Mailbag: Hawks fan takes Sando to woodshed

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The ESPN.com fan rankings left Seattle at No. 20. A few readers weren't any too pleased, either. The relatively low ranking reflected in part local rules prohibiting tailgating at Qwest Field. But that just wasn't right, apparently.

Larry from Seattle writes: Sando, Sando, Sando! You lost serious credibility by hammering the Seahawks for the tailgate atmosphere. Next time you are at a game, go 2 blocks due west of the stadium (to just barely east of the viaduct and behind the set of warehouses that you will run into) and check out the tailgate party.

Other stadiums likely still have us beat, but it is pretty damn good. Just because there is no tailgating in the stadium parking lot does not mean that there is no tailgating. If you are going to evaluate the tailgate experience, I think you have an obligation to actually examine the issue a little more than peering out into the parking lot of Qwest and concluding that there is none.

If interested, shoot me an email and you can stop by my tailgate at your next game and see the experience firsthand. Despite my rant and your obviously limited knowledge of tailgating in Seattle, your blog is still the best thing going. Keep it up!

Mike Sando: You've got a deal, Larry. I would be honored to drop by your tailgate party one of these times. The only thing I ask is that you have something ready on the grill. And it better be good. The last thing you need is another negative review on ESPN.com.

John from California writes: Mike, What are your thoughts on the Seahawks opening game against the Bills? Hopefully our Defense will be awake and and ready to play.
Mike Sando: The Seahawks should win that game. I think they will win that game. But this team needs to prove itself in early games in the Eastern time zone.

Greg from Phoenix writes: Mike, I'm wondering what Alex Smith's chances are of starting over with another team and fulfilling his unrealized potential. It seems like there are so many high draft picks get only one shot and, despite the experience they get in those first years, in most cases if they don't succeed then they are labeled "busts" and don't get another. Why is this so and what are Smith's prospects for following this same path?
Mike Sando: I think a fresh start elsewhere is exactly what Alex Smith needs. I would think he'll enjoy success somewhere down the road. He's only 24 years old. A few players have enjoyed success after stumbling early. Vinny Testaverde comes to mind. Trent Dilfer, to a degree, and Kerry Collins. Tommy Maddox several years aback, and Jim Plunkett years ago.

But some quarterbacks never recover from a poor start. David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Ryan Leaf, Jim Druckenmiller, Heath Shuler, Rick Mirer, David Klingler, Dan McGwire, Todd Marinovich, Andre Ware, Kelly Stouffer.

At a certain point we might conclude that these players weren't as good as advertised. A quarterback must possess so many traits to succeed. Some of these players possessed certain traits that caught scouts' eyes, but they lacked the total package or couldn't overcome severe deficiencies in other areas.

Trevor from Minneapolis writes: Mike, you note which players are eligible for NFC West practice squads in the face roster cut-down day. How does practice squad eligibility work?

Mike Sando: They key variable to know involves games spent on the 45-man game-day roster. A player becomes ineligible for the practice squad when he spends nine games on the 45-man game-day roster during a season. He also can become ineligible after spending two seasons on a practice squad. A player can spend a third season on a practice squad only if his team keeps no openings on its 53-man roster for the duration of the practice-squad player's time on the practice squad.

Steve from Bellingham, Wash., writes: I'm sure you stuck up for Seattle in those fan rankings as best you could, but you surely realize how ludicrous some of the metrics are. For instance, the highest loyalty rating for the Steelers? How in the world can anyone tell how loyal Steelers fans are when they've had a grand total of seven losing seasons out of the last 36, never more than two in a row? Or the Packers only having one losing season out of the last 16? And the Raiders have good fans because people hate them? Aside from being a silly metric in itself you need to inform your colleagues that the rest of us don't so much hate Raiders fans as pity them. If you ask me Cardinals fans, however many there are, deserve extra points for following a team that sucks, always has sucked, and always will suck.
Mike Sando: You raise valid points. However, Lambeau Field did remain sold out during some lean years. I would rate the Packers' fans first overall in this ranking. They are different. They are special. They take fandom to another level, in my view. The Steelers' fans are right there, too, but there is just something about Green Bay Packer football in Wisconsin (and beyond).

