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 (1:00 PM)
Chat beginning momentarily. Finishing up a call.
Northwest Guy (Gig Harbor, WA)
Sando, we've seen numerous stats pointing out that the 49ers have been riding their defense and special teams this season. Is this kind of success using this style sustainable? I'm impressed with what they have accomplished so far, but I suspect if a team like the Saints or Packers rolled in with a marquee QB, they would have a tough time keeping up. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
Yeah, it's sustainable playing in the NFC West. It's sustainable enough for the 49ers to post double-digit victories. It's not going to make them a championship team with their current quarterback situation, in my view. But the 49ers deserve a lot of credit for maximizing their potential. They are so much better coached than they were a year ago.
What are the chances that Spags/Devaney make it to next season. If you could only keep one of them, who would it be and why. I hope they both stay but am faced with reality. Go Rams.
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
The Rams need to capitalize on their easier second-half schedule. I think they lose jobs if the team isn't competitive late in the year. They cannot be losing 34-7 through November and December. I think it's tough changing coach or GM, but not both. Then the two positions aren't synced up, and that can be dangerous.
Matt (Lady Lake, FL)
The ESPN playoff predictor has the Niners' finishing record at 14-2. I am an optimist and think that is too high, but the Ravens game is looking much more winnable than before, while the Steelers might be the tougher contest. What do you think and will it depend on the rest of the landscape of the NFC?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
Alex Smith's health is one key variable. He's taken some hits, especially early in the season. He is not carrying the offense, but he is managing it well enough to win, and things would change with a rookie in there. That is the No. 1 variable for the 49ers, in my view.
Dennis (San Jose)
Did anyone in the NFL have a better Draft and Free Agent haul than the 49ers: Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Chris Culliver, Kendall Hunter, Bruce Miller, Demarcus Dobbs, Carlos Rogers, Braylon Edwards, Jonathan Goodwin, Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
A 5-1 record makes every move appear brilliant.
B (Glendale, AZ)
Hi Mike. What are your thoughts on Wells' availability for the Baltimore game? I'd rather he not start due to his knee injury. However, I think he should still suit up in the event that the game is close in the fourth quarter. A few carries from Beanie could have made a difference in their three-point loss to Seattle earlier this year. I'm hoping Whisenhunt learned from that experience.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
The Cardinals could not convert multiple third-and-1 plays against Seattle. Wells' absence played a role in that, no question. I do not expect him to play in this game based on how serious an injury the Cardinals initially thought Wells had suffered. I'm not sure the Cardinals would want to keep him active only for potential fourth-quarter duty. Roster spots are valuable on game days for special-teams considerations.
4949Cenetennial (San Jose)
What should 49ers worry most about the Browns (since you had the privilege of watching them last week)?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Privilege is the right word, too. That aesthetic beauty of that 6-3 victory was twofold. One, it was a classic quarterback duel between Colt McCoy and Charlie Whitehurst. Two, it was high-scoring, with the teams combining for nearly 10 points. OK, sarcasm off. The Browns are on the positive side in turnovers. I think the 49ers should be on guard for turnovers and also for the big play in the return game from Josh Cribbs. Overall, I think the 49ers should control this game with their defense. I think their defense could outscore the Browns' offense, based on what I saw last week.
Hey, Sando, first time on this chat. I was wondering if you seen any scenario where the Rams have the first pick and trade it to the 49ers or anyone else in the division knowing they will pick Andrew Luck. Thanks, man.
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Every move has a price, but I don't think the price would ever get high enough for the Rams to make such a move within the division. Check out the "LuckWatch" item on the NFC West blog for additional thoughts on such a scenario.
Hi,Rams defense question here. Are cornerback injuries changing the way the Rams line up on defense this year compared to last? Has cornerback depth indirectly affected run defense or do the problems there rest entirely on bad play?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
I've been scratching my head on that one. The sketchy play on defense largely predates the cornerback issues. I think Fred Robbins has hit a wall, the outside linebackers have failed to meet expectations, James Hall has been just OK, teams are running away from Chris Long a little bit and the Rams don't have the personnel to contain the perimeter. The corner issues play into that last aspect, but are not enough to explain what is going wrong with the defense overall.
