Snowbound and Bored - - Holmdel, NJ --
Wed. Jan. 12
-- SWith the exception of a few college all star games and
a meaningless playoff menu, the actual games part part of
the 2010-2011 season is, for all intents & purposes, over.
So here I sit in front of my computer screen with little to do or
talk about. Seems as good a time as any to clean up a bunch of
football and non-football odds & ends:
First of all, living in the Northeast these days sucks. You may
not know this if you're hanging around the Valley or somewhere
else warm, but we've just endured our second major snowstorm
(already exceeding our average snow accumulation) and winter's
just begun. Here's how winter works in NJ. A bout one week out,
the local weathercasters start teasing the viewing audience (what
better way to hype the ratings)! "There's a low [pressure system
moving up the east coast and expected to merge with another
pressure system moving due east from the vicinity of Indianapolis.
If the low pressure system hugs the shore, 'we're all going to
die!' But if it blows out to sea, we'll just get a 1-inch dusting.
Stay tuned indeed! What are we going to eat? What if we lose our
electricity (the odds of it being roughly one-in-three storms &
the odds of losing the DirectTV signal increasing to 50-50)? Have
we hooked up with last year's snow plow guy or did decide to
change careers, follow his heart and "become a cowboy?" Time
to spring into action - buy up 4-days worth of food and batteries,
rock salt and other supplies at the local A&P. Get on the horn to
friends, neighbors and others lurking in strange sections of the
RolaDex (Hey Pete...I mean Paul. Heh heh heh...I was just
wondering who you use to plow your driveway....). And then
settle in for the duration. Well, the storm hit late and quick,
starting in mid-evening and gonzo by 8 in the morning. Our new
snow plow guy has plowed, shoveled and salted our driveway and
sidewalk. It is roughly Noon and all is right with the world.
Except - that there's no Cardinal playoff football to look forward
to - just a lot of speculation about "who's gonna replace Billy
Davis." So, to relieve my boredom, I got the jump on setting up
the BRS Draft Issue (this morning, I worked my way through the
QB's and RB's). Other things on my mind:
The abysmal officiating in key
bowl games by Big Ten officials continued into the BRS Title
Game - key zebra decisions were instrumental in tilting the
playing field away from Auburn and toward Oregon.
So I'm watching the news
reports coming out of Tuscon (extra-attentively because I've
spent some time there and enjoyed every minute of it) when I
see a photo of the shooter (Loughner) on my TV screen and
immediately come down with a case of the "creeps." - in the
background of the photo was a football stadium where you could
clearly read the words "Red Zone." Apparently, he was at a
Cardinal game in Glendale
Usually, at the end of a
disappointing season, you still come away with a sense of
"rebirth" - you have a pretty good idea of (a) what went wrong
and (b) what it will take to fix it. Not so this time. We know
we've got an awful situation at QB. Although there is some
reason to believe that Skelton will emerge as a "keeper", we
go into the offseason without a clue as to what veteran FA we
might set our sights on or whether there's anyone in the
upcoming Luckless draft who represents any less of a
questionmark than Skelton. There are growing rumors that,
instead of bringing in a legitimate defensive coaching guru,
the Cardfs will turn instead to a former Cardinal DB coach of
questionable achievement (Teryl Austin) to turn things around.
The coaches seem to be in denial about an O-line that
surrendered 50 sacks (3rd or 4th worst in the NFL) and a
running attack where it was not unusual to find total Cardinal
run yardage somewhere south of 50-yards a game. Add to this, a
TE unit without a single go-to receiver and it makes you
wonder whether we have the coaching, cap and draft-pick ammo
needed to solve all our problems (Just sayin').
So that's the deal on a snowy Wednesday in New Jersey.
Davis Gonzo -- Holmdel, NJ --
Fri. Jan. 7
-- Speculation over whether or not the Cardinals would
stand pat with their current coaches or - in the wake of a
disappointing season - make changes was answered by the
announcement that defensive coordinator Billy Davis had been let
go. Coach Whisenhunt told the media (or at least inferred) that
Davis' replarcement would come from outside the organization and
that he had "a couple of names" that came to mind, but had not
arrived at any decision as of now.
Next Year's Roster - Cardinal website honcho
Darren Urban provided a handy chart listing each Cardinal roster
player, his contract status and prospects for next season. I
expanded on it to add (a) season stats for each player where
applicable and (b) my own wry comments.
Click Here to go to the 2011
-- Holmdel, NJ --
Wed. Jan. 5
-- With no playoffs to get excited about, the end-of-season
temptation is to point fingers and "take names." I'd rather follow
the old Satchel Paige ditcum: "Don't look back; someone might be
gaining on you." According, what you'll get here will be stuff
about the draft, team needs and proposed plans of action.
What better way to start out the New Year than with an analysis of
the comparative strengths of the 2011 schedule for the teams in
the NFC West. Best way to do this is to sift out common opponents
- Each team plays 6 games against their division rivals. That
leaves ten left. Each team plays all the teams in the NFC East
(Giants, Eagles, Redskins, Team Felon) and all the teams in the
AFC North (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincy and Cleveland). Subtract
these 8 games from the remaining ten and the Cards and their
opponents only play two unique opponents:
The Cardinals play Carolina
Seattle plays Atlanta and
St. Louis plays New Orleans
and Green Bay
The Niners play Tampa Bay and
We play the Giants, Cowboys, Panteras and Steelers at home. We
play Philly, Baltimore and Washington on the road. You know what?
I kind of like our schedule.
Personnel "House Cleaning":
Cards signed the
following players to "Reserve Futures" contracts: RB Alfonso
Smith, WR Isiah Williams, T Cliff Louis, G Tom Pestock, DL Jeremy
Navarre, LB Brandon Sharpe and LB Pago Togafau.
Christmas Story" -- Holmdel, NJ --
Sun. Dec. 26
-- When the schedule cam out this past Spring, like most of
us, I circled Dec. 25 on my calendar as "Team Felon Christmas
Playoffs Saturday." Well, as it turns out, there will be no
playoffs, but my blood-juices run a bit higher when the Dallas
Cowboys are involved - playoffs or not.
Leading up to the game itself was the continuing saga of Football
vs. Famiy Entertaining - this time on Christmas; this time my
youngest son Dan and his newly expecting bride, Jana. They would
arrive around 4 - 4:30 pm. Dinner would be at 6. Main course:
Seafood Paella. Afterwards: A rented movie (a recorded version of
Gekko-2 or whatever the latest Michael Douglas Wall St. flick is
called). Which meant - No Cardinals/Cowboys game for Jeff G (at
least not in real time).
To compicate matters, our 93-year old Mom (Gert) announced a
half-hour before dinner that she had "a pain in her left arm." Get
the picture: It's 5:30 pm on Christmas night and there's the
possibility we may be spending the rest of the evening in the
Riverview Hospital emergency room. Where was the pain? How severe
was the pain? While she's been subject to a variety of other
ailments, she was recently examined and her heart/cardio was
considered strong. Our one secrect weapon: Our son Dan (who as
part of his psychiatrice training is an MD). He checked Gertie
out, determined that the pain in her arm was too far down toward
her wrist to be symptomatic of a heart attack and that the source
of her problem was probably a change in one of her prescription
meds. Diagnosis: Not a heart attack. After a good night's sleep,
Gertie feels much better.
Meanwhile, after Gertie was put to bed, dinner was over and Mr.
Gekko "made nice" with his daughter & son-in-law - I settled down
to watch a Cardinals - Dallas (aka "Team Felon") football game
that (a) didn't embarrass the Cardinals on national TV, (b) saw us
jump out to a big early lead, (c) gave hard-core Cardinal fans the
oopportunity to check out "The Kid" (John Skelton), (d) turned out
to be a nailbiter which (e) we won.
Click here for a detailed analysis of the
It is now early Sunday afternoon. A surprise nor' easter is
rambling up the east coast (like Beanie on a mission). Snow
accumulation expected to be 12 - 16-inches. The snow is beginning
to fall. I was up at the crack of dawn to load up on food, snacks
and driveway salt, where my Cardinal knit-cap and fist bump
the dude (& secret Cardinal fan) behind the fish counter at the
A&P - only he wasn't there (he probably has the holidays off).
The rest of this "Sunday after" will be devoted to "chilling"
(colloquially/not literally) sitting in front of the teevee in my
Boldin hookie rewatching last night's game (this time with the
sound turned up).
It's sure been a roller-coaster of a holiday weekend. It turned
out more than OK. Enjoy the rest of your holidays!
Let's Go Bowling...-- Holmdel, NJ --
Wed. Dec. 22
-- Each year, I compile a list of
bowl games and the draft prospects playing in each - it's a
handy resource if you're wondering: "Which bowl games should I
watch in order to see draft picks I'm really interested in?" (It's
even more compelling in this, a Cardinal "off year").
Here are some of the hotter games - based on the numbers of
prospects in them graded "Rare Talent" (i.e. higher than 90) or
"Outstanding" (i.e. higher than 80 by Scouts, Inc. - on tap
between now and Jan. 8:
There are 8 propects - rated
Outstanding or higher by Scouts, Inc. - in the Thurs. Dec. 30
Music City Bowl between NC and Tennessee (7
of the 8 are Tarheels - Austin, Burney, B Carter,
Little, Quinn, Sturdivant, D Williams - causing one to wonder
why they didn't do better in the fight for BCS supremacy). TE
Luke Stocker was the only Vol rated Outstanding.
There are three top prospects
in the 12/30 Holiday Bowl (2 for Nebraska
(Amukamara and Crick) and one (Locker - got to check out the
QB's) for Washington.
There are 6 in the 12/31
Sun Bowl (Miami has 4 (Bailey, Cooper,
Franklin and Harris); Notre Dame 2 (Floyd and Rudolph) - no
surprise since both teams are pro prospect machinges
regardless of their records).
In the 12/31
Chick-Fil-A, Florida State has 2 (including 6-3
runs-a 4.65 forty QB Christian Ponder and Hudson). South
Carolina has one (Saunders).
Alabama (who plays Mich St) in
the Capitol One bowl New Years Day) has four
highly rated prospects (Barron, Dareus, Ingram and J Jones),
but Mich St. has none.
In the Rose Bowl,
New Years Day, TCU strangely, has no prospects rated
Outstanding or higher. Wisconsin has 2 (Carimi and Clay).
In the Fiesta Bowl,
Jan. 1, Oklahoma is loaded (5 Outstanding prospects: Beal, Q
Carter, T. Lewis, D Murray, A Taylor) while UConn has none
rated that highly.
The Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl
features 4 prospects rated Outstanding - Heward and
Homan for the Buckeyes; Mallett and Love for the Razorbacks.
Got to check out Texas A&M LB
Von Miller and LSU's Tolliver and Peterson in the Jan,. 7
The BCA National
Championship game Jan. 10 features 15 Auburn
prospects listed by the Sporting News War Room and 10
prospects who play for the Ducks. Yet none of the 25 are rated
Outstanding by Scouts, Inc. (and I included Cam Newman as an
afterthought on the basis that he might decide to come out
early after winning the Heisman.
Anyway, enjoy the next few weeks of Bowl games and have a Happy
What Do You Say When You
-- Holmdel, NJ --
Mon. Dec. 6
-- I didn't see it coming. Although the Cardinals took
major off-season hits with the departure of Kurt Warner, Antrel
Rolle, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, Bertrand Berry and Chike
Okeafor. it seemed as if the front office countered those
departures with pretty decent moves of their own - moves which, in
most instances, seemed to make logical football sense. The
receiving corps was already deep enough to survive the loss of
Boldin. We added Faneca to an already deep offensive line. We
brought in Kerry Rhodes, Joey Porter and Paris Lenon (and drafted
Daryl Washington and Dan Williams) to backfill at safety and LB
and add ballast to our D-line.
So what went wrong? The best place to start might be with the
structure and personality of the football team as it closed out
last season. Despite having 2 quality RB's, we were only
sporadically efficient in the running game. The offensive line,
while occasionally competent at run blocking, had never
become the dominant smashmouth force expected from a Russ
Grimm-coached unit. But the Warner-led passing attack featuring a
deep, talented receiving corps was so strong that we could still
move the ball despite deficiencies in the run game and O-line. And
although we were a bit thin and young on defense, they could still
rely on the offense to get them off the field and not force them
into huge holes.
That was the magic combination. It collapsed like a deck of cards
when Warner left and a series of disasterous QB decisions left us
without an arm that could deliver the ball to Fitz, Steve, Early
and Andre. We could no longer cover up for our O-line deficiencies
and inability to run the ball. In some ways, our defense was
better than it was the previous year, but if you're continually
keeping them on the field (usually in or near the red zone),
something will eventually give (and it often did).
Sound football franchises are built on rock-solid foundation.
There are certain positions that they "nail" early (so that they
don't have to worry about them later). Center. FG Kicker. Punter.
And Quarterback. When Ken Warner left (a mild but not totally
unexpected surprise), the Cardinal organization felt that their
QBOF Matt Leinart would be ready to step in for Warner.
Operating under the assumption that Leinart would be ready to
roll, the Cardinal FO brought in seasoned but erratic Derek
Anderson to provided veteran depth, used a mid-round pick on
Skelton (big & strong armed but raw) and cherry-picked MaxHall
(heady and accurate but not very big or strong-armed) to fill the
But Leinart wasn't ready and, not only that, the Cardinal FO
decided that he'd never be (and dumped him from the roster
(for no compensation) before the start of the season. That left us
with the erratic Anderson backed up by 2 rooks who had never
played a down of pro football.
A recipe for disaster. Michael B., Rod Graves, Coach Wiz and their
people were riding the thin rail of hope - that Anderson would
suddenly become more accurate and composed under fire. That Hall
would turn out to be a younger version of Jeff Garcia. That we
could afford to let Skelton simmer in the stewing pot until next
That hope was never realized. Throughout the first 11 games of the
season (most notably, our current 7 consecutive losses downslide),
our QB's (mostly Anderson, but also a little bit of Hall) have
only been able to move the team in brief inconsistent spurts -
usually dying quiet deaths in the red zone. Badly aimed and timed
throws. Misconnections with receivers. Too many sacks. Turnovers -
the combination of which meant inability to (a) score touchdowns,
(b) make key plays at crunch time, (c) sustain drives, (d) give
the defense a blow or two, (e) prevent us from falling behind so
we'd have more opportunities to run the ball.
At this point in our season (with thoughts of the playoffs all but
obliterated) the mind of the Cardinal fan naturally makes a sharp
turn toward figuring out what went wrong, why it went wrong,
what needs to be fixed and, most of all, who should be held
(A brief word of caution: Coaches, scouts, management personnel
and ownership is seldom all bad or all good, and should be
evaluated and scouted the same way players are. For example
- Coach Mac (though a great movitator) seemed weak as a developer
of talent and thought to have a limited upside. Buddy and Dennis,
though brilliant in some respects, could also be rigid and
stubborn to a fault. Before throwing any of our current staff
under any buses, we should be asking: "Which personnel and
staffing decisions were borne of inexperience and which ones due
to abject dumbness?" "Who on our staff has native brightness, can
learn from their mistakes and willing & flexible enough to
change the way they do business?" Conversely, who simply lacks the
smarts to do the job or is so set in their ways that they'll never
make the necessary changes?". You give the smart, flexible guys a
second chance. You show the unintelligent donkeys the door).
It could be argued that none of the Cardinal brass had ever had to
deal with the development of a star QB or the sudden cratering of
the position. It was one major mistake after another:
Either their original evaluation of Leinart on Draft Day was
faulty or they failed in his development from rookie to
established veteran. When Warner left, they overestimated Matt's
ability and underestimated the importance of the QB position
within the bigger sheme of things. They misjudged Anderson (who,
in addition to throwing badly time, ill-positioned passes, was
shaky under pressure and prone to throwing into double or triple
coverage and was not very instinctive at reading defenses. How do
you start off going 4 for 8 vs. the Rams and wind up 7 for 21)?
And they grossly underestimated the importance of quality
experienced depth when their "Plan B" after Anderson consisted of
UDFA Hall and raw rookie Skelton.
Result: We've been unable to cover up an anemic running attack
with a lights-out passing attack. We've been unable to keep our
defense - which has been yeoman-like in the red zone) off the
football field (Eventually they fade). And even when we're only 7
- 10 points behind, we lack the resliancy and juice you get from
an efficient passing attack to bring the team back late in games.
In short, without Warner (or a capable replacement) we have to
change the equation. The major rebuilding of the offensive line
and running attack looms as Priority One. Continued overhaul of
the LB position to give us more athleticism and a physical
presencewould help keep the defense from wearing down late in
games. And coaching upgrades (fingers of logic point toward QB
Coach/OC and DC) will also be the order of the offseason. Michael,
Rod and Wiz certainly did not distinguish themselves for masterful
decision-making, but I do believe Wiz (& to a lesser degree Rod)
are bright enough and analytical enough to (a) figure out what
needs to be done and then make changes. They probably should be
retained - albeit on a somewhat shorter leash.
But in the end, everything rolls downhill from the QB position.
The team collectively has to take the bull by the horns and make
the position strong and secure again.
Thanksgiving Weekend Reminded Me of the "Bad Old Days"
-- Holmdel, NJ --
Sun. Nov. 28
-- In recent years, our focus would have been on the
"playoff hunt" and the Cardinal MNF game. This weekend, I found my
attention wandering to a lot of non-Cardinal stuff.
I watched all 8 Michigan HS
football games, but unfortunately no single wing (Menomonee
got eliminated in the District 5 semis). I also saw an
incredible Clarion, PA defense totally close down a very good
team from Rochester, PA.
Of my "adopted" teams, Oregon.
TCU, So. Carolina and Stanford held serve. But Boise State let
complacency (and a kicker who choked) get the better of them.
I was hoping Auburn would lose to 'Bama so that TCU might move
up to play Oregon in the BCS Finals, but Auburn's comeback
kind of killed that idea (& at least the War Eagles will be a
"fun team" to watch when they go up against the Ducks).
If Cardinal fans have finally
concluded (as I have) that it's time to acquire a young
franchise QBOF, we could do far worse than wind up with
Stanford's Andrew Luck or (should they come out) Boise State's
Kellen Moore or the Dalton kid from TCU. Tell you one thing,
all three of these guys (and, for that matter, acouple of kids
I saw in the HS playoffs) are far more consistently accurate
deep than Derek Anderson.
This isn't to say that, if it
turns out that there's a defensive super-dude available in the
draft - who's considered more valuable to the franchise than
one of the top QB's - we shouldn't take him. That Oregon State
defensive lineman from Tonga (Stephens Paea) looks like a 290
lb Junior Seau.
I also spent a lot of time
downloading and reading a bunch of crime-novels on my Kindle.
And then there are some other post-Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas
& New Years family stuff I'm about to get involved in.
And maybe then, there'll be
"Cardinals vs. Niners." (It's so sad).
For a detailed preview of
the MNF Cardinals - Niners game, click here.
Much Do You Love It? -- Holmdel, NJ --
Wed. Nov. 24
-- How much do you love football? (Another way to put it
might be: "What are you most thankful for)?
On a most basic level, I've
always loved the colorful uniforms and the different aspects
of the game different teams bring to each contest. There
are big beefy grind-it out teams and quick, explosive
high-talent "trickeration" teams. There are spread teams,
pro-set teams, straight-tee teams, Pistol teams and (hopefully
again one day) a few single wing teams. There are perennial
champions and perennial underdogs. Vive les differences!
I love the game within a game
within a game. Each play is a "minigame" within itself. Win
enough minigames and you win a series. Win enough series and
you win the quarter. Win each quarter and you win the
half or ultimately the game itself. But the wonderful
thing about football is that some individual plays - whether
early in the first quarter or the final play of an OT contest
- can change the complexion and outcome of an entire football
game - a big hit, a long bomb, a fumble recovery, a blocked
kick, a long run or a picke-six.
I'm in love with the names. (I
used to believe that the names of certain players actually
took on a "magic" all unto themselves - "LG (Long Gone)
Dupree." "EJ Junior", "Max Speedy", "Dick Butkus", "Lou (The
Toe) Groza." Magic!
I love the chess-matches: When
an OC counters an impenetrable inside-run defense and terrific
deep coverage by attacking the perimeter. Or when a HC decides
that athleticism and trickery simply won't cut it and
runs his big 245 lb running back up ther middle over and over
again. Or when - on a 4th & inches (with his star
RB deep & ready to roll) - the QB instead escapes around left
end on a naked boot. Or when an equipment manager
remembers to bring the tennis shoes to give his team an edge
in traction on a sloppy field.
I love "coach speak" - on the
sidelines, in the lockerroom, broadcast booth or press
conference. .God bless Jerry ("NFL Stands For: 'Not For
Long''") Glanville, Jon ("Are You Out of Your Mind!!!") Gruden
or Marv "You Officious Jerk") Levi.
I love 102 yard kickoff
returns, "pick sixes", blitzes off the corners", run-stuffing
hits, deep bombs, sideline ballet feet, velcro hands, spin
moves, fumble strippers and pass batters.
I love the smell of roasted
peanuts, candied apples and leather on Saturday mornings.
I love the old cheers: "Get
that ball and go team!" "Push 'em back, push 'em back a way
back!" "Fight team fight" The 'alphabet' (Note - When the
Colts were in Baltimore they had this guy who'd balance
himself at the very top of the stadium wall where he'd use his
contorted body to spell out C-O-L-T-S). And, of course, there
are the more recent cheers (along with an occasional
prop) like: "Deee-fence"
Which, on this eve before
Thanksgiving, brings me to this Monday night's game vs. the
49'ers...and my point: Both teams are 3 & 7 and on "life-support."
The team that loves football (and wants it) the most will probably
win the football game. Which moves me to ask coaches and players
on both teams the following question:
How much do you love football?
For a detailed preview of
the MNF Cardinals - Niners game, click here.
"Saturday Before" -- Holmdel, NJ --
Sat. Nov. 20
-- On most Saturdays, we'd typically be focusing on
tomorrow's game - matchups, injuries & all that good stuff.
I'll admit it; at 3 & 6, the mind wanders: If either Andrew Luck
or Kellen Moore were available in the 2011 draft, should we take
him? Are there other positions on our roster, once considered
"safe" (for example, Strong Safey) where we might be willing to
roll the dice on a sure-fire future superstar?
And then, there's the late Fall NCAA rankings battle and
High School football playoffs. I "adopted" 6 college teams to root
for at the beginning of the season: The only one that's
disappointed me has been the local product (Rutgers). The other 5
were Oregon, Boise St., TCU, Stanford and South Carolina (because
of Lattimore). Just focus on the those latter five and you've been
privileged to see the most exciting brand of football in recent
history. (Last night, Boise St. couldn't locate its mojo for
nearly the entire first quarter against a tough Fresno State
defense, but still found a way to end up putting a 50-Burger on
So far, I've waded throught the entire Wisconsin HS Championships
(I was kind of hoping in vain that one or more single wing teams
from the northern part of the state would make it to the finals,
but no luck. Note - While the Wildcat is often likened to the
Single Wing, it's really not all that similar - it's closer to the
traditional shotgun except that the deep back is more likely to
hand it off to a wingback or fullback or - instead of passing it -
keep the ball dive into the line himself).
Next up will be the Ohio HS playoffs and championships (who can
forget how dominant Glenville looked a year ago?) and HS football
from Pennsylvania. The two highest-profile high school programs
come out of Texas and Florida. Frankly, the Texas playoffs seldom
hold my interest, but I love to watch Florida HS football because
you really get to see some outstanding athletes make their mark in
those games. Like Texas, California's playoffs and the ones in the
northwest and mountain states all tend to become a big
"blur." Here in Greater NYC, the local cable channels usually air
replays of Thanskgiving - Christmas traditional HS tilts from NY,
NJ and Connecticut.