Brandon from Bellevue writes: Mike-I have a lot of respect for your opinions and your journalistic integrity. I am not sure how much you had a say in this "Rate the Fans" thing on the NFL home page but it is causing a HUGE uproar with Hawks fans. 20th is a joke. We already have to endure the worst National coverage and respect out of the media but to insult that fans like this is disgusting. We take a LOT of pride in our Hawks and being the loudest and best fans aroudn and being behind some of these teams is a slap in the face. I am not directing this at you personally but I just wanted a little clarification on your thoughts on this debacle of an article. 20th? Disgraceful.
Mike Sando: I think there are about 20 fan bases with legit claims to Top 10 status. And I would feel safe in saying Seattle's fans should rank in the top half of the league based on stadium atmosphere alone. No place in the league can touch Qwest Field for noise and enthusiasm.

Brian from Lake Havasu City writes: Hello from Lake Havasu City. Thanks for all the good stuff on the Cardinals. I was reading the list of top NFL fans, however, and I just want to say that I think Cards fans should be recognized for their extreme loyalty to this struggling franchise. I see a lot of Cowboys and Raiders fans jump ship as soon as things get tough. If I was going to dive in the water, I would have done it a long time ago. Just my two cents. Keep up the great work!

Mike Sando: Thanks, sir. I tried to address your point of view in the blog item about Cardinals fans. The die-hards do deserve special commendation for sticking it out through lean and leaner.

Erik from Mill Creek, Wash., writes: Mike, I hear a lot about this city ordinance that Seattle has against tailgating, and how it sets our fan-base back. In fact, you mentioned it in the list of "Best Fan-bases" that this website recently compiled. While that may be the "law" I've certainly seen no evidence of it. Believe me, I've tailgated numerous times outside of Seahawks games, and there is a large number of fans there with me, it happens, and with great regularity. While the wet weather of a Fall morning in Seattle causes multiple problems, it doesn't deter any of these die-hards that are there from 8 AM on. So I suggest that next time you're in Seattle for a game head to the parking lot located to the South West of the stadium. Believe me, you will find some serious ignorance of any ordinance.
Mike Sando: Are you talking about the North lot? Where else could fans tailgate? You can tell the quality of a stadium's tailgating by the smell in the air outside the stadium.

Chris from Denver writes:

Mike, agree with your assesment of Cardinals schedule. I had them going 8-8 with pretty similar picks as you. Thanks.
Mike Sando: I love picking games early but a lot of times circumstances change. The Cardinals' depth on the offensive line is indeed a potential issue.

Andrew from Tacoma writes: Mike, I'm really enjoying your blog. I appreciate the link dumps every so often, and keep waiting to see a link to the great work done by John Morgan at fieldgulls.com. If you don't know it already, you should check it out some time. John takes analysis to the next level, analyzing the Seahawks play by play. You're doing great work, Mike. Keep it up.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Andrew. I'm aware of the site and will pay closer attention. Thanks.

Josh from Corona, Calif., writes: Mike How could you put the Cardinals sweeping the 49ers???? Last year the niners whooped on them and they had a weaker defense and horrific offense! There is no way the CARDS are Sweeping the niners I guarentee it!
Mike Sando: I would generally never pick the Cardinals to sweep the 49ers. However, I think Arizona has a good shot at winning the opener in San Francisco. Not sure if the 49ers' offense will be up to speed by that time. We shall see.

Mike from Spokane, Wash., writes: i got matt, and mcnabb for QBs should i start matt the 1st game he hasnt seen a preseaon game! back probs! the ends r ?? prob run the ball alot vrs buff?? thx GO HAWKS!!
Mike Sando: I would wait to see what Hasselbeck does in the opener before starting him. This is an unpredictable situation with the back injury and turnover at receiver. Sure, he might do great, but you would be kicking yourself if you started him and he were rusty.

Starrett from Silverdale, Wash., writes: Hey Mike thanks on your prediction of the Cards season- I haven't seen your prediction on the Seahawks. Feel free to agree or disagree, but here's my thoughts.
1.Hawks @ Bills = Hawks

2.49ers @ Hawks = Hawks

3.Rams @ Hawks = Hawks

4.(Bye week lick the wounds,Heal,ect)

5.Hawks @ Giants = Hawks

6.Packers @ Hawks = Hawks

7.Hawks @ Bucs = Bucs

8.Hawks @ 49ers = Hawks

9.Eagles @ Hawks= Hawks

10.Hawks @ Dolphins = Hawks

11.Cards @ Hawks= Hawks

12.Redskins @ Hawks= Hawks

13.Hawks @ Cowboys= Cowboys

14.Pats @ Hawks= Hawks

15.Hawks@ Rams = Hawks

16.Jets @ Hawks= Hawks

17.Hawks @ Cards= Cards

Give or take a few wins or loses- I see the Hawks have a very good chance at a 11 to 13 win season. Who knows after that.

