Chat wtih 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)
Greetings. About to get going here.
How difficult does the 49ers postseason become with no Delaine Walker? Is there anyone who is lined up to replace him and play the variety of roles that he does?
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
He was a unique player for the 49ers in that he could block in the run game (inline and otherwise), provide speed in the passing game, carry the ball out of the backfield and produce on special teams. They do not have a suitable replacement. This injury will change the way they play offense.
Scott (Dayton, Ohio)
Many fans of Seattle believe the Seahawks must make a move at QB and either gather a starter in the draft or through free agency. Neither seems like it will provide the difference maker Seattle needs. Do you believe Schneider and Carroll will succumb to the pressure and draft a QB with their first pick that isn't worthy or will they continue the course and fill another hole?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Great question, and worded well, too. I do not think Schneider and Carroll are the types to succumb to pressure. They appear confident and unafraid. I think they would not use a first-round pick on a QB just to win the press conference that day.
Matt Berger (Phoenix)
How big of a snub is it that Skelton was not named a Pro Bowler?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Hey there Matt. You're flooding my with questions designed to poke fun at the Cardinals' QB situation. I get it. You're a Cards fan and frustrated. I'll answer this one if it dissuades you from posting more (although I chuckled at the one about whether Skelton was the greatest of all time, or just this decade).
Sando, what is the 49ers' No. 1 need going into the draft? Another cornerback? A large receiver? Also, what do they do about Dashon Goldson, Vernon Davis and Carlos Rogers? They have to spend money on at least two of those guys, right? I have the feeling that a team like New England could come hard after Goldson and Davis next season with someone else coming after Rogers.
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
Vernon Davis is signed through 2015, so no worries there. Letting Goldson hit the market would not be the end of the world, in my view. He's a big hitter, but not necessarily a consistent player. I'd be careful before paying Pro Bowl money over multiple years for a player who hasn't sustained that level of play over time. Rogers is the interesting one of the three. He has played very well. He has been a good player previously, but now he is picking off passes. I'm not sure the 49ers will meet his expectations, but letting him get away would be tough, too. I'd be surprised if the 49ers paid huge money for him.
Jeff (Los Angeles)
Plain and Simple question, Do you like the 49ers chances to cash in this surprising season by ending with a super bowl victory? Can their amazing defense stop the juggernaut offenses of New Orleans and Green Bay, possibly in back to back weeks?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
I think it's likely one of those offenses would have a big game and the 49ers would not be able to keep pace. But if the 49ers play the Saints in San Francisco, their chances improve. I just think it would be tough for them against Aaron Rodgers. However, I'd love the storyline. Alex Smith against Aaron Rodgers. Imagine that.
Daniel (Alameda, California)
Hey Mike, how much of Alex Smith's inaccuracy can be attributed to his non-risk-taking mentality? I think a lot of analysts, fans seem to not take into account this could affect things, as Smith would make sure his throws don't turn into INTs first before trying to be pinpoint accurate.
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Smith is definitely cautious about interceptions, but I think he has become more decisive this season. He isn't getting caught in a no-man's land as much. He'll usually take off running when something is not there, as opposed to drifting the way Tarvaris Jackson did on the play where Larry Grant forced the fumble Saturday. Accuracy-wise, I don't think Smith has been horribly inaccurate. He has been generally accurate, I would say. He has a 61 percent completion rate even though the 49ers rank tied for fifth with 27 drops, six more than the NFL average, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Daniel (Dodge City)
Can Skelton overtake Kolb as starting QB next year?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Do not see that happening. Skelton hasn't played well enough and there's nothing he is likely to do in one game to undo the negative impressions. Plus, the team invested in Kolb and needs to see what it has in him.
B (Glendale, AZ)
Sando, I hope you and your family have an excellent New Year's. With the exception of the Rams, we've seen improvements across the board in this division. Both Carroll and Harbaugh were able to lead their teams to the playoffs in their 1st year as head coach, and Whisenhunt has led the Cards to the most wins of all four teams in this division since he was hired in 2007. Do you think the coaching staffs are going to get the recognition they deserve? Do you think we'll see teams outside the division begin to 'poach' coordinators and position coaches from the NFC West? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Seattle's Tom Cable and Gus Bradley are two guys I think could get consideration as head coaches down the line. Arizona's Russ Grimm was once such a candidate, but he has faded from those conversations and seems content doing what he is doing. Greg Roman could be someone to watch in San Francisco. It's too early to know whether Ray Horton is going to succeed as coordinator in Arizona, so I would not expect any change there.
