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December 31, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Sando

Chris (Danville, Ca)

The Cardinals could have a variety of opponents depending on how this weekend goes down, which do you think gives them the best opportunity to win?

Mike Sando
  (1:02 PM)

The Packers and Cowboys are the only possible opponents in the wild-card round. Both could be dangerous. I think the Cowboys have the potential to be more dangerous based on their defensive front seven.

BODIE (Baltimore, Maryland)

Top a the mornin' to ya Sando. My question pertains to my guys over in San Francisco. How would you feel about moving Goldson over to SS and the Niners taking Earl Thomas or a playmaking safety with one of their first two picks? Or if you were McCloughan what would you do with their first two picks? Thanks Sando!

Mike Sando
  (1:04 PM)

Good morning to you. Dashon Goldson is showing some promise at free safety. I would probably leave him there and let him develop. Then I would go into the 2010 draft with an open mind. The 49ers need to decide what type of team they are going to be on offense, then look for offensive linemen who fit what they want to do. The line is where I would start (meaning that's where I would want the value to be if I were drafting for the 49ers).

Tre (Florida)

The Cards are in, the rest of us are done. So I'm not going to talk about the current season. Let's talk off-season. Do you think the 49ers have a legit chance at prying Oshiomogho Atogwe from the Rams? Also, I think this is the draft to trade down for extra picks with all of the talent. Thoughts?

Mike Sando
  (1:06 PM)

Oshiomogho Atogwe should be available in free agency as long as the labor situation allows him to become unrestricted. The Rams likely would not break the bank for a good-but-not-special safety. I do not think the 49ers will be big spenders for Atogwe's services, either. They have been focusing on building through the draft and taking care of their own guys.

Serg1007arch (Ventura, CA)

I've been a huge 49ers fan since I was a kid, and I grew up with the last games of Montana and all of Steve Young's career. Having said that, I find myself very skeptical about Alex Smith ever being the franchise QB. I somehow strongly believe we should draft a QB in third or fourth round and leave the first rounds for OL players. Do you think Smith has what it takes to prove me wrong? I felt like Nate Davis did a good job in preseason, why not let him play?

Mike Sando
  (1:10 PM)

The 49ers should be skeptical about Smith as well. They should give him every chance as long as he is the best option. They should also consider their options in the draft, even if it means drafting a quarterback early. Smith has not done enough to prove he is the franchise quarterback. The team owes nothing to him (in terms of avoiding drafting a QB early out of respect). Smith looks like he might be able to take them to the playoffs, depending on a few variables that include the offensive line. But he has not taken hold of the job for the long term.

Jeff (Toronto)

Since this draft is apparently weak at left tackle, what other areas do you think Seattle should look for at No. 7? QB?, DE? Playmakers of some sort?

Mike Sando
  (1:14 PM)

Seattle needs to rebuild on the lines, consider a quarterback and find playmakers. All of the above, in other words. It comes down to value on draft day. You take the best guy you can get without reaching to fill needs. On the playmaker front, I wonder if they could swing a deal with Denver involving Deion Branch and Brandon Marshall. Branch would obviously fit what Josh McDaniels wants to do. Marshall could be that playmaker the Seahawks have needed so badly. Just a thought.

Marko (Germany)

Hey Mike! First of all: Keep up the good work! I've been a fan of your blog since its inception and always look forward to reading it.As a hardcore Cardinals fan, I wanted to ask you how you think the Cards stack up against the other NFC playoff teams. We've already shown we can beat the Vikings, the Saints are slumping a little bit right now, and we always love to play the Cowboys. The Packers and Eagles seem pretty scary to me. What's your take on this?

Mike Sando
  (1:16 PM)

Thanks for the support, Marko. Playing Philly on the road stands out as a situation the Cardinals might want to avoid. I think they might be OK playing one of the dome teams on the road. Dallas is a team I've liked a little bit this season.

Samatar (Ohio)

Do you think that Tim Hightower could be a starter somewhere else?

Mike Sando
  (1:17 PM)

That depends upon what running backs are on the other team's rosters. Hightower seems ideally suited to be part of a rotation. He does some things well, but he does not scare defenses.

