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!
Where do the Rams look right now for a top wide reciever in the draft? A.J. Green would be great but looks like it would take a monster trade for that. What are your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
No need to panic. Plenty of teams let receivers come to them in the draft. Some of the wideouts taken very high have panned out -- Larry Fitzgerald comes to mind -- but we've seen lots of misses from about the seventh through 10th overall picks. The Rams should be able to find receivers for that offensive system later than the top of the draft. The third round can be good place to find them.
Matt Moreira (R.I)
If the 49ers win tonight, what do you think their chances are beating St. Louis next week?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
That game against the Rams will be a tough one regardless of what happens Thursday night. I think the Rams would get pressure on Alex Smith in that environment.
Ronny G (SF)
Sando, love the work and all the different info/stats you compile! However, it's your turn to be put on the spot, let's hear your "fearless prediction"... How many INTs will Alex Smith throw tonight and what will be the final score??
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
OK, let's take the Chargers by a 27-17 score. I'm not ruling out the 49ers, but it's an upset if they win the game.
Jeff (Peoria, Az)
Hi Mike,I am a Cards fan and our defense has been bad since going to 3-4 a few years ago. A 3-4 requires a good, deep linebacker corps. We don't have any linebackers. A 4-3 would make more sense considering current personnel. Plus, Darnell Dockett is a more natural 4-3 end. One other reason is that you have to have a DC who knows how to scheme for a 3-4, and Bill Davis cannot. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Ken Whisenhunt has that Pittsburgh background and I've always thought he would favor the 3-4 scheme. You are right about the personnel. They do not have the linebackers. Dockett is indeed more of a problem as a traditional defensive tackle. I would not argue with a change to a 4-3. I also think we'll see defensive staff changes this offseason. That could facilitate a scheme change.
Any new news on Deon Butler's leg? And as informed speculation, do you think his career is in jeopardy?
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
Nothing new. He faces a long rehab. I do think it's fair to say his playing career is in some jeopardy. Let's see how the bone heals.
Any truth to the rumors that Carson Palmer may be a 49er next year? If so, do you see it as a big upgrade over the Smiths, or has Palmer's career begun to descend?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Palmer's career appears to be in decline. He has suffered numerous lower-leg injuries. Those can take a toll in subtle ways. His arm will remain strong. I just question whether he can carry an offense over a full season.
Fire Singletary (Marin, Calif)
Greetings, Mike. Playoffs or not, are the 49ers going to fire Singletary? As a 49er fan, he needs to be removed or I see an even worse season next year. Do you see a disaster if changes are not made and we play AFCN/NFCE/N/S?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
I think the 49ers will make a coaching change even if the team wins the NFC West this season. Going 8-8 and winning in the playoffs could force the team to reevaluate. I think it's tough to justify staying the course based on what we have seen over the course of the season.
Matt (Spokane, WA)
Please tell me that Vernon Davis has a big game tonight-- my fantasy future may depend on it!!
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
The Chargers' pass defense has made life rough on teams this season. I did notice that Jacob Tamme had some good numbers against San Diego, though (seven catches for 64 yards and a touchdown). Davis' rapport with Alex Smith has been strong. Davis has one touchdown reception in each of Smith's last five starts.
Lifelong 49ers fan, but I don't get my "fandom" revoked if I'm hoping they lose and don't make the playoffs so we can finally end the "Alex Smith" experiment and move on, do I?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Revocation of fandom might be a little strong. You could be put on probation, though. Actively hoping is probably going too far. How about hoping he plays well enough for the team to win, but not well enough for the team to stick with him?
Bobby (Salem, OR)
Seems like Matt Hasselbeck is crashing and burning here. Based on the Seahawks' record, it seems like Seattle could draft a good QB like Ryan Mallett. What are your thoughts on Seattle's draft needs, and who could possibly fill those needs based on a projected draft position?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
They need to draft a quarterback. They also need to rebuild their offensive line. Those should be priorities. I haven't studied college prospects.
Seth (Newport News, VA)
I know the NFC West is a struggling division, but the AFC West and AFC South could have division champs that are 8-8 or 9-7. I know perception of their divisions is different, but who has sent more teams to the Super Bowl in the past 10 years? I believe that would be the NFC West.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
The NFC West has had the NFL's worst out-of-division record recently. That hurts perceptions. Being matched with the NFC South this season has hurt.
Patrick Wills (San Fran)
And last, do you think we should land Gruden? His roots started here and so they shall end here, he can bring back the "West Coast Offense" and with the fire power we already have that's dangerous. He's solid on defense especially with the 4-3, he can land a great trade for Kevin Kolb who already knows the offense, what do you think?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Hiring Jon Gruden would get applause from these parts. I think the 49ers need an offensive-minded head coach. Gruden is that. He also values the running game, which is important give the 49ers' personnel. He also enjoys a national profile, which would not hurt as the team tries to get support for a new stadium. Gruden is someone people could get excited about.
