someone elighten me to all of the Dynamic Talent that the Niners have? Patrick Willis, sure. Vernon Davis, one good year, Frank Gore, past his prime. Who the hell else on this team has done anything in the league? Niner fans are the most myopic of all!!!
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Vernon Davis is a dynamic talent at tight end. There is not another tight end in the league, other than Antonio Gates, with his size, speed and playmaking ability. Patrick Willis is a dynamic talent at inside linebacker. Those are the two dynamic talents I see on the team. We need to see more from Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis before declaring them to be dynamic talents. I think it's fair to call them young, talented players with great potential. The team has a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive end in Justin Smith, a Pro Bowl-caliber running back if Frank Gore returns to health, a solid nose tackle if Aubrayo Franklin re-signs, and some raw talent at safety.
Mike love the blog, but can't disagree more with everyone's assumption that the Cards need to draft a young quarterback. I think a veteran or two is sufficient. John Skelton seems like he has enough talent to become a solid starter with the proper coaching. His stats compare rather favorably to Big Ben's rookie season. Too many other holes to be filled in positions that need an influx of fresh, young talent: LB, OL, TE, WR
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
The Steelers were 13-0 when Ben Roethlisberger started as a rookie in 2004. Roethlisberger had 17 touchdown passes and a 98.1 rating as a rookie. I would not compare Roethlisberger and John Skelton as rookies in any way, other than to say Skelton showed surprising mobility for his size. I agree that it is not necessarily critical for Arizona to draft a quarterback early, but there is also no way the Cardinals can allow a repeat of the 2010 season. They cannot bank on Skelton as a starter.
Niners fans (Everywhere)
We can take a lot of insults, but NOBODY calls us myopic!!! At least we're not astigmatic.
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
We'll see about that.
If John Schneider and Pete Carroll have a QB they like and he's available after the top 10 picks, I have a feeling they'll do anything to trade up and get him. Not really a question is it... thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
They have shown they'll be bold, but I think there are limits on what they would give up. Are there really any quarterbacks so attractive to them that they would move up that far? I think Seattle has too many needs throughout its roster to give away lots of picks. One of John Schneider's mentors, Ted Thompson, has been all about stockpiling picks and even moving backward. Of course, he landed Aaron Rodgers early in his Green Bay tenure, and that took off the pressure to find a quarterback.
Northwest FAN (Gig Harbor WA)
Sando, with the coaching changes already made this offseason, who is the biggest winner? Have these moves improved each organization? Also, with Dick LeBeau apparently not interested in the Cardinals DC position, any idea who they're looking at now?
Mike Sando (2:02 PM)
Kent Somers just tweeted something saying Arizona would wait until after the Super Bowl before naming its defensive coordinator because the team wants to interview candidates from both squads. We know the Miami Dolphins' Todd Bowles is another candidate, and one Bill Parcells has advocated. So far, I think the 49ers are big winners on the coaching front because they now have an offensive-minded head coach. I'm not saying Jim Harbaugh will be great -- it is too early to know -- but he has to be better offensively than Mike Singletary, and that has to help the 49ers. I need to learn more about Seattle's changes to evaluate them. The Tom Cable hiring looks like a really good one, though. And I like Josh McDaniels' addition with the Rams. We do need to see how McDaniels fits with the current staff and to what degree he changes the offense, however.
Steve (New Jersey)
Love your column. What are the chances Fitz signs the extension this offseason? Do you think they are higher if the team brings in a veteran or if they use the number 5 pick to grab the best QB available?... or do they need to do both?
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
Thanks, Steve. I just see no way Larry Fitzgerald would sign something now. He already has tons of money. He can afford to wait and maximize his value while keeping pressure on the Cardinals to upgrade at quarterback and elsewhere. I think Fitzgerald will be able to leverage a deal that Arizona will have a hard time matching.
Not looking for Skelton to start next season, but 2 or 3 years under the right veteran seems adequate. Strictly comparing Ben's first four games and Skelton's there isn't a whole lot of difference. Steelers Defense in Ben's rookie season wasn't near the bottom of the league either.
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
OK, thanks for the clarification. Did not mean to throw you under the bus (or The Bus) on the comparison.
Do you think Aubrayo Franklin will re-sign or does he search for greener pastures?
Mike Sando (2:06 PM)
With the uncertain labor situation, maybe the best bet is to sign another shorter-term deal.
When Mike McCarthy coordinated the 2005 49ers' historically terrible offense only to get hired as a head coach, was I the only one who thought the Packers were absolutely crazy? Well it looks like I was wrong.
Mike Sando (2:07 PM)
I had a different perspective on that one. I was in the Seahawks' locker room when that hiring went down, and Matt Hasselbeck just gushed over McCarthy. The two had been together in Green Bay during the 1999 season. McCarthy was quarterbacks coach for the Packers. Hasselbeck told me then that McCarthy was very sharp and would do a great job. He was really high on him. This was just a conversation in passing, not a formal interview. That stuck with me.
Tiny (LA, CA)
It's my anniversary today. Can you wish me and my wife a happy anniversary?
Mike Sando (2:08 PM)
Happy anniversary! And on that note, I'll wrap up the chat. Thanks for dropping by!
Chris (Lake Anna, Virginia)
Do you think Harbaugh is panicking about the QB situation, or does he think he can take any young guy and make him legit?
Mike Sando (2:09 PM)
Wait, one more good question here. Panicking? No. And I do think he has confidence in his ability to make an average quarterback better. He will look for a grinder type because Harbaugh himself qualifies as one. He'll want a guy with toughness, instincts, competitiveness, smarts.
Mike Sando (2:10 PM)
On that note, I'm out. Thanks again!