Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, we'll have ESPN.com NFL Insider 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 Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Which of these off season head coaching hires do you think will improve their team more? Jim Caldwell for the Lions, or Lovie Smith for the Bucs?
Mike Sando (4:04 PM)
That assumes we know how much credit or blame a head coach has for results that could be variable for many other reasons. Both teams should improve based on how much they underachieved in relation to their talent last season. I'd lean toward Smith when answering your question because I do think the Bucs could respond well to his temperament and experience as a head coach after some rocky patches with Greg Schiano. Now, I think Schiano adjusted as the season went along, but still, Smith is in good position to capitalize on the personnel there and possible become a more immediate reason for the team's success.
Do you see the Niners making a big free agency grab? If so who?
Mike Sando (4:04 PM)
No. The 49ers pride themselves on building through the draft and rewarding their own players. They see that as the key to long-term success.
What was the most memorable game you covered for Washington State football?
Mike Sando (4:06 PM)
There's an odd question. I remember a few. The Rose Bowl, of course. But I also remember Arizona State safety Mitchell "Fright Night" Freedman making a spectacular play against Ryan Leaf at the line of scrimmage down in Tempe, and thinking he was going to be a playmaker in the NFL possibly. Now I'm pretty sure both Leaf and Freedman are doing time. Never thought that would be the case, but when you asked that question, that is what came to mind.
How do you think the Texans should fix their QB problem?
Mike Sando (4:07 PM)
They should draft a QB in the first few rounds and then consider signing Matt Cassel, who was with Bill O'Brien in New England, would know the offense and provide some short-term stabilization.
Ed (Queens Village)
Is Ray Farmer ready to be GM? Is Mike Pettine coaching for his job since Farmer did not hire Mike?
Mike Sando (4:09 PM)
It's a little scary having a new owner with a first-time GM and a first-time head coach running an organization with serious challenges, but my sense is that the Browns have a better shot at success now than they did a week ago. Pettine is certainly coaching for his job. Most coaches are, even when they think they have time. Rob Chudzinski would know something about that. I've heard good things about Farmer and have been impressed by Pettine as a defensive coordinator, but how will all this work together? You raise a good point about not knowing to what extent Farmer is invested in Pettine.
Is Gronk the most important non QB in the league?
Mike Sando (4:12 PM)
No. The Patriots just advanced to the AFC Championship Game without him. I think Tom Brady, the New England coaches and the other Patriots players deserve a ton of credit for advancing as far as they advanced under the circumstances. The team's ability to succeed without Rob Gronkowski -- and without several other impact players -- affects how I view the value of those players to the Patriots' success.
Percy Harvin (Seattle, WA)
Mike, am I forgiven for being a virtual no show in the regular season after my electrifying performance in the Super Bowl, which included breaking the Broncos back, and spirit, with my KO return to start the second half?
Mike Sando (4:15 PM)
I would say so. The Percy Harvin trade will still be judged by what happens next, but I do not think people will say he was essential to the Seahawks beating Denver. He was important, but did they really need him? Was he the difference? I thought going into the game Seattle would need him to be an impact player, because I thought the game would be closer. The Seahawks' defense dominated to a degree I did not expect. Looking ahead, if Harvin doesn't factor for the coming season, Seattle will have to reassess. I tend to think he's going to be a more consistent force this coming season now that he's gotten past the hip situation and enjoyed some success. The wind should be in his sails.
Damien little rock ark [via mobile]
Do u see the 49ers overtaking the seahawks this year?
Mike Sando (4:18 PM)
I do not see a clear favorite in the division. Last season, I picked Seattle because I thought Percy Harvin's addition and Michael Crabtree's injury would swing it toward the Seahawks. Well, Harvin hardly factored and Seattle still won the division, in part because San Francisco stumbled early in the season. I'd stick with Seattle as my pick right now but think it's pretty early and the margin is very small, if it exists at all.
Do you see Anquan Boldin returning to the Niners in 2014?
Mike Sando (4:20 PM)
Yes, I think the 49ers will bring back Boldin. He was more important to them than I thought he was going to be. Now, is he going to want big money at this stage? I think the 49ers have limits on how far they will go for an older player. But I also think they appreciate what he brings on the field and in the meeting room.
