Mailbag: Perspective flows from defeat

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Julian from Frankfurt, Germany, writes: Hey Mike. Of course I am disappointed that the Cards lost the SB. I mean I was for maybe an hour until I realized that losing such a great game is heart-breaking, but should not take anything away from the season as a whole.

I can't imagine the Cards going back to 4-12 or something like that next season. I don't want to complain about the officiating, if you want to win, you should be able to stop them from going 70+ yards in 2 minutes and prevent a legendary catch when there are 3 players around the ball.

I think Cards fans should be nothing but proud of their team and look forward to the next season and not moan over a lost opportunity thinking it would have been the last for the next 100 years.

The corner has officially been turned and as odd as it sounds, I think the media will give the Cards more credit for losing a close game than winning it because this would have been a four-game fluke-streak. Btw, other than the loss, how many post-season records we're broken by the end of the game?

Mike Sando: Very well said, Julian.

Craig from England writes: As heartbreaking as it was to lose, there is no way any Cardinals fan can be anything but proud of the way the team has performed over the last month. Thanks for your coverage of the Cards in 2008, and roll on 2009! Individual players should not and cannot be blamed for the defeat. Everyone gave 100% and Win or Lose, that is all you can ask for as a fan. I don't know how long it will take to get back to the Super Bowl, but when that happens, it will only be sweeter for this defeat.

Mike Sando: Another strong dose of perspective. Thanks.

Chris from the Bay Area writes: What are the 49ers chances of trading for Matt Cassel? I've been hearing about the chiefs but New England is not going to trade him to the AFC, so do the 49ers have a chance for him plus he's from Southern Cal he'll be somewhat close to home. I say sign him for 6 year, 65-70 million and a 20-25 signing bonus agreed.

Mike Sando: His agent couldn't have put it any better. I would proceed with caution on that one because I'm not sure Cassel would be as good outside the Patriots organization. Perhaps he would, but do you bet $65 million on it?

Cassel has had a great support system in New England and that might work against him in terms of how I perceive him. The coaching there is outstanding. The Patriots have two very good receivers. Would he be worth that sort of investment for the 49ers, particularly if the team had to give up significant compensation in trade? I'm not sure.

Andrew from Cave Creek, Ariz., writes: Sando, the pain is very real. But in the end it's typically obvious after the fact. The Cards did have troubles in the secondary all year, giving up some brutal plays. But scoring 30+ always seemed to be the tonic for that, and 23 just wasn't enough.

Francisco got a captain's C this year. I must admit I didn't recognize some of the defensive packages I was seeing him in last night. Did I miss something or did he really play poorly in a very big game? Do you think this will hurt his ability to get to the next level with the team? And also, as if you needed it, another compliment on the quality of this blog. It's made for a very entertaining and engaging season for both matt and I. Here's hoping you don't get promoted! lol - see you next year in the valley of the sun!

Mike Sando: Promoted to cover the AFC West? Haha. Say hello to Matt for me. And thanks for serving up those Diet Cokes in the University of Phoenix Stadium parking lot during the season. As for the Super Bowl, that interception before halftime was the difference between scoring 30 and probably winning or scoring 23 and probably losing.

Drew from Buffalo writes: Mr. Sando! What a game huh? Thank you so much for making an amazing season even more amazing. Watching the game, I noticed myself looking at the Cardinals personnel groups and where they were lined up, I've never done that before, probably still wouldn't if it wasn't for your in-depth reporting. I thank you for that.

I am extremely proud of the team. I don't think this was their best game and they only lost by 4 against a team that was supposed to be leaps and bounds ahead of them. Now we have to wait until September?! Seems like the Cards were just hitting their stride!

Gandy really played poorly, I know it was against the Defensive POY, but I thought he would fare better or at least get some help from a TE or RB. That was a bit puzzling, any reason why they left him alone all game?

This season was so amazing, I don't think I'm ready to look ahead to the draft and to next year. I think all Cardinals fans should take a week or so just to look back on what an amazing season it has been. As always, I can't thank you enough for all your reporting. You always go above and beyond. Keep up the good work and enjoy the offseason. GO CARDS GO!

Mike Sando: Cardinals fans should cue up the game to that 64-yard Larry Fitzgerald touchdown. John Madden made a great call right before the snap. And then Al Michael punctuated the play by declaring the Cardinals in the lead. That should be a lasting memory for Cardinals fans. That was one of the great moments in Cardinals history, even though the Steelers weren't finished.

As for Gandy, he did have some problems. So did Levi Brown. The Cardinals did slide their protection to Gandy's side at times, but they weren't willing to double all the time because they trusted Warner to get rid of the ball. I have no idea how Warner made it through this season, or even this game. He took a pounding. He showed much more toughness and durability than I knew he had.

