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 (12:56 PM)
Good morning/afternoon. Let's get this thing going. No need to wait til the top of the hour.
Jon Alexander (Woodland Hills, CA)
Did the Rams get enough/the right draft picks so that Sam Bradford has the targets he needs to win the NFC West?
Mike Sando (12:59 PM)
Yeah, I think so, based on where the rest of the division stands right now. None of the Rams' receiving options really jumps out, but the numbers are better than they have been in the past. Injuries shouldn't hurt the team as badly at the position in 2011. Next up: Seeing what the rest of the division does at quarterback. Arizona's fortunes could swing dramatically with a big upgrade at that position. And with two highly talented cornerbacks, they could match up well against the Rams.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Everyone (even me) seems to think Alex Smith re-signing in San Francisco is a foregone conclusion. However, I really think Smith could use a change of scenery. If the Eagles trade Kevin Kolb, Smith would get playing time backing up Vick when he gets hurt, plus he would greatly benefit from the stability of the Eagles organization and the great QB tutelage of Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. Do you see any scenario where Smith leaves the Bay Area?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
Alex Smith will return to the 49ers. He has given his word on that. The team has given its word. There is no conceivable way this comes unraveled before the 2011 season. Also, I'm not so sure Smith would fare well in a place such as Philadelphia. You think the boo-birds are harsh at Candlestick Park? You think the media criticism is harsh in the Bay Area? Smith is a West Coast guy and I think he'll be best served staying put for another year, then venturing out.
Cheesehead Sports Nut (Chicago, IL)
Ron Wolf often spent a late round draft pick on a quarterback as a of boom or bust pick. That worked out a number of times getting guys like Aaron Brooks, Matt Hassleback, and Mark Brunell. It seems like a smart strategy that more teams should implement. Are teams so short on talent that they can't afford to spend even late picks on boom or bust quarterbacks?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
I hurriedly dove into my draft spreadsheet and crunched some numbers. Over the last five years, teams have drafted 6.6 quarterbacks per year after the fourth round. The average was 5.8 over the previous 14 seasons, dating to 1993 (there were 12 in 1990 and 12 in 1992, however). I'm not seeing a huge decline of late-round quarterbacks, in other words. There were five taken in the final three rounds this year, nine in 2010, seven in 2009, eight in 2008 and four in 2007. And then teams sign quite a few after the draft.
Steve (San Jose)
Hi Mike, I would rather have a team of good team players, who work hard, are solid, give 100 percent and bring the team together than have a few superstar divas. I know it's old school, but in any sport, wouldn't you rather have a team full of players like Josh Morgan, Delanie Walker, Brian Jennings and Joe Nedney, instead of having Michael Crabtree, Terrell Owens, and all the other divas? Doesn't the extra intangibles they bring to the team outweigh a superstar's talent, especially in football, which is the ultimate team sport? To do a little cross-promotion here, that's how the Giants won the World Series, and that's how you can win a Super Bowl.
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
The 49ers aren't going to win anything without a good quarterback. Once the quarterback is in place and a team has good leadership, it's easier to tolerate a few of the types you despise. There is no such team as an NFL locker room without diva types, though. As an organization, you hope your core players are strong enough to set a standard. The 49ers are not there yet.
Seth A (Orion, IL)
Is Michael Crabtree somewhat becoming a media target? I always hear these reports bashing him, and then I read what he said, and it's absolutely nothing. This latest one with him asking who the QB was, is being blown WAY out of proportion. Alex Smith is not under contract with the 49ers, and Jim Harbaugh got in trouble for acting like he was. Nobody talks about Crabtree saying "Whoever the QB is, I'm 100 perception behind them" Also, a lot of players have not been at this workout, yet everyone points to Mike. I'm starting to worry that the media is trying to make him into the next Terrell Owens, and destroying everything he says, whether it is bad or not.
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Those are thoughts I keep in mind when analyzing the situation. We have to be wary of falling into that way of thinking. In Crabtree's case, we are analyzing this latest situation within a broader context. This is one small piece in a pattern of pieces. The pattern is what invites analysis. What Crabtree says does matter.
