Sports Opinion & Analysis

How To Fix This Train Wreck

In NFL on November 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

Like the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons, the Arizona Cardinals started off the season winning their first four games. Unlike the Texans and Falcons, the Cardinals haven’t won one since. For how good the team looked the first month of play, they have looked equally bad since, and for a franchise that only two months ago was considering a playoff spot, they are now seriously wondering if they will even win another game in 2012.

No caption needed.

As it should, this colossal meltdown has led everyone in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area to scream ideas and suggestions as to what the Cards should do moving forward. Unfortunately, a lot of these cries are nothing more than reactionary, and don’t offer substantial methods for how the team can rebound (or rebuild) in the foreseeable future.

So, after taking a big step back, here’s some objective do’s and don’ts that owner Michael Bidwill and General Manager Rod Graves should consider when attempting to fix the train wreck that their team has become.

Don’ts:

These options might seem tempting, but shouldn’t be considered.

1. Unless It Means Losing Ray Horton, Don’t Fire Ken Whisenhunt

Ken Whisenhunt is the most winningest coach in the history of the team. In just his tenure alone, there have been more winning and .500 teams than during the entire history of the franchise.

Granted, his soft spot for used-up former Steelers, and his distrust of offensive puppets coordinators has led to some really horrific play calling, but during his time in Arizona he did something that was completely unthinkable. He changed an imbedded losing culture so much that today fans are actually getting riled up about something (losing), that before would have been considered the status quo.

“Plus, if you fire me, I’m probably just take Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson and anybody else with any talent to my new team, once their Arizona contract is up.”

Yes, the team stinks, but they are only a few healthy players and an offensive line away from seriously competing. Don’t give up on the guy now. Unless of course, it means losing Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton.

Originally the defensive back’s coach in Pittsburgh, Horton signed with Arizona two years ago and has made the Cardinals’ defense one of the best in the league. Horton is the reason for that, and his name is already being floated around as a possible contender for any head coaching job he wants. At this point, it would be tough letting Horton walk for Whisenhunt who, although has done a lot for the franchise, hasn’t had a winning season in three years.

If Horton stays, Whiz should stay. If Horton’s going to bolt, but there’s a chance to keep him if he’s made head coach, so be it.

2. Avoid Using An Early Draft Pick On A Quarterback

There is a lot of grumbling going on that the Cardinals should use their (probably top five) draft pick in 2013 on a quarterback, like Matt Barkley or someone similar.

How’d that last USC quarterback work out for you?

No matter what, DON’T DO IT. 

Kevin Kolb isn’t flashy, and might very well be nothing more than a game manager, but he more than proved his worth for six games (which were wins), before getting hurt. And that was including the bajillion sacks the poor guy took before his ribs finally gave way.

With an offensive line giving up that many hits on their QB, it wouldn’t have mattered if Peyton Manning came last year, no one was going to succeed in that position. Same goes for Barkley and whomever else Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are whoring out on ESPN. Instead, keep Kolb and build a line that can protect him.

3. Don’t Trade Larry Fitzgerald

Already, people like the Arizona Republic’s Dan Bickley are suggesting that the Cardinals should trade their best player to acquire more draft picks. If Oakland was willing to part with a first and second rounder for Carson Palmer, Bickley argues, then imagine what the Cardinals could get for Fitzgerald.

I won’t lie, this is a tempting idea, and especially with the way things are going it’s practically impossible to conceive Fitz ever signing another contract that would require him to put on another red uniform. In fact, Phoenix just went through this whole debate not to long ago with a little Canadian named Steve Nash, and look how well that worked out for them. If they hold on to Fitz too long, they might see him in a Niners’ uniform, right?

Wrong.

Fitzgerald is signed through 2018, and that is more than enough time to turn this thing around. Also, he’s the best player on a team with a great defense, decent running backs (if healthy), and a quarterback who, when also not injured, has proven himself capable. No matter how shiny and new future draft picks might seem, the team must keep of the greatest wide receiver ever to put on a Cardinals’ uniform.

And maybe the greatest receiver of his generation.

Do:

Instead of all that noise above, Bidwell and Graves need to remain levelheaded, and think about this route.

1. Fire Russ Grimm

Russ Grim is a Hall-of-Famer, but he certainly didn’t earn that honor via his coaching skills.

“Maybe if you receivers ran faster, my guys wouldn’t have to block as much, you ever think of that?”

To be fair, the Cardinals have not give Grimm the proper tools in order to build an effective (or competent) offensive line, but even the scraps he has been given have proven to be completely incapable of blocking a Powder Puff team, let alone NFL players. Yes, his players aren’t great, but even they have completely disappointed and underperformed during Grimm’s time as their coach.

In the NFL, it’s put up or shut up, and it’s time to find someone who can win.

2. Draft Linemen. I Mean, A Lot Of Linemen

This is the key to the Cardinals’ troubles. Their offensive line is the worst in the NFL, and because of that, their quarterback (whether  Kolb, Skelton or Lindley) are always rushed, pushed down, or sacked. Their running backs and halfbacks don’t have the holes needed to make plays. Their receivers can’t catch anything when their quarterback is always running for his life.

The Cardinals’ current offensive line.

This is the key to the Cardinals’ troubles, but also their future.

The Cardinals of 2012 are a lot like the San Francisco 49ers of the Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary eras. They are highly talented, but missing the essential piece of the puzzle to make it all come together. For the Niners, it was finding a head coach and offensive scheme that worked for the players they had. For the Cardinals, it’s just protecting their players long enough to give them an opportunity. Once that issue is solved, the rest will just follow. Just ask San Francisco.

The Cardinals shouldn’t waste an early pick on a quarterback, but instead use it (and a second, third, and maybe fourth rounder) on building the wall to protect their already accumulated assets. While the other options might seem attractive, sometimes it’s simplest solution that works out best.

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