Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando stopping by to talk about the latest NFL happenings.
Sando joined ESPN.com in 2007 after nine seasons covering the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. He previously covered Washington State University football and basketball for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. Mike grew up in Northern California before attending Whitworth College, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in political studies. He lives in the Seattle-Tacoma area with his wife and their two sons.
Send your questions now and join Sando on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
Steve (San Jose)
Hey Mike, Could the Niners be the best 0-5 team over the last few years? They show flashes of greatness, but careless mistakes have lost the game for them every time, maybe with the exception of Kansas City. The Niners would win if there were an award for "team that rallies back and loses by a field goal".
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
Best 0-5 team of all time isn't really something the 49ers were coveting this season. It really shows just how badly this team has underachieved.
Jack (Deer Park)
Could this week be Matt Hasselbecks last start as a Seahawk if he performs poorly? If not when do you think Pete Carroll will pull the trigger on him?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Yeah, that thought is in the back of my mind heading to Chicago this week. The offense hasn't done much of anything for a while. Hasselbeck's problems were the No. 1 issue in that road defeat to Denver. Here is the deal: They need to find out more about Charlie Whitehurst at some point this season, but if they think Hasselbeck is significantly better than Whitehurst right now, it's tough to make a change when the division race is so close. I do think the clock is ticking.
Would an Alex Smith benching (which would imply an 0-6 start) for David Carr signal that the 49ers have thrown in the towel for the season? Do you think benching is a real possibility? Seems like it'd be a shame because Smith is really having at least 1-2 phenomenal drives a game.
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
Alex Smith needs to have more impressive drives when games are in the balance, such as when the 49ers trailed the Eagles 17-10. It's less meaningful to suddenly play well when you're down 24-10, especially when the quarterback's turnover was the difference between 17-10 and 24-10. Switching quarterbacks would be a desperation move that would signal giving up on Smith more than giving up on the season. The 49ers clearly do not want to go that route.
Will (Boston, MA)
Mike, how might the return of TEs Billy Bajema and Michael Hoomanawanui impact the Rams' offense? Throughout preseason and Week 1 (until their injuries), the tight ends were featured pretty heavily by the Rams. With Mark Clayton gone for the year, this may be their best option for an effective passing game.
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
The tight ends can also help in pass protection, which seemingly could come in handy (on the road in particular). I think it depends on how quickly Bajema and Hoomanawanui can get back to full speed. If they are healthy, I do think the Rams will use two tight ends more frequently, no question.
ADAM (FT JACKSON, SC)
Hello Mike. Just have two questions: 1) Where and who do you see the Rams picking in the draft if you had to guess? 2) Do you think that the Rams should stick with the West coast offense past this year? Is it really the right system for Bradford? Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
Thanks, Adam. I see the Rams picking among the top seven or eight choices overall. This should put them in position to consider a playmaker of some sorts -- wide receiver, pass-rusher, etc. The team has already invested in its offensive line, so that would be a position to avoid early. Offense-wise, I think the Rams should keep the current scheme as long as the current staff is in place. Bradford does throw accurately and on time. This is a timing offense. The fit seems pretty good. Also, Bradford moves well outside the pocket. His offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, ran this offense with the Eagles when Donovan McNabb was quarterback. Bradford is not a runner the way McNabb could be, but he does throw effectively on the move.
Mike (Costa Mesa)
Short and sweet (and please don't answer "wait and see"): In your opinion, is Max Hall the answer at QB for the Cardinals this season?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
I've seen nothing to make me think he is the answer, but he has played only one game. The intangibles seem to be there. That's about all we've been able to see. I'd like to watch a few more games to see what else he offers and, most importantly, whether he improves.
Mike (Costa Mesa)
The Cardinals have been exceeding expectations consistently since Ken Whisenhunt took over the team. Although they have, admittedly, performed extremely poorly at times, they have also performed over and above expectations in big games. What is it going to take for the Cardinals to start getting a little respect. After five weeks, they are in first place and yet supposed NFL "experts" are picking the 0-5 49ers to win the division. After the 2008 season, Cris Collinsworth also said famously that the Cardinals were "the worst playoff team in the history of the NFL", and we know how that came out.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
There's no comparison between the Cardinals with Kurt Warner and the Cardinals without Kurt Warner. The current team doesn't deserve the same level of respect. This team is 3-2 because Sebastian Janikowski missed from 32 yards, because Steve Breaston chased down the Rams' Clifton Ryan near the goal line and because Arizona became the second team in NFL history to score 30-plus points without a passing or rushing touchdown. Those victories count. A couple of them simply haven't fallen into the "sustainable" category (meaning we didn't emerge from those victories thinking Arizona had hit stride). Let's see how things play out. I do think the road to 8-8 or even 9-7 can be fairly smooth for this team. Just depends on Max Hall.
Patrick (Washington DC)
Mike, what's your take on this statement? The 49ers are pretty much the exact same team they were a year ago except last year they were incredibly lucky with turnovers where as this year they have been incredibly unlucky.
