"We're #1" (in Rumors) - Wed. Mar. 6 - Welcome to "crazy time" - the Combine is over, front office personnel (when they're not attending Pro Days) are holing up with piles of digital material to dig thru. And, with a month and a half till draft day, it's "Disinformation Time." And, with the Cardinals owning the #1 drafting spot in all 7 rounds, it stands to reason that they'll bear the brunt of the early barrage of rumors, specuation and the occasional nugget of fact. (Sources of this so-called info can best be described as: "I know a guy who knows a guy").
It's started already. First rumor was that the Cards were shopping QB Josh Rosen and planned to draft Kyler Murray with the #1 pick in the draft. Fact? Rumor? Speculation? Hard to say, except that the most recent source of this report was former GM and TV commentator Charley Casserly (who cites 2 or more football insiders as his sources). Charley is not likely to stake his reputation on material from sources that do not exist; so however wierd the rumor, we'd be well-advised to give it serious thought. (Then again, the rumor, while it sounds plausible, also seems unlikely.
Several factors make this rumor intriguing: In doing the deal, the Cardinals would be trading away a textbook, pocket passer with prototypical size, live arm and notable accuracy; but inexperienced, less productive than expected and, at times, prone to shakiness under pressure. In return, the Cardinals would be drafting a smallish athlete short on big time football experience, with playmaking talent and freakish mobility outside the pocket. Plus - new Cardinal HC Kliff Kingsbury knows him and likes him. So do the Cardinals throw away one year of effort developing Rosen (albeit under ineffective offensive systems) in order to draft a small athletic playmaker short on experience that Kingsbury likes? Stay tuned.
Well, actually we don't have to "stay tuned" because Casserly relayed a set of new rumors that dwarfed the Murray/Rosen buzz: Something to the effect that Murray had poor work habits, couldn't decypher board work and had the worst intangibles "of any top QB prospect in recent memory." So OK - we're supposed to jettison a prototypical QB prospect who didn't turn into Johnny Unitas in his first 16 games in favor of "a dumb midget who can run fast." (my quotes). Being a Cardinal fan is not for the faint of heart these days.
My advice to Cardinal fans is: (1) Don't ignore the rumors (because "this is the Cardinals") but (2) understand that it's in the Cardinals' interest to ratchet up high value for both Rosen (as trading asset) and the #1 pick (as a target for teams "in love" with Murray, Bosa or any other prospect). (3) Conversely, it's in the best interest of other trade-interested NFL teams to lower the perceived value of either the #1 pick, Rosen or any other player they plan to trade up for - thus the possible smokescreen generated by the Casserley buzz. (Truth or smokescreen? Logic favors a smokescreen, but I just don't see Charley making this up or passing along bogus info).
Bottom line - There is no bottom line (& they're won't be probably till Draft Day. The stories don't follow a single logical path: If reports of Murray's lack of maturity and poor classroom skills are true, the Cardinal brass will learn this and probably walk away. If they wind up drafting Murray, it would logically indicate that they did their due diligence and stil have faith in him. (Or a very big "or"): Despite positive public commentary - how do the Cardinals really feel about Rosen and what impact does all the controversy have on QB-Team relationship and Rosen's overall confidence-level?
There's another aspect worth exploring - There are two ways an NFL team can manage a rebuild: (1) Do the conventional things you do to build a winning franchise - just do it better than anyone else or (2) Break the mold early and often - with new personnel, new culture, new schemes etc.. If the Cards go the Murray route, they'll choose "Door #2." If they stick with Rosen, they'll be pursuing "Path #1." It seems as if Michael B was all-in with the conventional route only to discover that (at least under Wilks) it was full of "tired blood." So now, he's going the "blow it all up" route and it kind of scares me. Either approach will work if you have the right guys in place to execute flawlessly. .
New Additions - Wed. Feb. 20 - One of the hidden perques of finishing last is that you get first dibs on waivers. Naturally this fact hasn't escaped the watchful eyes of Steve Keim and his crew, and we've all been advised to keep up with a very busy bottom-of-the-roster. This can keep the part-time blogger very busy during the period between the Kingsbury signing and Draft Day. (Result - I may miss a couple of signings, and may have to play "catch-up" from time to time, but I'll try to keep us all up to speed on any significant signings from free agency or the waiver list.
