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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.

Football-free Tuesday

Sorry for the long delay with a new post. No excuse given I spent almost all of my time at home between the trip to Norton Thursday and right now.

I got home very late from Norton last Thursday. The matches went long, I went to eat with Peggy and Clark afterward, and then I had to fight rain between Norton and Hill City. By time I got home, it was 11:35, the latest I have been awake since I acquired my CPAP machine in early August.

I need a break from football. I estimate I watched 24 hours worth between Saturday and Sunday. I did not watch any of the Eagles-Bears game last night. It wasn’t much of a game, anyway, so I missed nothing.

The Cardinals beat up on the Buccaneers 40-7 Sunday, but Bruce Arians wasn’t pleased with his offense. I doubt much pleases Arians, but it’s how he keeps his players motivated. Bill Belichick is the same way. Besides, Arizona needs every motivation to stay focused after the way it choked the game vs. New England.

Arizona travels to Buffalo Sunday. The Cardinals have played in western New York only five times since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The first time the Cards played there, it was in 1971 at the old War Memorial Stadium. St. Louis won 28-23, but the Cards haven’t won in Buffalo since, losing at what is now New Era Stadium (formerly Rich Stadium and Ralph Wilson Stadium) in 1986, 1990 and 2004. If the Bills can’t defeat the Cards, Rex Ryan may be a dead man walking. Buffalo would be 0-3 before heading to Foxborough to play the Patriots, who would be heavily favored even without Garoppolo.

Speaking of the Patriots, they will have to go this week without Jimmy Garoppolo, barring some miracle cure. This leaves Belichick starting his third-string quaterback, Jacoby Brissett, who was starting last season for North Carolina State, the same school where Russell Wilson played the first three years of his collegiate career before finishing at Wisconsin.

New England hosts Houston Thursday. The Texans haven’t showed much offense, but their defense has been very good in defeating Chicago and Kansas City. It may be the first team to score a touchdown wins.

I’m going to watch volleyball this afternoon. I’m traveling to Phillipsburg, where I haven’t been in over 17 months. Norton is playing Phillipsburg and Stockton starting at 5. I would skip if the Bluejays were playing again this week, but since they aren’t, might as well go. My work is done, and it’s a nice day, too nice to be staying inside the whole day, even though it is brutally hot. Hopefully that cold front they’re forecasting comes in as scheduled Sunday.

Brenda LeBlanc’s birthday was last Friday. I sent her a birthday card, but haven’t heard from her. Oh well. I tried. At least I still have Peggy and Cailtyn.

 

Back at Buffalo

I have ended my longest time away from Buffalo Wild Wings since I started going regularly a little more than two years ago. Until I went to Salina today, I had gone 57 days without setting foot inside a B-Dubs, and I had not played Buzztime trivia in that long, either. 

I have not been to Kansas City since the disastrous time around my birthday in October. It was horrendous becuase I had my iPod stolen from my car, and I left early on my birthday because it got a little crowded for me. I’m going to go back to Zona Rosa eventually, because there are too many people there I want to see, but I had no desire after what happened in mid-October. 

I am very glad I came to the B-Dubs in Salina tonight. My favorite server, Kendall, is working, and it’s the first time I’ve seen her in exactly ten months. The last time I saw her was after the Russell-Sacred Heart basketball game I covered that night. I’m surprised she remembered me. It’s good to have a familiar face. She’s not in Liz/Lisa territory yet, but she’ll get there if I come here enough. 

The NFL game tonight is Minnesota at Arizona. If the Cardinals win, they will clinch a playoff berth for the second consecutive season. That might not sound like a big deal, but the Cards have been wretched for most of their existence. They have NEVER made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, and they have only made the playoffs in back-to-back years three times: 1947-48, 1974-75 and 2008-09.  Think about this–the Steelers have as many Super Bowl victories as the Cards have all-time playoff victories, 6. OUCH. 

Most NFL teams are kicking themselves for not hiring Bruce Arians sooner. All Arians has done is turn the professional football franchise with the most losses all-time into a 10-game winner in three consecutive seasons. Only Don Coryell has prodcued three consecutive double-digit win seasons with the Cards, doing so from 1974-76. Gene Stallings, Joe Bugel, Buddy Ryan, Vince Tobin, Dave McGinnis and Dennis Green combined for ONE winning season  between 1986 and 2006. 

I knew of Arians a quarter of a century ago as the coach at Temple, where he had to live in the sizable shadow cast by men’s basketball coach John Chaney while at the same time pilot a program which, until very recently, was always on the short list of one of major college football’s worst. 

I followed Arians  through his career as an NFL assistant, and I knew he was one of the best offensive coordinators out there. Now he’s showing 31 other NFL teams what they missed out on. 

I would love to see an Arizona-New England Super Bowl just to see Arians and Bill Belichick match wits. That would be something to see. 

Kickoff in Glendale is now two hours away. At least this Thursday night game is worth the time.