Joe from St. Louis writes: I don't get what's so important about Sam Bradford and Josh McDaniels meeting face to face. Between Skype, Twitter, kissy-face or any old fax and phone, why can't they meet when the time works best? If Sam has time to study with live voices, the time spent together will be much more effective when they meet.
McDanielsI think a lockout would be good for the Rams. With a lockout, the season becomes a wash across the board for all teams. The season will come down to the last three games, and it's anybody's guess at this point. Good coaching will be a real advantage. The Rams look good there. Also, excpectations from fans and media will have changed toward a more forgiving and optimistic direction. It will be like a free year.
Mike Sando: The Rams might have to streamline their offensive verbiage to communicate strategy through Twitter's 140-character limits! I'm also thinking Bradford and McDaniels have collected enough coin in recent seasons to buy quite a few cell minutes, so Skype might not be a necessary alternative. If they are communicating primarily by fax, well, good luck to the Rams in 2011.
BradfordBradford and McDaniels have been in frequent contact via phone, so there should be some familiarity there. I do think it's important for them to get together for face-to-face meetings before a lockout. They still have time to do that. Bradford thought it would happen this past week, but the Rams' coaches were out of the office. It should be a matter of when, not if, such a meeting takes place. The way these two interact in person is going to define the relationship once they're in training camp and the regular season. The earlier they can establish that connection, the more quickly the relationship will progress, and the better chance they'll get a jump on accomplishing more meaningful work.
There's still a chance the NFL and NFL Players Association will work out a deal before a lockout becomes a significant issue. If a lockout drags on, you're right about expectations changing. At that point, however, teams with established offensive and defensive systems would be in better position to function at a high level. The Rams would be better off on defense than offense under that scenario.
Randy from Peoria, Ariz., writes: With respect to the recent mailbag posting, I'd like to comment. If the Cardinals cannot acquire a veteran quarterback because of the labor situation, I don't think they ought to devote any draft choices to quarterback this time around. We've got two post-rookies in John Skelton and Max Hall. Push comes to shove, we can deal with those two as our quarterbacks. What has been the stand-out problem since Denny Green has to be the habitual poor play of the defense. With a good -- no an excellent -- defense working at all times, even an average offense can look pretty good. Theoretically, you can win a game 2-0 or 3-0. Something quite similar played out in the 60's and early 70's when Bud Grant coached the Vikings. Although that is an extreme example, it's not unrealistic. It will likely take about three years before the Cardinals are fully "back" as a contender. Without a bona fide defense, they won't prove to be serious competition to any opposing team.
Mike Sando: Offense and defense do work hand in hand, but I would rather be stronger on offense. Teams must score points to win. A good offense can keep a bad defense off the field. A good offense can score enough points to let its defense play downhill. A good defense isn't going to score many points.
SkeltonGoing into this season with Skelton and Hall as the quarterbacks just wouldn't make sense unless you thought those guys were going to quickly develop into winning quarterbacks. The Cardinals need a better insurance policy at the position. If it's not a veteran, how about a young player with more potential than the two young quarterbacks on the roster right now?
Reliving the 2010 season shouldn't be an option for Arizona, particularly by design.
As for those Bud Grant-coached Vikings, they ranked among the NFL's top 10 on offense and defense (out of 26 teams) for several years in a row during the 1970s. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Dusty from Tacoma writes: There's been a lot of fans on your blog asking your thoughts on Aaron Curry and position changes to middle linebacker or the "Leo" spot. Why not just put him at defensive end!? He's not great in coverage or instinctive. He's a beast of muscle and speed, and not that this is saying a lot, but when you move him to defensive end in Madden, he's like a 99 overall.
CurryMike Sando: I appreciate the Madden humor. My youngest son just drove Green Bay's offense to a touchdown against my Baltimore defense in a little Madden 11. We're tied 14-14 and taking a break between quarters. He is 6 years old, by the way, and dialing up exotic blitzes on me. On Curry, the one thing he needed to be was a terrific strongside linebacker. That was his position coming out of Wake Forest. There's no question it's less than ideal to draft a strongside linebacker among the top four choices, but if you're going to do it, the player must excel at that one position.
Rob from Susanville, Calif., writes: Hey Mike, thanks for keeping us NFC West fans well informed and entertained. A lot of talk on this blog has been written about the downfall of the San Francisco 49ers. My question is, how likely is it that one of the three other teams in the division will win a Super Bowl before San Francisco wins another one? After this season, I really don't see much difference in talent among the four NFC West teams. Will any of these four teams amount to anything in the near future? In other words, if you had to wager Mrs. Sando on cleaning the bathroom, which team would you put your money on to be the next to win it all, and why?
Mike Sando: I know better than to bet my wife in anything. She'll pull victory out of nowhere as long as it's against me. Doesn't matter what it is lately, either. She beat me in the 2010 ESPN.com Blog Network Gridiron Challenge. We'll occasionally have a game of Scrabble going on our phones (it's a wild life we live, I know). I was up by 100-plus points the other day. She dropped "resurvey" on me for triple points and went out at the same time to beat me by like three points. Unreal.
On the NFC West front, how can we go against the Rams as the most likely NFC West team to win a championship? They're the only team in the division with a long-term franchise quarterback in place. That is where it starts. Matt Hasselbeck finished with two strong playoff appearances, but he struggled for much of the season and doesn't have a contract for 2011. Until the Rams' division rivals improve at quarterback, it's tougher to consider them in the long-term championship equation.