Kevin from Sylmar, Calif., writes: With everything going with the Oshiomogho Atogwe situation, it makes me feel really bad for him. The last few years have been tough for that organization (not that I'm complaining, since the 49ers have beaten up on them). I agree with your assessment of his opportunities in the NFC West. The Niners and Seahawks drafted safeties that they project to be future starters, and the Cardinals traded for a safety to replace Antrel Rolle. I really don't think that he re-signs with the Rams, especially after they just basically let him walk without even trying. I think his future lies elsewhere in the league, maybe in Dallas or even Chicago or Tampa Bay. What do you think? It's a sad story for a guy who for all accounts is a fine upstanding player and has been an ascending player in this league.
Mike Sando: Atogwe earned $6.324 million last season, so we shouldn't feel too badly for his current predicament. But I also like to see players get rewarded for the right reasons. Atogwe has been a team player all the way and a productive one. He handled himself even better than the Rams could have expected last offseason. He practiced with the team as an unsigned franchise player, something I cannot recall another player doing. The way he handled himself last offseason tells me there's still a chance he'll come back to the Rams. Right now, it's fair to wonder if he has any viable options elsewhere.
Zach from Okinawa writes: Hey Mike! love what your doing here in the NFC West blog. I was curious to know if you think any other team in the West would make a move for Atogwe. San Francisco puts lots of emphasis on its 'D' and could use depth in the backfield. The Cards lost key defensive players and he would make a difference there. St. Louis may have a harder time getting him back since they blew signing him already. I'm not sure about the Seahawks and what they might do. I would love your feedback on what team in the West might make a move for Atogwe or where he might make the best fit. Thanks.
Mike Sando: Every team in the league could conceivably have interest if the price tag were low enough. I don't expect any team in the division to pay significant money for Atogwe. The Rams have the greatest need and would make the most natural fit based on their familiarity with Atogwe. Every other team in the division has an established free safety. Seattle used the 14th overall choice for Earl Thomas, and Jordan Babineaux made strides last season. Arizona traded for Kerry Rhodes. The 49ers have Dashon Goldson and they used a second-round choice for another safety, Taylor Mays.
Outside the division, Atogwe would seem to fit nicely in Detroit, Miami, Dallas or Minnesota. Reports have removed the Dolphins, Cowboys and Vikings from consideration.
Mike from Capo Beach writes: Sando, love the blog and you do a great job of offering information and being objective. My question/comment for you is, do you think there is any correlation between the 49ers' rise to respectability and Eddie DeBartolo's 10-year exile.
Mike Sando: Thanks for the support. I think the evidence suggests the 49ers took a nosedive after DeBartolo's departure from the organization. It's only since this past season that the team appears on the rise. We could argue that it's taken the 49ers a decade to recover from DeBartolo's exit.
Sam from Los Angeles writes: Hey Mike,I'm a big fan of the blog and the 49ers. I noticed in the latest chat you said the Cardinals would have the most successful running game. I understand Beanie Wells has a bright future and Tim Hightower is a solid back, but how can you say that the 49ers, with an upgraded line and a commitment to the run, won't have the most successful running game?
Mike Sando: I can't say that definitively. There was some hedging going on during the chat when I wrote, "The Cardinals are probably in the best position in terms of having good run blockers up front and two young, recently productive backs. ... I'm very interested in seeing how much the 49ers' run game improves this season. Frank Gore has a chance to put up good numbers in that offense, but there are questions about the line as the team works rookies into the mix."
The door is certainly open for the 49ers to have the most successful run game in the division. Let's see how the offense operates with Alex Smith at quarterback. His emergence last season produced a style that left Gore on the outside for some games. I would expect the 49ers to remedy that issue in 2010, but let's see how well they make it happen.
Eric from Montreal writes: How come when teams hire a new coach, sometimes the argument is made that the coach doesn't have the player to run his offensive or defensive scheme and then takes 2-3 years changing the roster a releasing good players? In the end, should a coach try to find the best scheme that fits the current roster and maximize the talent at hand rather than spending 2-3 season changing the roster?
Mike Sando: Yes, a good coach and good coaching staff should be able to do this, at least to an extent. Some of the responsibility rests with ownership to hire a coach best suited to maximize the personnel on hand. At the same time, a coach needs to do what he knows. Sometimes an organization's culture must change and that isn't going to happen without significant personnel changes.
Beginning in 2007, the Cardinals' staff under Ken Whisenhunt did a good job blending existing talent and developing new talent without blowing up the roster.
More recently, LenDale White took criticism for squandering an opportunity with the Seahawks. Part of me also thought the Seahawks -- specifically coach Pete Carroll -- failed to reach a player whose career they were uniquely qualified to salvage.
Don from Phoenix writes: Now prove that roster turnover is a meaningful statistic -- i.e., go back five years for playoff teams and non-playoff teams.
Mike Sando: It's meaningful to the extent that it puts into perspective how much teams are changing. The quality of the changes stands independent of the changes themselves.