What do you make of the rumors of A.J. Smith coming to the Rams if he is fired?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
I'm very skeptical of those rumors. They seem to paint Smith in a very favorable light for no apparent reason. With all due respect to Smith, why would he be a hot candidate elsewhere, and why would he be the key to landing Jon Gruden? I just do not see it.
TRad (Krakow, Poland)
Smith will ba an UFA after the season. Niners obviously would like to keep him. Do you see other teams jumping in? Smith looks like a system QB. Are there other teams with similar setups as the 49ers, and with question marks at QB?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
The other teams with double-digit victories have more dynamic passers. The Houston Texans with Matt Schaub (when healthy) might be closest to the 49ers at the QB position among teams with 10-plus victories this season. They got to the playoffs thanks largely to defense and their running game. Schaub has a couple 4,000-yard seasos, though. He's done a lot more through the air than Smith. As for your general premise -- Smith is a system QB -- I think that makes it easier for the 49ers to re-sign him. Smith would be much more successful in San Francisco that elsewhere, I believe.
Taking a look at the top 10 receivers this year (stat-wise) there needs to be something said about Fitzgerald's amazing production. Every other WR has a legitimate QB, or a QB with at least slightly above average play (Matt Moore). Does it boggle your mind that he is this productive, or do teams actually discount him, and cover them like any other No. 1?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
It does boggle the mind, yes. I was watching the Cardinals-Bengals game again this morning and wondering how Fitzgerald has avoided injury while going after so many passes thrown too high. He really is an unbelievable player. The biggest surprise, to me, has been the Cardinals' ability to generate big plays -- more completions of at least 40 yards than all but one team -- without consistent play from their quarterbacks. Fitzgerald's yards per catch have jumped by five from last season. That is amazing.
Bob (Shreveport, LA)
As a long-time Niners fan, I'm thrilled with this season and excited about the next few years. As optimistic as I am, what chances do the Niners really have against Green Bay and New Orleans? I know our defense is the best out there this season but not having been tested by either of those two teams yet makes me nervous. Either way, it's been a great year for SF.
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
The 49ers have done so well this season, it's easy to judge them as though they've been a 12-win team for years. That would be a mistake. They are still in the early stages under Harbaugh. It has been a great season. Just winning the NFC West counts as a successful season given where the 49ers have been. So, if they lose in the playoffs, big deal. That will not negate what the team has accomplished.
Rams for LIFE (Fresno, Ca)
With all of the injuries that Rams had this year plus the fact there was no off season to bring in a new OC, I think the Rams should keep Spags one more year. I watch every game and the team plays hard for him. Do you think they should keep him?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
Playing hard should be a given. Spagnuolo seems to be a terrific coordinator. His defensive scheme and blitz schemes are terrific. But there are still questions about his abilities as a head coach. I would not keep Spagnuolo if I could find someone better. That would be my thinking as Rams owner.
I'm a little surprised about not seeing any fines for that hit on Kyle. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
The hit on 49ers receiver Kyle Williams will likely draw a fine, in my view. Fine-related information generally is not available before Friday unless players themselves disclose the info. I think it was clear from watching the game that Williams was not intending to get up and run with the ball. The hits on him did not appear dirty, but they did appear worthy of a penalty, in my view. There was no need to crush him in that situation.
Brian (Charlotte, NC)
The timing of Braylon's release is surprising with Ginn, Williams, and Walker all injured for the upcoming game. My guess is that the team needs special teams depth and Braylon wouldn't play it. What are your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Edwards' lack of health and productivity would stand as the No. 1 reason behind his release. The ability to replace him with someone likely to help on special teams would also play into the thinking, particularly with Delanie Walker out. Edwards could barely help on offense right now. I don't think special teams would have been a consideration for him.
Rams for LIFE (Fresno, Ca)
If you were the GM of the Rams what would you do in the up coming draft? Trade the pick (which I really like, but you need a trade partner), draft "best player" or take a need (which the Rams have a lot of).
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
Trade the pick! The Rams already drafted a quarterback first overall recently. They like him and they are somewhat pot-committed to him anyway. No reason to undo that relationship. I'd much rather have lots of picks to use in filling obvious needs.
Shaj (El Dorado Hills, CA)
Mike, is the 49ers passing offense conservative because of Harbaugh's system, or because Alex Smith is the QB? If Tom Brady was the QB, Harbaugh would run a wide open passing attack, right? This indicates it is not the system, but the QB that is holding the 49ers passing attack back. What are your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
Yeah, I think there's no question the 49ers would be more aggressive if they were more dynamic at quarterback. But with a strong defense and special teams, they can win without asking as much from their quarterback.