Five signings worth mentioning:
S DJ Swearinger 5-10 205 6 South Carolina (definitely in contention to start)
LB Tanner Vallejo 6-1 230 2 Boise (Waivers - Browns)
CB Robert Alford 5-10 186 6 SE Louisiana (FA - 3yr. Favoried to start at CB2 opposite P Peterson)
LB Brooks Reed 6-3 254 8 Arizona (FA-1 yr)
TE Charles Clay 6-3 255 8 Tulsa (FA - 1 yr). TE competition wide open)
Fitz to Return - Thurs. Jan. 24 - When your favorite team has what many of its fans consider "the worst season in the history of the franchise", it seems as if nothing will go right. So, whenever the question arose of Larry Fitzgerald's future with the Cardinals, my immediate reaction would invariably be: "Let's not talk about that."
When it comes to anything about the Cardinals, the automatic response among today's rooters was to "expect the worst." (I automatically accepted the conventional wisdom that Larry would retire, the Cardinals would be without a team leader, and the leader of our depleted wide receiving corps would be second-year man Christian Kirk.
You'd figure that, should Larry return, the news would be accompanied by a lot of hoopla and fanfare. Not really - the news kind of showed up one day. Kind of low key - kind of like Larry Fitzgerald. Looking back over the past15 years, there were zero, zilch zowie seasons where Larry didn't live up to very high standards. And he did it the right way - with an unequalled work-ethic, never-ending desire to be the best at what he did....and it translated to performance on the field.
Cardinal fans are, by and large, ecstatic about their opportunity to spend one more season with "The Face of the Franchise." I only hope that the rest of the NFL community gets to know and appreciate (the football and non-football) FItz as much as we do.
Focus Shifts to Coaching Assistants - Tues. Jan. 15 -With the naming of former Texas Tech Head Coach, Klif Kingsbury, attention shifts to the naming of a staff and teaching/development of players. (You needn't watch more than a few plays in any game the Cardinals played last season than to know that play calling had no tempo, execution of those plays looked discombobulated and techniques were seldom executed with much consistently. When searching for causes, the finger always seemed to fall on fundamentals and the teaching thereof.
This is what we know so far:
Offensive Coordinator - Unfilled (2 contenders: John DeFillipo and former Giant OC)
Offensive Line - Sean Kugler / Assistant Offensive Line Coach -= Brian Natkin
Running Backs - (Unfilled - Leading candidate - James Sexton)
Wide Receivers - David Raih
Tight Ends - Steve Heiden
Defensive Coordinator - Vance Joseph
Defensive Line - Unfilled)
Linebackers - Bill Davis
Defensive Backs - Unfilled)
Special Teams Coordinator - Jeff Rodgers
It was rumored that Stump Mitchell would be hired as RB coach (following other unconfirmed rumors that James Sexton - credited with development of a world class Steeler running attack - would joinng the Cardinals to coach RBs).
The hiring of Kugler is considered to be the key to turning around what was considered by many to be feeble offensive line play and Joseph (who was a former Denver HC) has impressive creds as well - he is expected to oversee transition back to the 3-4 (after a disasterous attempt to move the Card defensie to the 4-3.
Major remaining coaching issue - "Who'll be the OC? (No doubt I'll be proved wrong, but I'd expect Kingsbury to take on the role of "super OC" with the actual OC supporting KK in the offensive game with eyes, ears and experience. Power on!
Cards Hire Offensive Innovator New HC - Wed. Jan. 9 - It's official. The Cardinals named former Texas Tech Head Coach, Klif Kingsbury, their new Head Coach. Kingsbury, who hasn't quite reached 40 years of age, is known for being an offensive innovator and disciple of the Air Raid offense. (One of the most notable characteristics of the recent collapse in Cardinal fortunes had been the deterioration of Bruce Arian's "no risk-it, biscuit" offense to what was, according to most fans, a lethargic, passive approach to offensive football.