What's with all the Hassel-haters in coffee town? Matt Hasselbeck is the best thing to happen to this team. While he is declining, if he were protected better, he would still be better than any other quarterback choice out there.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
The question is really whether the team needs to look at someone else -- Charlie Whitehurst or another young prospect -- while continuing to rebuild this season. I agree with you to an extent. Seattle is better off with Hasselbeck as part of the equation. But I also think we have not seen enough from Whitehurst to know for sure what he might offer, and the team needs to get younger at some point here.
RAMpage87 (Michael) (Washington, MO)
With speculation that the rams will be trying their luck with the WR position in the (hopefully) upcoming free agency, what players do you think the rams ACTUALLY have a shot at obtaining?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
The Rams have huge numbers at receiver right now. I don't see them diving into free agency hard at that position, frankly.
Do you ever hear from athletes after you've posted a story about them? Williams tweeted a link to your story yesterday, but I was wondering if you ever get feedback from the interview subjects.
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Yeah, sometimes I hear feedback, and that is welcome. I'm particularly interested in hearing from players if there's something they did not like. Good to get that sort of feedback and be able to address it openly and honestly. That does not happen all that often, though (and that is good, too).
I read where the Titans Jason Babin thinks he may not return to Tennessee, do you think he would be looked at by the Seahawks?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
It all comes down to value on players such as Babin. Raheem Brock was a similar player for the Seahawks last season. Very productive, but also a little older. He was playing for a new contract, so you wonder how he would respond to a longer-term deal. If you can get a Babin type for the right terms, it makes sense. I'd be reluctant to give a long-term deal to someone who is a bit older and has not produced consistently over time.
What are the odds Franklin stays in SF? Will he just be too pricey? Does the team take a big step back if he leaves?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
We don't know enough about how Vic Fangio wants to play defense. The team likes Isaac Sopoaga's versatility and might not want to pay Franklin huge money. Overall, though, we do not know how the new staff views Franklin and the team cannot evaluate him in camp yet, so it is tougher to say.
dom (bay area)
Hey Mike,I don't get why supposed 49er fans are making such a big deal about Crabtree. He showed up and worked out on Monday he feet were sore the next day so he didn't participate in the drills. However, he is doing the classroom things. Why are people trying to get on him for little things when he is doing the smart thing and not trying to injure himself like the last camps.
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
Players grate on fans when they do not project themselves as fully buying into the team concept. These little issues with Crabtree would mean nothing by themselves. Put them all together and people get the feeling, quite reasonably, that something isn't quite right there. The long contract dispute as a rookie, the sore neck during the 2010 exhibition season, the fight with Vernon Davis, the comments about Alex Smith, the sore feet after one day of workouts with the team. We should take into account the full picture.
Hass wasn't the annointed starter last season and Whitehurst couldn't come close to dethroning him. He didn't look particularly good (minus one game) in the pre-season. He also didn't look particularly good in any of the regular season games. How many more shots/looks does a long-term veteran like Whitehurst need? For goodness sakes, he couldn't beat out Volek to be second string in San Diego. Nothing he has done in Seattle has made that look like a bad choice.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Fair points, all. But if the organization thought enough of Whitehurst to part with a third-round choice that would have been highly valuable this year, has enough happened to just move on? Remember, this is all within the context of a team that is rebuilding and knows it is not a contender. Would you rather patch with an older guy for one year when that older guy is not part of the long-term equation, or would you rather find out for sure whether a younger guy has a future with the team, even as a backup? Fair question, I think.
With a good quarterback, and the right system, can Crabtree become the elite WR that everyone thought he could be coming out of college? Or is he always going to be a good, second-tier kind of player?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Crabtree can definitely become a top-tier player under favorable circumstances.
Hey Sando, so are you still sticking with the Rams as the favorite? Is that just because of Bradford? I personally think Alex Smith is going to surprise people and could be considered a close second to Bradford, and the 49ers have a better defense. At the same time, I'm glad the 49ers aren't being looked at as favorites because they never seem to fulfill prophecies by "experts".
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Yeah, it was a tentative projection based on quarterback situations right now. Those situations are going to come into focus later this offseason. Once they do, we can reassess. Your thoughts about Alex Smith are reasonable to this extent: He was the highest-rated passer in the division last season, and he now gets to work with Jim Harbaugh. But I still think Sam Bradford has a much brighter future.