As someone "who just likes the name 'Cardinal'" whether it's
STL, Arizona, Stanford, Ball State or Louisville), it amazes
me that so many high school football teams across the nation are
named the "Cardinals" - from Colerain in Ohio to Broadhead-Judah
in Wisconsin to Greenwich in Connecticut - no matter where you
live or who you root for, there will be at least one Cardinal team
nearby. That's kinda cool.
The first state playoffs I ever followed closely was in Michigan -
the one thing that grabbed my interest was the better than 50%
likelihood that a single wing football team from the Upper
Peninsual part of the state (Menomonee) would make the playoffs.
They didn't make them last year (Bummer!) but I'm pretty sure
they're in this year's Division 5 finals.
A final observation about Michigan HS football (from Ford Field)
and HS football in general - Anyone who travels "off the
Interstate" knows how diverse, varied and unique our nation really
is (It's not all strip malls and fast food joints, really)! What
better way to celebrate and enjoy that diversity than to make HS
football that metaphor. Each team has its own colors; it's own
mascot; it's own unique style of play. Some teams come from urban
communites with players representing a black, brown, tan and white
rainbow of cultures. Others hail from "white bread suburbia."
Still others are mainly made up of lanky farm boys. Their fans and
cheerleaders have their own special traditions. All of it unique,
diverse and special - "The Face of America." I love watching HS
football. Check it out.
And oh yeah, about the Cardinals and KC:
Click here for a detailed
Cardinal - KC game
preview & matchups.
Certainly Was a "Definition Game" -- Holmdel, NJ --
Mon. Nov. 15
-- We're less concerned that we lost than we are "the way
that we lost." The 36 - 18 thumping by the Seahawks wasn't due to
a lucky break or lack of effort - we just didn't look like we were
good enough to beat Seattle let alone reach the playoffs. Now I'll
concede that - with only 2 games separating the last place
Cardinals from the first place Seahawks - anything can happen (The
worst thing we can do is leave one or more games on the field and
then have Seattle, StL and/or SF suffer a couple of unexpected
we just have to hope that the Cardinals continue to grind away -
one play; one series; one quarter; one game at a time. But I
wouldn't get my hopes up too high right now.
For a complete, detailed analysis of the 2nd Seattle game,
Why I Don't Believe in
"Must Games" -- Holmdel, NJ --
Sun. Nov. 14
-- There's been increasing buzz from Cardinal fans in the
aftermath of our loss to the Vikes that, if we don't beat the
Seahawks today, our season is over." Nothing like meeting reality
head on, but a dangerous thing to say nonetheless, because we set
up the Cardinals up to fail when we don't have to. Each year,
there are always one or two teams pronounced "dead" by the pundits
who either fight or "luck" their way into the playoffs; so why
declare a season "over" when it isn't - especially when we all
know what can happen when the ball bounces funny, a key injury
occurs or the refs "come up with something really creative."
Today's game, therefore, is a huge game but not an end-all (in
either direction). The pundits and the odds-makers make the
Cardinals almost universal favorites (no doubt because it's a
Cardinal home game and because the Seahawks have lost two straight
games by an average of somehting like 43 to 7). But let's not
forget that the Seahawks were without their starting QB (Matt
Hasselbeck) for part of the first game and all of the second. He's
b-a-a-c-k! And let's also not forget that we had all we could do
to handle Hasselbeck, Marshawn Lynch and Mike Williams.
This promises to be a closely played contest that could easily
turn on a miscue, an injury, the refs or a strange bounce of the
ball. Winning it will put us squarely back in the hunt. Losing it
will deal us a severe blow, but we still won't be dead yet.
Click here for a detailed
Seattle - Cardinal game
preview & matchups.
Note - My game recap will most likely have to wait til late
Monday. (The Missus strikes again - she agreed to dinner out with
relatives smack in the middle of the game - which means I'll get
to watch the DVR recording sometime around midnight and post
my game- analysis the following day).
Cards Late-Game Meltdown -- Holmdel, NJ --
Mon. Nov. 8
-- No one likes to lose that way. Yet, when you go back and
and take the game apart play by play what you come away with is
that (a) the Cardinals, led by Anderson, played well enough to win
most "normal" football games and (b) are good enough to win
the division (assuming the breaks fall evenly). The problem,
however, is that (c) when faced with situations where the QB has
to make big plays at crunch time (to come back from behind or
preserve a lead), I'm not confident Derek Anderson has what it
takes. All of which boils down to the likelihood that the Cards
have a better than even chance of making the playoffs but aren't
likely to go very deep .
Yesterday, the Cards played well enough to win a "normal" NFL
game, but in Brett Favre - from the 6:40 mark in the 4Q thru
OT- we weren't facing a normal QB. Under pressure, Favre made good
split-second decision after decision and executed near-perfectly
if not brilliantly. He and his receivers were "on-fire" and we
couldn't stop them. All we needed was one more deflection. Or
getting to Favre a split-second sooner. Inches.
But we didn't (and they did). No doubt, any Cardinal player worth
his salt will be asking himself if he could have jumped an inch or
two higher or reached Favre a split second sooner. Or wrapped up a
bit tighter. Or reached a couple of inches farther to bring in a
pass. Or reacted just a step or two quicker.
Didn't happen. But the good news is that we now know that - with
this team & with this QB, we're good enough to compete with
anybody and, in most normal circumstances, win. The lesson for us
all - fans, coaches and players - is that we shouldn't hang our
heads. We still have what it takes to win enough games to lead or
division. We just have to work hard, keep the faith and clean up
some of the little things that can mean the difference between
winning and losing.
A lot of crazy things (involving panic and, conversely, denial)
will be said about the Cardinals after so gut-wrenching a loss.
Lots of finger-pointing and, no doubt, some defensiveneness (much
of it justified but none of it helpful). I just hope we all
recognize that, while we may have blown some golden opportunities,
there is still opportunity out there for the taking if we stay
positive and work hard.
(One additional point - If I'm Coach Wiz, I'm asking my assistant
coaches this morning for ideas fro what things we can do from a
scheming standpoint to disrupt an opponent's momentum when they're
on a roll and have us back on our heels).
For a complete, detailed analysis of the Viking game,
Sunday's Viking Game
Looms Large -- Holmdel, NJ --
Late Breaking -
Cardinal Injuries: Haggans is doubtful. Beanie
(despite claims that his knee problem was due to an allergic
reaction to meidcation) is still listed as questionable. Listed as
Probable are Doucet, Breaston, Iwebema, Branch and W. Davis.
Minnesota Injuries: Not classified but at top of
injuriy list : Berrian. Questionable: Harvin, Walker. Probable:
Favre, Cook, A Allen, Leber, Sheppared, Sullivan, P Williams,
Under normal circumstances, we'd view Sunday's
Minnesota game as unwinnable - one of the six games that belong on
the right-hand column of a 10 & 6 record, due to their superior
edge in talent and our fundamental problems at QB.
Not so fast. Two things have changed.
First, there's the unsettled situation in Minnesota. The
direct and indirect threat posed by Randy Moss (& its positive
impact on Percy Harvin and other receivers) is gone. The Favre vs.
Childress and Fans vs. Childress undercurrent hasn't gone away.
Favre's ability to escape pressure and pull miracles out of his
butt on the football field has been significantly undercut due to
his double ankle fracture. (The dozen or so stitches to his jaw
can't help either. (Note - Injuries to Harvin along with the
departure of Moss leaves the Viking receiving corps kind of thin.
(Expect to see a lot of running plays dialed up by Childress).
Second, at 3 & 4 (below .500, in 3rd place in their division and
having lost 2-straight for the first time in a long while), the
Cardinals are closing in on "do or die" point of their season. If
there ever should be a sense of urgency, it should be now.
Which means that (a) the Cards would be crazy to relegate Sunday's
game to the "we're going to lose it anyway" category because (1)
Minnesota (aka Drama Nation) appears to have given us an opening
and (2) we badly need the win.
Winning won't be easy: Beanie, LSH and Breaston are strill
hurting. Haggans may not be ready to play. Despite making a few
impressive plays, Anderson continues to make dumb throwing
decisions (like trying to hit Fitz in double-coverage instead of a
wide-open nearby Doucet cost us the game last Sunday).
Surrendering field position at crunch time by allowing RB
LeGarrette Blount to gash us for big yardage and giving up a 50+
yard TD pass to squander a four point 4Q lead weren't exactly a
feather in the cap for the Cardinal defense either. Yet there have
been those rare times when the offense and defense operated at a
high level and we looked really good (so we know we have the
ability to get the job done). The question for Sunday is: "Will
One nice thing about Sunday - we draw the early afternoon
time-slot on a day when (a) most parts of the US get an extra hour
of sleep as they switch from Daylight Savings time and (b) those
of us living in the Greater NYC area get to watch the New York
Marathon. For an in-depth preview (including match ups) of Sunday's
Minnesota game, click
Turnovers Again Undo
Cardinals -- Holmdel, NJ --
-- Fans who packed he house in Glendale were, unfortunately
teased rather than treated as strange Derek Anderson pass with
0:06 to go, fluttered out of bounds to end the ball game and nail
down a 38- 35 Tampa Bay win.
I say "teased", because Cardinal turnovers helped put us in a
10-point halftime hole, but the team rallied, actually gaining a
4-point lead early in the 4Q, only to be toasted
by a long Tampa Bay TD pass off one of several uncovered Josh
Freeman bootleges; to give Tampa Bay a 3-point lead; only
to have the Cardinals march into easy chip-shot field goal
territory before Anderson's errant throw intended for Larry
Fitzgerald was (you guessed it!) picked off to leave the tying 3
points on the ground.
To which - in true Halloween fashion - all we have to say is:
For a detailed analysis of the game (to be posted Tuesday
Bay Game Winnable -- Holmdel, NJ --
Late Breaking -
Cards released LB Alex Hall and WR Onrea Jones to make room for
newly activated LB's Gerald Hayes and rookie O Brien
Schofield. Both are coming off injuries. Schofield is a surprise
(a) because of his injury and (b) because he is an untested rookie
Doubtful: LB Clark Haggans. Questionable:
DL Alan Branch, WR's Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, LB Will
Bucs - Out: DL's
Faine and Trueblood, DT Price. Listed but Status Unclear:
G Vincent. Doubtful: WR Parker.
Questionable: LB G Hayes, DE K. Moore.
Cards are a 3 point favorite to beat the Buccos Sunday.
True, we play them at home (on a dry field in front of a friendly
crowd), but we do so with a stumbling offense led by two QB's
whose ratings could very well wind up well south of 50. True,
(aside from our QB's), there's plenty of talent elsewhere on
offense, but thus far, the pieces haven't all come together.
Which leaves all our hopes for salvaging the season in the hands
of (a) other NFC West teams who are also struggling and (b) the
ability of Max Hall to learn fast and rebound to a point where he
can reliably lead the Cardinal offense. This of course assumes
that our defense hangs in there and doesn't get discouraged and
some of our skill players (especially the younger ones) hang onto
It should be an interesting football game. Tampa Bay lacks a
superabundance of dominating talent, but (aside from taking too
many penalties) seldom beats themselves. The Cardinals (excluding
QB) have an abundance of talent, but frequently let mistakes and
inconsistency on defense beat ourselves. Two intriguing
questionmarks: (1) Can Hall and his receivers get it together? and
(2) If Tampa Bay were play "smashmouth" and repeatedly hand the
rock to 246 lb. rookie, LeGarrette Blount, would we be able to
stop him? Additional Late-breaking
Issue - Tampa Bay may be without 3 starters on
their offensive line.
Sunday afternoon and evening is Halloween. Guaranteed to happen: a
bunch of kids will knock on our door and yell "Boo!" Lets hope
their boos aren't for the Cardinals.
For an in-depth preview (including match ups) of Sunday's
Tampa Bay game, click
We Now Know Who the
Cardinals Are -- Holmdel, NJ --
-- They're "The Headless Horsemen" - make that the
"headless and armless horsemen: Headless because we are
missing anyone remotely close to competent at QB. Armless because
the QB's we do have are throwing to a bunch of young wide
receivers still trying to figure things out plus our one All Pro
wideout whom other teams feel they can double-cover with impunity.
Cards lost 22 to 10, but the only reason the score wasn't off the
charts was because our defense held Seattle to 5 field goals that
easily could have been TD's if it wasn't for the grit of our "D."
For a detailed analysis of the Seattle game, click
Figuring Out Sunday's Game -- Holmdel, NJ --
-- By the 5th or 6th game of most seasons, you generally
have a pretty good idea of what a team is like and what it can or
The Cardinals may be the exception. We're only just now beginning
to learn things about our new starting QB Max Hall (all we have to
go on is his hs & college resumes, appearances in a couple of
preseason games and one full game's worth of action). We don't
know how much more accurate he'll become. We don't know how
consistent he'll be. Everyone's wondering how Max's reported
intelligence will translate into how fast he absorbs the playbook,
reads defenses, escapes the rush and demonstrates tangible overall
improvement from week to week.
Our RB's by committee seem to serve up something difference from
week to week. Will it be Beanie rambling between the tackles? THT
gaining the corner? LSH fooling the defensewith misdirection
stuff? Will our run/pass mix begin to inch closer to 50-50? And
what about the O-line? How will Levi, Brandon and our young TE's
deal with the Seattle crowd noise?
And then there's the Cardinal defense: Which one will show up
Sunday- the pickpockets who upset the Saints? Or the patsies who
got blacktopped by Atlanta and SD?
Hope springs eternal (& there's a lot we can hope for) but I just
can't get a handle thus far on what kind of team this year's
Cardinals will turn out to be?
Personal Note - It's been just 4 weeks since
Gertie (our 93-year old Mom) underwent major surgery. I'm happy to
announce that her surgeon has pronounced her "good to go"
and Gert's done with home nursing and rehab (i.e. climbs stairs,
makes coffee, goes out with us for dinner, roots against the
Yankees etc.). She is considered "definite" for Sunday.
For an in-depth preview (including match ups) of Sunday's
Seattle game, click
Seattle - A "Must Game?" -- Holmdel, NJ --
-- To mirror Fitz's sentiments about how the other three
teams in our division would do during our Bye Week: "I hoped
they'd all lose."
They all won. Naturally, there's all kinds of speculation
about the "wide open NFC West." This, in turn, has caused fans and
pundits to raise the ante when it comes to intradivision play.
Case in point: the Seattle game. If we win, we'll have taken
control of our playoff destiny at 4 & 2. If we lose, we will be in
the middle of a divisional dogfight with Seattle, StL & quite
possibly the Niners.
So does this make Sunday's game a "must game?" I'm not a great
believer in the must-game concept (because it sets teams up for a
huge letdown should the ball bounce funny, the refs get funky or
we run into a hot QB or smokin' defense). In the end, teams in our
division who win at least 10 games (i.e. lose no more than 6) are
likely to reach the playoffs. Which means that, should we lose the
so-called "must game" in Seattle, we'd better make sure we don't
lose more than three others.
For this reason, I'd prefer to call the Seattle game a "big game"
or even a "huge game" but not a "must game."
I view the game as a contest between two relatively unknown
entities.: Seattle (because of Pete Carroll, the presence of a a
healthy Matt Hasselbeck and the shake-up of the rest of their
offensive roster). Arizona (because of Max Hall and the
uncertainty of his rate of development along with a somewhat Jekyl
& Hyde high risk/high reward defense). Buckle your chin straps!
For an in-depth preview (including match ups) of Sunday's
Seattle game, click
Defense/Hall Lead Cards to Upset Win Over NO -- Holmdel, NJ --
-- I still can't believe it. We walked onto the field 2 & 2
(and easily could have been 0 & 4), having been served 4-Burgers
in 2 of our last 3 games, not playing very good football &
facing the Super Bowl Champs with an untested, undrafted rookie QB
starting his first NFL contest.
Recipe for distaster. Only somehow we won. Actually, we lost in
almost every statistical measure conceivable - all but the
important one (the final 30 - 20 score). We did it with turnovers
and clutch game-changing plays along with doing fewer-than-usual
dumb things of the sort that costs you games. (Perfect example:
Penalties. (When's the last time the Cardinals were flagged no
more than 3 times)? A favorite numerical measurement of mine is
the percent of turnover opportunities capitalized on. The Cards
recovered 4 of their own fumbles (one for a TD), one of NO's 2
fumbles and picked off 3 passes while only giving up one
interception. Advantage Cardinals by a margin of 8 to 2!
Call it luck; call it the bounce of the ball. Whatever the case,
it mattered. Some of that sort of stuff can be coached
and learned. Hopefully the Cards will move Ball Protection, Ball
Retention and Ball Acquisition to the top of their priority list.
In these specific circumstances against this NO team, it meant the
outcome of the game.
There's a huge difference between entering Bye Week 2 & 3, (a)
wondering whether you'll ever right the ship and whether the
decision to go with a newbie QB was the right one and (b) going
into Bye Week 3 & 2, leading your division and knowing you have
enough juice throughout your roster to carry the team and win with
while your new QB gains experience, confidence and meshes better
with the overall offense. (It certainly hasn't hurt to see the
Niners at 0 & 5 and the Rams losing big to the formely winless
The curse of the AZ Cardinal
baseball cap is...ovah! (I wore the hat; we won anyway).
The 13th Man -
Accepting the CW that a boistrus home-crowd that knows when (&
when not) to turn up the volume is the "twelfth man", let me
present: the "13th Man" - a ghost factor influencing more than
a few games. Remember when you played schoolyard hoops or
tennis and you absolutely trounced your opponent's attempt at
an inside jam or drop volley? Once you convinced the other
dude that he couldn't beat you with that move, he wouldn't try
it any more and you could then ignore that aspect of his game
for the rest of the contest. In the pros, you see it when
offenses stay far away from the Shutdown Corner. (Think about
it - the presence of DRC makes Greg Toler's job that
much more interesting - that is, until Mr. Toler steps up his
game so much that teams either risk throwing toward DRC again
- good luck with that! - or simply avoid throwing to
their #1 and #2 WR's altogether). Or they stop trying to run
the ball through your two 330 lb defensive tackles. Or when
refs automatically give your star edge pass rusher with the
incredible first step the benefit of the doubt when deciding
whether or not he beat the snap count. In each case, the 13th
man takes away one more thing a team or key player needs to
worry about. The 13th Man is a ghost. He doesn't exist (except
in the minds of the refs and your opponents). But occasionally
this invisible dude is the difference between winning and
Enjoy the week off, guys. For a detailed preview of
Sunday's game vs. Seattle, click
It Feels Like a
Preseason Contest -- Holmdel, NJ --
-- So here we are. 2 & 2 and about to face the invincible
Super Bowl Champs. We're (charitable) 7 point dogs. The CW has to
be that our chances of winning are slim to none. We're starting
Max Hall - an UDFA - at QB and have no clue about what to expect
offensively with an untested kid making the first start of his pro
career (and having to make due without his #2 and #3 receivers -
Breaston and Doucet).
Feels, tastes and sounds like preseason to me. (But hope springs
eternal and my fingers are already crossed).
Besides, I figure I come into Sunday ahead of the game - our
93-year old Mom (recovering from major surgery) is up & about,
roaming around the house, regaining her appetite and astonishing
the visiting nurse and physical therapist with her core-strength,
spryness and feistiness. Let's just say she's "Probable" for this
My concern goinng into
this afternoon's game with NO has nothing to do with logic and
everything to do with superstition and magical thinking. It
centers around hats:
You see, everytime I wear the bb cap of a favorite team, they go
into the proverbial dumper. When I started to wear my red & white
StL Cardinal bb cap in late summer, they immediately free-fell out
of playoff contention. Then I doffed my faded maroon Arizona
Cardinal cap just in time to see the FB Cards get rolled by the
Falcones. So I started wearing my black NJ Devils cap and the
Cards rebounded to edge Oakland. Full of confidence, I once again
traveled out & about sporting my AZ Cardinal cap - a foolish
gesture that no doubt was the cause of our mauling last week by
the Chargers. "Ah hah!" I said last Monday. "The NHL season starts
this week. Time to once again put on my Devils cap (which - I'm
embarrassed to say - lights up and flashes when you switch it on -
it was a gift!!!). Last night, the Devils lost their second
straight game (by the lopsided score of 7 to 3).
This morning, I left the house to complete a bunch of chores and
once again put on my FB Cardinals hat. Pray for me. (& the
For a detailed preview of Cardinal - NO rosters and
matchups, click here.
Cards Lay Giant Egg in
San Diego -- Holmdel, NJ --
-- DC Bill Davis' secret strategy backfired. (The strategy:
"Whatever you do, don't cover Antonio Gates - maybe hel'll just go
away. The result - 7 catches for 144 yards and 2 TD;s). The Cards
lost big, and they lost ugly. There were few if any bright spots
to hang our hats on. Things got so bad that Whisenhunt benched
Derek Anderson for Max Hall before haltftime (Hall wasn't
much better, but at least he got some NFL playing time under his
belt). Cardinal QB's were sacked 9 times. (For detailed game analysis, click
Chargers Game - full
of questions -- Holmdel, NJ --
-- To describe the past week or two as "hectic" would be a
gross understatement - sheparding your mom-in-law through major
surgery, placing her in a rehab facility and then reversing course
to get her outtathere and home (where she can sleep in her own
bed, eat her own food and bitch at the ones she loves instead of
strangers) has had us going full-time, with the Chargers game a
True to form, the Chargers open up the season with a losing
record; yet by the end of each season, they're always right up
there contending in the playoffs. For them to get from Point A to
Point B, they obviously have had to change course and win a lot of
games - I just hope this year that they don't start now. The
Cards will be without Early Doucet and Steve Breaston (It will be
up to the young 'uns - Steve Williams, Max Komar, Andre Roberts
and Onrea Jones to step up and play front-line football). On the
opposing side of the ledger, the Chargers will get rookie RB
sensation, Ryan Matthews back, but former Pro Bowler holdout LT
Marcus McNeil will remain ineligible to take the field for the
better part of threee weeks and HOF linebacker Shawn Merriman is
listed as "doubtful."
Bottom line: We really don't know who the Chargers are at this
pivotal point early in the season. But even more vexing - we don't
know who the Cardinals are - with a QB slowly climbing out of the
"very ordinary" category - throwing to one All Pro and 4 raw
rooks; a star RB just getting his feet wet coming off an injury;
an O-line still trying to find itself and a defense who can either
be lights-out or tread-upon from game to game.
The following week, the Cards play the NFL Champs (NO). If they
split these next two games, they'll be 3 & 2 going into the Bye.
That would be a whole lot better (& enjoyable) than for the Cards
to follow the conventional wisdom by losing to both the Chargers
and the Saints to hit Bye week 2 & 3. For a complete Cards
- Chargers Preview with Matchups, click
Additional comment - Sun. Oct. 3 - Thanks to writer Mike Lupica
for reminding us that Robert Parker's posthumously published
novel, Painted Lady will come out the middle of this week. Unlike
Kent Somers (who is easy to contact via e-mail) it's a lot tougher
to locate and contact Mike. Too bad; I'd like to ask him whether
any of his media connections can explain why CBS appears to be
bailing on plans to air at least 2 Parker-authored Jesse Stone
episodes that were reportedly in the can when Parker died.
-- Holmdel, NJ --
-- Got back in time from hospital visiting hours (93 year
old mom-in-law recouperating swimmingly from major surgery
performed Friday - she insisted on showing us today how she
can walk unassisted - a real trooper who'd do John Lott proud) to
watch Sebastian Jankowski (aka "Santa Claus") miss a 31-yarder
with one-second on the clock to hand the Cards a one-point gift.
a complete run-down of the game , click
So Who Are
We? -- Holmdel, NJ -- Wed. Sept.22
-- Most die-hard fans hope that, after Week #2,they'll get
some semblance of what kind of team they'll have to live with for
the duration of the season. In SF, they learned after their
near-victory over the Saintsathat the Niners aren't nearly as bad
as they looked in Week 1. In NYC, the Jet offense did a complete
180 from their feeble effort in Game #1. The Bears (who in all
aspects of football except the scoreboad lost to Detroit) and Jake
Cutler were being touted as potential Super Bowl contenders.
