Mailbag: When Cardinals, Steelers were one

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Sal from parts unknown writes: Do you know if anybody has written a story on the steelers and cardinals 1944 season when they merged due to players serving in WWII?
Mike Sando: Yes, and I regret having failed to link to such stories before now. Thanks for asking.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette provided this story by Robert Dvorchak, who wrote, in part:

"The two teams, owned by patriarchs Art Rooney and Charley Bidwill, formed a single entity in a marriage of necessity to survive a season. History called this merger the Card-Pitt combine.

"But this winless, luckless group of military rejects was commonly called a name that sounded like 'carpets' because, in the published words of one disgruntled fan, every other team in the league 'walked all over them.' "

Tig from Ashland, Ore., writes: 1st, love your blog, I have the RSS feed on my iGoogle homepage. 2nd, I don't remember if it was your blog, or the Seahawks Insider at the Tacoma Tribune, but someone mentioned a full break-down of the injury year the Seahawks had. Something laying out games missed by starters at each position compared to the league average for this season.
Is that something that you could put together? Is there a source for that info online somewhere? The 'Hawks are being very clear that they aren't blaming injuries for their 2008 woes, but I think they got hit pretty hard, and I just want to see if ANYONE got hit as hard or harder, and if not to see the distance between the Seahawks and the next most injured team of 2008. If the numbers fall the way I expect them to, I will quit looking *quit* so hard at other answers for their 2008 debacle. Thanks

Mike Sando: Thanks much. Tim Graham over on the AFC East blog did provide a chart showing how many starters each team had used with one game remaining in the regular season. I ran a copy of the chart on the NFC West blog.

The Seahawks were hit hard, but they didn't do a very good job fighting through the injuries. The Patriots fought through them more effectively and won in Seattle despite using linebackers signed shortly before the game. Greg Knapp, the Seahawks' new offensive coordinator, is trying to set up the offense so that Seattle will have an easier time assimilating players into the lineup. That could conceivably help the Seahawks deal with injuries better.

Adam from Sacramento writes: So ... Jimmy Raye's rushing stats weren't all that great when he was in Oakland... in fact, they were dead last in the leagues in '04... they did make a giant leap to 29th in '05. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't have the best backs when he was there, those are not numbers that make me optimistic about the 49ers this year. Please give me something to be positive about... I'm hanging on by a thread here! Thanks Sando!
Mike Sando: The good news for San Francisco is that the team will have an offensive identity which the head coach and coordinator agree upon, and that identity does seem to suit the personnel on hand, and it is more sustainable than the previous identity.

My knowledge of Jimmy Raye is limited. He appears to be a good fit for what Mike Singletary would like to accomplish offensively. Was he a hot candidate? No. Would any other team have named him offensive coordinator this offseason? No. Should we be skeptical about his hiring for those reasons and given that his offenses often have not excelled in the past? Yes.

I still think it's important to let the process play out some before making definitive statements on the hire. Plenty of positive things were written and said about Mike Martz and J.T. O'Sullivan early last season. Jon Kitna even compared O'Sullivan to Dan Marino. I would caution against feeling too strongly one way or the other, particularly this early.

Josh from Delaware writes: Sando, glad you're having a great time down in tampa, but seriously, whats going on with the Niners and Jimmy Raye? Give me something that relieves the fears of going 8 for 8 next year on another O.C.

Mike Sando: You might want to re-read my answer to the previous mailbag question. On the down side, we should remember that 8-8 would represent an improvement.

The 49ers' strong finish to the 2008 season should not mislead us into thinking the team has arrived. The 49ers will be learning a new offense. Perhaps this sets back the young receivers and tight end Vernon Davis while diminishing Isaac Bruce's effectiveness now that he won't be playing in a Mike Martz system. We do not know, but none of those things would surprise us.

There are enough uncertainties to prevent me from declaring the 49ers back in the playoff race. But as the NFL shows us each season, the competition is even enough for even marginally talented teams to enjoy strong seasons.

Andrew from Cave Creek, Ariz., writes: Sando, I keep hearing about sparse crowds, little media, few cardinals fans and just a big "meh" feeling around the superbowl. When is it going to occur to people to get right down to brass tacks -- Tampa is a dump. How do you think this will affect Tampa's future ability to attract a superbowl?
Mike Sando: I wouldn't call this place a dump. The water views downtown make for a welcome backdrop. I think the atmosphere reflects the economy and the Cardinals' unexpected presence in the game. I suspect plenty of die-hard fans couldn't justify the trip financially on short notice, and that we might have more buzz here if the Giants or another team with a more established fan base had won the NFC.

Travis from Puyallup, Wash., writes: The seahawks have a few big needs this offseason. Do you think they should draft a WR, OL, or DL with the number 4 pick.
Mike Sando: If all three would become Hall of Fame players, I would go with the defensive lineman, the receiver and then the offensive lineman.