Dave W. (Ukiah, Ca)
Mike, Can't say enough good things about your blog...good stuff every day...thanks for all of your hard work!Looking at the 49ers remaining schedule, could it be possible they could be 8-2 or even 9-1 for the big "Harbaugh brother showdown"? Now tell me...who saw THAT coming when the schedule was released? The 49ers are for real and I'm glad the rest of the country is finally getting to see that. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Thanks, Dave. I disagree with your assessment of the NFC West blog. You're overrating it. But I'm in agreement on the 49ers likely getting into that 8-2 range before the big Harbaugh Bowl. You are right, I never saw this much success coming so quickly. I think it reflects very poorly on the coaching previously. This is a fun season for the 49ers and a long-awaited one for the fans.
Sando, third week in a row I'll try and get a question answered. Looking at the schedule, can you see us (49ers)going 11-5 and if so, could we possibly get a bye, hard to do with the Saints and Packers?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
11-5 is very realistic. ESPN's computers projected 14-2 based on the schedule. I think 11 wins is a good over-under right now. I'd almost lean toward the over, but much season remains and the 49ers do have some issues offensively. The Packers will be the No. 1 seed. I think the Saints can get to 12 wins, most likely.
Mike, thank you for your excellent coverage of the NFC West. As a long time 49ers fan, I would like to know your thoughts in regards to Alex Smith and the 49ers retaining him after this season. Do you think that if he continues to play well and improves his game, they will bring him back or will they go shopping for a veteran to allow CK more to learn the NFL game? Thank you in advance.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Thanks, DB. I'm from Sacramento as well, as I'm sure everyone else is excited to know. I see every reason to re-sign Alex Smith to the right contract, which would be a modest one, not one that makes him something he is not.
Gavin (Mercer Island, WA)
If the Seahawks could re-draft, do they take Sanchez instead of Curry?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Yeah, no question, but would they be any further along in their development as a team right now? Depends what you think of Sanchez. Is he THE guy or A guy? I'm a little skeptical still. Right now, you can make the case that Seattle is really a quarterback away from really contending. The team does not have many glaring holes elsewhere on the roster. The Seahawks could use maybe another linebacker, a pass-rusher, possibly a corner (depending on health issues). A running back to succeed Marshawn Lynch might help. Overall, though, a lot of the key pieces are there. They haven't found a quarterback to their liking yet. The one they get needs to be better than Sanchez, I think.
Still thought the 49ers should have taken Mallett, personally, and used this year to get him ready and have him learn behind Alex Smith. Just a thought. I'm not ready to "forgive" Alex Smith just yet, though... Thoughts on that?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
We should not make assumptions on what Jim Harbaugh really thinks about Alex Smith as his quarterback beyond this season. We also should not assume Harbaugh thinks Colin Kaepernick is the answer. We'll need to see what other options are there for the 49ers. If the 49ers finish strong, assumptions will be made about where Smith fits in Harbaugh's thinking. I'm not going to make those assumptions. The next contract Smith signs will tell us everything. I'd say the 49ers' options are open.
Sad year so far for the Cardinals, but the bright side to a bad year is a chance for an impact player in the draft. In your opinion, if they had the choice, do they take Luck or the stud left tackle from USC?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
How Kevin Kolb plays in the second half of the season will answer that question. If Kolb hasn't shown enough to that point, the Cardinals would have to consider the quarterback more strongly. If Kolb is looking good by then, or if the team has reason to expect great things from him, then see if there's a chance to leverage the choice into additional picks. It's clear the Cardinals have multiple needs -- left tackle and outside linebacker among them.
I hear a lot of talk about the Rams possibly selecting Andrew Luck if they got the first overall pick. Why would they do this? As a Rams fan, I think that Bradford is going to be a great quarterback and it would not make sense to draft another QB when they have so many other needs to address.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Here is what I wrote in the latest LuckWatch: While keeping Bradford and trading the No. 1 overall pick sounds attractive in theory, teams drafting lower could call the Rams' bluff. They could wait until draft day, then maneuver for the second overall choice, betting against the Rams taking another quarterback.The Rams' 0-6 start has exposed holes throughout their roster. They need additional draft choices to restock a depth chart featuring too many Al Harris and Ben Leber types. Bradford would fetch quite a few picks from a team needing a quarterback.Contract-wise, Luck would cost about half as much as Bradford cost, thanks to the new labor deal. When it comes to the salary cap, where there's a will, there's a way.Under this scenario, the Rams could trade Bradford outside the division and even outside the conference. Cleveland would rank atop my list of destinations. Browns executive Mike Holmgren values quarterbacks, and he has additional picks from the draft-day trade with Atlanta. Browns coach Pat Shurmur was Bradford's coordinator in 2010, so Bradford could make a smooth transition to an offense he knows well.
