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 (1:00 PM)
Greetings. We'll get going here quickly.
Was there anything in the 49ers-Rams game that you saw that leaves the door cracked for the Seahawks to have a decent chance at taking over the division lead?
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
Not getting the win was the main thing. The 49ers now face at least some pressure to win these road games. They've got Seattle, New Orleans and New England on the road. It's now at least conceivable to think the Seahawks could make it close. I will be addressing some specifics on the subjects in a post appearing on the blog right now.
Brandon (Pullman, WA)
Clearly the bye week is a good thing for the Seahawks health-wise, but will it translate into victory in Miami?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
The bye, itself, will not secure a victory. I do think it improves the chances for Seattle to be fresh. The team has not ever appeared "flat" in road games lately, so I don't see the bye lulling Seattle into poor play. A lot of that is guesswork narrative anyway. Gotta block and tackle.
777 (King City, California)
It seems like the 49ers keep on having third week struggles. They play lights out for 2 weeks and then lethargic for the third. What's happening here?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Do not think there is anything to the timing of it. Giants and Rams in particular played great against them.
Mike, If I recall Saffold showed some promise as a LT for the Rams, but has been inconsistant/unhealthy. If they were to draft a LT with one of their 1st round draft picks next year, does Saffold project as the type that could move in to LG, or over to RT?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Yeah, I think moving Saffold to left guard would be a consideration. Then the team would have some really good flexibility. A guard with legit starting credentials a tackle. I like that idea if there's a left tackle worth taking early. They'll have two first-rounders, so could really make sense.
Brandon (Pullman, WA)
Does having 1 concussion increase the chances of having more in the future? Should 49er fans be concerned about Alex Smith? He said his recent concussions was much worse than the last one he had.
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
There is much unknown about concussions and their likeliness of recurring. Every one Alex Smith suffers adds to the risk factors long term. Doctors seem pretty sure of that.
We don't care about the mothership's made up QBR!!!!
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
The engine driving QBR and other stats like it -- expected points and win probability -- are only going to become more widespread. The thinking is going to transform how we view coaching decisions in the NFL. QBR is actually really helpful if you've got an open mind. Most of the detractors I encounter just get weary of ESPN's promotion of it. They don't really have legitimate criticisms of it. Most of the time, they don't really understand it. If you've got any legit concerns about the methodology, let's have that discussion. Otherwise, there's nothing really to talk about.
CYS (Free Falling)
What are the biggest differences between the Mike Holmgren led Seahawks of the early 2000's, and the Pete Carroll led Seahawks of the past 2+ years?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
Carroll went young on defense right away. Holmgren had lost his defensive coordinator, Fritz Shurmur, to cancer. Holmgren did not have the defensive background to fill that void. It took Seattle years to get even a decent defense. Carroll has a very good defense, which is making it easier to bring along an inexperienced quarterback. Carroll is actually ahead of Holmgren after two-plus years.
erockez (Santa Clara)
Is CK really ready to be a starter? He thinks he is and from what I saw of him vs the Rams... he is not.... pocket needs work big time and making the right pre snap reads..... seems like of you morphed Alex and CK you would have a great starter....
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
My thought is that Colin Kaepernick would need some time to figure out things that can only come with experience. It would be a restarting of the clock to some degree.
Brandon (Pullman, WA)
Speaking in general terms, the Cards have been better off with Kolb at quarterback this season than with Skelton. Do you think getting Kolb back from injury eventually will help them have a more competitive home stretch of the season? Will they draft for QB next year?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
Yeah, I think Kevin Kolb makes the Cardinals better. The team needs him to play down the stretch. That will let Arizona determine how Kolb might fit into its plans for the future. I could see the Cardinals reworking Kolb's contract and then drafting a quarterback.
B (Glendale, AZ)
Sando,I should forget about the Cardinals having a shot against Atlanta, right? They've lost 5 straight, they can't run the ball effectively, they can't protect the quarterback, they have got almost nothing from their return game, their defense allows more points each game than the previous one, Whisenhunt is 1-4 after a bye week and Matt Ryan is nearly unbeatable at home.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
This is one of those "lock of the week" games. Now, I also thought the Rams would have big troubles on the road against San Francisco. The Cardinals do have the ability to play good defense. The Falcons have some flaws. I just think beating the Falcons in Atlanta is far too much to ask for just about every team, let alone a team with the issues Arizona is experiencing on its offensive line and at quarterback (and at running back).
Northwest Guy (Gig Harbor, WA)
Sando, the Rams play poorly against teams outside of the NFCW, How have they been able to play good NFCW teams so well this season? Is it game-planning is it players showing up for these rival games and not showing up for other games? I'm really confused by how they were able to fight it out with San Fran and bring it to a tie.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
The Rams have had trouble against teams with really hot quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady gave them a ton of trouble. I think the Rams are very well coached, in general, and this gives them a chance to game-plan effectively against teams with limitations at quarterback or less dynamic scoring offenses. Detroit wasn't playing well early in the season. Robert Griffin III played quite well against the Rams, but the game was in St. Louis and the Rams' offense did just enough against a struggling Redskins defense that lost key players to injuries. I see the Rams doing well against teams with weaker QB situations.