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
The 49ers were 3-5 last season with a blowout loss to the Falcons and a crushing last-second defeat to one of the NFC's best teams (Minnesota). Sounds a little familiar. We forget that the 49ers became a pretty mediocre team last season and they needed to beat two historically bad teams -- Detroit and St. Louis -- in the final two weeks just to reach 8-8.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
Are you afraid to speak your true feelings sometimes because you want to stay on players/coaches good sides?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
No. Being fair is the most important thing to me. That's all anyone can expect.
Hi Mike. I've seen a lot of speculation regarding Marshawn Lynch's role in Seattle. Do you expect "new life" for Marshawn now that he's out of Buffalo? I'm wondering if he still has the numbers in him that he put up a few years ago. With Seattle struggling at the passing game, do they get new life with Marshawn?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
The change of scenery should help him. In the end, he will need good blocking, just as other backs do. He probably isn't quite what he was coming out of college, but he can still be a good back. If he is rejuvenated, he should be able to break more tackles than Seattle's other backs. I don't know how comfortable Matt Hasselbeck will be assimilating another new face into the offense. Some of the changing combinations this season have seemed to affect him, particularly within the base offense.
So, Whisenhut had the guts to go with Max Hall over Anderson and Leinart -- and his team is responding. Seems to me, the visionary gutsy call is for Singletary and Mike Johnson to take some long hard looks at getting either Troy Smith or Nate Davis ready to go in the next two weeks. If you're the coaches, which one would you pick?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Troy Smith all the way, because he has some experience and because Nate Davis hasn't earned the trust of the 49ers' coaches, apparently. I do not have evidence to suggest the 49ers' feelings for Troy Smith (and especially Davis) line up with the Cardinals' feelings for Max Hall, though.
Mike (Costa Mesa)
If the Cardinals "without Kurt Warner" win the NFC West this year despite all of the player turnover and QB uncertainty, does that make Ken Whisenhunt Coach Of The Year?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
What would the team's record be? If it is 8-8 or 7-9 or worse, no chance.
Sheldon (Atlanta, GA)
In the preseason Mike Williams looked like he was poised to have a breakout season but has since been pretty quiet. What gives?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
I thought they needed to target him more against the Rams. Williams has a shoulder injury, though, and that is a factor. Seems to me the Seahawks should exploit his size a little more.
Follow up on my Lynch question since you mention Hasselbeck. Is he on a short leash? Any chance that they will switch to Charlie at QB? And if they do, who the heck does Seattle have left to throw to? Very frustrating season so far (Tacoma native and suffering Seahawk fan)
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Being 2-2 is a success on paper, but I hear you in terms of how the offense has performed. I think every game is important for Hasselbeck. In my opinion, Carroll will not hesitate to give Charlie Whitehurst a chance if Hasselbeck does not show improvement.
Chuck Rogers (Sherburne NY)
Do you see the Rams going after a WR if the Danario Alexander experiment goes south? Trade deadline is coming fast and without a legitmate No. 1 receiver, I do not see an NFC West crown. Thanks Mike.
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
"No" is my initial instinct in answering that question. The Rams have already traded for multiple receivers (Laurent Robinson, Brandon Gibson, Mark Clayton). Just not sure how many more they could find out there at this point. And I think it would be tough to justify giving up high picks (plural) for Vincent Jackson, then paying huge money to Jackson.
Joe (San Francisco, CA)
Why did the 49ers run Shaun Hill out of town? The only QB with a winning record since Jeff Garcia. They felt he couldn't throw deep yet Alex Smith is giving Trent Edwards a run for the "Captain Checkdown" moniker. And Smith has done nothing to prove he is a winner. If Shaun Hill is there instead of Alex Smith they win at least 2 of the first 5 games.
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
They wanted to upgrade the talent at quarterback and David Carr was more talented physically than Shaun Hill. I also thought it was sketchy.
Rick (Fresno, CA)
What's the story with the Cards run game? Was Beanie a little overhyped coming into the season?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
I've been thinking about this some and can come up with a few factors. One, the quarterback situation is less favorable. Teams are going to stack the box more against lesser quarterbacks. Two, injuries at receiver have given defense even less reason to focus on the passing game. That could be changing with Larry Fitzgerald apparently fully recovered from the sprained knee he suffered. Getting back Steve Breaston and Early Doucet also should help along these lines. Three, the Cardinals lost their top fullback, Nehemiah Broughton, to a season-ending injury. Four, the Cardinals have fallen behind in a couple losses, taking away the run. Five, the Cardinals trust Tim Hightower more in pass protection, so that has taken away some reps from Wells. Six, Wells underwent knee surgery and missed playing time. I think Beanie Wells can run very effectively. I've seen him do it, even this season (although in flashes).
Kyle (St. Louis)
I understand your point about the Rams and trading for V. Jackson. But he is a proven WR, as opposed to the other WR's they traded for. Plus, getting Jackson would free them up to use their top pick on a pass rusher.
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
It would be a bold move. I wonder if Billy Devaney and Steve Spagnuolo feel as though they need to make bold moves to impress a new owner. Of course, the owner would have to approve any trade.