Lincoln (Campinas, Brazil)
Thoughts on Harbaugh? Dude is amazing. First year coach with no off-season.
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
He's making other head coaches -- those on other teams, plus the one he followed -- look bad.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Were you as surprised as I was at how Brandon Lloyd was immediately featured in his first game with the Rams? Does this mean we should expect McDaniels to make him the passing game's focus?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
I wasn't surprised because Lloyd already knew the offense, and the Rams were weak at the position. They also fell behind, so they had reason to lean on the passing game. I think Lloyd's production is going to increase substantially once Sam Bradford is healthy enough to play. We'll see a spread offense with Bradford distributing the ball. Started to see some of that in the Green Bay game, even before Lloyd arrived. But then Bradford got hurt.
Do the Cardinals already regret the Kolb trade or still too early?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Still too early.
Jeff (Hermosa Beach, CA)
With the great play of Carlos Rogers, and the 49ers only signing him to a one year contract, you see the 49ers signing him to a long term deal?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Depends on the price. I think they should be able to work out something. Rogers should appreciate the 49ers for bringing him in and letting him play the way he wants to play. The 49ers should appreciate what he has provided. As long as neither side is unreasonable in its demands, this does seem like one that should get resolved. The one thing a team must determine is whether the production reflects the contract status. Some guys play better without long-term job security.
Bummed about the Thurmond injury for my Hawks. Overall, do you see him as a solid CB going forward?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
Yeah, Walter Thurmond has looked good, and he knows how to bounce back from injuries much more serious than this one. At least it wasn't a knee this time.
How come the NFC West gets pushed aside as an also ran when the winner of this division wins at least one playoff game every year.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
I think it has to do with the won-lost records of the teams in the division.
What do you think of Sam Bradford? Franchise quarterback or just a guy? Should the rams take Andrew Luck No. 1?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
I think Bradford is a franchise quarterback. Whether the team should draft Luck hinges on 1) what the Rams could get in return for the No. 1 pick, should they hold it; and 2) what they could get for Bradford if they decided they wanted Luck.
Bingo Kingo (Dirt Road, Oregon)
SF's D is different than last year, clearly. What player has had the most influence in upgrading the unit? I'm thinking Aldon Smith, but Bowman and Rogers have been huge...I'll take my answer off the air. Thank you!
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
It's a good thing for the 49ers that we cannot easily agree on the answer to that. NaVorro Bowman has stood out most unexpectedly, at least from my viewpoint. Trent Baalke anticipated this happening for Bowman and told me so during training camp, but Bowman hadn't played this well last season, so it came as a surprise to me. Carlos Rogers has been good, but the front seven gets a lot of credit for that. I've been impressed with the team's decision to re-sign Ray McDonald, start him at end, move Isaac Sopoaga to the nose and let Aubrayo Franklin walk. That combination of moves stands out to me as unconventional, but a case of the 49ers knowing better than outsiders knew.
Walt (Rochester, NY)
Mike, you mentioned that Alex Smith's health is a key variable for the 49ers contiuned success. Based on what you have seen from CK thus far, how much of a drop off will there be in the quarterback position if Alex Smith goes down and CK has to start for an extended period of time? Thanks. I love the blog!
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Thanks, Walt. I think a rookie would have a hard time running the offense and all that goes along with it. The mental side of the game would be difficult. Things would be happening too quickly. I tend to think the offense would go downhill.
With Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond on injured reserve, is there anyone on the street the Hawks can pick up at CB? Right now, it is Brandon Browner and ... who? Roy Lewis isn't ready or that good, is he?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
The Seahawks aren't that worried, amazing as that sounds. Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell and Lewis are going to get opportunities. We'll see how that goes against A.J. Green.
With another CB going down for the year, do the Hawks test the water for Samuel or just go with that they have for the year?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
The trade deadlines has passed. Asante Samuel will remain with the Eagles.
Shawn (Mount Vernon, WA)
How much of the 49ers success can be attributed to Frank Gore and can they sustain that success if they were to lose him to injury again this year?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Frank Gore made my MVP Watch list, so that answers the question. I think he is very important. Kendall Hunter has done well, too, but would he do as well without Gore there? He is less proven, so I have some question marks there.
Mike Sando (2:02 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. My pleasure as always.