It's interesting JJ Watt couldnt stop the texans from going 2-14, the broncos went to the superbowl without Von miller and so did Seattle without Percy Harvin. Does the individual impact of non QB's get overrated? is there anyone whose injury would make a massive dent in a superbowl challenge?
Mike Sando (4:23 PM)
It's a team sport. Teams must have multiple pieces working well together and a coaching staff that plays to strengths. A quarterback falling off a metaphorical cliff can pull the whole operation over the edge, and that is largely what happened with the Texans last season. Extreme performance swings at QB will override other factors. For Seattle, losing Earl Thomas would definitely force the Seahawks to proceed differently on defense. He is immensely important to them.
Adam (San Antonio, Tx)
Mike what is your solution for the Cowboys?
Mike Sando (4:25 PM)
It would start with a new organization structure separating the owner from GM duties. That is probably not going to happen because the owner likes the current setup. Beyond that, I think it's really important for the team to have a clear vision of what it wants to be. That vision exists on offense. It has become muddied on defense and that is where I think the team needs to refocus. Perhaps that is happening with Rod Marinelli, but it could take time. And does the current head coach have time?
Keith (Seattle, WA)
Will Seattle be able to keep Bennett and Avril?
Mike Sando (4:27 PM)
Yeah, I think so. We will probably see the team part with some other players, or at least reach streamlined deals with some other players. Guys such as Sidney Rice and Chris Clemons will not be earning what they are scheduled to earn. Seattle could pick up a ton of cap room very quickly by making moves that were easy to envision a couple years ago. They could shift resources from some of those guys to players who are higher-priority players currently. Bennett and Avril among them.
Tom Denver [via mobile]
How many pieces away are thRams from having an elite defense?
Mike Sando (4:28 PM)
They could just be a couple defensive backs and maybe one linebacker away. They need to get better in the secondary. If I were them, I'd want to use that second overall pick to get another elite defensive player.
Matt (Stratford, NJ)
What are your thoughts on EJ Manuel? The notion of taking a QB if they drop is growing on me...
Mike Sando (4:30 PM)
Saw some good things, want to see a little more, also think the team would be wise to buy another lottery ticket at the position. It's cheap. These QBs are $1 scratchers at this point. It's not like you have to commit to a guy just because you drafted him. It's all about options. Keep looking for The Guy until you are sure you have The Guy, and even then, draft for depth/development.
What player/players should Kansas City pursue in free agency? Can they afford Brandon Albert? Thanks...
Mike Sando (4:33 PM)
Yes, they could afford him. Teams can always find room if they have to find room. However, in this case, I think the Chiefs will decide Albert isn't a great value at a high price, and they'll be comfortable moving forward with some of their less expensive guys. Jeremy Maclin is one player to watch this offseason given his history with Andy Reid in Philadelphia.
What do the patriots need most right now? TE? WR? OL? DL? I know they won a ton of games but it still seems like they have a lot of holes.
Mike Sando (4:34 PM)
We never thought we'd list TE as a possible need for this team, but things change. I think this season should be about reconfiguring the weaponry for Tom Brady at tight end and receiver. They really had to patch holes last season. Now, they have a full offseason to reset. I think that will be important.
Dennis Green (Fishing Boat)
Is Peyton Manning who we thought he was, but some just to ignore it? He was shook from the opening snap, which is par for the course, for Manning in big games.
Mike Sando (4:36 PM)
Seattle got to him and affected him. Manning has played very well in some big-game situations, however, so I would not say he just folds up in big games. He faced a tough opponent that was well-prepared and well-equipped to stop him. It was hugely disappointing for him and for the Broncos. Unfortunately for them, they face the NFC West in 2014.
Tom Denver [via mobile]
So you'd consider JC at 2 if you're Snisher?
Mike Sando (4:38 PM)
Yeah, I really would. And by Snisher, just so people know, he's talking about Jeff Fisher and Les Snead. I think of it this way: Who would the rest of the NFC West want the Rams to avoid taking in the draft? I'd put Clowney high on that list because teams will not want to deal with Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Clowney and Chris Long. Think about that. Long could become situational. I think the Rams already have the makings of a beastly defensive front. Add Clowney and the potential for greater beastliness increases, perhaps exponentially.