With Avery and Clayton coming back and Amendola, Gibson, Alexander doing good why pick a wide reciever first?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
The Rams should not go into the draft determined to take a receiver with their first pick. They should still consider taking one early if the right one is there. The idea is to surround Sam Bradford with more weapons so he can take the next step quickly.
How many points do you think SF will have to score tonight to beat SD? Can the Niners rely on their defense again, or is Rivers too talented to make mistakes like Hasselbeck did?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
I think the 49ers might need to get into the 27-28 point range to win this game. I do not trust the 49ers' defense. See the Green Bay game.
Steve M. (Redmond, Oregon)
Sando, as a longtime Seahawk fan, I have been so frustrated all my life with the up and down roller coaster years. One year the Hawks are rocking, the next year we completely stink. Holmgren came in and did very well after a few years. Do you think that Carroll will need one more year to turn the Hawks around? Or, do you think that Carroll needs a lot longer? I just want to see the Hawks have a positive win record for more than two years.
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
The important thing is to understand where the team really stands in its development. And that can be hard because the head coach isn't going to just come out and say they are rebuilding. He's going to try to convince the team it can win now. But in the back of his mind, he knows what we know. This team is not very deep or very good, and it's going to take time. The state of the division allows the Seahawks a better chance to compete. But we should not mistake competing within the current NFC West for being competitive overall. Seattle has to solve its quarterback situation, too.
While the Seahawks aren't out of it yet (and I'm not sure if I'd prefer them out of it or not) what do they need to upgrade the most next year? Keep working on the lines? Upgrade cornerback? QB of the future? (I'll stop before I list every position.)
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Yeah, develop the lines and find the quarterback. Those are the most important areas for any team. Seattle is better at quarterback right now than on the offensive line. I think you keep Russell Okung, try to develop Max Unger at center and then consider turning over every other position on the line.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sand-O: I think the Cardinal's D is very athletic, but very poor at reacting to what they see on the field when they are forced to play both the run & the pass. Do you think Warner's departure actually impacted the D in the sense they cannot just focus on defending the pass and now must be more intuitive in their playmaking?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Kurt Warner's departure has put the defense in less favorable situations. The defense has fewer chances to play downhill. The defense has other issues, obviously, but having a more productive offense would mask some of them.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Given the fact that Luck will likely not be a Cardinal next year, does signing Bulger as a veteran QB next year to both start and mentor Skelton make a lot of sense? I do not want to see the Cards give up draft picks to get Kolb & I would like them to focus on defense this draft.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Signing Marc Bulger would make some sense. The Cardinals would want to know whether a year in the background has allowed Bulger to recharge and get his mind right following a tough run in St. Louis. The Cardinals might still need to consider drafting at the position. They need a long-term plan at quarterback. They need to guard against a repeat of this season.
Steve (San Francisco)
Mike, it seems like a lot of people think the Rams have really grown up this year. I see exactly one impressive win on their resume (SD, although I guess Seattle could count), and really moreso they've found ways to lose games they could have won (Oakland, Tampa Bay, SF). Why does everyone seem to think they're poised to get it done down the stretch?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
The Rams get a bit of a pass as a feel-good story because they went 1-15 last season and 6-42 over their last three seasons. They have improved, no doubt. They have the quarterback situation settled. They have two of their final three at home. That guarantees nothing. They still have to get it done and they still have not proven they can do that. But when you look around the NFC West, it's not like those other teams have it figured out, either.
Danny Angel (California)
Everyone knew the NFC West was gonna be weak, but this weak? What does the whole division need to do to get back into more equal competition with the NFC and NFL as a whole? Many of the coaches are young and so is most of the talent.
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Figure out the quarterback situations.
Sam (Louisville, KY)
In the event the Rams lose out and are 6-10, can they still come away feeling like 2010 was a success?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
No, they could not feel as though the season were a success. They could say they made strides, matching their win total for the previous three seasons, but disappointment would be the prevailing feeling.
Kyle (St. Louis)
I think the Rams should be determined to have a legitimate deep threat by the start of next season. That's why the Saints weren't afraid to play tight man-to-man and blitz like crazy.
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
A true deep threat is not required to run that offense, but it would help.
sim (stockton, ca)
Looking forward to next season, who do you think is the favorite to win the division? Rams, because of Bradford's potential development?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
Yes, but lots of ground to cover before then.
Sando - I have both the Falcons and the Chargers d/st. I know this isn't necessarily FFL talk but with your AFC insight who do you plug in?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Seattle has more issues on defense right now and you know the Falcons should be able to control the ball. The big concern there is that Leon Washington might get loose for another return. I would probably go with Atlanta on principle. I am also losing to my wife in the Gridiron Challenge league, so you might not go straight to the bank with that.