Which brings us to the Cardinals. After 2 games, our
quarterbacking continues to look shaky - certainly lacking the
sense of command you could expect from a Kurt Warner, a Drew Brees
or a Donovan McNabb. (What do I mean by "sense of command?" It
means lining up knowing pretty much what you want to do, assuming
that you can pull it off and then executing as planned. Maybe
Derek Anderson will find his mojo (Maybe it will happen gradually
or perhaps a light bulb will go off). But for now, every time he
fades back remains somewhat of an adventure (& that's not a good
thing). In fairness, it can't be all on Anderson - his receivers
share some of the responsibility for catching what Derek is
throwing. And then there are the 5 human-turnstyles currently
known as the Cardinal offensive line. But we pretty much have the
same set of receivers we had a year ago, and our O-line - at least
on paper - should be better not worse. The only major change is
that our QB is Anderson and not Warner. (Hello)?
It's hard to assess our ability to run the ball because of
Beanie's absence. What we do know, however, is that Hightower has
the ability to go all the way and that Stephens-Howling is tougher
than expected between the tackles. What has contributed to the
mystery that is our running attack is the lack of running attempts
made necessary by excessive turnovers vs. StL and the combination
of (a0 falling behind early (b) our impotence vs. the run and (c0
our inability to move the chains (going 0 for 8 in 3rd down
conversion attempts vs. Atlanta.
Our defense flew around like banshees and was they key to eking
out a win vs.St:, but it's failure to match up physically against
Atlanta's smashmouth inside running attack cost us the Falcon game
and leaves us terribly exposed to other teams looking to exploit
our lack of defensive toughness in a similar manner.
I still like our starting secondary, but it was painful to watch
Greg Toler get taken to school. I'm hoping it's the natural part
of the process a young corner has to go through on his way to
becoming really good. The rest of the secondary (Heck! The entire
defense) has to learn how to maintain its poise, tenacity and
energy late in games after being repeatedly stomped on. (One thing
i noticed watching other NFL games last week was the way chronic
winners stayed cool, weathered the storm and then clawed their way
back to compete and even win late in games. I did not see this in
the Atlanta game. We need to have this).
We're holdingour own on various aspects of special teams play
(although that tentativeness late in the Atlanta game - over
whether or not to run the ball out - was flat-out embarrassing).
LSH demonstrated that opposing coverage teams better not let their
guard down against us.
So who are we? Dunno. It's still too early. The upside is still
there. Unfortunately so is the potential for slipping into the
On the brighter side, I'm really happy and relieved that the
Niners lost a close one to the Super Bowl champs. (Sometimes a
couple of close wins or losses can mean the difference between who
makes the playoffs and who works on his golf game in .January.
Click here for a detailed game
preview & matchups.
Ambushed in Atlanta -- Holmdel, NJ -- Sun. Sept.19
-- I'm searching for the right descriptive word for what
happened to us this afternoon:
right, enough already. All you need to know is:
The Cards lost 41 - 7.
Atlanta evidently made
lemonade from lemons when Michael Turner was injured early in
the game by employing a Tom
Coughlin big back smashmouth running attack featuring big back
Jason Snelling - that we couldn't
Anderson looked pretty much
like the way he looked last week - except he regressed into
throwing two passes "high & hard", off the hands of the
receivers and into the hands of their guys.
We didn't look like we were
trying very hard in the 2H.
(For detailed game analysis, click
Take It! --- Holmdel, NJ -- .Sun. Sept.12
-- Whew! Now I can put away the digitalis. The Cardinals
fell behind the Rams midway into the 3Q,, things stayed that way
until they scored a TD with 6:18 left in the football game, and
then survived a bunch of freaky stuff (including the
coughing up of the ball with less tha 1:30 to go) to prevail 17 -
13. (For detailed game analysis, click
The game was marked by what might be termed "offensive letdowns"
or "terrific defensive plays depending on who you were rooting for
and when they happened.
On the opening drive of the
game, the Cardinals drove from their own 22 to the Ram 22,
where Hightower fumble & subsequent return gave the Rams the
ball on the Arizona 32. But the drive stalled at our 16, and
we blocked Brown's FG drive. we then went 3 & out, but A-Dub
picked off a Bradford pass at the Ram 43. Both teams exchanged
3 & outs and a defensive holding gave the Cards a 1st down on
the Ram 35 as the quarter ended.
We got as close as the Ram 4,
but had to settle for a FG. 3 - 0 Cards. The
Rams got as far as midfield on their next possession and had
to punt. Max Komar muffed the punt but managed to recover it.
The Cards were bottled up on their own 14 and went 3 & out.
StL was able to move from their own 28 to the AZ 28 where they
tied the score on a Brown 46-yarder. Cards 3 - Rams 3.
The Cards - starting from their own 24 - ripped off big chunks
of yardage on 5 straight running plays, featuring LSH
(who really lit the fire with 36 yards on 2 carries) and
capped by Hightower's one-yard TD run (after runs for 19 and
20 yards). (They sure made it look easy - maybe the momentum
finally shifted in our direction). Cards 10 - Rams 3.
2:54 left in the half. we held them to 3 & out, but they made
us go 3 & out as well. Rams took over on their own 37 with
1:20 left til halftime. A 39-yard Bradford-to-Clayton throw
set up the Ram's tying TD on the final play of the half - a
one-yard pass to Robinson off a rollout. Halftime Score:
Rams 10 - Cards 10.
Rams received. Both teams
exchanged 3 & outs with a fumble and intentional grounding by
Anderson forcing the punt. A 17 yard return by Amendola and a
12-yard roughing the passer penalty on Calais Campbell allowed
the Rams to take advantage of good field position, which they
turned into a 25-yard Brown FG to give the Rams the lead for
the first time. Rams 13 - Cards 10. A bizarre
double exchange-of-possession ocurred on the next set of
downs, when Anderson was sacked on his own 36 and fumbled. The
Rams' C. Ryan scooped up the ball appeared to be taking it all
the way to the house, but Steve Breaston caught up with him &
chopped the ball out of his arms. Sendlein recovered, thereby
saving the day. Neither team was able to do anything on the
following possessions. But the Cards were able to mount a long
drive that extended into the 4Q.
They moved well into
game-tying FG range at the Ram 14, but Anderson's pass up the
middle to Komar just short of the end zone resulted in a
fumble which was recovered by the Rams. StL managed to move
out from their own 5 to their own 35, but the Cardinal defense
(which seemed to alternate yardage-stifling stops with
allowing chain-moving short passes to be completed) finally
stiffened. With 10:09 left to play - starting from their own
14, the Cards survived an illegal formation call on Keith and
a holding call on Spach to mount a 7-play scoring drive capped
by a 21-yard Anderson to Fitz touchdown. Cards 17 -
Rams 14. StL returned the KO to their own 29, and
Bradford and Jackson pecked away, inflicting "death by a
thousand cuts." They managed to march all the way to the
Cardinal 21 with 1:47 where on 4th down, Kerry Rhodes jumped
in front of an Anderson pass aimed for Bajema. Kerry returned
it all the way to the Ram 29. With 1:21 (but with 3 remaining
Ram time-outs) I was figuring: "Victory Formation" and was
suprised that Wiz decided to run the ball. Unwise move -
Hightower picked up 4 yards and appeared to cough up the after
his knee had touched the ground, but the officials didn't see
it that way. To the tune of "Those Bleeping Bleepy Bleeps"
echoing throughout the Gollin living room, the Rams took over
- Bradford still had 1:21 and all its time outs left, starting
from their own 24. They managed to get close enough where
Bradford - fromt he Cardinal 36 -could drill it into the end
zone, but his final hail Mary (with 0:05 left on the clock)
was intercepted by (who else?) Adrian Wilson. Cards
Win: 17 - 14.
A Few Random Thoughts
Anderson and his receivers
didn't look entirely in synch. Throws requiring precision
timing and accuracy were frequently not accurate nor on time.
As the game wore on, however, Anderson (rescued by Breaston in
the 2H after Steve was practically invisible in the 1H) seemed
to be a bit more comfortable the longer he was out there.
The O-line left Anderson out
to dry more than a couple of times (most notably Brandon
Once Beanie is healthy, you
've got to ask yourself: "If Timmy is going to fumble as often
as Beanie, why not just start Beanie?
You can see glimpses of how
good the Cardinals can eventually be once everything starts
clicking; but will it - and if so, when?
Seattle beat the Niners. No
knock on the 'Hawks (Kudos) but I think, from a Cards
standpoint, this is a very good thing.
With the Rams - starting out
with 6:13 remaining on the clock and driving toward a score, I
couldn't help but think: "To win this thing, we're going to
need one more big defensive play. Thank you Kerry!
Although the Cardinal defense
wasn't letter-perfect stopping the short underneath stuff -
especially in the flat - we didn't make many really dumb
coverage mistakes and never alloweds them to beat us deep.
For detailed game
Tracking the Roster
-- Holmdel, NJ -- . Mon. Sept.6
-- The nfl.com Transactions web page confirms the following
Released - CB Marshay
Green, LB Pago Taugafau and FB Reagan Mau'ia
Added: CB Brandon
MacDonald (Browns), LB Cyril Obizor (Packers) and
FB Jerome Johnson (Giants)
Cardinal bloggers have nice things
to say about Johnson (who apparently was part of a Giants' roster
"loaded" at FB. The tradeoff of MacDonald for Green adds veteran
depth to our mix of DB's. (As to why the Cards preferred Jefferson
to Green - the way I see it is that Jefferson brought immense
athletic talent (40+ VJ) to Camp and has leveraged that
athleticism into steady week-to-week improvement, demonstrated
wilingness and ability to hit plus versatility (returned a KO 35
yards vs. Washington. By comparison, Green - another short guy -
caught everyone's attention in the first 2 games, but his
production tailed off after that). There has to be an intriguing
back story about Togafau who for the umpteenth time was a
"post-final cut" cut.
We will keep adding roster-move
info here (including Practice Squad) as it come in; so come back
and visit here early and often.
1:25 pm ET - According to Kent
Somers (AZR) and nfl.com, the Cardinals added : OL Herman Johnson, WR
Isaiah Williams and G Tom Pestock to the
PS and (according to Somers) will also add CB Marshay Green if he
clears waivers. That would leave 5 spots on the PS still open. (I
still wouldn't be shocked if the Cards added a veteran backup QB
like Simms or T Smith to the 53-man roster).
7:40 pm ET - The official Cardinal
website confirms that the Cards have added three more players to
the PS: Tim Brown WR Rutgers (breakaway speed; I
saw him), Ian Johnson RB Boise St. and
Curtis Gatewood ILB (most recently Redskins). According
to Darren Urban, this leaves 2 PS spots to be filled, with Marshay
Green still a likely possibility.
Tues. Sept. 7 -2:41 pm ET -- Cards
filled out their PS by adding CB Marshay Green and the ubiquitous
CB Pago Tongafau. (Source: nfl.com transactions page)
Leinart Whacked -- Holmdel, NJ --
Sat. Sept. 4
The Cards released
Leinart, RB Alfonso Smith and LB Chris
Johnson. Unless the Cardinals pick up a veteran QB, this
means that - should Derek Anderson be out-of-action for any length
of time - our starting QB will then be Max Hall, and undrafted
rookie out of BYU who in preseason has looked amazingly
productive (& mature) for an untried rook who (along with #3
backup John Skelton out of Fordham) has never received a snap in a
regular NFL game. (I don't know about you, but - although I love
both Hall's potential and his early progress toward achieving that
potential - I'm very nervous about not having someone with more
experience available to step in should Anderson be injured.
16 -- Holmdel, NJ -- Fri. Sept.3
-- Reggie Wells was traded to the Eagles,
Gerald Hayes was put on the PUP list, Mark
Washington was placed on Waived/Injured and 16 other
Cardinals were presumably told to "hand in their playbooks." Three
more players will have to be released by tomorrow's deadline in
order for the team to get down to its roster maximum.
Released were: TE Anthony Becht, LB
Stevie Baggs, LB Monty Beisel, T Herman Johnson, T Tom Pestock, LB
Cody Brown, DE Jeremy Clark, DE John Fletcher, CB Trevor Ford. WR
Ed Gant, WR Mike Jones, WR Onrea Jones, CB Justin Miller, G
Jonathan Palmer, FB Charles Scott, WR Isaiah Williams.
Becht, Beisel, Brown and O Jones came as minor surprises (Becht
was our best blocking TE, Beisel had played well vs. Washington,
Brown was a #2 draft pick a year ago and Jones had battled Max
Komar to a standstill.
Speaking of Komar, he and a handful of Cardinal youngsters were
jubilant at surviving the final cut: All three Cardinal backup
QB's (Leinart, Hall and Skelton
are still on the roster as are Komar, RB Alfonso Smith,.
TE Ken Dray, LB Pago Togafau, LB Reggie Walker and most
of the DB's - AJ Jefferson, Marshay Green, Trumaine
McBride, Hamzah Abdullah and Rashad Johnson.
(No mention of Michael Adams's injury status.
But Coach Whisenhunt cautioned the survivors to enjoy the
moment but realize that, in addition to three more cuts that
needed to be made - other roster moves might be made depending on
roster-depth issues and who becomes available in a trade or on the
open market. (At the top of the 3-man bubble, as I see it, would
be LB Chris Johnson, WR Andre Roberts and
RB Alfonso Smith (with Leinart an
outside possibility if you believe all the media buzz).
As for Leinart, Wiz gave away little in the way of revealing
information, except to concede that any decision going forward as
to whether to keep, trade or release Leinart would probably center
on his willingness, ability and value as a #2 backup to Anderson.
Cards Coast to 20
- 10 Win/Learn a Lot -- Holmdel, NJ --
Fri. Sept.3 -- The following twenty-two Cardinals presumably wwere
told to "hand in their playbooks." had an easy time beating
Washington's backups (We didn't see McNabb, Portis or Larry
Johnson) 20 - 10. More important, Cardinal coaches learned a lot
about the make-up of the guys they'll be going to war with.
Incidently, the Cards wore their black & white unis (which, in my
opinion, are the coolest in big time football - either pro or
Despite the Matt Leinart Media Frenzy (& rumors of his demise), he
saw action for two possessions. (Unfortunately, he didn't
accomplish very much). Meanwhile, backup QB Max Hall played for
roughly half the football game and led the team to 17 points (via
a FG, TD run and QB scramble). Hall's performance was impressive
and could shape imminent decisions by the coaches as to how our
regular season QB depth chart will be structured.
The roster battles will settle out during the next two days
(before final cutdown deadline) as teams attempt to pare their
rosters from 75 to 53 while trying to figure out how to stash some
of their more promising youngsters on the practice squad without
losing them to other teams during the waiver-process. Fasten your
seatbelts. Late Breaking
- Reggie Wells has been traded to Philly for an undisclosed
draft pick. Beisel rumored (I repeat "rumored") to be on way
out. Others unofficially on the chopping block in advance of a 3pm
presser: Pestock, H Johnson, Cody Brown. Said to have survived:
Komar and Jefferson. (Nothing new on Leinart right now).
For complete Cardinals - Redskins Game Recap and Rundown, click
Extended -- Holmdel, NJ -- Thurs. Sept.2
-- Lost in the Leinart media frenzy was the announcement that the
Cards and Darnell Dockett had agreed to a 4-year contract
extension. (This is huger than the Leinart issue, because, whereas
if Matt leaves, we still have Derek; but on defense, there's only
Regarding Leinart - this Wiz quote
buried within Darren Urban's blog: "Speaking of Leinart, he isn’t
about to be traded and the plan is still for Leinart to play
against the Redskins. It’s all speculation by a number of people.
As far as where we are, nothing has changed.”
But should Leinart leave the Cardinals, I have a new theory -
"Blame it on the defense." I think Wiz has been surprised at how
quickly this version of the Cardinal defense has unified to
develop a tough, field-smart,spirited identity. I think he'd like
this to extend over to the offense. A few new pieces have been
added in guys like Hadnott and Faneca, but - in terms of
personality-fit, Leinart comes across as a bit "prince-like"
whereas Anderson's personality seems a bit more grizzled. No knock
on Matt (other guys with similar personalities have had
outstanding NFL careers). It's just that Wiz may simply feel that
Anderson embodies the personal identity Wiz wants for the entire
team better than Matt does). My theory (I've been wrong before).
But it makes sense to me.
"Leinart on Block"
Rumors Heat Up -- Holmdel, NJ -- Wed.
Sept.1 -- There has been nothing said to date by the Cardinals to
confirm or deny. What we're getting is the circular distribution
of a rumor - among FoxSports (Jay Glazer), ESPN (Adam Schefter)
and (the always entertaining) PFT - that the Giants, Bills and
Raiders have expressed interest in Leinart (under the the
presumption that the Cards are "shopping him"). Normally we
wouldn't post this sort of stuff, because sometimes misinformation
- even when accompanied by disclaimer - takes on a life and
legitimacy of its own. Nevertheless, the rumor - at least among
Cardinal fans - is too big to ignore. (Just so we know that (a)
nothing has actually happened, (b) it takes two teams to tango and
(c) Wiz has been known to make personnel decisions that don't
necessarily conform to conventional wisdom - i.e. he could still
surprise everyone and keep both QB's on a rotational basis the
same way he did with Matt and Kurt a couple of years ago). That's
a;ll I'm gonna say for now.
Skins 2 Days Before Final Cutdown -- Holmdel, NJ
-- Tues. Aug. 31 -- The Anderson - Leinart media controversy
continued; threatening to crowd a very nifty Cardinal defensive
effort vs. the Bears off the sports pages. Lots of rumor, leaks,
misinformation and, possibly enough smoke to prove the evidence of
fire. The buzz around Cardinal-Country has been that Derek
Anderson has beaten out Matt Leinart for the starting job. Coach
Wiz has been reluctant to announce a final decision, but the folks
on NFL Network are saying that Anderson has in fact been named to
start on Thursday vs. the Redskins and they're walking around
talking as though Anderson being the season-starter is a
done-deal. You could hear the same presumption in the questions
the XTRA 910 guys were asking Anderson during an interview (To
Anderson's credit, he did not take the bait and say something
stupid. Leinart did, however, although personally, I'd be
disappointed if he didn't express strong feelings about being
As you know, we're big advocates of corroborated reports from
identified credible sources, and prefer to wait for more official
announcement about our starting QB. But as of right now, it looks
more and more like its going to be Anderson. (But I caution us all
to remember that Wiz likes to keep his options open and won't be
afraid to pull the trigger on a switch of starters if he feels it
will help the football team. It's quite possible that his recent
moves were, in part, intended to set up his players and the
fan-base to accept a "play the dude with the hot hand" offensive
Aside from the QB issue, Thursday's game is all about survival -
with guys ranked anywhere from #50 to #69 on the overall roster
all having agood shot at winning the battle to make the Final 53.
That's what the Redskin game - played two days before the Final 53
deadline - will be mainly about. For those of us who love
watching a bunch of lunch pail guys (many with incredible human
interest stories) scratching and clawing for their chance to play
in the Big Time, it will be seventh heaven. For a preview
of the Cardinals - Redskins preseason game, click
Redemption in Chi Town... -- Holmdel, NJ
-- Sun. Aug. 29 -- SO OK, I know preseason game 3's are generally
pretty crucial, but this one extra-so. Instead of "Draft Class
Battle II" (which would have pitted Matt Leinart against fellow
draft-mate Jay Cutler) Coach Whisnehunt threw a curve-ball by
announcing that Derek Anderson would be the starter (but heh-heh -
not to read too much into it because by "flipping the playing
time", he just wanted to see how Anderson and Leinart would
perform in equal settings. Not that anyone really bought into this
(except maybe me). All I know is that the game loomed huge because
of the Anderson vs. Leinart media buzz. How would each of them do?
Short answer: Both did fine, the Cardinal offense looked a lot
better than we did vs. Tenn. and the defense shut down the Bears
totally. For complete game-rundown and analysis, click
A few minor pre-game observations: First, we caught the game
"live" on SIRIUS satellite radio (telecast is scheduled on NFL
Network for 4 pm today -Sun. - at 4 pm.). Which means that how
good my write-up is (at least for now) depends on how accurately
the Cardinal radio guys (Wolfley & others) described the game
(and, most important since jobs are at stake - it's participants.
Although Wolf always paintsa a colorful picture ("Dan Williams is
a dumpster with lips...") he and his buddies are really bad at
giving us down, distance and yard-line on every play.
Some comments about SIRIUS - You can multitask when you listen to
the radio - I was able to watch "the other Cardinals" get blown
out by the Nationals by something like 13 - 5 while I listened to
the account of the Bears game. All of this was made extra-strange
because of the way the SIRIUS radio signal would fade in and out
("Anderson under center...fades back to pass"...and then nothing -
dead silence for 4 or 5 seconds).
Check back here in a day or two , and I'll try to give you an
update based on anything new or different I see on the teevee.
Anderson to Start in
Chicago -- Holmdel, NJ -- Tues. Aug. 25 --
Sure, right - the Cards are flipping the playing-time schedule for
Leinart and Anderson in order to give Derek more time lining up
with the first unit and Matt the opportunity to line up with
Beanie behind him rather than Hightower. Besides, it's not as if
he is handing over the starting job to Anderson for good; he's
just making sure Derek gets fair opportunity to challenge Leinart
for the staring job that Leinart will continue for the present to
own. Sounds logical, sounds reasonable, but i'm not fully buying
When you hear Wiz publically express his concern about the
Cardinal offense (or lack thereof) and state wryly that one of his
key offensive goals is to move the chains (Leinart racked up three
consecutive 3 & outs in his brief appearance vs. the Titans) I get
the feeling that he is delivering the not-too-subtle message that
he will do what's necessary to bring his offense to
acceptable standards, even if it means benching the current
starting QB. I also think he wants a better handle on what he's
really got in Leinart and Anderson, but the sands of time for
finding out are quickly trickling away (so this will be the last
opportunity for Wiz to find out what he actually has in Anderson).
Coach Whisenhunt isn't stupid. He knows that, by making the
switch, he is playing with fire. Changing QB's at a point during
preseason when you're aiming for unit-cohesion can be
counterproductive. And (deliberately or inadvertently) fueling the
flames of speculation about a "QB controversy" is not necessarily
the best way to build calmness in the media or unity among the
fans and in the lockerroom. If anything, it could serve as a major
distraction at a time when you want every single member of your
football team to focus on personal assignments and
responsibilities. And there are those (including me) who sense
that Leinart's main albatross has been lack of playing time during
the past 2 years and that he needs more/not less reps in order to
regain his sharpness.
So far, Wiz has made pretty sharp decisions about who is starting
QB's will be (Pulling Warner - an aging passer who appeared to be
playing the back-nine of his career - out of his proverbial butt
got us into the Super Bowl and two playoff seasons. So my
inclination is to take a long, deep breath and continue to trust
Wiz to do the right thing.
The best way I can frame my best guess as to what will happen:
Leinart still has the starting job, but Wiz has made it a whole
lot easier now for Matt to lose it. Meanwhile, be prepared for the
media firestorm. Oh well, at the very least, it figures to make
what otherwise figured to be just another ordinary preseason
football game a whole lot more interesting.
Sat. Game Update - Anderson for Leinart. Urlacher
won't play. Click here
for Game Preview.
