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!
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Greetings. Thanks for showing up.
Does the OC change in St. Louis affect the growth of Sam Bradford? Is Sam Bradford better than Alex Smith? Or is Josh McDaniels a better coach?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Sam Bradford appears much better than Alex Smith. I expect him to handle the transition well. Bradford will have some rough games. He had rough games as a rookie. Overall, his passer rating ranked toward the bottom of the league. But he appears to have the physical tools and mental makeup to improve and become a very good quarterback.
Kalen (Kodiak, AK)
Hey Sando, Tom Cable signing with Seattle to coach the offensive line is a huge acquisition. I have heard some rumors that he might attract a lot of high profile free agents from Oakland to come play for Seattle. One name that has surfaced is Robert Gallery, he would be a huge upgrade at guard but the player I would really like to see play for Seattle is Tyvon Branch. After watching Lawyer Milloy get beat every other play this season, it became evident to me that we need an upgrade at SS. Do you think this is a possible landing spot for Branch? Do you think Cable will attract other players from Oakland over to Seattle?... maybe Nnamdi?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
Gallery is the one to watch. I think Cable would be most apt to a have a stronger bond with the offensive linemen on a team, and Seattle's need at guard makes it a natural fit. Putting Gallery next to Russell Okung would be good for the Seahawks. Having Cable could certainly make the other players you mentioned trust what they're hearing about Seattle and what kind of team they might be joining, but I don't see Cable's presence as a decisive factor for non-offensive linemen.
What do you think of the staff that Harbaugh is putting together? It looks like they are getting guys with a lot of NFL experience. This seems like a good move for a rookie NFL coach right?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Yes, in general, I think that is a good thing. Some of the assistants had negative experiences at the NFL level, but there are few magic workers out there. Coaches need players. The 49ers have some good players, so those coaches should produce better results than we might expect if they were walking into an expansion franchise (as Vic Fangio was in Houston, to cite one example).
Hey Mike. I know a collective bargaining agreement needs to be reached, but if you were the 49ers, who would go get in free agency (assuming that they all don't return to their teams)? Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb or Kyle Orton?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Fun question. I might consider Matt Hasselbeck because he knows the division, he finished strong this season, he has a West Coast background, he might respond well to working with a former head coach such as Jim Harbaugh, and his addition could weaken or at least affect a division opponent. Harbaugh was known at Stanford for pushing the envelope scheme-wise. Hasselbeck might respond well to that approach, and he knows the West Coast system.
Hi Mike, enjoy your work on the blog. Is Ken Whisenhunt putting all his eggs in one basket hoping to get a Steelers assistant? Shouldn't there be more interviews in the meantime in case that falls through?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
In theory, yes, there should be more interviews. In reality, Whisenhunt probably has a good feel for who he might want to hire, and why go through the motions with someone who isn't interested or qualified or a good fit? I do think it's fair to question the plan given that nothing has happened, but it's too early to judge the process a failure.
How do you think Carroll and Cable will get along? Cable seems like he'd be more apt to berate and belittle others opposed to Carroll's positive rah rah approach.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
If Pete Carroll is going to have a drill sergeant coaching any position, it's probably the offensive line. Just about every team wants the Tom Cable mentality on its line. Cable will still need to operate within the boundaries Carroll wants. It's a situation worth monitoring, yes, but if the team runs the ball more effectively and creates a tough-guy mentality on its line, I think Carroll will welcome what Cable brings overall.
Mike, Jed York was interviewed about 30 minutes ago on our local sports radio station in the Bay Area. "I don't think we've made up our mind on that," York said of the possibility of Alex Smith returning. Basically, the Niners haven't officially cut the cord with Alex Smith. What do you think of Alex Smith coming back under Harbaugh?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
I think teams have nothing to gain from limiting their options. What do the 49ers gain from saying categorically that Alex Smith will not return? What do the Seahawks have to gain by signing Matt Hasselbeck right now as opposed to later? Smart teams keep open their options. I think it's likely the 49ers and Alex Smith will part ways this offseason, but it's premature to say it will happen for sure. Jim Harbaugh is only now settling into the job, evaluating the talent, figuring out what options the team might have and plotting strategy for a potential lockout. I know fans and some reporters want hard-and-fast answers right now, but I see no reason for teams to provide those types of answers when they are still considering their options.
I thought for a moment that Bates had saved his job with the game against the Saints, but it had been something I had been rooting for the entire season. How do you think Bevell might fit in at Seattle if (more likely when) he gets the job?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
My read on Bates is that he might have kept the job if he had been more receptive to changing his ways, both in offensive approach and coaching style, and that Darrell Bevell would be a more comfortable fit on the staff. Bevell worked under Brad Childress, which could not have been a walk in the park, and he'll probably work amicably alongside Tom Cable. Bevell is more familiar with the Andy Reid/Mike Holmgren branch of the West Coast system. Seattle will keep its zone tactics, though. I think it remains to be seen how the offense evolves schematically but we could see a mixture.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
How do you see Arizona addressing their glaring QB need in the offseason? My belief is they need to add a proven veteran AND draft a prospect in the first two rounds as their future QB prospect. But it's Arizona and the Bidwills, so I was wondering what you think will happen.
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
They have to sign a veteran. I think that is a given. Write it in stone. They will not go into the 2011 season with John Skelton, Max Hall and another rookie as their quarterbacks. Once they sign a veteran, we'll know how badly they need to draft a player. Signing or acquiring a legitimate veteran starter (or someone they view as such) could make it easier for the Cardinals to avoid drafting a quarterback early. If they draft a quarterback fifth overall, they win the press conference that day because everyone will say they addressed their primary need, but it will not matter long term unless they drafted that quarterback for the right reasons. I do not think it's a slam dunk at all for Arizona to draft one in the first two rounds.
