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, any feel for each teams greatest 2012 draft need? I know the 49ers have Kilgore and Person in the wings, so maybe they don't go OG/OT, but how about another first-round WR for the 49ers in the 2011 draft? Think the Hawks go for a QB even if they're picking in the teens? The Rams? I could see them trading out and cashing in. No idea what the Cards need other than for Kevin Kolb to play to his potential; maybe to start building some semblance of a defense.
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
The 49ers could use a young safety, another outside linebacker, depth for the defensive line and a receiver. I wouldn't focus on taking a receiver. The team will be picking late enough to make the process less predictable. The Seahawks would still be in the market for a QB picking in the teens, I think. But they need another pass-rushing defensive end, plus a linebacker, plus another offensive lineman, possibly (given injury concerns with their current group). The Rams need a front-line receiver given that they might not pay top dollar for Brandon Lloyd. They have needs on both lines. It's time to draft a running back. They badly need OLB help. Lots of options there. The Cardinals need young OL depth and continued upgrades on defense.
Scott M (New Jersey)
Am I in the minority who thinks it might not be a bad thing to let Patrick Willis sit for the rest of the season? He'd have, hopefully, five weeks to rest and recover and be 100 percent for the playoffs. Do you think losing him for an extended period of time could risk the No. 2 seed?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
I haven't taken a poll, but your thinking aligns with mine. At the very least, err on the safe side. Give him an extra week or two. Sitting him would diminish the team's chances against Pittsburgh. I don't see him being the difference against the other three offenses on the schedule, though.
Paul (Albany, OR)
Sando, Merry Christmas to you and thank you for your NFC West work. If you were in charge for the Ram,s what do you do to become a long-term success in this league? The Rams have had one great year and four good years sandwiched between 20 years of absolute awfulness (sorry about making up words). This is so discouraging to be a fan. We have drafted in the top 5, what, four out of the last 5 years? And with really only Chris Long being that type of player. How does the front office miss so dang often? How does this ship get righted? Please pull us from the ledge.
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
I'd probably hire an offensive-minded head coach with some experience in an effort to give Sam Bradord the best chance for success through continuity and overall offensive direction. Perhaps I would try to pry away Jon Gruden from Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski. Some of the recent drafting issues come down to bad luck. Take the 2009 draft. Jason Smith was the pick. So many of the first-rounders that year bombed out.
Ken Whisenhunt (Glendale, AZ)
What will my team's record be at the end of the year?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
Probably 6-9 going into the Week 17 home game against Seattle. That gives the Cardinals a decent shot at 7-9, which is pretty close to expectations for the season.
Hey Mike,How well do you think the Cardinals will be able to avoid turnovers this weekend against the 49er's? It seems like Kolb might have turned a corner in that respect against Dallas. If they can keep the turnover ratio even or better, what do you put their chances at? Keep in mind, the 49ers have had a positive turnover ratio in 9 of their 10 wins.
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
The Cardinals have a decent shot at winning this game because their defense is playing better and should keep them competitive. Kevin Kolb borrowed a page from the Alex Smith playbook by taking a couple sacks instead of risking interceptions. He also protected the ball pretty well when hit. The 49ers have matched up well with Arizona, though. I'm favoring the 49ers to win the game.
CARDS questions: Even though Dez Bryant had a decent statistical day, it sure seemed like Patrick Peterson made those yards tough to come by. Has Peterson turned a corner with his coverage skills? Also, who is this guy that replaced Andre Roberts, and where was he the first half of the season?
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Yeah, I thought Peterson played pretty well in the second half. He was contesting plays. John Lynch gave him praise on the broadcast. The NFL Films miked-up version of the game showed Peterson telling John Lott after the game that he was going to be the best corner in the league one day. He had some issues against Michael Crabtree last time. I'm interested in seeing if he atones. On Roberts, I hear you. Much more involved. I'm not sure if it has to do with Roberts or just the way the team has been defended in certain games.