Nash"-- Holmdel, NJ -- Tues. Aug. 25 --
I'm not sure which bothers me more - the abysmal performance
itself? Or that the Cardinal players failed to shut up the ESPN
know-nothings who call themselves sports analysts.
For one hour prior to the start of the game, we were treated to
"NFL Countdown" - a celebration of the future Super Bowl kingdom o
Vince Young and Chris Johnson and the shiva-sitting in memory of
Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. (Thank goodness, instead, on
another channel, I could watch "the other Cardinals dismember the
The impression I got from Keyshonn Johnson, Mike Ditka and Keith
Jackson was that they were throwing Matt Leinart under the bus
based on "what they heard" (pfrom resumably unnamed sources -
perhaps as credible as a NYC cab driver) and not because they were
familiar with the Cardinal personnel outside of known-stars like
Fitz, Beanie, A-Dub or 90." It was as slanted a piece of TV
blather as I've ever seen.
Throughtout the entire off-season and preseason, I have preached
"restraint" - don't get too far ahead of ourselves with regard to
Leinart playing in place of Kurt Warner, the arrival of Rhodes,
Loey P and Faneca or the new rookies who have impresessed
us. In other words, instead of speculating or trash talking, let's
see what they've got based - not on what someone says about them
but instead - how they do on the field.
Well, I've seen what the Cardinals look like at the end of
preseason Game 2 and I am not impressed. Our quarterbacking does
not look solid. Our run blocking looks as bad as it's ever looked.
Other teams can mount long multi-play drives against our defense.
Based on what I saw last night, we are a 4 & 12 football team.
((Note - that could all change - look at how Buffalo turned things
around 180 degrees in the space of one week). But right now, we
don't look very good.
And I cannot - at least with a straight face - stick it to the
national media pundits, because the Cardinal football team failed
to step up (once more) on national tv. Click
here for a
detailed analysis of the Tennessee game.
Preseason Game (Things starting to get serious) -- Holmdel,
NJ -- Fri. Aug. 20 -- If for no other reason than
we're 10 days closer to the roster cutdown. It's easy to get
distracted by media & fan "static" , and I want to separate
Static from Substance.
Mike Golic (Mike & Mike) that
the Niners will win 12 games and win the division...Brett Favre's
hang-nail isn't serious...Derek Anderson will replace Matt Leinart
by Thanksgiving...Bank on the Cards signing a veteran CB
before the start of regular season...The "They Suck List" (i.e.
Critical commentary by Cardinal fans, typically directed at Matt
Leinart, Alan Branch, the Offensive Line, Inside LB and the
Cardinal Front Office. (Much of this seems to represent attempts
to justify unwise or mistaken comments made prior to the start of
The biggies must include: How
well will Leinart play? Can Daryl Washington "do it again?" What
about the roster battles (especially at WR and CB)? Will the
offense look ready for prime time yet?
Also: How will the team handle a lengthy stretch on the road? Can
we continue to remain relatively injury-free against a relatively
"physical" Titan football team?...Will Anderson direct his passes
"low in the zone" and look more comfortable throwing on the
move?...How does the Hall dude look? Can Skelton repeat last
week's successes?...Are we picking up consistent positive
ground-yardage? S Williams vs. O Jones vs.Toler vs. Komar vs. Gant
vs. M Jones...M Green vs. McBride vs. Calvin vs. Jefferson vs. J
Miller vs. Adams...Edge pass rush pizazz - especially from Baggs,
Joey P & Cody B...
For a preview of the Tennessee game, click
Preseason Game: What Do We Want to Learn? -- Holmdel,
NJ -- Thurs. Aug. 12 -- We play Houston at home on
Saturday; but it really doesn't matter who we're playing because
what preseason is all about is "discovering who we are." So who
are we? Are we what we'd hope we are? Let's take a look:
Do we look crisp. Can we run
the ball? Do we look sharp throwing it?
Burning issue of camp has to
be: "what will we be like compared to Warner?" Realistically, we
figure to be better in some areas and less-good in others. All
eyes will be on Matt Leinart: How well will he move his team? How
consistent is he? How effective is he in the red zone? His backup,
Derek Anderson has a cannon-arm, but how accurate and effective is
he at moving the team, playing with consistency and putting the
ball in the end zone? In short: can we feel confident that -
should he need to step in, he can do the job? There will also be
more than peripheral interest in the two rooks - Skelton (is his
savvy catching up with his arm)? and Hall (does he have enough arm
to go with his savvy)?
Little to learn other than
to assess the overall effectiveness of our running attack and how
well our RB's look in pass pro. We hope we'll get to see a little
of Alfonso Smith (if he can go) and whether LSH looks bigger,
stronger and more confident with a year plus another off-season
under his belt. Also how our FB's (Broughton and Mauia look in the
The impression everyone has
is that this the most loaded unit on our roster talent-wise. Fitz,
Breaston and Doucet appear to be locks for the first 3
roster spots, but after that, it will be a war for survival.
Something will have to give. Breaston, Doucet and Gant are nicked
up and may not see much action - which frees up playing time for
Roberts, O Jones and S Williams. Two burning questions: (1)Can
Roberts pick it up? and (2) Can Williams make a big enough
impression in a "real" game to justify his staying on the active
roster instead of spending a year on the PS? (Note - in a leaner
year or on another team, this issue would be a no-brainer, but on
the Cardinals the smartest move from a long-range standpoint might
be to stash Williams on the PS in order to save a roster-spot for
Roberts, O Jones or Gant. He may have to knock everyone's socks
off in order to make the active roster).
Arguably the thinnest position
on the roster (& one plagued by injuries). We won't see Patrick,
probably won't see Dray and Becht may not be totally good to go.
Which should give Spach and Byrd golden opportunities to show
everyone what they've got.
It will have a totally new
look, although ironicall, its personnel haven't changed all that
much. As a unit, everyone will want to see whether it's become a
more dominant force in the running game. And, given its problems
in pass pro throughout camp. the burning question will be: "Was it
because they were so bad? Or was it because our defense has looked
so good?" Individually, we'll want to see (a) how Levi looks at
LT, (b) what Faneca brings to the LG position, (c) who looks best
at RG: Deuce, Reggie or Hadnot?, (d) how Keith looks over at RT,
(e) how much, if at all, Herman Johnson has improved and (f) I'm
just really intrigued about theUDFA from Michigan (Moosman) who,
it is said, can play all 5 positions
Are all 11 guys playing well
together? Will the intensity and aggressiveness of camp carry over
into actual games? Will our defense be riskier, safer or the same
as it was last year?
We know what we have in
Calais, Dockett. How does the rook (D Williams) look inside? Will
Gabe live up to his camp billings? We keep getting mixed messages
about Branch. Is he playing consistently hard down after down?
What do we gain/lose with the
departure of Chike, B-Train and Dansby and the additions of Joey
Porter, Stevie Baggs, Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington (plus the
return of Cody Brown from IR)? Will this group look more
aggressive? More field-smart? Quicker to the ball? Will any of the
lesser-knowns (i.e. Tugafau, R Walker) step up and make a name for
Will our expectations - that in
Rhodes in place of Rolle, we'll get a smarter safety with better
range and sounder techniques in exchange for home-run capability
after the pick or fumble recovery - be fulfilled? Who will play
opposite DRC and, whomever it is, will be be more aggressive, play
more man and be equally effective at both corners? Naturally, our
eyes will be on Toler, McBride and Adams (if the nicked-up Toler
and McBride are good to go). We also would like to see whether our
younger corners (Green, Calvin or Jefferson) have anything to
offer and/or are ready for prime time.
We seem to be locked in at
K, P and LS, but there remain questions in the return game.
Breaston and LSH represent the status quo; however, we may want to
relieve Breaston of the physical strain and risk now that he's
considered our #2 receiver. So - as it seems to be in every camp -
are there any unknown budding Devon Hestors waiting for their big
break? Calvin? McBride? Roberts? Plus - you can take it to the
bank that at least a half-dozen kids will make the final roster
based on their dual-roles as position-players and on coverage
teams (so it behooves us all not to leave the room for an
extra cold one during punts, kickoffs or FG's).
Anyway, those are the things I'll be looking for - no
predictions/no expectations. Just exceitement (This is like
opening up Christmas packages in August). For Game Preview,
Learned From R&W Scrimmage -- Holmdel, NJ --Sun. Aug.
8 -- TWhile it was nice to give Cardinal fans a hands-on chance to
see their team in action in game-circumstances, there was very
little in fan or media reports to change many impressions about
this team or specific players. If anything, they tended to confirm
what we thought we knew already. Highlights:
Leinart looked uneven (good
mixed in with bad). Wiz attributed much of this to "protection
problems." Anderson said to move the team better, but still
inconsistent. No reason to indicate that Matt is still #1 on
the depth chart. Hall looked more "ready" than Skelton.
Nice stuff by Ware to stop
Beanie at the GL.
Too much dropsy at WR.. Doucet
(out due to abdominal strain(...talk of camp continues to be
Stephen Williams (among his catches, one for a TD from
Total dominance by the
defensive front seven (One fan on ASFN's board admitted to
being "terrified" of Cardinal offensive line play, but this
may be due to the combination of how good the D-line is and
time for the O-line to jell. Or not).
Toler (in McBride's absence)
started opposite DRC. While he has yet to totally seize the
opportunity, he is inching toward the starting spot and looked
pretty good last night - including a pick going up against
Mash Unit - Doucet (abdominal
pull)...Ali (hammy - 2 weeks)...Adams (undisclosed)...Patrick
(kneecap)...A Smith (neck burner)...Becht (back)...Dray
(groin)...Abduallah (hammy)...Hayes (back rehab -
PUP)...Schofield (knee rehab - PUP)
Letters From Camp #5 --
Holmdel, NJ --Sat. Aug. 7 -- True, there's always
something going on at Training camp, but not much out of the
ordinary during the past few days to warrant a blog (i.e. if there
isn't much to report, I'm not going to try to manufacture
Big deal of the week is the Red & White
Scrimmage tonight. It should give both fans and media a better
idea of who looks good in full-pads vs. who looks good in shorts.
Briefs: According to stuff among fans and
media : Leinart has been looking "pretty good" and is beginning to
separate from D Anderson and the others....Pass rusher Stevie
Braggs has been looking good...T. McBride injured a groin...Doucet
took a hit and then became 'invisible' in remainder of
drills...Wiz considers Lutui "still too heavy but peforming OK.
Regrets the weight issue needing to occupy camp time....LSH is
being given more responsibility and will become more a part of
each game plan rather than an add-on....Roberts has rebounded from
a shaky early camp...the defense has been dominating in
drills...Wiz has had nice words to say about Levi Brown...Wiz has
been rotating time-off from practices among key vets...He likes
the intensity, but considers it more an outgrowth of
competitveness than anything cooked-up beforehand...Wiz pointed
out that changes in daily routine often will result in
distractions and more mistakes, but changes-in routineare a fact
of life you must deal with to win. and you learn from
mistakes...Although we're thin at TE in wake of Patrick's kneecap
injury, Wiz is reluctant to reach to replenish depth at the
position...Cards plan to retain hybrid (3-4/4-3) defensive look.
Mash: Becht (back), Dray (quad), Abdullah
(hammy), Patrick (kneecap), J Clark (groin), A Smith (neck
stinger), Komar (knee), Ali (undetermined)
Letters From Camp #4 --
Holmdel, NJ -- Wed. Aug. 4 -- They did it again - The
latest non-news about Brett ("Will he or won't he") Favre sucked
up all the media attention that should have gone to early doin's
at 31 other training camps. What a freaking bore!
Judging from comments by observers, camp seems to have
settled down to more of anormal routine yesterday (with a few vets
given the day off by Wiz). Only one published scrap: Fitz vs.
Adams. I guess the watchword of yesterday might be: "Win one/lose
one/win one/lose one" - i.e. Lineman A would stop Lineman B
on one play, and then the ourcome would be reversed on the next -
says a lot about the competitiveness and resiliancy of this group
of Cardinal players.
A few highspots from Cardinal Underground: Roberts caught
everything yesterday (including a couple in traffic)...Dan
Williams is still adjusting to the altitude...Keith looks "solid"
(stopping the unstoppable Darnell Dockett on one play)...It's
"shocking" that 6-5 (sub-4.4) rookie UDFA Stephen Williams didnt
get drafted - also a precise route-runner and catches away from
his body. Keep an eye on this guy....
Gonzo - Bowser, Highwsmith and Mutadhid. Arrived:
Dan Williams (sighed), Tugafau (former Card) and Rouse (6-4 223 lb
Mash Unit: Barksdale (wearing boot), R Walkwer
(undetermined), Dray (quad), Abdullah (hammy), Schofield (knee).
Fitz has been gutting out sore ribs.
QB - Matt's footwork is
better than the other 3 guys. Anderson "threw well." Wiz has
pulled Hall aside after good plays for extra coaching.
RB - Nice spin move by Beanie. Rookie Alphonso
Smith looks shifty & very quick.
WR - Roberts caught everything. Breaston dropped
a couple. Williams perhaps the suprise of camp.
OL - Keith looking solid. Lutui playing well.
Many linemen exchanging "wins & losses" with defensive
DL - Campbell continues to impress - may play at
300 lbs. Watson described as playing like an "absolute animal." D
Williams generally held his own vs,. Deuce.
LB - D Washington looks quick to the
ball...putting in extra pre-practice time with coaches. Highwsmith
DB - Toler made an
acrobatic break-up of deep ball. Rhodes looks taller than
expected. Rouse is a big (6-3 223 lb) addition.
Letters From Camp #3 -- Holmdel, NJ --
Tues. Aug. 3 -- It's official - Top draft pick, Dan Williams , is
signed sealed & delivered. Watching him on tape, the one thing
that stood out was that he looked less the part of a wide-bodied
space-eater and more like a very large old-school Mike LB who
ranged easily from side to side. Watching him in action will be a
lot of fun.
A series of scuffles marked Day #3: Fitz and Joey Porter locked
horns in punt coverage, and Joey came away with a bloody lip.
Steven Spach was at it again (this time vs. Cody Brown, with Joey
Porter offering encouragement ant guidance to his fellow LB). Mark
Washington went at it with Tom Pestock. The biggies featured
Darnell Dockett blowing up Alan Faneca and then grabbing for Matt
Leinart's ankle. Leinart threw the ball at Nine-Oh's feet, and
Levi Brown jumped into fray. In each case, all was forgiven.
("We're all family", according to Dockett). Wiz seemed to take a
"kids will be kids" approach to the scuffling, but had earlier
said he will come down hard on dumb chippy stuff in real games.
Andre Roberts continues to have problems catching the football
(which, after all, is a fairly important part of any receiver's
job description), but both he, the coaches and fellow players are
downplaying this as the result of overconcentration on getting the
plays right and running the right routes...Wiz says that Beanie's
pass catching skill is "underrated." Wells also singled out for
improvement in pass pro...Derek Anderson "completed a pass to
himself" (his pass bounced off Roberts and a defender, giving
Anderson a second shot at the ball).
"From the fans" - Deuce Lutui was said to be unusually intense,
vocal and combative in drills. He and Branch went at it.Pretty
deep ball from Anderson to Williams (Wolf has expressed excitement
over Williams)...Leinart said to be disappointingly inaccurate in
drills (He did hit Gant with a pretty 50-yarder, though. But then
he missed Gant on another 50-yard gimme). Anderson's and Skelton's
footwork remains "sloppy"...O Jones and Gant continue to
consistently make plays...McBride and Watson had good days...Joey
Porter looked frisky...One fan described Day 3 drills as the most
physical and intense of any he can remember. (Just a perception,
but I get the feeling that Darnell Dockett is beginning to adopt a
Ray Lewis-like personna - and I like it!).
I always find it amusing (& frustrating) to piece together the TV
schedules of preseason Cardinal games. This year is no different.
First place I always go to is my DirecTV schedule grid, and as
always, the schedule for the first game hasn't been posted yet;
(with the exception of the telecast on FSN-AZ which usually but
not always is blacked out to out-of-market viewers). Next place I
turn to (which - duh! -has all the scheduling info) is NFL Network
website. Eureka! Here it is - as follows:
Houston @ Cards (Sat. Aug. 14 - 8pm)
(Rebroadcast) - Mon. Aug. 16 - 1 am on NFLNetwork
Cards @ Tenn. (Mon. Aug. 23 - 8pm)
("Live") - ESPN
Cards @ Chicago (Sat. Aug. 28 - 8:30 pm)
TV (Rebroadcast) - Sun. Aug. 29 - 4pm on NFLNetwork
(Rebroadcast) - Mon. Aug. 30 - 11pm on NFLNetwork
Washington @ Cards (Thurs. Sept. 2 - 10pm)
TV ("Live") - NFLNetwork
All times are Eastern - None of the games
are "live" unless specified. Schedules have been known to change
at the last minute; so be sure to double-check. The Houston
rebroadcast is shown by NFL Network to be aired at "1 am" at the
end of its Sun. Aug. 15. schedule, so we're assuming it
"wraps around" so that it actually starts at 1 am Monday the 16th.
Letters From Camp #2 -- Holmdel, NJ --
Mon. Aug. 2 -- ESPN is reporting that Dan Williams is signed, but
(as of 10 am ET, nothing has been reported on the official
Cardinal website or NFL Net crawl, so I'll wait for confirming
info before jumping up and down with a Woo Hoo! (Note Somers is
running with the story in AZR). D Urban in this morning's blog
describes the deal as "mostly agreed-to but not done-done."...Plenty more media and fan practice anecdotes from
spent extra post-practice time working out with Gant and
said to look like a beast. Beanie, Ali (stone hands?) dropped
catch by Komar, lying on back (Lance Long II?) Breaston
dropped a pass or two. Roberts dropped 3...Doucet is looking
good...Gant looking better than O Jones
beat Rhodes for a 35 yard seam TD and got in a tussle with
beaten a couple of times. Herman Johnson's physical dominance
stood out. Keith said to "look strong" at RT.
was blowing up everything in sight...Calais is working
intensely - as though his job depended on it. Branch struggled
vs. H. Johnson.
(Daryl Johnson) looked smooth in coverage. Last year's second
round pick (Cody Brown) looked lost in coverage. Sando says
Lutui looks more like 345-350 than 360 and seems to carry his
DRC had a very good day (He
credits going up one-on-one vs. Fitz for making him
better)...Toler said to have had a good day, but Bill Davis
describes him as "taking baby steps...but that's not enough."
The more experienced McBride still occupies the starting
corner slot opposite DRC, but his height may prove problematic
over the long haul...Rashad Johnson started a bit slowly
(& got yelled at by the coaches for lack of concentration) but
picked up steam as practice wore on - blowing up a catch by
Onrea Jones and getting into a scuffle with Steven Spach.
Coaches want him to be more physical and Johnson evidently is
responding...Matt Ware showed nice COD skills in spin
drills...Justin Miller "didn't look all that fluid"..Jorrick
Calvin has not impressed (hands?) but is putting in extra
Graham was booming punts
indoors...Calvin dropped his first 2 punts, but then went 5
for 5. Roberts (2 for 2) did OK. Green still looked the best
of the group returning punts.
Mash Unit -
Abdullah (hammy) joins Mutahdi calf),
Schofield (knee) on sideline
I'll repeat a word of caution I posted elsewhere on ASFN's site:
The practice minutae is interesting and in many cases may be a
good predictor of things to come for any given player. But
some of it may represent overkill. Sifting out what's relevant and
what's not is what makes training camp so much fun for us fans
(but sift we must). Click
here to check out my Cardinal Camp
Battle Chart by player.
Letters From Camp #1 -- Holmdel, NJ --
Sun. Aug. 1 -- Training Camp opened yesterday. Darnell is in the
house...Only unsigned rook is NT Dan Williams...Everyone
(including Deuce) passed the conditioning test...Deuce weighed in
at 360 (better but not where they want him)...Branch and Watson
weighed in at 324 and 326...DL Dean Mutahdi (aka "The Iron Shiek")
was the first camp casualty with a calf injury....We're starting
to see podcasts of camp interviews on the official Cardinal, KTAR
and XTRA 920 websites.
Football is back!
Not much specific to report after
day one (& I'd caution us all not to overemphasize every single
dropped punt, missed assignment or screwed up drill that somenone
says they saw during the first day of practice). That said, there
were some interesting bits of info:
The OL depth chart starts out
with LT L Brown (backed by Bridges), LG Faneca (backed by
Hadnot), C Sendlein (backed by Claxton), RG Wells (backed by
Lutui) and RT Keith (backed by Johnson). But that could change
early and often. Keep an eye on UDFA Moosman (a Michigan
lineman who can also play a little center and is said to be
working his butt off).
Of the QB's, Leinart is said
to be working hard, looking the most accurate and having the
best footwork. Anderson has a cannon and looks OK operating
from the pocket, but loses accuracy and confidence when forced
to move out of the pocket. Skelton has the biggest arm of the
group but appears to have slowish feet.
No one looked good returning
punts (including draft picks Calvin and Roberts) with perhaps
the exception of Marshay Green.
Branch was singled out by one
fan for a lackluster effort in drills. But the same source
singled out Jeremy Clark for looking most relentless and nasty
in dummies/cones drills.
THT and Beanie look fired up
and ready to go...Fitz displayed his usual ridiculous
talent....DRC's toe feels OK, but he feels he's only 85%
confortable with the knee.
Roster Questions as
We Head for Camp -- Holmdel, NJ -- Wed. July
28 -- We're only a day or two away from Training Camp. When you
review the roster, it suddenly hits you: This is a very different
team from the one that lost to New Orleans in the playoffs. This
shouldn't surprise you - the media has hammered this home all
during the off-season. Where they may have gone off the tracks,
however, is when they assume that a "different" team is
necessarily a lesser one. But at the very least, we'd still have
to concede that this team brings with it plenty of questionmarks.
Let's review them position by position:
How much have Matt Leinart
and Derek Anderson improved during the off-season (out of
visibility by the fans)? What will our offense be like with either
QB at the helm compared to what we did under Kurt Warner? Will
Matt fight off the challenge posed by Derek? How do the 2 newbies
(Skelton and Hall) look?
Will we see the same Beanie
or THT we saw last season? Or are there areas where they might
Can Early D completely fill
the shoes left by Q? How good is Roberts? Who will be the #5 guy?
O Jones or possibly one of the UFA's?
Will it be TE by committee
again (with Patrick and Byrd the catchers and Becht and Spach the
blockers)? Or will Patrick emerge as the main guy?
Can Levi effectively hold
down the LT spot? Is Keith ready for prime time over on the right
side? Who will be our two starting guards: Faneca and Hadnot or
Lutui or Wells? Can Faneca still bring it? How important will his
leadership be? Will Lutui eventually once again fit into one seat
on an airplane?
Will this be Calais
break-out year? With the addition of the rook (Williams) will we
be more of a standard 3-4, with Watkins, Williams and Branch at NT
and Darnell outside? Or will Bill Davis continue to move Darnell
Who will take over inside for
Dansby and the injured Hayes? How effective will our ILB play be
compared to last year? How good (& how "ready") is our second pick
(Daryl Washington)? How much gas does Joey have left in the
proverbial tank? Will Porter and either Baggs, our 2 picks from
last year or one of the other youngsters give us enough of a pass
How good can DRC
eventually be? Will he continue to progress or is their danger of
a fall-back in performance? Can Toler pick up from where he left
off in the playoffs? How good can our corner-tandem be should both
play to potential? How about our new young pickups (Calvin and
Jefferson)? How will our play at FS differ with Rhodes in and
Rolle gone? Can we expect more solid play and better matchups in
our secondary vs.a year ago?
More consistency from Feely
than from Rackers? Can Feely kick off deep enough? Who'll return
punts and kickoffs? Who'll replace Morey and Urban on coverage
teams? Will we be OK covering kicks and punts?