Dennis Green (Fishing Boat)
The cornerback crop seems pretty deep. Does Harbaugh take a look at Dennard from Michigan State late in the first round? Maybe Varrett or Purifoy in the 2nd?
Mike Sando (4:40 PM)
I think Jim Harbaugh takes a look at Trent Baalke while Baalke picks the cornerback they want. I do think the 49ers will make that position a priority this offseason and they will have the ammunition to reach up and grab the one they want, just as they did with Eric Reid in the 2013 draft. I don't know which CB they would be after; they might not know at this point. But it would make sense.
Where do you see Decker winding up and is he a legit #1 WR?
Mike Sando (4:45 PM)
I do not think Decker is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. The talk is that Decker will get No. 1 receiver money as a No. 2 receiver, but he might have more value in Denver than someplace else. We'll see about that. I'd be careful about overpaying unless I had a top-flight QB to maximize him. I actually think Seattle could use him but we're not going to see the Seahawks pay that position after splurging for Percy Harvin. The Jets obviously need WR help. The Colts could use a big guy opposite TY Hilton. New England could make sense given Josh McDaniels' ties to Decker from their days together in Denver.
B Mand (Sarasota, FL)
If you were GM of the Bucs, what moves would you make both via the draft and free agency?
Mike Sando (4:47 PM)
I'd try to get a veteran QB such as Josh McCown to improve the QB meeting room and provide a short-term starting option to compete with Mike Glennon and possibly start ahead of Glennon this coming season. Tampa Bay has pretty good talent overall. This team is in position to compete in 2014. That would be a primary move I'd make.
Why would the Rams devote so much of their limited resources to the defensive line, especially when they have a weak receiving corps and have had a lousy offensive line for years? If they don't drastically improve their offensive talent, they'll never be any good.
Mike Sando (4:48 PM)
Because they can. They have two first-round picks. It wouldn't stop them from addressing the offensive line, which they also need to address. I'd just rather have a game-changing defensive player than a good offensive lineman if drafting in the top five.
Kurt, TX [via mobile]
If the Texans decide Clowney is too good to pass up & take him #1 overall, is he better suited as a 3-4 DE or an OLB? Considering Watt was a 4-3 DE, I think Clowneys run D is good enough to be on the opposite end of Watt
Mike Sando (4:51 PM)
The key there would be making sure to maximize what Clowney offers as a pass-rusher, and that would presumably be as an OLB if playing in a 3-4. The best coaches adjust their schemes to maximize their players. If you have Clowney and he's as good as he appears to be, you can find a way to get him on the field.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will the Seahawks eventually have to make choice between 2 of their 3 young stars? Who do you think will be a cap casualty, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, or Russell Wilson?
Mike Sando (4:53 PM)
Russell Wilson will be re-signed for sure. Earl Thomas probably will be re-signed. Richard Sherman could be re-signed. They could re-sign all three of them but Sherman is a bit of a wild card in my mind because corners can command really high prices, and if Sherman is set on being the highest-paid guy, that could make it tougher for Seattle to justify doing a deal.
Keith (Seattle, WA)
Are you subscribing to the Giants Super Bowl model with your suggestion that the Rams take Clowney?
Mike Sando (4:55 PM)
I hadn't thought of it that way, but having a strong, deep rotation along the defensive line makes a lot of sense. My thinking was more along these lines: If you are going to pick very early, get high impact at a premium position. Clowney would seem to fit that criteria. Then I also look at it from the opponents' view. Who do our opponents hope we do not take? The Rams might need to build their OL, but if they take an offensive lineman in the top five, the rest of the division isn't going to care or game plan for it. If they take a guy who can injure opposing QBs, the opponents notice.
B Mand (Sarasota, FL)
Do you think Kenny Britt can re-establish himself as a starting WR or do you think his productive days in the NFL are behind him?
Mike Sando (4:56 PM)
Tell me the identity of his quarterback and I'll have an answer.
Mike Sando (4:58 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the rescheduled chat. My pleasure as always. Looking forward to the combine in a week. Have a great day.