Lannon from Corona Del Mar writes: Tough loss to stomach. The lack of instant replay at the end was a travesty, but I felt the officiating in general was very biased toward the Steelers, at one point counting 5 PFs assessed against the Cardinals vs. 0 PFs for the Steelers. I've watched a lot of football, and that just doesn't happen. Any analysis you could provide would be appreciated. Also, what happened with DRC? He played terrible... two dropped potential picks and allowed Holmes to be the MVP. Sad. Lannon

Mike Sando: I did not realize there were five personal-foul penalties assessed against the Cardinals and zero assessed against the Steelers at one point. In fact, I went back to verify. Sure enough, that was the count through three quarters. Ken Whisenhunt keeps saying he thought his team played a disciplined game. Read between the lines there.

As for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, he made a couple nice plays, including the breakup on the deep ball early. He was close on a couple other plays but Ben Roethlisberger played well and bought time, putting extra pressure on the coverage. There were times I thought Rodgers-Cromartie was having issues with his footing, too. That could have just been a case of the Steelers' receivers doing a good job.

Doug from Chicago writes: Mr. Sando, I, along with my bottle of whiskey, thank you for a great year of NFC West coverage. With all the scrutiny of the Cards this season, you gave us something
to look forward to every day. Instead of reading why AZ shouldn't be in the playoffs; you told it how it was. And I appreciate that. You gave credit where credit was due as opposed to chalking it up as luck.

This has been an amazing year for this Cardinal fan. While I still wish for a booth review and one last shot at the end zone, I also look forward to what this organization has to give. I truly feel that they've turned the corner. I really think this team will show everyone next season that this wasn't a fluke. That in fact, they just finally showed what they were capable of when it mattered most. I hope that there a re a few things people will draw from this game. One, Kurt Warner is a hall of famer. Two, Larry Fitzgerald has shown everyone he is arguably the best WR in the game. And three, AZ is legit. Thank you again, Mike.

Mike Sando: You're welcome. No matter what happens in the future, no one can take from Cardinals fans the memories of this season, specifically the last month. This was a fun team to watch and a fun team to cover.

Josh from Phoenix writes: Hey Sando, I'm heartbroken over the SB loss, I'm 21 and have been a Cards fan since I was old enough to walk. Now we have a long time to look forward to next year with a bad taste in our mouth, and I have been hearing from a couple news channels that the feeling in the organization is that both Todd Haley and Anquan Boldin will be departing in the offseason.

Now I agree with the Boldin departure if the right deal is there, but I think Haley could only benefit from staying one more year, as the openings out there don't seem too appetizing.

On the Boldin part I have 2 questions. 1.) Is there any way we possibly package him along with a draft pick or 2 in order to move up to the top 3 in the draft, so we can get Stafford or Sanchez. 2.) Are there any elite quarterbacks out there that we could throw some money at in free agency either this year or next? Obviously if there is then there is no need for a draft day trade. Then maybe we could keep him or trade for a running back.

But I'm definitely interested to see if there are any QBs on the market either this year or next considering we won't be in position to draft an elite quarterback any time soon. Thanks for the great season Sando.... and thanks CARDS!!!

Mike Sando: I don't see the Cardinals making a big play for a quarterback in the short term. They'll have lots of money tied up in Warner, most likely, and Matt Leinart is still under contract.

Jason from Greeley, Colo., writes: Sando, as a Cardinals fan, feeling pretty sick about a game that had my emotions all up and down, I have one question. Where do the Cardinals go from here? Besides the obvious -- re-sign Warner and Dansby, get Boldin an extension, try and keep Haley from going to KC or find a replacement -- I am just at a loss for what happens next. Any thoughts? Thanks, appreciate your hard work all season covering the Cards. Looking forward to the NFC West Blog: Offseason edition.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals move forward without any guarantees. They have strong leadership in Ken Whisenhunt, Russ Grimm, (possibly) Todd Haley and the rest of the staff. The new stadium will continue providing new revenues. The fan base should be stronger.

On the field, we'll find out if the Cardinals were right in attributing their health to a top-notch strength and conditioning program. Warner made it through the season. The same five offensive linemen started every game. If the Cardinals can stay healthy again, I like their chances in the NFC West. But it's tough to predict this kind of postseason run.

Mack from Waverly writes: Hey Mike! Do you think in light of this post season run the Bidwells will spend the money to keep this group together for another run next year. The Cardinals really seem close. If Warner doesn't retire I would think they would have a good chance at making another run next year considering the weak divison they play in. Your thoughts on this?

Mike Sando: They've already spent some money. Fitzgerald got $10 million a year. There's a balance between paying top dollar and overspending. I liked the approach Arizona took last offseason by paying its best player (Fitzgerald) before targeting veteran role players to improve the depth.

The Cardinals are not going back to the Super Bowl year after year. That just isn't how it works. They'll strive to be a playoff-caliber team. Life changes once Warner is gone, and they'll have to deal with that. I do think they have the right head coach, and that is a good place to start.