Mike we talk a lot of Alex's positive impact ie his accuracy, his Rating, and his lack of ints but is that enough in your opinion to offset his lack of total passing yards in judging his quality at starter?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
I wouldn't rely on passing yards to evaluate Alex Smith in the context of this offense and this team. Smith does not do a very good job improvising when things break down. I think that is one reason he takes so many sacks. That is a weakness and one that can prove costly at times.
In your opinion, what areas does Russell Wilson need to improve in to be a legitimate franchise QB for the Seahawks?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Wilson needs experience to hone his feel for when to improvise. He has the makings for becoming a very good improvisational player. There were times against the Jets when he did not look comfortable with what he was seeing. Just give him time, I say. He doesn't seem to repeat mistakes.
Kyle (St. Louis)
If Steven Jackson is not with the Rams next season, do you see Daryl Richardson as a full-time starter?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Under that scenario, I think Richardson would get more starts than any other back on the team, most likely, but he would not be getting 20 carries per game, probably.
Golden Tate (TOP POT Donut Shop)
Hey Sando- Always enjoy your stuff. Want to get your opinion on something... What do you think about me returning punts instead of my man Leon Washington? Just to get more touches
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Yeah, Golden Tate should really be handling those duties, but there could be an injury concern. Also, I think they want Tate focusing on his duties as a receiver. But there's no question he would fit the role well if given that chance.
I can kind of understand QBR, all though I truly dont like it. But now you guys are introducing Expected Points? This is just getting ridiculous. We need to step back and remember the only stat that matters in this game ever, W/L.
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
You would be totally unsatisfied if we just told you who won the games. Here is the thing about QBR and expected points: they are all about winning and losing. QBR was not developed to measure which team would win and lose, but the team with the higher QBR has won a higher percentage of games over the past five years than teams with the higher turnover margin, higher passer rating, higher yardage totals, etc. To me, that just shows how important quarterback play is in relation to winning. QBR does a good job measuring quarterback play over time. The idea behind expected points is not something ESPN came up with. It is a fantastic way to realize the consequences associated with each play. It makes you think about how kicking a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1 does more than simply squander a great chance at four additional points. It also leads to a kickoff that arms your opponent with much better field position than if you had failed on the fourth-and-1. The decision changes not only how many points you get, but how many each team is expected to get thereafter. That has value.
Sando, good morning. We have a very important question for you. Who is the better quarterback, Alex Smith or Matt Stafford? A few members on this lovely blog believe Stafford is the better quarterback because he has more yards. Care to comment?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Having more yards is not a big part of the equation. Let me ask you a question. What is a better vehicle, a milk truck or a Camaro? The answer depends upon what you want to do with them, right? I would put Stafford above Smith for his potential to carry more of the load through his passing. In other words, Stafford would have an easier time doing what Smith does than Smith would have doing what Stafford does.
Brandon (Pullman, WA)
Speaking of QBR do you think Russell Wilson really deserved a sub 50 (he had a 45.7 I believe) for his performance against the Jets?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
I figured it would be around 50. He lost that fumble early in the game, allowing the Jets to tie the score. I was very interested in seeing his QBR because I knew his passer rating was way better than the level of his play in that game. There was just no question about it. I thought QBR passed a test there. It does a good job sniffing out misleading passer ratings. It did that with Kevin Kolb last season and has done it with both Arizona quarterbacks consistently. It did it with Alex Smith last season, too. This year, it correctly knows (in my view) that Andrew Luck is doing much more than his passer rating suggests he is doing.
ShadowNinjaMunkey (Space Ether)
Mike, would you agree that Seattle needs to see what Thurmond can do for them as a slot corner before next season in order to gauge draft/FA needs? Trufant gets an A for effort, and has not been terrible, but he's using outdated equipment.
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Yeah, totally agree. See what Walter Thurmond can do and whether Thurmond can stay healthy. I still think it's a position to watch in the offseason.
Matt (FL) [via mobile]
Is seems like Sopoaga has been singled out for poor play on the Niners D. Is that fair? And if that is the case why is he playing poorly because he is by far the most rested started of their base package?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
It has been obvious that opponents have done well against him. Lance Kendricks had some blocks on him Sunday. Max Unger seemed to have a good game against him. I think others on the 49ers' defense have also had some issues. Even Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman seemed vulnerable at times against the Rams. That was strange to see.