Travis M (Tucson)
Chris Long is on a tear lately. Do you think he'll pass up Demarcus Ware in the sacks department by the season's end?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Monday night will tell us plenty. The Seahawks have had some issues on their offensive line. I'd say Long has a chance if he gets two more sacks in that game. Great individual numbers for him this year. Takes the pressure off him a little bit. He has heard the characterizations about him (not a pure pass-rusher, etc).
Keith H (Seattle)
This is intresting...I could see no chat last week with Seahawks gameday. This week? Must be Pujols.
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Huh? Chat is ongoing.
Cards question, Sam Acho. He was dropped on a lot of boards due to his athleticism, but has some of the best smarts in college football with the academic awards he received. Is his progress this year due to his smarts, or the Cardinals trainers?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
Probably his smarts. Also, he had good matchups in two games against the Rams' offensive line.
Chex Norris (San Diego)
Do you think the 49ers will re-sign Braylon Edwards past this year? Would hate to see such a tall dangerous receiver go to the likes of the Rams...
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
I'd be a little surprised at this point. Not seeing the long-term value right now.
Mike, what's the likelihood that Seattle get a deal done with Lynch?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
That depends upon his expectations. Is he looking for Chris Johnson money? Or would he take a three-year deal that is good, but not great? I know the Seahawks want him back. Sometimes there's a gap between player and team expectations. I do not know if that is the case with Lynch.
If it weren't for the new rookie wage scale that will be in place for next year's draft, the Rams sure would be taking another huge hit to the pocketbook having to pay a top 3 pick the kind of money it used to cost. Could this have actually forced them to trade down if the new wage scale weren't in place?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Great, perceptive question, Jordan. I think they would have -- and will -- find relief through reworking or eliminating Jason Smith's rookie deal. There is just no way the team will pay him $10 million next season, the price called for in the deal Smith signed as the second overall choice in 2009. The team actually reworked Chris Long's deal this year to help with cap considerations.
Zack (Monterey, CA)
How do you see the 49ers closing out the season? Even with Patrick Willis down and possibly resting Frank Gore, Davis, even Alex Smith, I still can't see the 49ers losing the No. 2 seed. In your opinion, how will we close out -- not only in the standings, but as far as resting everyone?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
The Saints have a very good shot at running the table to finish 13-3. That is where I would expect the 49ers to finish, but I think the 49ers have a tougher road, even with a one-game head start. They have the Steelers in a prime-time game. They visit Seattle on a shorter week. Tough place to play. Arizona has won four of its last five. Jim Harbaugh doesn't seem like the type to rest guys unless the team was in control during its Week 17 visit to the Rams, a possibility. The 49ers are unestablished as a playoff team. They need to keep getting better.
Chilo Rachel (SF)
Am I bust? And am I gone after this year?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
Really do not like the "bust" label. Do think there is a good chance the 49ers will move on next season, leaving behind Chilo Rachal. They have a couple young guys they want to develop. Adam Snyder can be a versatile backup.
Kyle (Trumbull, CT)
Just for argument's sake, let's say the NFC West wasn't awful. Would the 49ers record be as good as it is?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
The 49ers are 7-2 outside the division. Enough said.
Justin (NY, NY)
Who would be the MVP of the Niners? I've always thought Patrick Willis, but surprisingly, they handled his absence completely seamlessly last week -- granted it was against an inept offense. I keep thinking that the real difference this year HAS to be the play of Alex Smith. Without his improvement, this team is NOWHERE.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
You might be right. I do think the typical MVP carries the team, though. Smith does not do that. It's tough every week putting together the MVP Watch list and not including any 49ers players. This week, I had three Patriots on there, but no 49ers. It did not feel right, but MVPs usually have top-notch production. Smith has been efficient, not prolific. Frank Gore has cooled a bit. Justin Smith and Patrick Willis would be candidates.
Manhands (New Jersey)
How do you think Seattle moves forward the rest of the way with the three young starters on the OL on IR? Will the system mask personnel problems?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
The offensive line became better in the short term, I think, when Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan replaced James Carpenter and John Moffitt on the right side. The only drop there was in building for the future. Carpenter and Moffitt needed the work. Losing left tackle Russell Okung is totally different -- a bigger loss. This probably won't show up fully until the team plays the Bears and 49ers. Julius Peppers and Justin Smith are going to give Seattle problems.