Are you ready for some football?
Setting the Table for Camp -- Holmdel, NJ -Thurs. July
22 - We're 8 days out, and isolated tidbits of early info are
beginning to trickle in: Deuce Lutui is, indeed,
a gazillion pounds overweight...Gerald Hayes
waited too long to pull the trigger on back surgery (undertaken
"several weeks ago") and the length of his rehab time is yet to be
"evaluated"...Dan Williams is said to be working
his but off under the watchful eye of Darnell Dockett
(who incidently lives 5 doors down from Joey Porter)...Gabe
Watson finally appears to be over his knee, has worked hard in the
off-season and is said to be in his best shape ever...Dockett (aka
Nine-Oh) has handled his contract-extension issue with class (he
isn't wimping out about needing to get something done, but at the
same time has been "team-first" in every other respect of his
personal and football life). there have been positive comments
about Matt Leinart's off-season work-ethic....Top
draft picks Dan Williams, Daryl
Washington and O Brien Schofield
remain unsigned. The uncertainty over a new League-Player
compensation-structuring agreement is said to have made signing
top draft choices more complicated. Schofield may represent a less
urgent signing-situation (since he is rehabbing a knee and, not
expected to play very much (if at all) in 2010.
I guess you could say that every NFL club will have its "issues."
The Cardinals have fewer than most, but Lutui and Hayes are the
two that trouble me. Lutui's weight may earn him a gig as a
balloon at the NYC Thanksgiving Day Parade. The snotty
remark by his agent, Ken Harris ("If
the club isn't pleased with him, I'm happy to assist them on a
possible trade") was uncalled for. As for Hayes, you
would have thought by now that players and team would place a
higher priority on making decisions about surgery early enough to
get the rehab out of the way early enough to avoid a lot of
downtime during Camp and regular season.
Assuming the latest news about Deuce and Gerald is fairly
accurate, I think the team has to presume that neither Lutui or
Hayes will be available for most if not all the 2010 season and
will have to look elsewhere for starting and backup roster depth.
With the addition on Hadnott and Faneca, they appear to have done
a good job of bolstering the guard position.
However, the Cards are pretty thin at ILB - especially behind
Hayes (considered to be - far and away - the best run
stopper on the team, with little depth behind him). With Karlos
Dansby gone, both ILB positions are vulnerable and present
tremendous opportunities for backup veterans and youngsters to
step up and make a case. Joey Porter and Clark Haggans figure to
hold down the two OLB positions, but there's more overall
flexibility at LB than meets the eye. The early fill-ins for
Dansby and Hayes figure to be Paris Lenon and Monte Beisel
(adequate but not earth-shattering). Cody Brown (back from rehab)
is listed at 244. Will Davis checked in last year at 261 and
either certainly would be big enough to play inside. Beisel is
arguably the second best run-stopping LB behind Hayes. Reggie
Walker flashed ability in limited play last year and can play
inside as has Ali Highsmith. We don't know much about youngsters,
Mark Washington or Chris Johnson, but you never know with young
LB's. Plus - should former CFL sack artist Stevie Baggs play to
potential, it could free Haggans to move inside. In addition, all
this interchangeability could create some really interesting
disguised-looks from DC Bill Davis (i.e. by making all four LB
positions interchangeable, he could create nightmares for opposing
QB's and centers trying to figure out "who MIKE is").
8 days and counting...
What Gripes me About LeBron
-- Holmdel, NJ - Sun. July 11 - Not what you'd think.
I don't give a rat's damn about city's betrayed or mega-bucks
earned or denied (other than to point out that (a) I like my teams
to earn their way to success rather than buy
their way into a championship and (b) have always felt that, if a
player has such a burning desire to earn that ring, he should do
so by helping his own team get to the promised land and not by
expecting some other team to help him get there).
It's that, as sports fans, we've taken our eye off the proverbial
ball, and it's partly our own fault. It doesn't matter whether
we're talking about LeBron James, Brett Favre or Wayne Gretzky;
what's traditionally drawn fans a sport is...the sport
- not the headlines,not the gossip and certainly not fake TV
specials on ESPN. I want to watch, hear and talk about
the game of football; not about Brett's eating habits or Mike
Vick's arrest record.
It's partly our fault. In our obsessive zeal to learn everything
possible about what goes on behind the scenes in pro football or
what makes a particular player tick (one doesn't have go much
further than our own multi-analysis of pro prospects in the BRS
Draft Special to see where that's taken us), we've breached the
boundaries between (a) wanting to know important stuff and (b)
wanting to know everything.
I therefore respectfully propose the following way to sort out
which bit of sports content is relevant or frivolous: If a tidbit
of information can be directly linked to the issue of "how it
affects performance on the field", it's relevant. If it doesn't,
I realize that there will be an area of gray as broad and murky as
a Gulf oil slick; but one way to look at it is this: News about
Deuce Lutui really liking baby back ribs isn't news. But if it
turns out, he eats 9 or 10 portions at a time, causing his weight
to explode to 395 lbs., it's news (because it quite likely will
have an impact on how well Deuce performs on the field - if he's
allowed to perform at all).
So enough about LeBron, enough about Vick and Ja Marcus. And
enough about Favre. Give us more X's, more O's and more hitting.
Deuce Expected to Re-sign - Holmdel, NJ -
Wed. June 9 - According to Deuce Lutui's new agent, the Cardinal
guard is expected to sign his qualifying offer in the next few
days before the signing-deadline. (The ins and outs of NFL
contract procedures dictate that missing the deadlin would cost
Deuce roughly one million of the $1.5 million contained in the
I'm glad Lutui will be with us for the coming year for two
reasons: (1) chemistry - he's a lifelong Cardinal fan and
self-described Leinart O-line "protector" since they were college
teammates and (2) depth - with the off-season additions of Faneca
and Hadnot, the Cardinals are 2-deep in veteran interior linemen
(2½-deep if you throw in the versatile Bridges).
The one thing we fans don't know much about is what's been going
on inside Lutui's head - both (a) on the field (What's been
causing him to take dumb penalties - is it a lack of concentration
or problems with technique? What's he feel like when he screws up
and how does this affect his subsequent play?) and (b) with regard
to his contract (Is he angry? Does he feel betrayed? Did he
just want to skip OTA's? Was he getting bad advice from his
I've always been a "depth guy" The Cards under Wiz and John
Lott have been blessed by the O-Line Injury Gods, but how long can
that run of luck continue? The security of added depth at both
guards means that Russ Grimm should be more willing to roll the
dice in the areas of position-switching and rolling the dice
on one or more promising but untried youngsters.
"Breakout Years" etc. - Holmdel, NJ -
June 3 - Tough day involving a decision as to how much time I'll
give our ailing 14-year old cat time to recover before pulling the
plug. (Decision time is "noon-tomorrow"). OK. Back to sports:
As far as I'm concerned, Gallaraga pitched a
perfect game and MLB should make this an official fact. The
Commissioner should arbitrarily reverse the call on the final play
and declare the game a "perfect game."
Dissenters will point to "setting a dangerous precedent",
"changing the rules after the fact" etc. etc. My take is a
bit different and is based on an old NHL precedent which - before
instant video technology - would reverse a call and even roll back
remaining-minutes to the point where the goal-call was to be
changed. I'm not suggesting that MLB go that far - only that
an important call on the final play of a game - where its reversal
would have no bearing on events to come afterwards - should be
subject to video-review and, where appropriate, reversal.
Implication of this rule would either be that (a) baseball
stats/records could be set straight and/or (b) a game could be
extended or ended due to review and possible reversal of what
could be a final play. Pure common sense suggests that the
right thing to do would be "to set the record straight for all
time " and award Gallaraga the deserved-honor of pitching a
It seems as though every NFL highlight show and website is filling
the June news-void with speculation over which players are likely
to have "breakout years" in 2010. Most frequently mentioned
Cardinals are Beanie Wells, Early Doucet and
Calais Campbell.The list is too short - the
number of Cardinals who might or might not have breakout years is
what makes the upcoming season so interesting (& the current
offseason so much fun).
Consider Matt Leinart (who now has the tools, the
receivers and the opportunity to shine). Or Brandon Keith
(favored to get his first chance to start at RT). Or Greg
Toler (who, though raw as rain at the beginning of last
season, demonstrated excellent ball-skills, a willingness to hit
and readiness to step up in the playoffs). Or Cody Brown
(a 2nd round pick coming off an injury) or Will Davis
(a rookie last year who played like a veteran when called
on).There are a few other players who areless lkely to
"break through" but could surprise us all - 2nd year man
Rashad Johnson (probably stuck behind Kerry Rhodes as
safety) or members of this year's draft crop like Daryl
Washington or Dan Williams
And of course, the really neat thing about the NFL (& the
Cardinals) is that there are probably a few guys further down the
roster who will come out of nowhere to step up and become solid
Welcome to the
mid-June "Black Hole" - Holmdel, NJ - Wed.
June 2 - Memorial Day weekend is over, & we're in the midst of
OTA's; which means that (a) any news of substance is in short
supply and (b) superhuman feats see in non-contact drills and
subtle revisions to the depth chart tend to be overblown.
Matt Leinart has received the lions share of media attention,
within the context of Kurt Warner's retirement and the logical
conversion from last year's pass happy offense to something more
run oriented and smashmouthed. To which I say: "Not so fast!"
Coach Wiz's MO from the very beginning has been to "operate on the
fly" and to work with what he's got at any point in the season. We
forget that Whisenhunt didn't "plan" to open up his offense the
moment he put Kurt Warner in to replace Leinart - instead, he
dialed up plays and formations based on what seemed to be working
on the field at the time. When it made sense to bench
Edge and play Hightower, that's what he did - until he felt we'd
have a better chance of winning with Edge in there. I think that's
what we'll continute to see this season with THT and Beanie.
All of which is meant to say that - contrary to what we're hearing
from Ron Wolfley and others - I don't think it's a slam dunk that,
with Leinart under center, you'll see the Cardinals revert to a
Jerome Bettis smashmouth attack. What we do will depend on what
Matt can bring to the table, and - if he can execute a more
wide-open passing attack, Wiz will open up his offense
commensurate with what Matt can do.
Final point - the media is overblowing the issues of Leinart's job
security, Bulger rumors etc. The way I see it, it's Leinart's job
to lose (and there are no indications (albeit working out in
shorts) that he'll lose it. But that doesn't rule out
thepossibility that Derek Anderson won't get his mojo back from
that earlier 29 passing-touchdown season, regain his accuracy and
knock everybody's socks off. (Should that happen, he could earn
the right to start instead of Leinart). But I'd give that
possibility a 10 - 15% likelihood of happening. Barring anything
earth-shattering, I think Matt Leinart will be our starter and
that he'll do just fine.
NYC/NJ Super Bowl - Holmdel, NJ - Tues.
May 25 - The news came as no surprise. But - having lived in NYC
and its suburbs all my life - the announcement did evoke a series
of thoughts, memories and observations:
Back in the day, I attended
more than a few blustery mid-winter Giant games games
(including their loss to the Baltimore Colts in "the Greatest
Game Ever Played." (I seem to recall that the coldest game
that year was a playoff game a week or two earlier vs. the
Cleveland Browns). The one memory that, for some weird reason,
stands out the most was the steam created when you
spilled steaming boullion, hot chocolate or coffee on your
glove. That plus the lack of feeling in your toes.
Funny thing is that I don't
remember any "snow games" at Yankee Stadium. Yale Bowl or
Giant Stadium (at least nothing to compare with the 1948
Cardinal loss to the Eagles in the NFL Championship game). But
what I do remember is what the swirling Meadowlands winds
could do to a deep-out or a long FG attempt - and how the
Giants were said to manipulate this big door at the north end
of the field to influence the length and direction of a
late-game kick. (I was in the press box the year Jeff
Hostetler and the Giants "stole" a game from us on just such a
FG late in the game).
Did you happen to catch on the
tubes a glimpse of red-blazer-clad Bill Bidwill clapping in
the background of what looked like the Giants-Jets war-room
suite as the Super Bowl 2014 announcement was made. We should
never forget that the Bidwill and Mara families have been
friendly from way-back-when. It makes me wonder what kind of
inside deals and political alliances may have been been forged
over the years and what formal or informal markers remain to
be cashed in by either party.
Which leads to a possible quid
pro quo. Here we have a warm-weather team (the Cardinals)
supporting a Super Bowl hosted by a couple of cold-weather
teams (including the Giants). This is clearly a departure from
the "level playing field" criterion of the recent past -
since a team who practices and plays in a cold-weather city
would otherwise have a distinct advantage in blustery weather
or a "snow game" over a team that practices in a warmer clime.
How do we set that right ? From a
Cardinals' standpoint, how about this trade-off: "We'll support a
Super Bowl in NYC/NJ, but in exchange, we'd like to see an end to
the lopsided number of early-season Cardinal away-games
(obsensibly scheduled to avoid the oppressive desert heat). The
northeastern teams should get their snow/wind advantage, but so
too should the Cards benefit from playing more early games in hot
weather. There, ladies and gents, is your quid pro quo.
Wandering Off the Res - Holmdel, NJ -
Tues. May 4 - Welcome to the "black hole" of offseason - where the
football media frantically searches for things to write about
while the rest of us gnaw our lips off waiting for training camp
to begin and search the "tea leaves" of the OTA's and mincamps for
any indication that might provide the slightest of clues
about what we can expect next season. Which, therefore, gives me
tacit permission to write about anything I feel like - whether
football-related or not. So here goes (I hope I don't bore you too
The Draft Grades are all in. The CW is that Seattle and the Niners
aced the draft (with the Cardinals a respectable 3rd in our
division). This before the hitting begins in Camp (let alone how
any of these guys play in real games. We shouldn't be surprised:
Each team had two picks in the top half of the draft, and Pete
Carroll and Mike Singletary make for sexier copy than does Ken
Whisenhunt (who quietly and effectively goes about his business
continuing to build a successful football franchise...Cards signed
another FB (Charles Ali, FA most recently from Cleveland and
Meanwhile, I've been zeroing in on other sports while pro football
lies dormant - Usually, around now, my attention is focused on the
Stanley Cup, but that's because the NJ Devs are usually deep into
the playoffs. But not (again!) this year...They got blacktopped by
Philly and neither they or their (now retired) head coach, Jacques
Lemair, seemed to muster much swagger......My alma mater (The
Johns Hopkins Blue Jays) faced extinction from the NCAA LAX
playoffs for the first time in 39 years. In order to even be
considered for the NCAA playoffs, the unranked Jays had to beat #9
ranked Loyola yesterday - which they did fairly comfortably. Kudos
to HC Dave Petromala - who had to make tough decisions to bench
his underachieving veterans in favor of playing a whole bunch of
talented freshman who may have stepped in just in time to save an
otherwise dismal season. Jays have the longest streak of playoff
participation of any college team in any major NCAA sport. It will
be up to the NCAA lacrosse committee to vote them in. Or not.
(Logically - based on factors like "strengthof schedule" - Hopkins
should make the playoffs but stranger things have happened, so I'm
keeping my fingers crossed).
My baseball Cardinals looked as though they were going to run away
with the NL Central Division until their hitters collectively lost
their mojo (they all seem to be guess-hitting instead of "hitting
what they see"). Makes you wonder whether controversial player and
hitting coach Mark McGwire may be feeding them bad
advice...Speaking of controversial, I've got to believe Bidwills
are quietly praying that the Arizona immigration issue will
quietly fade into the sunset without the Cardinals being forced to
take a stand one way or the other. I thought "Los Suns" stepped up
to the plate and handled the issue appropriately (some might say
elegantly), but that shouldn't surprise you - see my coments a
couple of posts ago. I must confess to hoping the Cardinals would
do me proud and address the issue but fully understand the
realpolitik of why they might prefer to keep well below the line
of fire...Today is Mothers Day, and I have two moms in the house
to say "thanks" to - (1) The love of my life - "Dr. Mrs.Gollin" -
first name Bryna and (2) Her 92-year old mom and vicious Oriole
fan, Gert. Today is for them: A bouquet of fresh fruit and, later
on dinner at the best seafood restaurant in the area. Bryna got an
unexpected gift this weekend in the form of migrating
humming birds returning to our back deck feeder)...Both Bryna and
Gert have had to put up with me and my obsession with the
Cardinals, including 3 days disappearance from normal life each
Spring to watch the Draft. (Moms, indeed, are cool)!
Cards Sign Veteran
KR/Corner - Holmdel, NJ - Tues. May 4 -
Former Jets kick returner and CB Justin Miller is now a Cardinal.
He signed a one year contract after a minicamp tryout. He had a
couple of good years returning kickoffs for the Jets (in 2005 &
2006) but fell victim to assorted injuries and only appeared
sporadically since then with the Jets and Raiders.
Scarcely a high-profile signing, but you never know - Miller was a
highly-regarded young CB at one time (but lacks the interception
and other defensive numbers to demonstrate it). At the very least,
he adds a veteran presence to a very young group of Cardinal
corners. And who knows - maybe a lot more.
Exit Phase 1/Welcome to
Phase 2 -
Holmdel, NJ - Mon. May 3 -
Phase 1 (the Draft) is now in the NFL history books. The Cards
completed their first minicamp which marked the beginning of Phase
2 (Survival and Team Building).
With very few exceptions, we pretty much know who'll be
competing for a roster spot. (We can only speculated who'll
actually be around to start the season; but the uncertainty of
"who's going to be signed and who are we going to draft is now
Let the speculation begin. But let's not forget - it's
speculation (as in "we think we know, but we can't
be 100% sure). A couple of undrafted free agents may
surprise & amaze us all. A high draft pick may tear up a labrium
or pull a hammy. A big ol' lineman may eat his way north of
400 lbs. A deep roster-unit might become thin overnight due to a
spate of injuries. An unathletic overachiever will win our hearts
but (sob!) fall prey to the Turk on cutdown day.
Lots of talk about "who'll wind up as our starting QB", "whether
we'll need to bring in a veteran corner", "how much gas Joey P
andr Alan F have in their proverbial tank" or "how well our
O-line will adjust to its shake-up in personnel."
My suggestion -tune out the prognosticators, let it play itself
out and enjoy the ride.
Politics and Football: Why They Don't Mix (Except for Now)...
Holmdel, NJ - Thurs. April 29 -
Like football, politics dredge up great passions, and if you're a
Cardinal rooter, the last thing you'd want to do is create
division among the fan base.
But there are rare exceptions to any rule. Arizona's new
immigration law is one of them.
3/4 of a century ago, many good folks - not wishing to offend or
derail their country's effort to regain some degree of prominence
- kept their mouth shut and didn't speak up. Six-million of my
people (and millions of others) were erased from the planet.
I'm a Cardinal fan. I don't want to drive a wedge into the fan
base. But if I felt strongly that a wrong and unfair policy
undermined the core democratic principles of our nation and its
Constitution - and didn't speak up about it - I'd regret
it for the rest of my life. So I'm opening my mouth (and possibly
a whole can of worms) but I've got to do it.
In contrast with less democratic countries - where identity-checks
and midnight knocks on the door are not uncommon - the has always
been an overriding feeling of pride among most Americans that "our
nation has never been that way."
Til now. When you factor out all the cuteness and
game-playing found inside the verbage of Arizona's new immigration
law" what it really says is (to put it bluntly) is: "If you look
like a Mexican - regardless of whether or not you're a citizen, we
can roust you and check your ID." (How would you like it if you had moved-to Toronto or Vancouver only
to find that you were stopped and searched by local cops whenever
they felt like it)?
Now I don't want to come across as naiive, unrealistic or unfair.
I realize that the U.S. has a legitimate immigration/national
security problem that must be addressed. I agree that it's unfair
to tar the 35% or so of Arizonans that don't agree with the
Immigration law with the same brush and that those calling for a
boycott of Arizona goods and services will probably cause the very
people they want to help to lose their jobs. I also think MSNBC's
Chris Matthews has a point when he says that Americans at both
ends of the political spectrum tend to play the "Hitler-analogy"
card much to readily. I also respect the right of many
Arizonians/Cardinal fans be much more hawkish toward immigration
than I am.
But I also have a similar right (and, in fact, obligation) to call
people out when I think they are wrong. Follow my train of
I've been a Cardinal fan all my life - from when they were in
Chicago and then St. Louis (I rooted for them - not because they
were from the Windy or Gateway City but because they were "The
Cardinals"). Now they represent Arizona. (Maybe we'd all be better
off if all our teams were from nowhere - the Bears not being the
Chicago Bears but just Da Bears; the Jets being just the Jets
instead of the NYJets). But that's not the way it is - the
Cardinals are the Arizona Cardinals, and when the state they
represent does something really aggregious, let me tell you - it
doesn't make me proud to be a Cardinal fan.
Regarding the Chris Matthews comment - There is a huge difference
between (a) someone who vaguely objects to "too much government"
carrying a political sign depicting our President with a Hitlerian
mustache and (b) someone pointing out the similarity of
card-checks to the tactics of a police state. (The first
represents a pretty outlandish assertion; the second makes a more
substantive "cause & affect" word of caution).
These are not merely statistics
we're dealing with here - each Mexican-American: citizen or
non-citizen; legal or illegal has his/her own story to tell, life
to lead, dreams to dream and fears to overcome. Any policy - state
or Federal - should consider that it affects human beings;
each with a set of basic rights - human if not Constitutional.
Unlike some of my more hot-headed liberal friends and loved ones,
I don't intend to "give up the Cardinals" or go out of my way to
boycott everything Arizona. But I must tell you that wearing an
Arizona Cardinal jersey makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable right
now, so I'm inclined not to spring for a cool new black
alternative jersey - at leas not right now.
I will also press my local NJ congressman and the Federal
government to put Immigration Reform on the front burner and take
the appropriate steps to both safeguard our country and treat all
of its people fairly and humanely.
I will respect your right to vehemently disagree. But I will also
stand up, speak up and disagree right back.
Two prime time
TV games on Cards' Sked...
Holmdel, NJ - Tues. April 20 -
The NFL released the regular season schedule this evening. Here
are the high-spots:
We're on TV Mon. Nov. 29
(after Thanksgiving weekend) hosting the Niners and Christmas
Night Dec. 25 hosting. Team Felon.
Three of our first four games
(including the first two) are away games.
Bye Week falls on Week 6
(weekend of Oct. 16-17)
It's unlikely we'll play in a
snow game or blustery weather. Closest we come is Nov. 21 at
Kansas City and Dec. at Carolina.
All but two games are standard
Sunday afternoon games.
We have a nice three-game home
stretch from Nov. 9 to Dec. 12, hosting SF, StL and Denver.
Four Sunday afternoon games
are "1pm ET games." The other ten Sunday afternoon games are
"4pm ET games."
The only game where we face a
short work-week disadvantage is the Dec. 5 Ram game (where we
come of a MNF contest vs. SF).
Full schedule is as follows:
Sun. Sept. 12 - @ St.
Louis 4:15p ET (FOX)
We open away, but catch a young
rival undergoing a lot of changes early in the season.
Sun. Sept. 19 - @ Atlanta
1:00p ET (FOX)
Sun. Sept. 26 - Oakland
4:15p ET (CBS)
Better to deal with the Raider Nation
in our house than in theirs.
Sun. Oct. 3 - @ San Diego
4:15p ET (FOX)
First of two tough games
Sun. Oct. 10 - New Orleans
4:00p ET (FOX)
Arguably the toughest game on our
BYE (Comes at a
Sun. Oct. 24 - @ Seattle
4:05p ET (FOX)
Nice to catch Seahawks as we come off a
Sun. Oct. 31 - Tampa Bay
4:15p ET (FOX)
Sun. Nov. 7 - @ Minnesota
1:00p ET (FOX)
Probably our toughest away game.