Mike Sando: That type of sustained excellence would surprise me a little. You might be closer on the 11-win front than the 13-win front.

Toby from Granada Hills, Calif., writes: Mike, Ok a little off the wall, but have to indulge a little. I'm a big Oklahoma fan, and a big Roy Williams (the safety) fan. According to John Clayton the Cowboys informed Williams he would only play on running downs. He's a free agent after the season. How about the Niners sign him and put him at OLB? Am I the only one who thinks he would be a beast there?
Mike Sando: I'm not a big fan of position changes. The 49ers are already moving Justin Smith to weak outside linebacker. They have Manny Lawson on the other side. Patrick Willis is the big playmaker inside. The 49ers really need a thumper to pair with Willis inside, and I'm not sure a converted safety is going to get that done.

Nick from Vancouver, Wash., writes: Alrighty Sando, since you like to predict wins/losses week by week, what do you see the Seahawks doing this season, week by week? Also, I have an observation from a distance on the 49ers QB situation. This whole situation with Alex Smith seems, to me, to be similar to the one Akili Smith and the Bengals went through when Akili was drafted. Do you see Alex Smith's career possibly ending up like Akili's? Keep up the awesome reporting, though I'm sure you're tired of hearing that, ha.
Mike Sando: Not tired of it! Thanks. I wonder how Smith might fare if he reunited with Norv Turner at some point. Turner saw the good in him and thought he had potential. Smith showed improvement under Turner, too. I'll pick the Seahawks' schedule at some point, too.

Mark from Olympia, Wash., writes: Hey Mike, I enjoy seeing how experts look at each individual game, as you did with the Cards. What are your game predictions for the hawks? One last question...why do most of your colleagues/national media always discredit the Seahawks? I'm not a huge believer in the east coast bias, as I am that some of them don't do enough research or film study to justify their opinions. Is there any pressure from ESPN to show love to the big markets? Thanks again for all your hardwork and great reporting!
Mike Sando: No pressure at all. I just think it takes extra work to keep up with this team. It's a long trip out here and most reporters don't make it out to Seattle very frequently.

Kalen from Naches, Wash., writes: Hi Mike, After seeing your win/loss projection for the Cards -- how bout them Seahawks? I see them going 11-5 this year. However, they face some tough opponents. Who do you see them losing to? And how do you think they match up against Buffalo? I think Kerney will have a good game against their second-string RT. Thanks, Kalen
Mike Sando: I'll dive into the Seahawks' schedule at some point here. I think 11 victories is reasonable for this team. The depth is better than I can recall. Seattle should be able to win at Buffalo, then come back home and beat the 49ers and Rams.

Guest 49er from the Bay Area writes: Hey Mike. You broke down the Cards schedule for [Chris from Denver]. I know it's way too premature to break the 49ers schedule down, but here is what I see and tell me if you agree or not: NFC East: Possibly another 0 and 4 with Nolan. AFC East: I had 1 and 3, but Favre could take us to 0 and 4. Orleans: Lost, [unless game might be moved due to the oncoming hurricane that's similar to the one 3 years ago] Lions, maybe a win Our division: 2 Ls to Seattle, split with Rams/Cards. No matter who would have been QB, you think the 49ers are still in trouble? I hope this isn't too difficult, but break the 49ers like you broke it down for Chris if you can. Thanks.
Mike Sando: You are right about the 49ers' schedule being a tough one to forecast. The quarterbacks are the wild card, but I'm a skeptic at this point. It's hard for me to envision O'Sullivan functioning at a high level consistently. It's reasonable to wonder how long he'll last as the starter, and whether the other guys are ready to step in if needed. I think the 49ers face an uphill fight to .500 unless the quarterback surprises.

Mike from San Francisco writes: Wow - the Cards are going to sweep the Niners even though the Niners beat the Cards twice last year with a much worse team? I don't see the Cards as much improved, and I certainly see a better Offense and Defense in San Francisco. That's a bold statement you have made not even giving them a split series with both home teams winning.
Mike Sando: I think the timing of the opener potentially favors the Cardinals. I could be flat wrong. None of us knows for sure. But I see a new 49ers offense with an unproven starter going against an opportunistic defense. I do think the 49ers' defense has a chance to fare well in this game, though. Kurt Warner can help both teams when he plays.

Peaboy from Seattle writes: Hey Mike, I'm no Alexander fan, but I expected him to be picked up by now. It's looking more and more that barring some injuries that Sean maybe done in the NFL. Are you hearing anything different? -p
Mike Sando

: I do see Alexander as an injury replacement if he signs anywhere at all. How much desire does he have at this point?