Michael (Charlotte)

Hello Mr. Sando. Appreciate your time.A strange thing has taken place regarding my love of Seahawk's football: I've come to resent the team. How can that be? In fact, it has dampened my overall enjoyment of the sport at a professional level. Is the vibe that bad at Seattle that resentment is a normal reaction, or am I simply "growing up"?

Mike Sando
  (1:19 PM)

This is what happens when teams fall apart. Some people seemed to have what I thought was an irrational hatred for Mike Holmgren when the Seahawks struggled early in this now fleeting decade. Holmgren fueled that with a "trust me" approach that seemed arrogant. It took a while to change those perceptions. Winning made it happen.

Tony Perkins (Kansas City, MO)

Mike, Do you think that Mike Holmgren will retain Eric Magini in Cleveland?

Mike Sando
  (1:21 PM)

No. I think Mike Holmgren will make sweeping changes, probably right away. It's also important to remember that Holmgren is most valuable as a coach. I'd be a little surprised if he took over in that role right away, but if the timing is right after 2-3 years, I could easily envision him stepping into that role. Either way, he's going to set up the offense how he wants it run, and he will probably need to make sweeping changes for that to happen on his terms.

Jeff (Toronto)

Is there any chance Greg Knapp is retained? His play calling has been atrocious and he does not seem to maximize his personnel, even though he does not have much of it.

Mike Sando
  (1:22 PM)

Could be tough for Greg Knapp to weather this season.

Ben Johnson (Pinehurst, NC)

Mike, I don't understand the reasoning in your MVP column that the Colts' loss after Peyton Manning's departure does anything to bolster his MVP case. First of all, not just Manning, but also Wayne, Clark and others came out at the same time. The resulting negative impact on the Colts was due to more than just Manning's absence. Also it's not like they were replacing him with an average-level backup. They were replacing him with a guy much greener and with much less knowledge of the offense than even Jim Sorgi. And that green QB was playing the NFL's No. 1 pass defense! OF COURSE he was going to struggle and the team was going to falter as the game went along. Why should that extremely predictable and expected outcome do ANYTHING to "elevate" Manning's value in an observer's eyes?

Mike Sando
  (1:26 PM)

I'm not sure we disagree here. I said losing the game probably hurt Manning's case in some voters' eyes because a 16-0 season would have separated him from all other candidates. He would have been a no-brainer MVP choice at 16-0, in other words. However, it's also true that what happened after he departed that game could help illustrate his value even if there were other factors (such as the ones you pointed out). Hope that helps.

Sean (Philly)

Any chance of T.O. ending up back in San Fran? Seems like Singletary could handle him, and I don't think he would mind being back in the Bay area. They are a possible contender, and he could help Michael Crabtree -- at least on the field.

Mike Sando
  (1:27 PM)

Isaac Bruce is probably providing more mentoring for Crabtree than any other receiver might likely provide. I don't see a big need for Terrell Owens now that Crabtree is emerging and Vernon Davis is a Pro Bowl starter.

Christian (Indiana)

Will the Colts' downfall once again be benching the starters?

Mike Sando
  (1:28 PM)

Probably not, but that will be an easy explanation for anyone looking for an easy explanation. I think it's a little lazy.

Jesse (Sacramento)

I have been a Rams fans since i was a kid. i grew up going to LA Rams games. I can barely handle all this losing, Mike please tell me it is for a reason, and that reason being they are going to bring MY team home.

Mike Sando
  (1:29 PM)

I had Los Angeles Rams pajamas as a kid growing up in California. How about that? Pat Haden, Vince Ferragamo, Wendell Tyler, Billy Waddy, Jack Youngblood, Nolan Cromwell, on and on. I've been a little skeptical about teams relocating to Los Angeles simply because there has been more smoke than fire to this point.

Tre (Florida)

I think it would be a good idea to explain how the RFA situation works. It's my understanding that a RFA's team only has to match the highest offer made in order to retain them. Is that correct?

Mike Sando
  (1:30 PM)

Yes, the player's current team can match the offer or possibly receive compensation in the form of draft choices.

Tre (Florida)

There has been a lot of debate on one of the 49er blogs I participate on regarding a Change of Pace (COP) back to compliment Frank Gore. Coffee is an unknown it seems though he's definitely not much of a COP to Gore. What are your thoughts?