Sun. Nov. 14 - Seattle
4:15p ET (FOX)
Sun. Nov. 21 - @ Kansas
City 1:00p ET (FOX)
First of two games where blustery
weather could be a factor (or not).
Mon. Nov. 29 - San
Francisco 8:30p ET (ESPN)
First of two meetings
against our toughest rival. Both teams enjoy extra midweek
practice day. One way to make Game 17 count less is to win this
Sun. Dec. 5 - St. Louis
4:15p ET (FOX)
We're at a minor disadvantage with a
short work-week coming off our MNF game vs. Niners. But do play at
home (and save a half-day's worth of travel time and at least StL
isn't the Saints, Vikes or Chargers.
Sun. Dec. 12 - Denver
4:15p ET (CBS)
2nd of three consecutive Denver road
Sun. Dec. 19 - @ Carolina
1:00p ET (FOX)
North Carolina has been known to get
snow occasionally (but not all that often).
Sat. Dec. 25 - Dallas
7:30p ET (NFL Network)
We play with part of one day's
less rest (but so does Team Felon)
Sun. Jan. 2 - @ Niners
4:15p ET (FOX)
True to the League's promised policy,
we play our toughest division rival in the last regular game of
the season. We get a half-day more rest than the Niners between
this game and the previous week.
(Note - Preseason schedule has
been finalized. We host Houston Aug. 14 (5 pm kickoff AZT). We
have the MNF football tilt @ Tennessee on Aug. 22. We play Sat.
Aug. 28 in Chicago and host the Skins Wed (!!!) Sept 1
Schedule to be
Holmdel, NJ -Wed. April 14 -
According to NFL Network, their official NFL Schedule Release Show
will be Tuesday, April 20 at 7 pm (ET) on Total Access.
Things to look for: (a) Nationally televised games, (b) potential
snow (or bad weather dates, (c) the Bye Week and (for us
Easterners) (d) which late Sunday afternoon games will conflict
with the dinner hour and (e) which early Sunday afternoon games
will take place in early Fall to conflict with beach time.
Rackers Era Over...
Holmdel, NJ - Fri. April 2 -
I wasn't sure whether the following news was legit - or whether it
was an April Fools prank, but Darren Urban (who reported it)
doesn't come across as an irresponsible "Merry Prankster" type, so
I'm assuming it's true:
Neil Rackers won't be back. Cards have signed Jay Feely to be our
kicker. I'll miss having that "extra tackler" on the field on our
return teams (Neal made more than his share of stops - a couple of
them TD-saving) but we'll like Jay's 30 of 36 FG's percentage.
Dropped/Ware to Return
Holmdel, NJ - Wed. March 31 -
Bakersfield police apparently are not going to pursue prosecution
of Joey Porter on the suspected DUI charge. Good for Joey and the
Cardinal. Expect many Cardinal fans to remain a bit nervous. Hope
Joey considers this a wake-up call.
Cards re-signed S/CB Matt Ware - especially relevent in light of
Antrel Rolle's departure. In addition to starting at FS, Rolle was
originally a CB who could fill that role as a tweener S/CB. Ware
can fill the same role, freeing Kerry Rhodes to be a more
traditional FS. A big CB, Ware matches up better with bigger NFL
CB's - when he was injured late last season, opposing teams
exploited Cardinal mismatch disadvantages.
A few veterans remain unsigned - the most important being OG Deuce
Lutui, however the CW among local media is that the Cards will
eventually sign Deuce.
I couldn't resist making the following OT comment about Donovan
McNabb: The Eagles are said to be bringing in S Eric Berry in for
a looksee. Berry is considered a Top 5 - 10 pick. The Eagles
select somewhere in the second half of the first round. The only
way it would make sense for them to consider Berry would be if
they were considering trading up to get him. (Most logical bait -
Cards Sign Tenders/Lose
Holmdel, NJ - Tues. March 30 -
Sorry to learn we lost WR/Special-Teamer, Sean Morey to Seattle.
Morey was one of those "utility infielder" type guys who'd
invariably find one or two opportunities to make a game-winning
play - either by catching a clutch pass, blocking a kick or
forcing/recovering a fumble. While not an elite athlete, he was
one of those guys a championship team needs a few of to remain a
consistent winner. Someone else will have to pick up the slack.
Also, with the departure of Boldin, Urban and now Morey, it can no
longer be said we're deep in wideouts.
Cards also re-signed Monty Beisel (ironically described by Darren
Urban as a "middle linebacker") and signed RFA's Breaston,
Sendlein and Watson plus EFA Michael Adams to tender offers. Only
remaining unsigned RFA is Deuce Lutui.
Holmdel, NJ - Sun. March 28 - It
happened to catch the corner of our eye as one of those "corner of
the screen" bulletins on NFL Network. Headline: Something like -
"Joey Porter arrested in Bakersfield for suspected DWI."
Already the Cardinal Nation (if you can call it a "nation" - more
like a herd of cats)blogosphere has lit up like a Christmas tree -
with all kinds of profound judgments OVERflowing like lava from
the Peanut Gallory.
Here are excerpts of what the Arizona Republic reported this
1:20 am, officers pulled over a friend of Porter's in the parking
lot of a Taco Bell, and Porter pulled in behind the patrol
vehicle. Officers smelled alcohol on Porter and asked for his
driver's licens. Porter declined, and the officer asked him to
leave the vehicle.
According to the California
highway patrol release, Porter declined and started to roll up his
window. The officer reached into the car and lifted the unlock
button. Porter reportedly slapped his hand on top of the
officer's, and the officer then pushed Porter's hand back into the
car. Porter then exited and car in a "confrontational manner."
Porter refused the officer's request to lie on the ground, but he
did put his hands behind is head. Porter was taken into custody,
as was a passenger in his car.
The Cardinals released the
following statement Saturday:
"The team is aware of the
incident. We are in the process of gathering all of the facts
concerning it and won't comment further until that's completed."
That's what we know. What do
we think? (1) Depends on who's doing the talking -Porter could
have acted illegally or irresponsibly or this was one of those DWB
(Driving While Black) rousting deals. (2) Call me an old coot, but
I'm one of those "nothing good ever happened past 1 am."
We need to know more
before spouting off. For example, was there a breathalizer test,
and what were its results? What did Joey have to say?
What we can say is that - all the
red flags (fair or unfair) concerning Porter's on and off-field
behavior in the past will now be a bit brigher and raised a bit
higher as a result of this latest incident.
Memo to Joey: "Forget about who
was right and who was wrong. Doesn't matter. You represent the
Cardinals (who pay you a lot of money for that privilege). Actions
have consequences. If you're going to cruise around at 1:30 am and
then confront a cop, you should have the street-smarts to
understand that the cop is quite likely to confront you right back
- and more often than not have the power to win that battle. Bad
for you/bad for the Cardinals. (It could have been worse; rape
allegations, killings - all tragic, each with its "extenuating
circumstances" stories to tell; all of which could have been
avoided had the players involved not put themselves in at-risk
situations -like clubbing at 3 am or cruising at 1:30 am).
Think before you act."
Minor Roster Tweaks
Holmdel, NJ - Wed. March 24 - Cards
signed a couple of tenders and added a big, tall (unknown - at
least to us) wideout. Cards signed tenders to TE Ben
Patrick and FB Nehemiah Broughton and
re-signed S Hamza Abdullah. They hadn't tendered
Abdullah but the CW is that they brought him in as
roster-insurance for (the unsigned UFA) Matt Ware.
6-6 230 lb WR Darren Mougey (a local HS product
most recently a Falcon UDFA who attended San Diego St.) was also
signed. (With Boldin no longer a Cardinal, the WR position can no
longer be 100% "stacked." In fact, it's interesting to note that
the Cardspassing game coordinator, Mike Miller attended TE/WR
tweener Dorin Dickerson's Pro Day workout.
Joey Porter a Cardinal...
Holmdel, NJ -Fri. March 19 - Interesting
how a lot of the Cardinal signing news seems to take place at the
(Eastern time zone) dinner hour on Fridays.
That's when I tuned in NFL Network (after monitoring the Cardinal
website regularly for most of the day). The news arrived with a
quote from Ken Whisenhunt that he was "excited" that Joey Porter
and the Cards had come to terms.
Both on this blog and on various bulletin boards, I had expressed
skepticism (well maybe that's too strong a term - more like
"resigned acceptance") that ouir failure to sign Porter when
he visited the Valley, followed by his trip to Dan Snyder's
"Richie-Rich Land" meant we wouldn't sign him and that
furthermore, the way things seemed to be going down suggested that
we might have been negotiating in vain with one more high-ego guy
who'd reject us - and as such - we might be better off without
Well, apparently I was wrong. Porter had just left the Redskin
complex after a day & a half's worth of wining, dining and
meetings with members of the Redskin organization (usually a bad
sign for us) when the news immediately hit the airways that Joey
had agreed to a 3-year deal with the Cardinals. (I wonder how all
that went down - I hope Darren, Kent and other media members will
ask that question).
Now that the haggling part is over, let's talk about football and
what Joey may or may not mean to the Cardinals. Realistically,
he's a 32 (about to be 33) year old pass rush specialist who's
racked up 26½ sacks (9 last year) from his OLB position. Which
begs the question: "Can he - at his age - continue to perform at
that high level?" And the follow-up: "If not, what can we expect?"
And further: "What do the Cards expect from him - is he expected
to be an every-down OLB (who's supposed to contain the run and
drop back in coverage)? Or will he be more likely spotted
opportunistically as a pass rush specialist-only?
What I'm guessing (or at least certainly hoping) is that Porter
will have enough in the proverbial tank to be our every-day OLB -
someone who fits my idea of the prototypical outside guy - tall
and rangy (6-3 255 - actually bigger than the inside guy we lost -
Dansby) who can run like the wind, splatter QB's and leap tall
buildings. And provide veteran leadership and (if done humbly)
some swagger to the Cardinal "D."
If what I'm hoping for turns out to be true, this was an important
move for the Cardinals - both in terms of filling in an important
piece of the roster-puzzle and living up to the Cardinal FO's
hard-earned reputation for being credible.
One final word - When you watch the charts on NFL Network and
ESPN, you get the false impression that, after losing a ton of
quality players in Warner, Boldin, Dansby, Gandy and Rolle, all
the Cardinals had to show for it was the signing of S Kerry
Let's take a closer look - Cards lost Rolle and got Rhodes. Cards
replaced Warner with Derek Anderson. Cards replaced Dansby with
Paris Lenon. Cards replaced Berry/Okeafor with Joey Porter. They
replaced Gandy with Rex Hadnott -a versatile lineman capable of
starting. In terms of value-received for value-surrendered, did we
net out ahead? Probably not on paper (i.e. how are you going to
replace a HOF'er like Warner man-for-man)? But I think a strong
case can be made that Rod G, Michael B and Wiz did as well as
could be expected, given the hand they were dealt.
Let me try to put it more succinctly (in an attempy to avoid being
too Pollyannish: "I wouldn't be terribly shocked if we went into
the draft in better shape than when we ended last season."
Great day to be a Cardinal fan,.
All But Official:
Anderson a Card
Holmdel, NJ -Wed. Mar 17 - The news isn't
100% official, but Darren Urban (with a boost from Paul Calvisi,
with corroboration from NFL Network's "News From Around the League
'Now'") is reporting that former Browns QB Derek Anderson has
signed with the Cardinals. Deal is supposed to be for 2 years,
with $3¼-mil guaranteed and a total value of $7¼-mil.
Urban is already providing qualified speculation as to the why's &
wherefores of the Anderson signing; specifically that the Card FO
was antsy about having to wait around for (a) Charley Whitehurst
to decide between Cardinal and Seahawk offers, (b) San Diego
having roughly one week to decide whether or not to match an offer
and (c) possibly discovering that they lost the bidding war for
Whitehurst; thereby (d) being put in a corner and being forced to
negotiate from weakness for Anderson with the Whitehurst option
off the table.
What Urban did not address was earlier speculation that the Cards
might wind up signing 2 veterans (probably both Anderson and
Whitehurst). It's unclear whether or not the signing of Anderson
will preclude the signing of Whitehurst. We'll just have to wait &
In Anderson, the Cards appear to be getting a QB who, when he was
a starter, could be very very good, but also could be very, very
horrid. (Over the past few years, he was very good before
becoming horrid; which begs the question: Can Anderson - with the
help of the Cardinal coaching staff - regain his mojo.
His problems appear to be between the ears and not physical; and
I've been taught by wise coaches that "if a dude does something
good once, he can (with the right coaching) "do it again." The
trick is for his coaches to "catch him in the act" of doing
something right and getting him to recognize what it feels like
and to replicate that feeling.
Whether this will work with Anderson remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, we can pencil in someone besides Matt Leinart on the
Cardinal QB depth chart. While not ecstatic, I'm happy about the
signing (we needed the depth); but we won't know whether or not
this was a good move until we see what Derek does on the field.
Cards Ink LB
Holmdel, NJ - Mon. Mar 5 - But it's not
what you thought - it wasn't Larry Foote (reports are that he's
signing with the Steelers), and it wasn't Joey Porter.
The Cards signed former Ram ILB Paris Lenon to a three year deal.
He played in all but one regular season game for the Rams last
year (starting in 10 of them). He only finished the season with 42
tackles after racking up 121 and 118 the previous 2 years when he
started for the Lions. He's 6-2 235, and also has strong special teams creds.
The failure to sign Larry Foote does not necessarily rule out the
possibility that the Cards will continue to pursue and sign his
former Steeler buddie, Joey Porter.
Cards (along with Seattle) are still in a holding pattern with SD
QB Charlie Whitehurst (Both teams offered him contracts. If he
accepts either offer and the Chargers don't match it (or work out
a sign & trade deal) it will cost the Cards or Seawhawks a 3rd
round draft pick.
The signing of Lenon helps plug the roster hole vacated by the
departed Karlos Dansby.
Bolster O-Line/Nothing Else to Report...
Holmdel, NJ - Fri. Mar 12 - The Cards
re-signed Jeremy Bridges and (though not officially corroborated
by the Cardinal website) are reported to have inked former
Cleveland OG Rex Hadnot to contracts. Hadnot started for the
Browns before an injury took him out of action in 2009. He's
considered to be a wide-body known for his physical run blocking
style. Mike Gandy remains unsigned, raising questions as to
whether he'll be back at LT next season.
The addition of both Bridges and Hadnot give
the Cards a degree of flexibility. Bridges can play LT and did so
effectively in the playoffs in place of Gandy. Or the Cards could
consider moving Reggie Wells (known more for his quick feet and
pass blocking than for his run blocking skills) from LG to LT and
slot in Hadnot at LG. This in addition to any moves the Cards
might want to make involving up & comers Herman Johnson and
They also signed DL Jeremy Clark to an
Nothing new on the Foote,
Porter or QB fronts. The Cards have never been famous for locking
visiting FA prospects in a room until they sign. So, while both
Larry and Jerry heaped lavish praise on the Cardinals, they left
without a contract (as did Whitehurst) and we'll just have to wait
Now that I've once again beaten my arbitrary
St. Paddy's Day deadline and overnighted my tax material to my
accountant, I should have more time to get up to speed on Draft
stuff for the BRS and keep current from here on out. (Yippeee!)
Holmdel, NJ - Wed. Mar 10 - No new
signings. But ESPN is reporting that former Cleveland QB Derek
Anderson is scheduled to visit on Friday, LB Joey Porter will be
in the Valley tonight and Thursday (meeting up with fellow Steeler
alum Clark Haggans and Larry Foote), blocking TE Anthony Becht and
the Cards have come to terms and Matt Ware (erroneously said to
have agreed to terms with the Cards) and the Cardinals are
continuing to talk. That's it for now.
Cards Lining Up Visits...
Holmdel, NJ - Tues. Mar 9 - Memo to those
of you who are fearful that, having signed Kerry Rhodes, the Cards
will rest on their laurels and sit out the rest of free agency:
Fear ye not! We hear from credible sources (albeit unconfirmed
officially by the Cards that offensive linemen, Wade Smith (KC)
visited last night, OL Rex Hadnot (Cleve) is due in today, DL Nick
Eason (Steelers) came in last night, LB Larry Foote (Lions) is due
in tomorrow and LB Joey Porter (Dolphs) is scheduled to fly in
Thursday. Foote, Porter and Eason all played in Pittsburgh when
Wiz, Russ Grimm (& I'm guessing Billy Davis) were there.
According ot Scouts, Inc. the book on Smith is that he's a
perennial backup guard who's more a finesse blocker than a mauler.
Hadnott started for Cleveland in 2008 but missed the first part of
2009 due to injury. He's considered a wide-body swing man who's
more powerful than quick. Eason sounds like one of those quick
DT's who can move outside to play "big DE" in a 3-4. He's more of
a space-eater than pass rusher.
Late Breaking - There's an
uncorroborated report via tweet from Chris Mortensen that the
Cards are bringing in Charger QB Charley Whitehurst in for a visit
tomorrow. Whitehurst has flown beneath most peoples' radar, having
been stashed behind Rivers and Volek in San Diego.
Dialin' For Dollars...
I'm not saying the
numbers are 100% reliable or projectable (they seldom are) but USA
Today published its list of all players for all teams with their
2009 compensation. Assuming that - at the very least - the salary
figures provide a reasonably good snapshot of what each guy was
making, the chart provides some pretty illuminating insight.
The biggest revelation was that the combined salaries of the "dear
departed" (i.e. Warner, Boldin, Dansby and Rolle) equalled nearly
one-third of the team's total figure. Check this out:
Anquan Boldin $2,750,000
Karlos Dansby $ \9,680,340
Rolle $ \3,568,250
Kurt Warner $19,004,680
Total Team Compensation: $111,138,646
4 Players' Share
of Total: 31.7%
That's a pretty humongous chunk of budget tied up by 4 players and
may help explain why we somehow have to make "tough personnel
Some more salary info to consider - The 2009 salary figure for
Larry Foote was $1,502,080. Joey Porter's was $5,000,000. Nick
Eason made $620,000. Wade Smith is listed at $875,330. Rex Hadnott
earned $1,800,000. If we signed all five, we would have only spent
25% of what we saved thru the departure of Boldin, Dansby, Warner
Holmdel, NJ - Mon. March 8 - Reason
for optimism - Darrren Urban reports that Wiz and LB Clark Haggans
(a teammate of Porters at Colorado and with the Steelers) had
dinner with Joey Porter in Pittsburgh over this past weekend and
that Porter is scheduled to visit the Valley this week.
This doesn't mean that the Steeler LB is a lock to be here (there
are financial and personal issues that logically would need to be
worked out). But it does look promising, and we can dream.
Porter's presence would fill the footprints left by departed pass
rushers Chike Okeafor and Betrand Berry (though, while B-Train is
no longer on the roster, Chike still is). The thing about filling
roster-holes earlier rather than later is that each time you do
it, it removes a distraction and enables a front office to focus
on fewer and fewer priorities on their "To Do" list.
Cards Trade For Safety
Holmdel, NJ - Sat. March 6 - It has
been confirmed on the Cardinal website, but the crawl on NFL
Network says that the Cards have parted with this year;s 4th and
next year's 7th round draft picks in exchange for Jets safety
If true (& there's no reason not to believe so), it fills the
vacancy at free safety created from Antrel Rolle's departure with
a high-caliber replacement and bolsters the crushed psyche of
players and fans in the wake of "Black Friday" (which saw three
Pro Bowl-caliber players fly the coop) by giving them an important
"W" a day later.
Reviews on Rhodes are mixed. He clashed with Buddy Ryan's coaching
staff last season, was benched, then regained his job and
evidently rediscovered his mojo. An aspiring actor (with 2 bit
parts already in his resume), his teammates nicknamed him
"Hollywood." But prior to the start of last season, Rex Ryan (with
a swagger reminiscent of his father) annointed Kerry "the next Ed
Reed" so go figure.
He'll be playing under the watchful eye of new Cardinal DB coach
Donnie Henderson (who was on the Jets staff when Rhodes was signed
as a rookie. It is speculated that it may have been Henderson's
good word that convinced the Cardinals to deal for Rhodes
(although more likely it was "events on the ground - in the form
of Antre Rolle's departure) that was more of a factor.
The way I see it - assuming he's healthy, we'll be replacing a flashy playmaker prone to inconsistency of
performance with a guy (admittedly with a big ego that must be
kept in check) who knows how to play the position and
executes well enough to be better trusted back there.
No doubt the skinny on Rhodes will start filtewring in (assuming
that the trade report is true). What it will mean for the
Cardinals (other than the one for one replacement of Rolle) is
that we no longer will be desperate to acquire a top FS and can
devote free agency and the draft toward filling other needs and
focusing on good football players regardless of position..
(Note - According to a Scouts, Inc. write up posted on ASFN:
"Rhodes has size,
athletic skills and functional play strength. He has deceptive
speed and physical toughness. He shows good speed and quickness as
a blitzer. He has been a very physical and productive player
coming off the edge in zone dogs. He has good closing speed
underneath. He takes good angles when supporting the run but can
be inconsistent in this phase of the game."
And Now a Third Shoe...
Holmdel, NJ -
Fri. March 5 - Antrel Rolle just signed with the Giants. That
makes 0 for 5. One good thing, though - we don't have to worry
about losing any more high-profile players.. All of them are gone
If you evaluate the Cardinal office either on (a) results or (b)
accomplishing their prime stated mission (i.e. "retaining 'core'
players"), the Cardinal front office has failed miserably. The
message being given Cardinal fans is that 5 key Cardinal players
(if you add Warner and Berry to Boldin, Dansby and Rolle) didn't
want to be here. (What's up with that? And, more important,
looking forward - what are we going to do about it?
The Other Shoe Drops...
Holmdel, NJ - Fri. March 5 - I wonder who
will be wearing #58 next season for theCardinals. It won't be
Karlos Dansby. 'Los is now a Dolph. (He evidently
signed a 5 year deal worth roughly 42-mil plus this year's 3
million dollars (Given that what was considered "ballpark" by the
Cardinals was something in the neighborhood of $30-mil, it appears
that the Cardinals weren't even playing in the same league as
Miami. It's fair to question whether or not Miami overpaid for
Dansby, but what can't be disputed is that we've lost 4 core
players from last year's playoff team with Antrel Rolle better
than even to sign elsewhere - possibly by tomorrow.
I'll save the vitriol for then; except to observe (1) it's a
terrible day to be a Cardinal fan and (2) I can't wait to hear how
the Cardinal front office and coaching staff plan to spin this.
(Note - whenever you hear buzz from the Cardinal brass that
"they're really trying to work to sign an existing player or that
they're really fighting to keep him", they usually aren't).
The Sound of One Shoe Dropping...
Holmdel, NJ -
Fri. March 5, 2010 - The
melodrama is officially over. The Cardinals traded WR Anquan
Boldin to the Baltimore Ravens for this year's 3rd and 4th round
draft picks. To sweeten the pot and cinch the deal, the Cards also
parted with their 5th rounder for this year.
No doubt the voices from the Peanut Gallery will fall into 2
camps: (1) the Darksiders (who will forecast the end of the
budding Cardinal dynasty as we know it) and (2) the Michael, Rod
and Wiz Know Best crew (who will assume that Cardinal leadership
knows what they're doing).
I'm a little less certain. I certainly understand that there's
probably a lot of "inside football" going on here - things like
being able to afford other high-profile players and having some
extra wiggle room manipulating where we draft.
Talent-wise (and it probably factored into management's
decision-process) we proved 2 years ago in the playoffs and all of
last season that our passing attack could not only survive but
survive with Boldin on the sidelines. The emergence of Early
Doucet still gives us a pretty potent Top 3 of Fitz, Breaston and
Doucet, so (barring injuries) we'll probably be OK
But I'm wondering out loud here about the Cardinals' culture - Q
was an important part of the lockeroom chemistry. How important is
that chemistry to the Cardinals culture of winning and what kind
of impact will Boldin's departiure have on that culture. (i.e. do
we have enough other guys who can and will pick up that spiritual
slack? Or are we fans making too big a deal of it.