Ben Roan (French Class)
If you're the 49ers, watching mostly the success of recent rookie QBs, do you want to get a rookie QB of the future or do you want a veteran QB that has shown glimpses of being a franchise guy?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
The 49ers need a veteran for sure. They have enough talent offensively to compete for the NFC West title with competent (most likely non-rookie) play from the quarterback position. This was a team that never should have finished 6-10. The 49ers should not be drafting in the Top 10. They need to consider using that seventh overall pick for a quarterback if Jim Harbaugh sees one he really likes. Harbaugh's presences should make 49ers fans feel more comfortable about the decisions the team makes at that position. Harbaugh is going to know quarterbacks. Think back to 2005. Mike Nolan was the head coach. He knew defense. He did not know quarterbacks the way Harbaugh knows them.
Nathan (Coralville, IA)
How different do you think the 49ers will be under Harbaugh? (schemes, personnel, etc.)
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Dramatically different on offense. The 49ers were unapologetic in their remedial approach to offense over the last couple seasons. Mike Singletary wanted to run an old-school power attack. Jim Harbaugh's offense will be light years ahead of the 49ers' offense from the last couple seasons. That will not assure success, but I think it could help the 49ers get more from the right quarterback. The changes on the defensive side will be less pronounced, I would think.
Clay Defayette NY [via mobile]
How unfortunate is the lack of premier offensive linemen in the draft for Arizona? Is their main issue up front offensively?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
The offensive line needs an influx of young talent. This was the oldest line in the league from one through eight. But the line was not the biggest problem for Arizona by any means. Quarterback was the biggest problem. The Cardinals also need help at linebacker, inside and out.
Jae (St. Louis, MO)
Do you think there is conflict already with the Rams coaching staff and new hire Josh McDaniels? The QB coach retired a day after McDaniels signed. Is this a coincidence?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
Conflict? No, I would not read it that way. Pat Shurmur took the lead with Sam Bradford. Dick Curl, the quarterbacks coach, was someone Bradford could lean on at times. There would be no place for Curl on a Josh McDaniels staff. I think Curl saw the writing on the wall and decided this was the time to step away. Beats getting let go. Curl is at retirement age anyway.
Mike (Eugene, OR)
Sando, I'm a puzzled Seahawks fan this morning. So we hired an O-Line coach who's also the assistant head coach and is going to have input on hiring an O-coordinator. What coordinator in his right mind would walk into a situation where his O-Line coach is also his boss? Am I missing something here?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
No high-profile, strong-willed, my-way-or-the-highway coordinator is going to take that job. Pete Carroll does not want that.
Nathan (Coralville, IA)
Carroll said yesterday that re-signing Hasselbeck would be the team's number one priority in the off season. Do you think that this is the absolute truth, and if so, is it a wise move?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
No, it is not the absolute truth. We should not hold Pete Carroll to the letter of his words when he is answering questions for which there cannot yet be absolute answers. It's an exercise in futility. I think Carroll likes Hasselbeck, and vice versa. The Seahawks would like to have Hasselbeck back next season. But in what capacity? What other options are out there?
Michael (Los Angeles)
How has Jed York improved/matured since he took charge of the 49ers a couple of years ago?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
I cannot say for sure that he has, but his ability to land Jim Harbaugh without panicking and overpaying looks like a positive step for him. I thought the 49ers acted impulsively when they hired Mike Singletary so quickly. They seemed to show more patience in the Harbaugh hiring process and that reflects positively on Jed York.
slappy (san diego)
Sando, I've been MIA for a while. So Bates out, maybe Bevell in. It seems to me that Carroll wants a run oriented offense, provide that toughness that was missing. From what I have heard is Bevell is a West Coast O guy with ties to Holmgren. Not really what I think of when I think of when I think of run first offenses. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
I think Tom Cable is really big and strong.
As a Hawks fan, I was very pleased with Carroll's first year at the helm. I feel the coaching staff got the most from a roster that wasn't exactly stacked with the most talent. How worried should I be that the team may take a step back with the loss of so many coaches after just one season? If Bates was so bad why did Matt go out of way to say how much he liked working with him?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
You should expect improvement. You should be disappointed if they do not improve despite (or even because of) some staff changes. The Seahawks have a much better idea what they have on their roster. They should be able to more accurately target what they need for their schemes. I expect them to focus on improving the lines, and that would improve the team.
With the Heater looming, and better, should Tatupu be shown the exit?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
That's a brutally honest question to ask and a tough one for some Seattle fans to hear. I do think it is fair to ask whether Lofa Tatupu can hold up well enough physically to lead the defense. He can still be an asset, but it's gotten tougher for him from a health standpoint. I think it's an area the team needs to look at, for sure.
Armen Dacity (Winter Park, FL)
Mike, does Josh McDaniels' decision to join the Rams' staff indicate that the "new" (Kroenke/Spagnuolo/Bradford) Rams have become a "destination franchise" to some degree for up and coming talent?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
The Rams are more attractive to up-and-coming talent for the reasons you listed, but I would not yet call them a "destination franchise" the way New England or other franchises have held that status. I do not think Josh McDaniels would be the offensive coordinator if the Rams had drafted Ndamukong Suh instead of Sam Bradford.
Should the 49ers take a shot at trading for Kolb?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Yes, they should look into that option.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. My pleasure as always.