As a Jets fan, perhaps Pete Carroll can be persuaded to take his former USC QB off the Jets' hands.
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
Possibly. Then again, Carroll was not interested in Matt Leinart.
Buddy (Peoria, IL)
SF can't play GB in the "big game."
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Seeding affects which teams play one another and when.
Shaj (El Dorado Hills, CA)
Mike, what is the possibility the 49ers get executive of the year (Trent Baalke), coach of the year (Jim Harbaugh), comeback player of the year (Alex Smith) and defensive rookie of the year (Aldon Smith)?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Pretty decent. I would not consider Alex Smith for the comeback award, given that he started 10 games last season, including three of the final four. He had eight TDs and one INT in his final five starts last season, winning 3-2. Counting those stats, he has 24 TDs and six INTs in his last 20 starts, going 15-5 in those games. But I know some people would consider him a candidate anyway.
Chris Robot (Mesa, Arizona)
The Cardinals defense has found itself rising from the ashes with Ray Horton at the helm. At the start of the season, everyone was talking about how anemic the pass rush was. It seems now, that you have to account for every position when looking for the rush from this LeBeau-esqe defense. I think the Cardinals could still use some talent at OLB. Schofield has some promise and Acho seems to be solid enough to generate pressure. Do you think the Cards address this need in the draft or attempt to in free agency? What top FA target is available? Thanks Sando! Still love your hair buddy.
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
My hair? It's thinning out on top, unfortunately. I do think the Cardinals need more help at outside linebacker. O'Brien Schofield and Sam Acho have helped, but they are not the answers by themselves. I'll have to look at the free-agent list to put together some potential names. Lots of things can happen before March to affect which players are really going to be available.
If the Rams do end up drafting Andrew Luck, do the Seahawks and/or Cards make a move to pick up Sam Bradford?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
That sounds great in theory, but unrealistic. One, the Rams have a lot invested in Bradford. It is doubtful they would move him because of the cap implications. Two, why would the Rams arm a division rival with a franchise quarterback? Just cannot see those things happening.
Sando, in regards to a previous posting, Alex Smith would play Rodgers in BG not Indy because there are in the same Conference. That being said, do the 49ers have a decent chance in GB which would be the NFC championship game?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
That was really stupid of me. But of course. No explanation other than temporary distractedness!
Hunter (West Covina, CA)
How far can the 49ers reasonably make it in the playoffs?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
To the Super Bowl. Give them the No. 2 seed and they are two victories away, at least one at home. Would I like their chances at Green Bay in the NFC title game? Not necessarily, but the Packers are not invincible. A great game plan, well-executed, could get it done in a one-game situation.
Chex Norris (San Diego)
I may be getting ahead of myself, but do you agree that the 49ers should be the favorite in the NFC West for the next 3-5 years? We have young up and comers on defense who are playing like veterans.
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
That is getting ahead of yourself, I would say. The Seahawks have a good, young foundation as well. QB dynamics will change within the division.
Alex Smith is garbage. They need to move on if they wish to beat teams like New Orleans and Green Bay.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
The Rams beat New Orleans with A.J. Feeley behind center. The 49ers have won on the road against teams with Matthew Stafford and Michael Vick at quarterback. Hey, I agree that the 49ers could use a better quarterback, but I would not write them off categorically just because they have Smith.
Strato (San Jose)
If Indy wins and the Rams lose this weekend, what do you think the Rams will do with the first pick?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
Put it up for sale.
Nick (St. Louis)
What are the chances Brandon Lloyd resigns with the Rams?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
I'd say outside chance of it. One, Josh McDaniels could very well be gone. He was the connection between Lloyd and the Rams. Two, how much is Brandon Lloyd really worthy on a long-term deal? Is he the type of guy teams make mistakes on? I think he could be.
JimmytheJammer (Phx, AZ)
It's no secret the Niners have struggled when it comes to TD's in the red zone. It seems they have the tools to score, including constantly getting down the field in Akers range. What's missing? If they don't capitalize on Red Zone TD's in the playoffs, they don't stand a chance!!!
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
The 49ers have scored four touchdowns in six red zone possessions over their last two games, off the top of my head. That stands as improvement. Getting Vernon Davis more involved is one key.
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat. See you in Indy for the NFC title game. I kid.