I'm not sure. All I know is that - from my vantage-point sitting
on the sidelines in NJ - I'm inclined to place a high priority on
a culture of winning and that today we took a big hit. And for
what? A 3rd & a 4th round draft pick. In answer to the unasked
question: Yes, you're darned right I'm worried - we run the risk
of losing 5 core players in roughly a month (Warner, Berry and
Boldin are gone. Dansby and Rolle are just as likely to be gone as
Ladies & Gentlemen - Start Your Engines...
Holmdel, NJ -
March 5, 2010 - At Midnight, free agency kicked off with a
bang! The crawl at the bottom of NFL Network was being updated "on
the fly" to keep up with all the moves. Specific to the Cardinals,
here's what I know:
That's all I got (for now).
Karlos Dansby is on his way to
visit Miami (&, though not a 110% lock, it looks like he'll
Antrel Rolle was released by
the Cards (with a series of winks & nods implying that the
Cards would be actively trying to re-sign him). Bears, Giants
and Dolphs said to be interested.
NFL Network seems to be
hell-bent on keeping the Boldin trade rumors alive (with the
Cards being willing to accept a 3rd round pick for him. If I
were Mike B or Rod G, I wouldn't do it - even for a 2nd or
even a 1st round pick. We hold the high ground. Any team
sniffing around after Q would have to pick up a very hefty
contract. To me, it just doesn't make sense for Boldin to be
Cards tendered five players as
Restricted Free Agents - Breaston (with 1st round draft
compensation) and Lutui, Sendlein, Watson and Patrick (each
with 2nd round compensation).
Mike Adams, Nehemiah Broughton
and Jeremy Clark were given Exclusive Rights Free Agent
status. Keileen Dykes was re-signed to a contract.
What may be equally if not
more interesting are the players who weren't tendered. Darren
Urban mentions five: Jerheme Urban, Stephen Spach, Justin
Green, Hamz Abdullah and Ben Claxton. But I'm unsure of status
of the following players (my latest info had them listed as
Unrestricted FA's - Brian St. Pierre, Dan Krieder, Sean Morey,
Anthony Becht, Mike Gandy, Jeremy Bridges, Bryan Robinson,
Chike Okeafor, Monte Beisel, Mike Brown, Matt Ware, Neil
Cards are reported to be in
the hunt for a veteran FA quarterback to challenge or back up
Matt Leinart - Mentioned were David Carr (Cards said to be
interested), Donovan McNabb (subject of rumors) and Chad
Pennington (NFL Network speculation as to an ideal fit).
Wiz & Rod G Extended; Eve of Combine...
Holmdel, NJ -- Thurs.
Feb. 25 -- First off, congratulations to Ken
Whisenhunt and Cardinal ownership and management for
taking an important step in the continued development of a solid,
winning organization. Stability (of people, systems and core
personnel) is a cornerstone of any successful organization.
Extending Wiz is one of those really huge things that tend to fly
under everyone's radar.
Update - Initial crawl on NFL Network only
mentioned Wiz and failed to mention Rod Grave's contract
extension. From the standpoint of stability - in personnel,
corporate culture, philosphy and policy, Rod's extension was
equally as huge in terms of his importance to the Cardinal
And while we're at it, congratulations to Mr. B for winning the
Pollard Award. Long time coming and well-deserved.
Combine opened today - heights, weights, arm
lengths and Tebow interviews. Some of you may be wondering when
the BRS 2010 Draft Issue will be posted. Short answer:: Hopefully
analysis of top 10 - 20 players by position will be posted by
Monday or Tuesday.
It's been a slow slog - partly due to software problems (created
by what to me appears to be Microsoft's planned obsolence policy
with regard to Front Page) and uneven numbers of prospects in each
position grouping, The norm for each position is typically 10 - 15
players. This year, the number of offensive tackles and defensive
end prospects totals 20 - 25. (I spent almost the entire day
today working on defensive ends (a grouping made larger by the
trend to hybrid defenses and DE's who could be OLB's (& vice
versa). Enjoy the Combine - look for stuff to be posted by
Grimm to Enter HOF/Other Loose Ends...
Holmdel, NJ --
Sun. Feb. 7 -- Congratulations to Russ
Grimm, who was selected to be part of the 2010 Hall of Fame Class.
One minor bone to pick with the NFL Network "Crawl Creatures":
While it was a pleasant surprise to see the Cardinals listed
(along with Team Felon) as one of Emmitt Smith's teams, the only
team mentioned next to Russ's name was the Redskins. (I understand
that some technicality may limit teams HOF'ers are associated with
to those teams where the player earned his HOF spurs.
Nevertheless, it would have been nice to see the Cards listed with
Russ; because we're proud he's currently with us.
What's in a Name?
How appropriate the
name of our newly signed CFL sack specialist is "Stevie Baggs."
Super Bowl's Tonight
Ironic that both
finalists waxed us. The two teams are mirror images (you could
probably put Manning on the Saints and Brees on the Colts and
still have the same outcome) I have no favorites (other than a
love of the City of New Orleans and a totally illogical dislike of
the way the Colt radio guy calls the games).
Lest you wonder wazzup with
BRS 2010 Draft Coverage - I'm developing stuff behind the scenes
(right now I'm adding Senior Bowl practice and game comments to
playe write-ups). As soon as I have enough material to not be
embarrassed, I'll post a summary page with links to player
write-ups by position. I'm guessing that those pages will be ready
somewhere around Combine time. (One thing I will 'fess up to - at
this extremely early stage of the process, I'm most impressed by
CB Kyle Wilson, the DE (Graham) and the Rutgers CB (McCourty).
Kurt Hangs 'Em Up...
Holmdel, NJ -- Sat. Jan.
30 -- Kurt Warner delivered the news as expected, but I
was hoping he'd surprise us and announce his return for one more
year. He had indicated that he wouldn't rush the decision until
regular season aches & pains had diminished enough to allow him to
arrive at a measured decision. To me that suggested that, the
earlier the decision, the more likely his bruises weren't that
severe or long-lasting and that he'd decide to stay.
Didn't happen. Warner
had decided that "the time was right" to hang 'em up and call it a
career. You have to respect that decision - we who sit in the
stands or in front of our TV sets can only guess what it feels
like to get banged around from week to week, spend 8 weekends on
the road away from family and, to some degree, live the prime of
your business life in a towel-slopping atmosphere that most
college graduates your age left behind a decade or two ago. That
old sixties slogan: "What are you going to do for the rest of your
life?" takes on a heightened meaning.
For Kurt Warner, the future indeed must look
bright - he has 8 kids and a wife he adores to spend time with and
whose dreams he can help shape, build and share. He's a bright,
articulate guy who would be equally comfortable in front of a
camera, behind a podium or at the head-table in a board room.
And along with the intelligence and talent,
he brings a goodness - that
you see glimpses of in such things as his willingness to
walk the talk of his religious faith and his family's
self-imposed tradition of paying the dinner-checks of strangers
when they eat out. I could just as easily see Kurt and his family
devoting their lives to distributing food or clothing to the
world's poor as I could see him breaking down defenses for ESPN or
As a Cardinal fan, I'm proud he was our QB but sad and a bit
fearful he won't be behind center next season - he brought to our
offense an "it" factor that made us all pretty comfortable that,
whatever needed to be done offensively, Kurt knew what had to be
done and most often got it done.
He made it look easy - zip-zip into the hands of Fitz or Q or
Breaston. Or a surprise seam-pattern to a TE or a dump-off to THT
We won't have that comfort-zone as we consider next season. The
potential is there in Matt Leinart, but (despite the high hopes he
brought here from USC and flashes of talent he's shown from time
to time both as a young starter and then a backup) he still must
prove he's "money" when it comes to getting the job done on a
Since becoming a backup (actually more of an understudy) Leinart
has not been all that impressive when given the opportunity to
step in and step up. No doubt part of this has to do with rust and
some of it has to do with what I like to call "an assistant's
mind-set" (in all walks of life, there are some people who have to
feel like masters/mistresses of their fate before they can take
the bull by the horns, "own their position" and do what it takes
to lead their organizations to success. Matt may be one of those
guys who operates at a much higher level when he knows "he's the
But that's not a slam dunk for Leinart - in fact, it's a
relatively tiny needle he'll have to thread - between being (a)
confident and sure-footed or (b) and arrogant dude who's a "legend
in his own mind. A lot of it has to do with maturity & whether
Matt can back up words with deeds or whether he'll turn out to be
more a pretender than the real deal. The hope must be that - with
hard work and experience will come know-how, experience and the
confidence of (1) knowing what has to get done, (2) knowing how to
get it done, (3) believing it will get done and (with the help of
coaches and team mates) (4) making sure it actually gets done.
This will be the challenge for Matt and his team. (Quite possibly
the Cardinal front office will consider how to hedge their bet -
by drafting a new QBOF or bringing in an experienced #2 guy to
backup &/or push Leinart). It will be interesting to see how his
story and the story of the Cardinals' future unfolds, but it also
figures to be a nailbiter.
Bottom line - we are seeing the passing of a torch with the
departure of a legend along with the hope that we'll be blessed
with new legend in the making. No doubt it's gonna be different
(we may see a more physical, run-oriented offense with the
emergence of Beanie and Leinart behind center). Let's see how the
hand plays out.
And Now We've Lost JD Salinger...
Holmdel, NJ --
Fri. Jan. 29 -- This one didn't hurt as much as losing Robert
Parker for three reasons: (1) Salinger hasn't published anything
new since the early 1960's ("Hapsworth") so it's not as if we'll
miss anything that wouldn't have been written anyway (for
chrissakes!), (2) it's not as if he
died young (he was 91) and (3) if you've read a lot of Salinger
(in addition to "Catcher"), you can no doubt accept the
rationalization that all he's done is to slip through an innocuous
side door of his bare-bones worldly room to whatever turns out to
be on the other side. Perhaps he's simply left the set and gone
someplace offstage. Or maybe (like Teddy) he will return in the
form of an antelope (or - nightmare of nightmares - one of the
Luntzes). Or more likely, he probably pulled a Douglas MacArthur,
went "phtt!" and simply faded away.
It occurred to me while shaving this morning that, in some ways,
I've always viewed "Catcher" hero Holden Caufield in the same way
I did my old childhood buddies - I grew up with him. We both
shared the same view of "phonies" and boring grownups. He was
always the invisible sidekick sitting next to me in the car on the
way to school, work or a heavy date.
And those of you who follow my Cardinal draft coverage know that
I'm fond of comparing Holden waiting at the bottom of the cliff to
catch any kids who might fall over to the drafting strategy of
setting up a draft board and catching the highest-rated remainging
prospect who falls over the cliff.
Well, Skkorp - if you luck out, you might have the opportunity to
share some lunch at the same table as JD Salinger and Robert
Parker. Pretty cool, huh?
Warner Presser to Announce Future...
-- Thurs. Jan. 28 -- CI didn't
think it would happen so soon. That said, I have no clue as to
whether Kurt plans to retire or play for at least one more year.
The rumors on NFL Network and the wire services are that he'll
announce his retirement at a presser tomorrow. While it would
probably be wiser to follow that logic, I'm not so sure, and
Unfinished business for one thing - Kurt is a prideful guy and
quite possibly would rather go out on a higher note. Love of the
game for another. Finally, the scenario he laid out a week or two
ago involved (1) feeling beaten up and lousy, (2) not wanting to
make a rash decision while still suffering from the aches and
pains of the past season and (3) making a more measured &
objective decision after some time had transpired and he was
feeling better. That he has decided to make public his decision so
soon suggests that perhaps he's decided that "it doesn't hurt all
that much" and let's play in 2010.
Whatever Kurt's decision, it will be better for the Cardinals that
he's making it sooner not later - since the Draft (and all the
things leading up to it) is underway. Decisions have to be made by
the Cardinal front office involving the salary cap (or lack
thereof), contract extensions, position-evaluations and possible
free agent, trade and draft day moves, with QB representing the
most pivotal position.
The evaluation of Matt Leinart will, under any scenario, drive the
decision-making. To both the casual and hard-core Cardinal fan,
there are questions of what our offense will be like (compared to
Air Warner) with Matt at the helm. There's the static question (of
how would things be right now) along with a few dynamic questions
(i.e. will the offense improve once Matt shakes the rust off and
gets the lion's share of reps? What would it do to Leinart's ego
and future development should Warner elect to play an additional
year? And in either case, would the Cardinals be content to go
with Leinart without a qualified backup to both push him and win
for us should he have to step in? And finally, will the presence
of a more game-ready Beanie Wells suggest a change to a less
pass-happy offensive personality.
Tough decisions - best, I guess, that, starting with Warner, they
be made sooner not later.
Cards Ink Byrd and Four Others to Futures Deals...
-- Fri. Jan. 22 --
Cards re-signed TE Dominique Byrd to their list of "Futures"
signees. Also added to the Futures list were:
going to believe this...
The BRS has been flagged for an alleged copyright infringement.
describing the exploits of Messrs. Fitzgerald, Boldin, Breaston
and Doucet, I may have (in the spirit of providing lively
editorial hyperbole) referred to them as "The Velcro Quartet.
Guess what? A
Scottish rock group called (you got it!) "The Velcro Quartet" has
e-mailed me to voice a complaint. (Thing of it is - I write a lot
of material and have (a) no recollection of having actually used
the term velcro quartet (although I must say, it's a pretty cool
way to describe the four Cardinal wideouts) and (b) if I had, I
have no clue as to where on the BRS the term was used).
circumstances, I respect the rights of my artistic brothers and
sisters to earn a living and in the spirit of international
cooperation, urge us all to Google The Velcro Quartet and check
out their sounds - maybe they're really really good.
OT - I'll Miss Robert B. Parker...
-- Wed. Jan. 20 -- I chuckle
every time I see the name, "Sunny Randall" in a Robert Parker
Crime novel, and I'm sure every Cardinal fan with a sense of
history does likewise. Parker - author of the Spenser, Jesse Stone
(I'm guessing named for an obscure R & B backup group called
"Jesse Stone* & the Nightriders), Sunny Randall & a late foray
into Western fiction - was known for "writing lean" (especially
dialogs of which he was a master). My Kindall is loaded with
Parker novels. (Note - I watched Appaloosa - a western
penned by Parker - on HBO last night - I liked it better than
5:10 to Yuma).
One of the things
I liked most about a Parker novel (or in the case of Spenser for
Hire or Jesse Stone) a TV adaptation was his use of sports triva.
To name a few:
picture of The Wiz (Ozzie Smith) in the background of Jesse
"Suitcase" he gave associate whose last name happened to
Simpson. (Who doesn't remember "Harry Suitcase Simpson")?
Using the alias,
"Clint Hartung" (named of course after the Hondo Hurricane)
And, of course
P has new novel due out this spring and a few (including another
Western) in the publication pipeline, so he will not, despite his
sudden and unfortunate demise, leave us high and dry..
But after that,
the lives of Parker fans will be a bit more bleak. Being married
to a shrink, I'll especially miss Spenser's Significant O, Susan Silverman,
and special Spenser pal "Hawk" (a very tough matter of fact Afro
American treading carefully on both sides of the law and known for
mixing in "high brow talk" with "ghetto talk" and "massa slave
talk" in his back & forths with Spencer). If you haven't read a
Parker novel, you're missing something. (Ironically, last night
before learning of his passing, I read one of Parker's earlier
Spenser novels stored on my Kindall at one sitting To find out
more about Robert Parker, check out today's NY Times obit - the
better part of a full page is devoted to his life and his
Rest easy old
literary buddy. While you're up there, see if you can hook up with
Skkorp and say "hi" for me.
* Note - Jesse
Stone was the alias for R & B writer Charlie Calhoun. Jesse Stone
& the Night Riders backed up the Cadillacs singing group on
"Speedo", "Down the Road" and other hits of the mid-to-late 50's.
Roster Moves at PS Level...
--Tues. Jan. 19
-- Cards signed every member of their practice squad to a
"Futures" contract (whatever that means). Re-signed were CB
Rashad Barksdale, Ed Gant, LB Ali Highsmith, LB Mark Washington,
WR Onrea Jones, DE Ryan Kees, G Jonathon Palmer and OT Tom
According to D Urban, the official word is that DRC chipped his
left tibia and "injured" his MCL; but the more problematic ACL was
evidently OK. Whether or not the MCL will require surgery will
depend on the results of further tests this week.
2009 Regular Season Game Blogs:
Abrupt Ending to a Hopeful Season...
-- Sun. Jan.
17 -- When you lose when you don't want to lose, it's
time to wax philosophical.
Just one guy's
opinion, but I think we were up against better teams in this
year's set of playoffs than we were last year when we drew
Atlanta, Philly, Carolina and Pittsburgh. We knew beating Green
Bay represented a formidable challenge, and NO certainly proved
that they were that and a handful. And - had we somehow beaten the
Saints, we'd then have to face very good Dallas or Green Bay teams
followed by (I'm guessing) the Colts or the Chargers in the Super
yesterday would have required that we did everything right,
planning our work brilliantly and then working our plan. Instead
(after a promising opening act with THT scampering 70 yards on the
opening play), the wheels simply started to fall off:
It started with
Jereheme Urban's terrific 28 yard run & catch followed by a killer
fumble. (This isn't the first time we've "spit in the soup at the
end of a great offensive play. It's unfortunately become part of
"who we are" - It happened to Fitz last week. It happened to
Timmy a few weeks earlier. And Beanie's debut was marred by one of
those as well. . Once they did, we just found it difficult get
back on track.
(Darren Urban has
already written down the woulda-coulda litany of things that
went wrong that might have ended differently had they not
happened. I'm not going to repeat it here - it's too
I do, however
feel that there are lessons to be learned looking forward (which
is what my DNA forces me to do when I've been knocked on the
represented some of the wheels that came off the wagon - Warner.
DRC. Antrel. It's not that Matty L played badly; but - when you
are facing an offensive scoring machine in Drew Brees, you need
someone who can keep up with him score by score. Kurt is capable
of providing that magic. Matt (at least on that day under those
circumstances) could not. The injuries to DRC and Antrel meant we
had to rely more on Michael Adams, Abdulla and McFadden than we
wanted and Brees (as great QB's always do) took advantage.
occurring at the wrong times often cost teams championships.
Really good teams mitigate this possibility by locating,
acquiring, stockpiling and developing young talent that can step
in and replace injured veterans without too much dropoff in
talent. (Example - Boldin down; Doucet in). But the Cards aren't
quite at the point in its roster development where we can
withstand injuries at key times to key people.
We don't have a
talented-enough backup presence to Warner (Maybe Matt is on track
to get to that point - and, should Kurt retire, it might have to
be sooner than later. But as of right now - we're not in good
enough shape at QB.
So OK, Kurt only
got sacked once and got nailed when he tried to become Karlos
Dansby after throwing a pick, but our offensive line is still
somewhat of an adventure each week and, if nothing else, needs
better and more experienced backup depth. (Perhaps H Johnson and
Keith will continue to develop to a point where they can be
trusted to get the job done. Maybe Jeremy Bridges is OK as Gandy's
replacement, but it just seems to me we're one QB hit away from
disaster. I also find it a bit embarrassing to watch Beanie or
Hightower run into brick walls behind the LOS - I realize they're
putting up better numbers this year and the running attack has
been OK, but it seems to me we get most of our ground yardage from
deception plays but have more difficulty imposing our will when
the other team expects us to run.
Our secondary has
been exposed of late. As the season wore on McFadden looked more
and more like Rod Hood. DRC (whose best years are ahead of him -
assuming his knee injury is 100% rehabable) can only cover one guy
or one part of the field at a time. Although Rolle had his
excellent moments, he wasn't 100% Darren Sharper or Ed Reed or
Darren Woodson fool-proof. Toler is coming along. Adams
represented duct tape -he can help in a pinch, but will be abused
badly when forced into a starting role. His value is when we can
spot him. Ralph Brown while dependable, lacks speed and
athleticism. Bottom line - we need at least one more athletic
cover corner and at least one more physical safety or we're gonna
wear down again like we did this year (and last year in the Super
The ideal job
description for an outside LB is: can run like a deer, leap tall
buildings, hit a ton, have a nose for the ball, never give up and
consistently make big plays. My ideal job description for ILB is
the same as for OLB, except I'd accept a half-step less speed and
expect 15 - 20 more pounds along with a burning desire to hit
someone and blow them up. We've got a lot of seasoned & talented
linebackers (with Dansby bringing something extra). But our
seasoned guys are getting a bit long in the tooth and we're a bit
lacking in the Superman and Sherman Tank departments.
In short, when we
play good team-defense, we can cover up our lack of pure athletic
talent at key positions. But when (due to injury, lack of
concentration etc.) something gets off-kilter, we're vulnerable.
Two valid solutions: (1) play more consistent team defense and/or
(2) bring in more talent - especially in the Back 8. I'm not sure
we can consistently play team defense all the time. I think we
need more talent back there.
Bottom line - We
gave as good as we had this season. We got back to the playoffs.
But we fell a bit short. As Coach Wiz has often stated: "Getting
to the playoffs is a hard thing to accomplish. Making it to the
Super Bowl is much harder.
It's a weird time
of year because there's no game next week. (I'm left with the Jets
and Team Felon to root against). I guess it's time to think big thoughts about rosters, free
agencies, cap-free seasons, trades and, of course, the draft.
Enjoy the off-season.
They Hate Us...
-- Tues. Jan.
12 -- I finally had the opportunity to re-watch the game
and catch up on some of the post-game commentary.
I came away
convinced that, for whatever reason, most if not all members of
the national media hate us or at least root against us.
former Team Felon and now FOX game-analyst Troy Aikmann who, along
with Joe Buck, called the playoff game on TV. When Aikmann wasn't
whining about poor officiating when calls went against Green Bay,
he was doing his best to (a) extol the virtues of Green Bay and
(b) bring up all the bad things that could happen to the Cardinals
going forward (most notably - will Kurt be back)?
I checked out
ESPN (aka "The Mickey Mouse Sports Network") , where, right after
the game, Tom Jackson, Trey Wingo and Trent Dilfer were
screaming about non-calls during the OT - especially on the last
play - that "robbed the Packers of a victory." There was the
Michael Adams face-mask non-call and a couple of blows to the
helmet by Cardinal pass rushers. And, oh yeah, "Fitz
continually got away with pass interference"...and on and on.
What I think
happened is that the Cardinals ruined the media's preconceived
playoff narrative that had the Packers going all the way to the
Super Bowl. All that prewritten commentary had to be thrown in the
ash-can, and new stuff written. (And guess what? These same
geniuses, to a person, have already written off the Cardinals next
Saturday in New Orleans.
"The Fog of
War" (What Really Happened During the Final Play of OT):
Basically what happened is that Michael Adams came off the left
edge on a blitz; only (unlike an earlier blitz from the opposite
side when aimed too high allowing Rodgers to duck under him) this
time Michael came up with his hand, hit the ball and knocked it
free. Two things then occurred simultaneously:
1. After knocking
the ball free, Michael's hand on the follow thru, continued upward
on the follow through and struck Rodgers' face-mask. (From the
video reviews, it looked as if his pinky may have grazed or barely
hooked the face mask - but it looked extremely incidental).
2. Rodgers (for
whatever reason) appeared to kick out at the ball. He was
successful. Except that Karlos Dansby snatched it in mid-air and
then rambled into the end zone for the winning score.
Although the game
was deemed "officially over", there were more than a few lingering
The Tuck Rule -
Had the ball hit the ground, it might have been considered an
incomplete forward pass, but because Karlos grabbed it in mid-air,
at worst it would have been ruled an interception.