Carlos (Los Angeles, CA)
Back on the Jason Babin question. Would San Francisco consider him since Vic Fangio was his old defensive coordinator in Houston?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
There is a good thought to keep in mind. Fangio had hoped Babin would become a Kevin Greene-type player for the Texans. I do not know what Fangio thinks of Babin at this stage, but there could be some turnover on the 49ers' defense this offseason.
Mike do you think Jim Harbaugh had something to do (in a subtle way) in this "minicamp"?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Absolutely, and here is what I mean: Harbaugh connected with Alex Smith early and often during the beginning stages of the offseason. He later shared a playbook with Smith. Once there was an understanding that Smith would return, you can bet Harbaugh did what he could within the rules -- within the allowable window -- to make sure Smith was in position to help his teammates on offense.
Nick (Appleton, WI)
So the Seahawks made it to the playoffs last year, and had a pretty good run until they were stopped by the Bears. I don't think anyone here doubts that Matt Hasselbeck is a great quarterback. Being a Packer fan, it was hard to see him go with Mike Holmgren. He's smart, accurate, and he posted a 102 passer rating in the postseason. The clear hole seems to be the receiving corps. Who does he even have to throw to? Can the Hawks find some dependable, high-performance receivers for the 2011 season, and where would they look? What do their draft prospects look like?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
The offensive line was the primary problem for the Seahawks last season. Hasselbeck also struggled with injuries and sometimes forced the ball. Mike Williams was a good receiver for the Seahawks last season. Golden Tate did not get on the field enough. That had to disappoint Pete Carroll and the personnel department. Now, with a new offensive coordinator and Tom Cable set up as line coach, the Seahawks will recommit to the running game behind a remade line. They will likely give some of their younger receivers -- Tate in particular -- an opportunity. Ben Obomanu was a pretty good complementary receiver. Overall, though, you are right. This is not a dynamic group of receivers.
Jon Alexander (Woodland Hills, CA)
Is Mark Clayton going to be a factor for the Rams this year? Is he healthy?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
The Rams were reportedly close to re-signing Clayton before the lockout, an indication they're reasonably confident he'll be healthy enough to contribute. Not being able to work out with the team as extensively this offseason is one concern, but by the time the season rolls around, Clayton should have had enough time to recover.
alex (San Diego)
Anthony Davis had most of his success last year against speed rushers, while Joe Staley struggled at left tackle but had his best years at right tackle. Do you think the 49ers would be better off if they put Davis at left tackle and Staley at right tackle?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
I wouldn't argue with at least considering that move. Mostly, though, the 49ers need to have Staley stay healthy. Davis would also benefit from staying in the same spot for a second season in a row.
No Cardinals questions?? Alright, how about this: Even if the Cards were to aquire Kolb or Orton after the lockout, would they have enough time to learn the playbook to start the season?? The longer this lockout lasts, the more I see Skelton lining up behind center.
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Very few Cardinals questions today. I am counting three, including this one. There is enough time to learn enough of the playbook to provide an upgrade over what the team had at quarterback last season. The Cardinals could then expand the playbook as the season progressed. Lots of teams would face similar challenges. The Cardinals cannot let the lockout convince them to go with the status quo, or they'll likely suffer through another down season.
Kalen (San Francisco CA)
Who'd the best fit for the Cardinals? Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton or Carson Palmer?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Impossible to make a decision independent of the price. If each were available for free and amenable to a long-term deal, I would rule out McNabb, then consider Palmer as my first option pending a full medical review to get a feel for how long he might be able to play, and at what level. If Palmer did not check out, I would lean toward Orton based on the fact that he has produced more consistently, whereas it is tougher to know what Kolb offers. Then, two years later, I would probably be fired as general manager.
The way I see it, if Kevin Kolb is not traded this off-season (when it happens) the chances that he ever becomes a starter in the league drop significantly. Shouldn't he be standing in front of the cameras and demanding a trade? Shouldn't he be hinting emphatically that he wants to become a Cardinal?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Kolb has already let his feelings be known. Trying to force the issue could lead the Eagles to dig in against him. I think the Eagles want to get value for Kolb, and Kolb knows this, so he is letting them try to work out something. Acting like a jerk would not help the situation or Kolb's value.
Mike Sando (2:02 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week. We are another week closer to the end of the lockout.