Sam (Louisville, KY)
What does Steven Jackson's future with St. Louis look like? Can he stick around and be part of the rebuilding, or would he be more valuable in a trade for other long term options?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Steven Jackson is the heart of that team. Keep him. Let him finish with the Rams. He means too much to them. They need him. I think they could use another back to share time and sub situationally, but no way should they trade Steven Jackson.
Should I be fearful of the Rams D-Line?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
No. You should be safe on the sideline while Matt Cassel plays.
Mackay (PG, UT)
Sando: Watching the Cardinals drop 43 on Denver last week was fun, but bittersweet. You can tell that a bad team was having a bad game, and a bad team was having a good game. I wouldn't have been surprised if it were Denver to drop 43 on the Cardinals. This causes me to worry about the direction AZ is headed. I used to ignore the talk of Warner making Whisenhut look smarter and better than he was, but now I agree. This team may be who we thought they were. I know you will say that it is the QB situation, but I think a major overhaul needs to be performed. Mainly coaching. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Ken Whisenhunt might agree with you. Let's see what he does with the defensive staff. I see no reason to change at head coach. That would be short-sighted. I do think Whisenhunt could have a tougher job if Carolina hired Russ Grimm as its head coach, though.
Chris (Sioux Falls, SD)
Assuming Singletary is out at the end of the season and Norv Turner does what he normally does, choke in the playoffs and gets canned (it happened to Dungy), would Norv be a good candidate for the 49ers job?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
That is just sinister. Then would they re-sign Alex Smith and spend the next three years figuring out whether he could succeed in Norv Turner's system?
Mike (Mountain View)
Sando - Great work on the blog. With all West Coast teams complaining about the 1 p.m. EST start, why did the league change the Seahawks game? That gives the 49ers six total 10 a.m. PT starts and the Seahawks TWO for the year. Something doesn't smell right.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Thanks, Mike. The 49ers tend to play more of these games in part because the league has fewer options for 49ers games. The Raiders and 49ers do not play home games the same weekend. That said, Oakland had only four 10 a.m. PT kickoffs this season.
Erich (Wild Wild West)
Why doesn't the NFL work the schedule to have teams' bye the week before they play a Thursday game? That way instead of having such a short week, a team would have ample time both before and after the game for preparation and recovery? It wouldn't be that complicated to implement. Make it happen!
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
The league gets the bye weeks out of the way earlier in the season. No one is getting extra rest in the final month of the season.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Although the Cards have been abysmal this year, I think Kerry Rhodes and Paris Lenon actually were bargains and they will be back next year. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Yeah, those guys were better than anticipated. Keep Rhodes, for sure. I think they could stand to get younger at linebacker, though. Lenon could be part of the mix, but they need more at LB.
Jared (Sonora, ca)
I know everyone wants the Alex Smith era to end, but who is a better short-term solution for the next 1-2 years? Wouldn't it be wise to hire Jon Gruden (who liked Smith) and draft a QB to groom for those 1-2 years? McNabb, Palmer, Bulger, Hasselbeck? Those guys aren't going to win any Super Bowls, and might not ever play in the playoffs again. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
Yes, draft a quarterback. Alex Smith can be part of the equation, but they need a longer-term plan. The veteran QBs you named may or may not be better than Smith at this point. That is a fair point.
Is the winner of the Rams-49ers game the champ of this pathetic division or is it the winner of the following week's game at Qwest (Rams-Seahawks).
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Both games will influence which team prevails in the end.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
If the 49ers cut Smith, I think there is no doubt he would find work easily at least as a backup. Does his contract have manageable numbers to where the 49ers could at least see if someone would trade for him?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Alex Smith's contract expires after this season.
The Rams get a pass? please? If you have watched every game this year you have to be able to tell they are by far the most consistent team in the division. Look at the games they played this year. ARI fum return for TD stripped and blocked field goals lose by four, Raiders very close lots of chances to win and another blocked field goal lose by two, Lions Clayton goes down teams plays bad game, Bucs 3rd and a mile hold them to field goals all day and lose at the last second, 49ers HORRIBLE PI call at the end to lose the game, And if four plays go different in the ATL and Saints game they are possibly winning to many redzone turnovers. So they should be favored to win this division!! Thanks?.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Agreed that they are the most consistent team in the division. They do catch less criticism based on expectations coming off a brutal three-year run. That is what I was getting at.
If the NFL cares so much about player safety, why have the Vikes-Bears game outside on a field that's going to be like a parking lot? Most fields are heated, and this field isn't. Can you say concussion?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
The NFL cares about making the game safe enough to win approval for an 18-game regular season.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week!