Kingsbury's move was not without controversy - after being released by Texas Tech after 4-seasons with a sub-500 (35-40) record, he recently accepted an OC position with USC, but took advantage of an attractive buy-out provision in his contract a short time later to make the move to Arizona.
The only Assistant Coach said to be moving to the Desert with Kingsbury thus far is former Bowling Green HC and USC RB Coach Mike Jinks. A number of other likely assistant signees were snapped up by Arians (who decided to return to coaching as HC of the Tampa Bay Bucs). Former Jet HC / Card DC Todd Bowles and former Cardinal OC Byron Leftwich are joining BA in Tampa.
The Mike Leach Air Raid offense is said to involve nearly all the snaps coming from shotgun, trips alignment and empty sets with 4 receivers (1 slot/1 wide on either side) and getting the ball into receivers' hands "in space" and "on the move" as much as possible. There are more Kingsbury wrinkles than my brain can absorb - quad alignments, wide-bunched sets, slot WR's covered up by outside receivers at the LOS, 4 verticals and stick, slant-flat, follow, mesh and smash concepts,
Kingsbury believes in getting his best athletes the ball in space as quickly as possible. The key to these plays working is a quick release from the quarterback, as well as accuracy to hit the receivers with ball placement that allows for forward momentum.
The most impressive thing about Kingsbury’s adaptations is how he is able to adjust his play-calling around his own and opposing personnel. His offense looked different from Case Keenum to Johnny Manziel to Patrick Mahomes to Davis Webb. Additionally, there were instances of attacking weak spots of the defense on a weekly basis.
Reaction by Cardinal Nation has been mixed - many members of "the great unwashed" apparently feel they know more about hiring head coaches than the owners and professionals who do this for a living. (No problem with fans speaking their mind; it's the "certainty of opinion" that bugs me - Football is a people occupation and when you are dealing with human beings, nothing is "for-certain").
(Note - Lost in all the X's and O's talk is Kingsbury's youthful age (not quite 40). Latest League trend is toward hiring Millenial/New Age disciples (see: Pete Carroll in Seattle or Gruden and Mayock in Oakland). Keep an eye on innovations involving leadership approaches and team culture when following the Cardinals).
Wilks an Ex-Cardinal - Wed. Jan. 2 -- As expected, the Cardinals gave HC Steve Wilks and his staff their walking papers shortly after Janikowski's FG attempt split the uprights with 0:00 on the clock to clip the Cards by 3.
Seldom do teams hire a HC in Year One only to fire them in Year 2, but the Cardinal play over the past season was abysmal under Wilk's oversight. Cards apparently have decided to keep GM Steve Keim despite heavy fan criticism of Steve's behavior (DUI infraction) and performance (for some unexplained reason - all at once the wheels all came off what seemed to be a perfectly good Cardina roster. Cards wound up winning the "We're #32!" race for Top 2019 Draft Spot.
Names atop the list of possible head coaching replacements for roughly 8 openings throughout the NFL: Dan Campbell (NO Asst HC), Zac Taylor (Rams QB Coach), Eric Bienemy (KC OC), Adam Gase, Kliff Kingsbury (QBC), Josh McDaniels (NE OC), Pete Carmichael (NO OC), Jim Caldwell (Ex HC GB), Mike McCarthy (Ex HC GB, Chuck Pagano (Ind Ex HC). No doubt there will be additional candidates and the list will expand.
Just one writer's opinion: I'd like us to sign a creative, aggressive and courageous offensive play caller who will fill out his staff with assistants who have pretty much "seen it all" (and no how to handle adverse conditions. (What Wilks seemed to lack was a plan for fixing what was broke and turning what Steve Keim gave him into effective offensive and defensive units).
The way things look, expect "breaking news" on probably a daily basis (When you get first-dibs on the waiver wire, you tend to be super-active churning the bottom of your active roster).
Note - 8 players were signed to Futures contracts: Charles Kanoff QB; Dietrick Nichols CB, Justin Evans OL , Will House OT, Jonathan Moxey CB, Pete Robertson LB, Coleman Shelton OL, Brandon Wilds RB