Gowazzu02 (Insane in the Membrane)
Are our expectations of Seattles D too high? what I mean is people keep saying they aren't "elite" Well are we too close to the situation? Look at where they rank across the board. If it was say Baltimore who had the same exact stats and rankings would they be considered elite?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
People need to understand that a defense will look better or worse based on the opponents it faces.
Zack (Monterey, CA)
Back from last week, when you answered TWO questions from me, mostly because I picked on your political degree and political answer during election week. Here is an ACTUAL gripe/question about QBR to discuss, even though I don't want this to become a QBR debate in the NFC West chat. Clutch is something advanced metrics people have generally proven not to matter. Why does QBR include it and is there a way to see QBR without clutch? I understand that clutch might matter in football more than baseball, but I still don't think it matters overall. Why would a 60 yard touchdown pass perfectly thrown to Fitz to win the game mean a QB was better than the one who threw a 99 yard touchdown pass to V Davis with a 30 point lead or deficit? I get that they MEAN more to the game, but they don't measure the actual skill involved.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
The clutch part is important to the degree that the plays made during the final minutes of close games tend to have an even greater impact on the outcome of the game. The "clutch" component is probably misnamed. It does not intend to tell us how clutch a player was. See explanation here.
gowazzu02 (Outside your window)
If Russel wilson was 3 inchs taller. Would he been in the discussion with Luck and RG3 as a top overall pick?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
I accidentally clicked on this question. The answer is, he would have been drafted in the top 10, I think.
Jeff Fischers Stach (his face)
Wow, what a mistake letting that play clock run out, huh? Big-time ouch. Is it my fault?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
OK, this was the question I intended to select! Yeah, it was a mistake. In Fisher's defense, his team still hasn't shown much ability to score in the red zone consistently. It was first-and-goal. He was probably thinking it could take all four downs to reach the end zone, possibly. And he was most concerned with getting a touchdown. He also did not think Colin Kaepernick was a big threat. That was probably his miscalculation. Seems to me they should have let the play clock run down at least part of the way.
777 (King City, California)
I think arm strength is the most overrated quarterback statistic there is. Why do people continuously judge quarterbacks almost strictly on that.
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Who judges quarterbacks almost strictly on arm strength? I don't know anyone who does that.
Do you think Bradley will see more time after Lenon seems to be lagging the last few games?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
I'm wondering if Stewart Bradley still exists. He never gets time.
Supes (Everett, WA)
Currently the Colts are rated above the Seahawks in the latest Power Rankings. Do you feel the Colts would beat the Seahawks?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
I rated the Seahawks higher than the Colts on my ballot. The answer to your question lies therein.
Chip Kelly (Oregon)
Why do people keep mentioning me for NFL Jobs? Isn't my "system" the reason why im so successful in college. That spread system wouldn't work in the league right?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
The ability to run the ball effectively from such a scheme would probably be key to whether it would work in the NFL. The thinking is probably evolving from saying spread-type systems will "never" work in the NFL to a more qualified answer about how certain ones could work.
Aaron R. (Pennsylvania )
Hey Sando, I accidentally clicked submit. Does their tie with the 49ers do anything for the Rams? If they keep playing like they did Sunday could they make the playoffs? Could it possibly come down to another Rams-Seahawks game in Seattle for a playoff spot???
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Haha. I think the Rams will not be able to climb out of this 3-5-1 hole sufficiently to reach the playoffs this season, in part because I think winning at Seattle is unlikely, and that the outcome in that game would be pivotal to the Rams' chances.
Do you believe that the Niners are a super team? After all this talk about the team improving after a full mini camp, I feel like they have regressed this year. Also it seems like seveal games, Harbaugh has been thoroughly out coached. They were not ready for the rams last week. That falls a lot on the coaching.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Did you feel the same way after the 49ers had 600-plus yards against the Bills? Most of us said it would be tough for the 49ers to go 13-3 again. So, if they lose 5-6 games this season, the additional losses will reshape the narrative in a negative way, probably to an exaggerated degree. The 49ers won some games last season they easily could have lost -- at Philadelphia, at Seattle, etc. -- without the team playing much differently. I think the 49ers' offense is definitely better this season. The special teams are not as good. The defense might not be as consistently good.
Jeff Fischers Stach (His face)
My above question was about the Play clock violation before my kickers kick to win the game in OT. that was the bigger blunder imho.
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Yeah, that one is probably on the holder directly. Then it is on the coach for having a rookie holder. The Rams are living and dying with youth. They died a little with that one. I did think the officials were awfully quick -- quicker than usual -- in flagging the Rams when the play clock his zero. Usually there's a half-tick of breathing room.
Jarred (Clovis, CA)
Mike, Andrew Luck is scary good! So good i feel like the NFC has a 2-3 year window and then it will be all Luck and the Colts for a good while. Over/Under Luck winning 6 Super Bowls?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Under, but check out the NFC West blog at 4 p.m. ET for a look at rookie quarterbacks this season. That's all for now. Thanks for dropping by the chat.