Are the Cards busted? I think so!

Carson Palmer knew what he was doing when he retired from the NFL at the end of the 2017 season.

The Arizona Cardinals have hired a coach which will ensure they will finish at the bottom of the NFC West for the foreseable future.

In a division where the other three teams are set at quarterback for a long, long time, the Cardinals, who do not have a quarterback under contract for 2018, decide to hire a head coach whose background is strictly defense, a head coach who has a grand total of one season of experience as a coordinator.

I can see this going very badly.

As i like to say, the Cardinals have relapsed into pitifulness.

Steve Wilks, the man succeeds Bruce Arians, may keep the Cardinals competitive with the Seahawks, Rams and 49ers in the NFC West.

But I cannot see that happening. No way.

The Cardinals are already light years behind the rest of the division. The Rams have Jared Goff, the #1 overall draft pick of 2016 who came of age during 2017 and led Los Angeles to the division championship. The Seahawks have Russell Wilson, who has a Super Bowl ring and would have a second if not for the stupidity of Pete Carroll and former Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. The 49ers basically stole Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots in possibly the most one-sided NFL trade since Jimmy Johnson fleeced the Vikings for Herschel Walker in 1989.

Arizona has a stout defense, one which thrived in 2017  without elite defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who left the Cardinals after nine seasons and signed with the Jaguars. Chandler Jones led the NFL in sacks. Patrick Peterson is one of the best cornerbacks in the game and probably one of the franchise’s best defensive backs ever, alongside Hall of Famers Larry Wilson, Roger Wehrli and Aeneas Williams. Tyrann (Honey Badger) Matthieu can be elite if he stays healthy.

If this were the early 1970s, when defenses ruled the roost in the NFL (think Purple People Eaters, Doomsday, No-Names, and later, the Steel Curtain), the Cardinals would be set. Yet even those teams had Hall of Fame quarterbacks; Tarkenton in Minnesota, Staubach in Dallas, Griese in Miami and Bradshaw in Pittsburgh. Oakland’s defense in that era was a rung below Minnesota and Pittsburgh, but Ken (Snake) Stabler more than made up for it.

This is an NFL where offense rules, and where the quarterback is the universe around which all else revolves. Unless you’re a Joe Gibbs-type genius who can build an offense with anyone at quarterback, you need that elite signal caller.

I see disaster for the Cardinals, because the franchise has gone down this road before.

In 1994,Bill Bidwill hired the infamous Buddy Ryan, the architect of the Bears’ 46 defense which destroyed opposing offenses (Dan Marino excepted) en route to winning Super Bowl XX in 1985. Ryan built an outstanding defense in Philadelphia as head coach from 1986-90, but the Eagles never won a playoff game (0-3) during that time. Philadelphia had a fine quarterback in Randall Cunningham, but he often had to run for his life behind an offensive line which consistently was one of the NFL’s worst. Ryan never won a playoff game with Cunningham at quarterback, but Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes and Dennis Green all did. That should have been a red flag.

In 1993, Oilers coach Jack Pardee brought Ryan out of retirement to be defensive coordinator after Houston blew a 35-3 lead and lost to Buffalo in the 1992 wild card round. Houston did go 12-4 in ’93 and won its last 11 games, but it was mostly because of Warren Moon’s passing. Houston’s defense was third in the league in yards per carry allowed and had the most interceptions, but were middling (13th) in passing yards allowed.

The aging Joe Montana exposed the Oilers during the 1993 playoffs, leading the Chiefs to victory in the Astrodome in the game which marked the beginning of the end of the Oilers in Houston. By 1997, the Astrodome was no longer an NFL facility, and the league would not return to Space City until the Texans began play in 2002.

Ryan brought along two of his defensive studs, end Clyde Simmons and linebacker Seth Joyner, from Philadelphia to Arizona in 1994.

But the quarterback situation was absolutely pitiful.

Arizona was just 7-9 in 1993, but its offense was 7th in points scored behind Steve Beuerlein. However, Ryan didn’t think Beuerlein was the man to lead the offense, instead bringing in retreads Jim McMahon and Jay Schroeder, both of whom were over the hill and weren’t that good to begin with.

The 1993 Cardinals lost a disproportionate number of games by one score and actually had a plus-57 scoring margin, the only time the franchise was in the black in scoring margin between 1985 and 2006. The defense was ninth in points allowed even though it was only 21st in yards allowed, but it wasn’t enough to save Joe Bugel’s job.

Not surprisingly, the 1994 Cardinals’ offense was 25th out of 28 teams in the NFL in 1994. Here’s one thing I’d like to know: how did that team gain 318 yards against the Browns, who were coached by Bill Belichick and had Nick Saban as their defensive coordinator? Arizona lost 32-0, but still….

Arizona’s defense was stingy, finishing third in yards allowed and fourth in points allowed. But the pturid offense preventing the Cardinals from finishing with a winning record, as they went 8-8.

In 1995, the defense collapsed, finishing 25th in yards allowed and 30th–DEAD LAST–in points allowed. The Cardinals went 4-12 and Ryan was fired, never to coach again. He passed away in 2016 at age 82. Of course, his legacy was kept alive by sons Rex and Rob.

Ironically, Ryan’s successor as defensive coordinator in Chicago, Vince Tobin, was named as the new boss in Arizona. Tobin was let go by the Bears after Mike Ditka was fired following the 1992 season, and landed in Indianapolis, where he was defensive coordinator for three seasons. The 1995 Colts made it to the AFC championship game and were a failed Hail Mary away from reaching Super Bowl XXX.

The Cardinals weren’t much better under Tobin, going 29-44 before he was fired after seven games of the 2000 season. Yes, Arizona reached the 1998 playoffs, the first time the franchise made the playoffs in a non-strike season since 1975, but the ’98 team was a total fraud, getting outscored by 53 points and yielding 378, ranking it 24th in the league. Somehow, the Cardinals beat the Cowboys in the ’98 playoffs (a sure sign Dallas was on its way into a long, dark period) before getting destroyed 41-21 by the Vikings.

Tobin’s defensive coordinator, Dave McGinnis, took over for Tobin and lasted through 2003. Arizona went 17-40 under McGinnis and continued to leak like a sieve on defense. McGinnis, like Tobin, is an upstanding human being and the kind of man you would want to coach your children, but as an NFL coach, he was in way over his head.

The only good thing which happened during McGinnis’ tenure was the drafting of Anquan Boldin in the second round in 2003.

Since firing McGinnis, Arizona’s coaches have had an offensive background: Dennis Green (2004-06), Ken Whisenhunt (2007-12) and Arians (2013-17). Fortunately, the Cardinals drafted Larry Fitzgerald in 2004 and signed Kurt Warner in free agency in 2005, and they combined with Boldin to give Arizona a very potent offense, one which got the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII in 2008.

After Warner retired, Arizona struggled mightily to find a quarterback for three seasons. Max Hall, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Brian St. Pierre, Kevin Kolb and others took their turns under center, only to get the crap beat out of them due to an offensive line which was consistently pathetic. The Cardinals have not had a cohesive offensive line since Dan Dierdorf played for the club, and his last season was 1983.

Palmer looked to be at the end of his rope when he came to Arizona in 2013, but Arians was able to get the most out of him when he was healthy, which wasn’t often enough.

Now, with Palmer retired and backups Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert not under contract, who knows what will happen? I’ve seen mock drafts where the Cardinals select Lamar Jackson, the Louisville product who won the Heisman Trophy in 2016.

OH SHIT.

I don’t see this working out.

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on January 23, 2018, in Arizona Cardinals, National Football League and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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