Crabtree finally has his breakout game this year...do you think he will keep it going for the rest of the year?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
For the most part, yes, I think his production will increase. Not sure what will happen against Nnamdi Asomugha in Week 6, however.
tom page (bellevue,wa)
Seahawk fans have criticized the Whitehurst trade, but the Cards were also after him. If Whitehurst ends up in Arizona this off season is he currently the starter for the Cardinals?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Charlie Whitehurst would have entered the season as the starter, in my opinion. Would he have kept the job this long? Not sure. He throws the deep stuff pretty well, it appears, but the shorter throws do not seem to come naturally.
Rafay (West Lafayette, IN)
Still no love for the Rams? Who do you have winning the NFC West, and why can't the Rams contend for this division? Based on the way they played the first 5 games of the season, the Detroit game seems like a fluke to me.
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
The Rams can contend for this division. Every team can contend for this division. I just think playing four of five on the road after the bye is going to catch up with a team that lacks the depth needed to absorb injuries that mount late in the season.
Carolina Niner (Charlotte)
Not to take blame away from Smith, but I think the 49ers' offensive woes are more to do with Singletary's stoic refusal to adjust to the talent he has on offense than anything Smith has done. I actually like what I've seen from Mike Johnson given the confines Singletary puts on the offense. Do you see Sing finally taking his paws off the O and letting Mike Johnson have total control?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Total control? I doubt that will happen. There's no doubt Smith could have more success if the circumstances around him were better. At a certain point, though, he has to play well anyway.
Mike, how can any Seahawks fans be suffering? We've actually been competitive this season against decent teams! This is a huge turnaround already from the last two seasons, right?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Yes. I think the term "suffering" is used loosely there. The offense hasn't been very hot. Losing 20-3 to the Rams hurt. That's all.
Michael Campbell (West Grove, PA)
Mike, I noticed in your MVP watch you listed Matt Ryan. Why not Roddy White?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
The award is biased toward quarterbacks. I did not feel good about the MVP list this week. There were a bunch of very flawed candidates.
Dylan (San Francisco, CA)
What would make the 49ers' job attractive for Jon Gruden in 2011?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Young offensive talent, no established quarterback, the personnel to build a strong ground game, a big-time defensive player in his prime and a home in the Bay Area, where he coached previously. I listed no established QB as a positive because Gruden likes to tweak that position.
Hermes (Los Angeles)
I hear all the talk about the underachieving 49ers, but with one win on Sunday, we will match the win total for the loser of the Cowboys/Vikings game. And I really don't hear many people talking about either of them missing the playoff's or the Super Bowl. Do you think that people are just panicking too early, I mean no one ever said the first 5 weeks would be easy, if you look at it we probably thought we'd lose to the Saints, Falcons and Eagles. And Winning 2 road games against the Chiefs and Seahawks really didnt seem all that likely considering those are 2 of the worst places for opposing teams to play and win. I still have hope that we turn it around, going 9 and 2 or 8 and 3 doesnt seem like a long shot.
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
The fact that the 49ers have not won even one game multiplies the losing feelings exponentially. Winning even one game does change everything. But they need to make it happen.
Joe (Yakima )
Mike, what grade would you give Aaron Curry in the first four games of this year?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
It would have to be a middling grade. He has been OK. The run defense has been solid. Curry has gotten pressure a couple times. He has not made an impact to match his draft status, though.
Octavio (Los Angeles, CA)
H Mike, with the trade deadline approaching, do you think the 49ers will trade for a strong back-up quarterback?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
No. They are paying No. 2 money to Carr. Would be surprised if they made a trade at that position.
The 49ers management showed their true colors by allowing themselves to be bullied by Crabtree and his agent last year. This showed that one player can be bigger than the team, something that Singletary is against (V Davis for example).The 49ers under Singletary are 8-5 without Crabtree and 4-12 with Crabtree. My vengence is swift and thorough.
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
How did the 49ers let Michael Crabtree push them around? Not like they caved. They waited him out. The won-lost record can be misleading. I mean, Alex Smith and Shaun Hill were both .500 as starters last season. If we add 0-5 to Smith, he suddenly is 5-10 as a starter over the last two seasons, while Hill is still 3-3, but we can't say how Hill would have fared this season.
How many sacks for Peppers this week against the Seahawks?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
They'll scheme for him. I would put the over under at 1.5.
Mike, Tim Graham said you were a giant how tall are you?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Tim is pretty tall himself, but he's most impressive for his eating prowess. We hit a Brazilian steakhouse in Miami during Super Bowl week and Tim ate about 17 pounds of beef. Then he went back for another run through the salad bar. Height-wise, I'm 6-4.
Ken (Redondo Bch)
What NFC West team has the best chance to improve due to weakness of opponents and schedule.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
The 49ers in the very short term, but Arizona might be my choice over the remainder of the season.
confused (uw classroom)
We got Charlie Whitehurst for the same price of randy moss?????
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
Not exactly. To get Whitehurst, the Seahawks moved down 20 spots in the second round of the 2010 draft, selecting Golden Tate at No. 60 overall, and then Seattle also shipped its 2011 third-rounder to San Diego. That 2011 pick was worth less than a 2010 third-rounder would have been worth, so you need to factor that into the equation. There are other differences, too: position, age, contract situation.
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week.