Mailbag: Mismanaging Seattle runners?

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Michael from Charlotte writes: Enjoy your blog when time permits. Much thanks. Regarding Edgerrin James, I am not so willing to give Seattle management a pass on this one. My reasons:

  • a) Seattle brought him in late to camp with no time to jell with the team

  • b) Seattle bid against themselves and paid him $2 million

  • c) Seattle also cut C.J. Wallace, who was their ace special-teamer; there was no need to cut another person to support his loss

  • d) Seattle never worked out James. If they did, they are poor evaluators.

  • e) Seattle cut another high-priced free-agent RB in T.J. Duckett to sign James

  • f) Seattle has no vision on how they are going to construct this team, and RB is prime example.

Where I work, I must provide a business purpose, the value add, the team, the leadership, and the milestones to reach our goal. I challenge Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell to provide me any of those. There is no vision. Sad.

Mike Sando: I think you put it very succinctly and hit on some points that needed to be hit upon. To clear up a couple things first: Wallace was waived/injured and subsequently reverted to injured reserve after clearing waivers. Also, the Seahawks did run James through a tryout before signing him.

There's no question the Seahawks have struck out at running back, first with Duckett and then with James. I expected James to contribute more than he contributed based on what he showed late last season. He didn't look the same this season, probably because he missed camp and never had a chance to get going.

The Seahawks did overpay James and Duckett, with disappointing results. And they do not have a running back any other team would fear. I thought they might select one in the most recent draft.

Geoff from Puyallup writes: Mike, would the Seahawks consider changing to a 3-4 defense in the offseason after the strong performance of David Hawthorne and the forgettable performance of the defensive line?

Mike Sando: I could see them incorporating some aspects. It's tough to make a wholesale philosophical change, though. To an extent, some of these systems and philosophies have to be in your blood.

Stephen from San Jose writes: Mike, how likely is it that the Niners will give Carolina their first rounder back for Julius Peppers, depending on where the Panthers' pick lands in the draft?

Mike Sando: I would say it's somewhat unlikely based on how the 49ers have gone about their business recently. The team has not been making splashes in free agency or through significant player trades. Peppers would of course require a massive contract, and then the 49ers' staff would have to make sure he fit into what they were doing. The Panthers would be wise to trade Peppers if they knew they could not sign him to a long-term deal. But would the 49ers give up a first-round pick plus the financial loot to make it happen? I suppose they could consider it.

Kellen from Salem, Ore., writes: Hey Mike, great job with the blog, and I found your Q & A with Trent Dilfer to be very insightful. My questions revolve around my Cardinals and their inability to get vertical. In the playoffs, it seemed as though we had success throwing deep out of run formations, i.e. two TE sets. In the past couple games, we've been trying to do the same, especially with Ben Patrick back, but we can't connect.

Have opposing teams just caught on? Am I correct in assuming from Dilfer's comments we should go back to running a majority of the time out of that formation to set up the deep ball? And though I wasn't a huge Edgerrin James guy, how much does the offense miss a running back that was able to produce at least moderate gains out of those sets? Thanks, Mike. Again, great job. I follow you religiously. Are you set up on Twitter yet?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Kellen. Yes, we're on Twitter with about 8,000 followers so far. It's something I should probably promote a little more.

The Cardinals should indeed reestablish the running game out of those running formations. That would help. I also think they could benefit from running out of spread formations. They actually handed off from a four-receiver set against Carolina, something the Cardinals almost never do. That caught my attention as someone who charts their personnel every play.

The running backs aren't the problem relative to Edgerrin James. I do think Beanie Wells is the back opponents will fear the most, and it hurts right now that he hasn't fully assimilated into the pass-oriented personnel groups. That transition needs to take place for the Cardinals to become more dynamic.

Leesters from Phoenix writes: Proof of Lazy Cardinals Theory: They ALWAYS play well when "they are threatened" (great quote from you) or feel like they need their "A-Game" (from players). They only play [poorly] when they are up in the division and flying high. No holes in that theory. Lots of two-a-days? No. Lots of full-pad practices? Not hardly. Movies and bowling day? Four days off on the bye week? Come on! Mike Singletary? Not even close. The Arizona Slackers. Is that too harsh?

Mike Sando: Only if they beat the Bears.

Ninerfaithful89 from Los Alamitos writes: Hey Mike, first off, I just want to say you do a great job with your reporting and blogging. It is great to read your stories on the 49ers. You keep it real and unbiased. How do you think Alex Smith will do for the remainder of the season after his showing vs the Colts? Do you think he can be a top 10 quarterback and keep the Niners from spending a first-round pick on one next year? If you do think he is going to be the QB future of the franchise, what two positions do you think the Niners will draft for next year?

Mike Sando: Thanks much, faithful. Smith appears noticeably more comfortable and in command this time around. I think he'll play well enough to be the favorite to start next season. Becoming a Top 10 quarterback is another subject entirely and there isn't enough evidence to go that far just yet. For the first time since I've been watching him play, though, I think he's got a good chance to start for a while and grow with the players around him.

T. Vang from Menomonie, Wis., writes: Is it just me or do the 49ers (from Coach Singletary on down) have a distorted perception of reality when they say that they are "going to the playoffs"? I love the 49ers, but it seems to me that when you lose (arguably) one of your better defenders and best offensive lineman on a bad offensive line while STILL denying that your offensive strategy isn't in the least-bit flawed even when you rank near the bottom offensively ... you wouldn't even be talking about fixing -- not playoffs.

Mike Sando: The 49ers control their playoff destiny. They can get there by beating the Cardinals again and merely keeping pace with them the rest of the way. I think it's OK to express confidence, but premature and unnecessary to make those types of statements publicly. And I still think the Cardinals are the favorite to win the division, although the 49ers' chances have improved with Smith and Michael Crabtree showing positive signs.

Adam from Portland writes: The Seahawks, 49ers and Rams have all lost important offensive line players, moreso than I can remember in the past. And, it seems that many teams' injured lists are littered with offensive linemen. I know that the trenches get pretty nasty, but the offensive line in the NFL has been known as tough and gritty, and have historically played through some nasty injuries. Are there more injuries to offensive linemen this year than years past? Is this a trend? What's going on?

Mike Sando: I do not know if injuries to the lines are on the rise. It's a rough position to play and teams are going to lose players. Arizona has had the same starting five for 27 games in a row, counting playoffs. Center Lyle Sendlein played through a nasty shoulder injury last season. They're going to get hurt and a lot of them will just play through things.

David from Spokane writes: Hello Mr. Sando, my name is David and I am a huge Seahawks fan and a big fan of the blog. I just have a few quick questions for you and is wondering what your thoughts were on them. First off, do you think that Paul Allen will give Tim Ruskell another chance after what appears to be another lost year for the Hawks since his contract runs out at the end of the year. If not, who would be someone that you think would be looked at to fill the void? Thanks for the time and appreciate any info you have!

Mike Sando: Thanks, David. The issue is complicated because this is Jim Mora's first season as head coach. Replacing the general manager would raise questions about how that new GM would mesh with the existing coach and staff. Mike Holmgren's name will come up, obviously, but hiring him as GM would be unfair to Mora, in my view, based on Holmgren's legacy and popularity in Seattle. I'm not sure how Allen would go about making such a hire. He lacks a football background, so that makes his decisions tougher to handicap. Ruskell's hiring came out of nowhere.