Sando, do you think John Schneider and Pete Carroll make any attempt to bring back John Carlson next year?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
To the extent that Carlson's injury affects his price, I would not close the door. But I don't see the team making a big play.
Simple question. Why do you guys sometimes call your after-game reports "Rapid Reactions" and sometimes you call them "Wrap-ups" -- what's the difference?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
We file Rapid Reactions from the games we are attending in person. We file Wrap-ups for the other games. Rapid Reactions will generally be longer than Wrap-ups, with more items. Either way, I try to post them right when the games end. Sometimes I've got 3-4 files open at the same time. I'll be watching a game on the field. I'll have radio play-by-play from another game in one ear. I'll sometimes have video from another game on a computer. Hard capturing the feel from all the games at once, but always try.
Which coaches do you think are in the hot seat? Will my boy Spaggy be back next year?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Steve Spagnuolo is the only one from the NFC West, in my view. And I do not think he'll be back.
Matt (Santa Barbara)
How difficult will it be for Trent Baalke and company to re-sign so many of the 49ers one-year contract players? With the team's success and good play of many of these single-year contract players, will the front office be able to afford to keep the roster relatively unchanged next season?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
The 49ers will not suddenly lavish fat long-term deals on the Carlos Rogerses of the team, in my view. They'll take a methodical, disciplined approach and probably lose some guys. We will also find out who they value, perhaps unexpectedly. Last offseason was a revelation. They made little effort to keep Aubrayo Franklin, instead paying Ray McDonald starter money.
How do you think the return of Kerry Rhodes will affect the Cardinals defense? They seem to be doing pretty well without him. Could his presence actually detract from the defense?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
That's what coaching is for. They would need to work him into the defense in ways that do no disrupt what they have going on defense.
Hey Mike, love the blog. Do you think Baalke should be considered for executive of the year?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Thanks, Chris. I do think Trent Baalke should be considered. He helped hire Jim Harbaugh, then played a role in making moves that were not always popular, but have worked out well. That is always a good sign, when an executive gets the last laugh. It means they trusted themselves and weren't overly concerned with perceptions at the time, and they were right.
Stewart (Berkeley, CA)
Does Aldon Smith have a good matchup against the Cardnials this week? One, two or three sacks?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Aldon Smith had one sack against Arizona last time. I think he'll get another one Sunday.
Stewart (Berkeley, CA)
Albert Pujols just received a $254 million contract. Who in the NFL do you think could/should receive that much if there were no cap?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Adam Archuleta could probably get that from the Redskins. Haha. Seriously, I'd have to focus on quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers would be the guy. Have to think he would do more than influence his team's game outcomes than any hitter could do for his team.
How can Gronkowski be a MVP when he disappears for four games?? He's a receiver playing tight end.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Answer: He cannot be an MVP. He can appear 10th on the MVP Watch list when I cannot find anyone more deserving in a given week. The question should really be, who else? Ray Rice might have been a good candidate instead.
How bad has the Rams drafting really been the past few years? Of the first round picks, isn't Jason Smith really the only big bust they've had? It seems like their ability to sign free agents has been a bigger problem lately. They intentionally got older on defense this year and it's really backfired.
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
Their drafting has not been horrible recently. They've drafted some good players. James Laurinaitis, Bradley Fletcher, Chris Long, eventually Sam Bradford. They lacked young, quality depth throughout their roster, however. And to make up for that, they signed a bunch of older guys to one-year deals. Those guys did not get signing bonuses. They arguably did not take away playing time from promising young prospects. I would argue that the team doesn't have enough promising young prospects.
Cody (North Dakota)
Alex Smith = Comback Player of the Year. Jim Harbaugh = COY. True or False?
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
False and true. Alex Smith finished last season with eight touchdown passes and one interception in his final five starts. What was he coming back from? Nothing.
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat to day. My pleasure as always.