Mike Sando
  (1:32 PM)

I don't see Coffee as a change-of-pace back. That is the reason I cited before the season when I said Frank Gore was still going to get the vast majority of snaps if healthy. There was no reason to put Coffee in the games.

Ken (Scottsdale, AZ)

What's up with Matt Mosley saying that Darnell Dockett making the Pro Bowl was, "Ridiculous"? You think he's seen a Cards game this year?

Mike Sando
  (1:33 PM)

Matt breaks down Cardinals film in his basement every morning. Seriously, though, I'm pretty sure Matt knows what Darnell Dockett offers. Dockett destroyed the Cowboys' offensive line when the teams faced one another last season.

Ken (Scottsdale, AZ)

What do you see happening with Antrel Rolle's contract situation? He's made a nice transistion to FS, but his contract is more suited for a corner.

Mike Sando
  (1:35 PM)

The Cardinals will have a hard time paying big bucks to him given how much they already invested in the safety position (Adrian Wilson's long-term deal).

OMAR (BALTIMORE, MARYLAND)

Having watched every snap of the Alex Smith '09 season, there's definitely some promise and I think he doesn't get enough credit for doing a decent job. That being said, I think Sam Bradford is easily the best QB in the upcoming draft class and don't think he'll make it past the Niners' picks. Do you think Bradford is too good for the Niners to pass on should he fall that far despite o-line problems?

Mike Sando
  (1:37 PM)

The 49ers should absolutely consider taking Bradford if available, based on what scouts have told me about him. The 49ers do need options at the position. Good teams can find offensive linemen after the first round. The 49ers do need help for their offensive line, but they also have to recognize value when value is there. They did that in selecting Michael Crabtree (even though it set back their line). I would expect them to do it again with Bradford if they also thought he were a very good pro QB prospect.

King (DC)

Wouldn't you think it would be better to be optimistic about Alex Smith for next year and not waste an early pick on a QB because a much better pro prospect in Jake Locker will be in the draft the following year? Why rush to buy a 2010 model car when the much better 2011s are right around the corner.

Mike Sando
  (1:38 PM)

Because you do not know if you will have a shot at the 2011 model. The 49ers do not think they will be picking in the top five at that time.

Demitri (Redmond, WA)

Mike - Tim Ruskell was known as a defensive talent evaluator. For our new GM, should we be looking for a more offensive talent evaluator since that was the gaping hole in the Ruskell draft era (sans Unger)?

Mike Sando
  (1:42 PM)

Ruskell seemed to pay more attention to how players fit on defense than how they fit on offense. I think that is a fair criticism of him. Deion Branch comes to mind. Julius Jones might be another example. The next GM needs to have more of a proven record building on both sides of the ball. Seattle pretty much took Rich McKay's advice in identifying Ruskell as a candidate. Ruskell did some good things. I think his addition played a key role in getting the team to the Super Bowl. But when you look at that Tampa personnel tree now, you see McKay toiling in obscurity, Jerry Angelo struggling in Chicago and Ruskell resigning during the season.

Doug (Chicago)

Hey Mike,Where do you see Beanie in the rookie of the year race? I feel he has a strong shot. Better YPC than Moreno, more TDs than Harvin.Thanks for the great work.

Mike Sando
  (1:45 PM)

Thanks for the support, Doug. NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert and I had this debate before the season. I took Wells. He took Percy Harvin. My perception is that Harvin has had the greater impact. But if the stats are close enough for us to revisit that one, maybe I should take another look. Harvin is the more dynamic talent, but Wells will get the ball more frequently. I thought Wells could have been a 1,200-yard rusher this season if Arizona wanted to lean on him more heavily. I still think that could have happened. Tim Hightower stepped up some, however, and Hightower is clearly more reliable on passing downs.

Adam (Atlanta)

Mike McCarthy says that he's going to play his starters throughout the game with the Cardinals to help the team stay on a roll. Do you think he's full of...umm...gamesmanship?

Mike Sando
  (1:46 PM)

Yes, I think there's some gamesmanship going on. He wants his guys to give it their all.

Adam (Atlanta)

Do you think the Cardinals organization is really past its cheap, penny-pinching days of the past? Or do you think we'll see the real Bill Bidwill show up again with all of the impending contracts that need re-upping?

Mike Sando
  (1:48 PM)

The organization has spent some more money and I think it's clear the new stadium has played a role in that. The team is shelling out huge money for Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby and Adrian Wilson. A totally cheap owner would have let Dansby walk and waited to franchise Wilson. I think the Bidwills have earned some credit for making some of those moves. I also think your question has some merit. Let's see what they do with Ken Whisenhunt, the coaching staff and some of those key veteran players.

cjb (madison, wi)

Any chance Forsett is the #1 rb in Seattle next year? He seems very explosive with the chances he gets.

Mike Sando
  (1:49 PM)

I still think he is ideally suited as the second or third guy. If they come back with him as the No. 1 running back, they did not do enough.

juan (salinas ca)

You think the Niners will be a playoff team next year knowing that Kurt Warner getting up in age and Cardinals having a couple disgruntled players wanting new contracts?

Mike Sando
  (1:52 PM)

Those conditions existed before Arizona won the division title in 2008 and before Arizona won the division title in 2009. Those conditions, by themselves, assure nothing for the 49ers. The 49ers can win the division by improving their offensive line, getting more production at QB, letting their skill players grow together and generally acting as though they have a long ways to go. As Steve Young said on KJR this week, going from 3-13 to 6-10 or even 8-8 is a lot easier than taking that next step.

Pete (Nor Cal)

Why all the talk about the Cowboys? sure they beat the Saints, who were winning by the skin of their teeth, then they blast a hapless 'Skins team and all of a sudden they are SB contenders again? Come on really? Bolts made them look bad even though the score did not indicate it, it was very lopsided. Arizona can again come..your thoughts..

Mike Sando
  (1:53 PM)

I've liked their attitude this season. Less drama.

Curt (Billings, MT)

Is Kurt Warner retiring after this year?

Mike Sando
  (1:54 PM)

If the Cardinals were to win it all, yes, I could see him walking away. Otherwise, seems to me he would finish his contract (barring another concussion or some other unusual event).

Matt (Louisville)

Mike, why are teams and fans so willing to give up on a QB before he has had time to develop? Philip Rivers is a very good quarterback, but if Drew Brees were still in San Diego I think they would have at least one Super Bowl win. Precedent shows it is still too early to give up on Smith.

Mike Sando
  (1:55 PM)

The 49ers should not give up on Alex Smith. They also should not proceed as though they know for sure Smith is their franchise quarterback. They need to cover their bases in case Smith does not become what they want him to become. They also need to face facts here. Smith did not make a convincing case in the second half of the season. He did some good things and showed some promise. That is all.

cjb (madison, wi)

Crabtree has looked very impressive in glimpses. Do you see him becoming a true #1 WR in the league?

Mike Sando
  (1:56 PM)

Michael Crabtree is not an Andre Johnson type of No. 1 receiver. He can still be a legit No. 1 receiver, though.

Jesse (Sacramento)

Why does Donnie Jones get no love in the pro bowl balloting, if the rams had any offense at all, his ability to pin teams deep combined with defensive stops have given rams great field posession in many games this year has given the rams chances to put point on the board

Mike Sando
  (1:57 PM)

Punting indoors does not help him among voters. Also, if you're going to make it as a punter from a bad team, you might need to lead the league in one of the oft-cited punting categories.

Adam R (Albany)

Mike, assuming the Rams lose and get the Number One pick, will they go after Suh, given their history of D-Lineman busts in the past?

Mike Sando
  (1:58 PM)

Billy Devaney was in San Diego when the Chargers drafted Ryan Leaf. That experience has probably shaped him a lot more than how previous Rams decision makers fared with Jimmy Kennedy, Damione Lewis, Adam Carriker and the others. Suh seems like the logical choice for the Rams if they do not see the right value at quarterback.

Mike Sando
  (2:00 PM)

Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. Happy New Year to all. Your first resolution should be adding me as a <a href="http://www.facebook.com/Mike.J.Sando.ESPN?ref=profile" target="_blank">Facebook friend</a>. Your second resolution should be following the NFC West blog and <a href="http://www.twitter.com/espn_nfcwest" target="_blank">on Twitter</a>.