There are mixed
interpretation of the face-mask rule - the ESPN guys claimed that
any touching of the face-mask (even if accidental) triggered an
automatic penalty. Ron Wolfley claimed on KTAR that the
rules were changed a couple of years ago so that an accidental or
incidental touching of the face mask need not be flagged.
The sequence of
events is important and the rules interpretation (at least in my
mind) murky - i.e. the face-mask deal definitely occurred
after the ball was in the air (but it's unclear if it was before
or after Dansby actually grabbed it).
If the face-mask
penalty had been called and occurred before the ball was
pried loose, the Packers would have kept the ball and picked up an
additional 15-yards from the infraction (and a 1st down).
If the face-mask
infraction occurred after Dansby intercepted the pass, it
would be Cardinals ball with a 15 yard penalty moving them
back to around the Green Bay 25 (where Rackers would presumably
wind up with an opportunity to redeem himself).
Where things get
murky is if the face-mask infraction had occurred after the
ball was knocked loose but before Dansby actually gained
possession. Would the infraction be ruled as happening during
the course of the offensive play? Would it be ruled as happening
after possession changed? Or what about when possession of the
ball is in limbo? (No doubt Mr. Pereira will answer this later on
the matter of Rodgers' "kick." Isn't it an infraction when a ball
is kicked intentionally? And if it was (& since it happened when
the ball was "free"), would it not wipe out the face-mask call and
at the very least give the Cardinals the ball at the line of
One final comment
- over the entire course of a game, questionable calls usually
even themselves out, with neither team gaining an edge on way or
the other. The Packers benefited from some iffy calls earlier in
the game -including one bogus horse-collar penalty (maybe 2)
on Dockett and a flag on Adams in the end zone where it looked as
if the wide receiver hooked Michael's arm thereby preventing him
from turning toward the ball.
Bottom line - If
you don't want to risk being hurt by a bum call late in the game,
play better earlier in the game.
Cards Win Track Meet...
-- Sun. Jan. 10
-- Memo to Neil Rackers - I apologized for all the obscene names I
called you. (We're going to need you next week and hopefully after
that). Ditto (although to a slightly lesser extent) Bryant
McFadden and, for that matter (Michael Adams who redeemed himself
for causing the game winning OT fumble.
We have a short
prep week (we play NO on Saturday). Naturally, yours truly has a
"social obligation." It's for lunch an hour north of here. Maybe
I'll luck out and be home in time for the kickoff. (Thank God for
That's it for now
- other than to apologize for link problems on the highlights
page. Until I can de-bug the software, I'll just have to post a
link this page's URL in place of the standard link format.
I'll probably put up a short version of the game write-up tonight
and tweak it tomorrow. Bye Bye.
Down Since Friday...
-- Sun. Jan. 10
-- Welcome to The Giant PC Crash of 2010.
I turned on the
old laptop Friday morning to discover that there was no Windows
display - just a blinking dash at the upper left corner of a
"black screen of death." Screaming epithets at the top of my
lungs, I did what any normal 70 year old non-geek would do: I paid
a visit to my friendly neighborhood Geek Squad. Verdict - Hard
Drive Crash. Optional Courses of Action: (a) Try to replace the
bad hard drive, try to rescue all data files or (b) Buy a new
laptop and try to transfer old programs and data from the bad
machine to the good one. Armed with (1) 4 years worth of birthday
money from Dr. (Mrs.) G's mom and (2) Dr. (Mrs.) G's "I told you
should get a new PC" words ringing in my ear, I opted to buy the
this meant turning everything over to the Geek Squad (who, being
largely Giant fans) could care less about my not being able to
access the Red Sheet) who took the rest of the day Friday, all day
Saturday and half of Sunday to once again to connect me to the BRS.
So here I am.
Sorry for any inconvenience. It's nearly 2 pm ET Sunday. I have no
clue as to who's ahead in the NE vs. Baltimore playoff. I am upset
that Mr. Bluster (aka Rex Ryan) won his playoff game and have
mixed views about Team Felon vs. Philly - I don't think the
outcome had any impact on who we might play when later on. I
would, however, prefer to have the Cards play any road game in the
Dallas dome than in the windy stadium filled with broken glass in
the City of Brotherly Love in Jan.
Which brings us
to Cards vs. GB. This games scares me - the Packers outmatch us
every which way on paper. (But then again, so did Minny and the
Giants). I'm concerned about the injuries to Q, Calais and DRC
(though I've heard that DRC - who's crucial to our being able to
play man and rush the passer - is feeling a whole lot better). I,
therefore, don't go into this game so much feeling either
confident or scared. Instead I feel curious about how it all will
play out. By 7:40 or 8:00 pm this evening, we'll find out what "it
is what it is" will turn out to be.
El Fingero Crosso.
Game Will Be Sunday (Be There!)
It was embarrassing last Sunday to see so many green-clothed
fans in seats that should have been a solid sea of red.
Here are the details (courtesy the official Cardinal
Wild Card game is scheduled for
Sunday, Jan. 10, at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. Arizona time (4:30 p.m. ET)
and the game will air on FOX.
Tickets for the game will go on sale Monday for those in
Arizona and on Tuesday everywhere else.
Starting Monday at 7 a.m. Arizona
time Cardinals-Packers playoff tickets will be available
exclusively on-line and only to Arizona residents. These
tickets can be purchased at
www.ticketmaster.com and are available to customers
with Arizona billing addresses only.
On Tuesday at 7 a.m. Arizona time, any remaining
tickets will be available nationwide through
Ticketmaster on-line as well as by phone.
At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, fans can
purchase tickets in person at the Cardinals Tempe Training
Facility and University of Phoenix Stadium box
offices. At that time they will also be available in-person
at participating Ticketmaster outlets (hours vary by
There will be a limit of 8 tickets on all transactions.
The NY Times Sports Page
scooped all NYC media (that I read) by publishing game time and
date in this morning's paper. Nice going guys.
The one thing the
Cardinals will not have to worry about during the week is excess
media adulation - the pundits have all but anointed the Packers
the winner and the Cardinals their "scout team" for bigger and
better things later on. If you agree with Bill Parcells' "they are
who they are" point of view, the pundits may be right - the
Cardinals (regardless of who was in there) played poorly and
lost/Green Bay played well and won. In terms of proving who can
ball best, they own high ground. It is what it is.
I hope Mr.
Parcells and the pundits are wrong (but there's still that gnawing
feeling - I hope it's merely a carry over from watching Cardinal
Green Bay (Week 17) Game Day Blog...
-- Sun. Jan. 3 --
Coming into today, we were going to need a Giant win over
Minnesota, a Dallas win over Philly and our own win over Green Bay
to secure a Bye week spot. Didn't happen. WIth a quarter still
left to play in Minnesota, the Vikes were leaving tire-tracks all
over the uniforms of fallen Giants and were up 41 - 0.
Which means that
the Cardinals must now (a) play this afternoon's Green Bay game
"for pride", (b) rest the aged, the infirm and the border-lined
injured, (c) give the back ups a chance for more seasoning while
(d) playing our starters enough to keep them sharp and (e)
not revealing to the Packers anything we don't want them to see.
If I'm Coach Wiz,
I would seriously consider either starting Matt Leinart or at
least putting him in the game early - as soon as Kurt Warner gets
enough quality reps. I notice also that Beanie Wells is listed as
having a groin-problem. I'd sit him.
for the outcome of this game (other than the standard prayer of
"no injuries" - the missus has scheduled "dinner out" (which means
I'll probably watch the recorded replay later this evening or
early tomorrow (and will have nothing to post until tomorrow
Pro Bowl - The Good, The Bad, The Weird...
- - Wed. Dec.
30 -- Congratulations to the four Cardinals who were named to
the Pro Bowl. Condolences to a number of Cardinals who were on the
cusp but got edged out. And to those of you who insist that
"change is good", I say: "change is change" - hopefully good, but
we'll just have to see.
In reverse order
of topic: For the first time since before Bronco Nagurski, the Pro
Bowl will not be played in Hawaii. And for the first time, it will
be played before the Super Bowl. The honor, therefore goes
to "the best players in the NFL who weren't good enough to make it
to the Super Bowl. (which means - that should the Cardinals fail
to make it to the Super Bowl, we all should go yippee)? But may I
take a moment to digress? I remember a few years back in the
day, when (between the Draft and Camp) a group of NFL All Stars
would play the College All Stars. (In fact, I vaguely recall the
career of one bright Cardinal prospect (last name Brown?)
ending with an injury on the opening kickoff).
So to the guys
who deserved to make it but didn't - #13, #81, #58, #5, #1 and #36 -
think of it this way - It doesn't matter whether or not you were
selected to the Pro Bowl, because if you take care of business
during the playoffs, you wouldn't play in it anyway.
And to those who
made it - Fitz, A-Dub, D-Dock and DRC - congratulations. It means
that you four Cardinals appeared over everyone's radar. The first
three of you are more than great players; you've also emerged as
leaders of your football team.
A special message
to DRC - You're not a team leader yet - you're still a young'un
with incredible athletic skill and potential. But stay humble -
never forget the reason you made it to the Pro Bowl this year and
not last year has everything to do with what's between your ears
and between your shoulder blades. Continue to focus on the things
you can do from week to week to make you even better. Finally, it
has no doubt occurred to you that "big money is on its way." Take
it from an ancient bald Jewish guy who's seen a lot come and go
during the past 70 -years: "Money is nice, but simple things
are often the most enjoyable - you may find that a juicy
charcoal-broiled hamburger tastes better than a big ol' steak.
Sweet potato pie tastes better than baked Alaska. A brisk walk
along a country lane is more enjoyable than a stroll down the
A Different Kind of Pro Bowl...
Each of us has a Top 10 list - of athletes, foods, TV shows, rock
tunes whatever. Four on my list were honored last night at Kennedy
Center. They call one of them "The Boss", but the other
three also deserve the title of "Boss" within their unique spheres
- My favorite actor of all time.
- My favorite comic of all time (Lenny Bruce a close second). If
you're too young, I urge you to pick up his 2000 Year Old Man CD's
and check out some of his less famous material on the flip side
(most notably the Argentinean Coffee Plantation Owner bit.
- Not my favorite jazz pianist of all time (I was more of a Horace
Silver, Bobby Timmons, Red Garland and Wynton Kelly guy) but I
have his renditions of "A-Train" "Le Souk" and "Balcony Rock" on
my car CD and can't but help recall that one of the first
jazz LP's I ever owned (at the tender age of 14) was a gift from
my brother, Jim: Dave Brubeck Quartet's Jazz at Oberlin."
Springsteen - Not my favorite rock star (My tastes ranged more
from traditional rock 'n rollers - like Little Richard, the
Cadillacs, Joe Turner, Chuck Berry - thru modern day rockers -
like ELP, Dixie Dregs and J Geils - to James Brown and funkadelics
George Clinton, Maceo P and Bootsie C). But Bruce has a special
place in my heart because (although he doesn't know this) he was a
neighbor of mine - we used to see Bruce and a friend skate-board
from the crest of Telegraph Hill down my street (Mount Drive) in
lovely downtown Holmdel, NJ.
I never fully appreciated Bruce until
he published his tribute to Pete Seeger - I then began to realize
that he's become the latest extension of a "music of the people"
thread that's been handed off from Leadbelly and Dock
Boggs to Woody Gutherie to Pete Seeger to Bob Dylan to Little Arlo
and now The Boss.
A great night
last night - the intro of Bruce Springsteen by his close friend,
Jon Stewart (i.e. "Bob Dylan and James Brown had a baby...and his
name was Bruce Springsteen") was the best intro I can ever
Playoff Bye and Seeding Scenarios...
The following is a distillation of info from D Urban's blog
(courtesy of VP Media Relations, Mark Dalton -
There are eight
Week 17 Possibilities
Cards have a 1 in
8 chance of being seeded #2 (thereby earning a Game #1 Bye). We
have to beat GB. Minnesota has to lose to the Giants and Philly
has to lose to (ughh!) Team Felon.
Cards have a 2 in
8 chance of being seeded #3.
Cards have a 5 in
8 chance of being seeded #4.
I have no idea
what being seeded #3 or #4 would mean for us.
St. Louis Win - The Day After...
- - Mon. Dec.
28 - - Cards took care of business yesterday, but would have
had trouble winning had we played a more advanced football team
with all its starters intact. Prime concerns:
Kurt Warner (Bridges looked a bit shaky handling Chris Long
all on his own).
(Amendola averaged 26.3 yards per return - & it was consistent
yardage - not due to one long return).
Warner & His
Receivers (On different pages more often than you'd expect)
Instinct (Or lack thereof - instead of scoring on our first
possession of the 2H and burying the Rams, we let them back into
the game with a turnover). We did the same time the week before
For the first
time this season, Early Doucet "played tall."
Hightower's blitz pickup cold-cock was a beautiful thing.
pick got me to thinking about the way we draft lately. Back in the
day (even as late as the Denny era), emphasis was on "building the
belly" of the roster with solid, reliable core players. There
seemed to have been a turning point when we traded up to grab
Alan Branch. Alan can best be described as a "planet person" -
a term coined by the late Giant GM George Young (i.e. there are
only so many people on the planet who are that big...). Since that
draft, the Cards have drafted a bunch of rookies who - while not
necessarily "complete" players - have one or possibly two
freakishly good athletic characteristics: Branch is huge. DRC
and Toler are extremely fast and can jump through the roof. LSH
may be tiny but he's very speedy and hits at 1,000 mph. He and
Toler have something to prove (as did Anquan Boldin when he
first got here). Calais Campbell is 6-8. Beanie Wells
is big, fast and a load to bring down. Brandon Keith, while
raw, has exceptionally quick feet. Herman Johnson is a very
very big individual.
Kurt Warner (for his 100th), Early Doucet and Greg
Toler (for their first) and the Cardinals (for their
Myth Busters -
If you're a busy and somewhat lazy member of the national media,
you'll be as likely as not to rely on obsolete information,
conventional wisdom and "what you heard somewhere" about the
Cardinals. This year, the team has been able to poke huge holes in
a number of myths:
Losers Never Bounce Back (Cards won 10 games so far and
repeated as NFC West champs).
Cardinals" (Apparently not).
Run the Ball (Since Game #8, the Cards have gained 94, 182,
122, 183, 75, 113, 85, 122 and 110 yards on the ground).
Rush the Passer (40+ sacks says different).
Seattle signed 7th round draft pick Trevor Canfield to their
active roster off our PS (Too bad - we liked what we saw of him
prior to the draft and in camp). He's been replaced by G Jordan
Palmer - we don't know much about him other than he's bounced
around to a half-dozen or so teams.
Why will my LIvio Internet Radio receiver pick up KGME
but not hook up with streamed audio from KTAR (even
though I can pick up KTAR's Wolf and Doug feed "live" via my
St. Louis Game Day...
- - Sun. Dec.
27 -- Weather is atypically warm (low-fifties) for two days
after Christmas in the northeast - good day to lace up the old
walking shoes and make up for sloth-like holiday overindulgence
and lack of exercise with 3 miles of (non-treadmill)
walking-time. Ram game is the late-afternoon game in the
northeast. Packers play Seattle in the early game, and I'll
probably tune in at least part of it to get a better line on our
next opponent (Green Bay).
In terms of the
playoff picture, today's Ram game is irrelevant - except when it's
not. First of all, there's the outside shot at a Bye Week (if we
run the table and a couple of other NFL teams don't). And
there's strong sentiment throughout the Cardinal organization
pulling for us to reach double-digit wins (for the first time
since the mid to late seventies).
But then there's
the small matter of consistency (or lack thereof). When the
Cardinals fail to maintain a high level of play game in/game
out...bad things have been known to happen. Cards must remain
sharp. Injuries (big and small) must be a consideration - there
won't be time to rest aching shoulders and game ankles during the
playoffs. Where it makes sense, we ought to give our nicked up
guys time to heal. Finally, there's the issue of "depth" - the
relatively good health of the Cardinals in general is a two-edged
sword - while health is nice, it also brings with it less playing
time for our backups. It's highly unlikely our roster will make it
through the playoffs entirely unscathed. We'll have to rely on
guys who may not have seen a whole lot of action - first guy
coming to mind being Matt Leinart, with backup tackle Brandon
Keith and backup center, Ben Claxton not far behind.
thing to do would be to (a) by all means go for the win, but (b)
only play Kurt for a half and start spot-substituting our backups
during the 3rd or 4th quarter. (Note - Recent noises coming out of
Cardinal facility is that the Cards will play to win both
remaining games, because players, coaches and management place a
high priority on "remaining on a roll." One other note - the game
is a sell-out).
The balmy Sunday
weather beckons - see you after the game.
More Musical Chairs...
- - Thurs.
Dec. 24 -- Mike Gandy was officially placed on IR. His
roster spot was filled by LB Pago Togafau who was promoted from
the PS. Cards are hoping to re-sign Ali Highsmith to replace
Togafau on the PS.
When all the dust
settles, there's little if any impact on the LB unit. But on the
D-Line, should recently elevated starting LT Jeremy Bridges go
down, our next line of resistance is Brandon Keith and then Herman
ed a tackle and a safety
from the free agent wire: They signed safety Hamza Abdullah
216)who was cut by Cleveland this preseason and had had previously
spent time with Denver and Cleveland since becoming a pro in
2005. He gives the Cards a veteran presence at backup safety. His
most productive year was with the Broncs in 2007, where he
appeared in 11 games (8 as a starter) had 48 tackles, defended
four passes and recovered 2 fumbles. But he neared zero-production
for Denver and Cleveland in 2008.
Cards also added
6-8 315 lb offensive tackle, Cliff Louis to the PS. He was
a rookie from Morgan State who appeared in 4 preseason games for
the Giants but not in any regular season games. He probably was a
PS member who was released and signed (if he was still on the
Giant PS, we'd have to have signed him to our active roster).
To make room for
Abdullah and Louis, the Cards cut LB Ali Highsmith from the active
squad and FB Brandon Renkart from the PS. Highsmith entered the
season with high hopes as a special teamer and active (if somewhat
undersized LB). I seem to recall - either in Sunday's game vs.
Detroit or the previous week vs. SF - Highsmith just flat-out
missing a key tackle at the LOS that enabled the RB to gash us for
a huge gain. I wonder if this and/or similar breakdowns might have
been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
Pro Bowl Love
As fan voting came to a close, It looks like Fitz, Adrian
Wilson and Ben Graham are at the top their NFC position
lists. (Kurt was 4th behind Favre, Brees and Rodgers.
DRC was 4th behind Woodson, Samuel and Winfield. Nine-Oh
was 4th behind Haynesworth and the Williams Sisters. Rolle
was 3rd behind FS's Sharper and Madieu Williams. No love for
Boldin, Dansby or LSH).
Fan voting only
counts for 1/3 of the total vote (the media and players/coaches
each have one-third apiece). But usually, the few guys we place in
the Pro Bowl get there not because of the fans, but because their
NFL brothers voted them there. All of which is to say that while,
of course, as a Cardinal fan I feel all 10 Cardinals deserve to be
in the Pro Bowl, at least it's nice to see that the NFL fans are
beginning to sit up and take notice that there are some pretty
special players on the Cardinal roster. Plus - there's still the
possibility that the coaches, players and media might nudge a
couple of other Cardinal players over the top.
the top-rated players on the Cardinal roster are that good and
that numerous, it could keep them out of the Pro Bowl (which is
being played on the mainland the week before the Super Bowl) -
because it would mean that we were b-a-a-c-k!
The Meaning of
Dec. 21 -- This was a huge game, and we almost blew it.
The game was
important more for the scenario that might follow should we lose
it. We were playing a game we should win" (a win that would take
us halfway toward clinching our second consecutive playoff spot).
But should we lose and SF win today, the remaining schedule would
have favoredr the Niners. (After facing the Eagles later in the
afternoon, the Niners would) have 2 gimmes remaining on their
schedule, whereas we'd have one gimme plus one toughy vs. Green
us we built a 17- zip lead by halftime, but the score was
misleading. the Lions played like bottom feeders for nearly
the entire first half - with penalties and untimely turnovers
disrupting Lion drives and setting up Cardinal scores. But the
Cards looked far from sharp. Even though Kurt Warner's completion
percentage was fairly gaudy, he looked far from sharp - causing
receivers to change direction and twist around to make more than a
few grabs. And we were giving Maurice Morris a lot of room to
maneuver - both as a RB and outlet receiver. (On one play, Antrel
Rolle squatted in the gap and broke down to tackle Morris, who was
heading directly into the (B?) gap. Morris then faked Rolle
out of his proverbial jock and zoomed right by).
important, we left points on the field near the end of the half.
One thing really good teams (but not the Cards) know how to do
after they've built a pretty decent lead, is how to take the
"easy" points to gradually expand their lead and suck any
remaining life out of their opponents. The Cards were up 17 - 0
and in easy FG position at the Lion 24 with 0:24 left til
halftime. A FG would put us ahead 20 - 0. Instead, Warner
took a sack, lost the ball and we were denied an easy-three.
We were still
ahead 17 - 0 early in the third quarter. DRC's second pick had
again put us in scoring range at the Lion 20. A FG would put us up
20 - 0 (a TD 24 - 0). Instead, Warner tried to thread the needle
in the end zone. Instead, the Detroit safety (Delmas) turned our
scoring chance into a Pick 6. Now, instead of being up 20 - 0 or
24 - 0, we were only ahead 17 - 7 with the zombie-like crowd in
the stands suddenly turning into a bunch of screaming banshees. We
let the Lions back in the game.
after they held us to 3 & out and took over on their own 36 yard
line, Maurice Morris blew off LT for a 64-yard TD ramble narrowing
the score to 17 - 14. You know the rest - the tie and then a
seesaw battle in the 4Q. Fortunately we prevailed, but we should
have put this game away by the middle of the 3Q and we didn't.
After the game,
Warner expressed puzzlement as to why we don't finish. I think I
know why. It's all about "mind-set." You have to grow up in the
shadow of Yankee Stadium and the Meadowlands to fully understand
At certain key
points in any football game, there has to be a collective "healthy
When the QB is
playing with a lead and has his team at his opposing team's
door-step, warning buzzers should be going off ("Protect the ball.
Eat the ball or throw it away if necessary. Don't force it. Don't
leave points on the field").
When a ball
carrier fights for extra yardage to keep the chains moving and
protect a lead,, he should hear his inner-voice whispering: "Both
hands on the ball."
When we're ahead
and our defense has forced the other team to punt, our return man
has to remind himself - "If I don't have a solid shot at fielding
the ball, I'm going to get as far away from it as possible."
When return teams
huddles up before taking the field, the watch-cry should be "No
teams line up to cover a punt or KO, some one ought to be yelling:
"Protect your lanes!"
When the QB plans
to call a hard-count, he should remind his offense in the huddle
"ignore my voice and watch the ball."
Same deal on the
opposite side of the ball. "Go on sight and not on sound!"
fans wonder out loud: "These guys are professionals, why should
they need to be reminded?" Short answer: "Because they do."
Murphy's Law is
alive and well - "Anything that can go wrong...will!"
Next Up: St.
Louis and Green Bay
No doubt there will be a lot of cross-talk about "resting players"
vs. "maintaining our momentum" and stuff like that. Here's where I
I don't think we
should overly-protect healthy players, but I do think we should
sit players with nagging injuries in order to get them healed up
and ready for the playoffs. I also feel this is the perfect time
to give some of our backup guys some game-experience. Matt
Leinart could use an additional one or two halves of football
to shake off any cobwebs and get to a point where he can
immediately step in and move the team if need be. And -
considering Gandy's surgery - we might need guys like
Brandon Keith or Herman Johnson to be ready down the
It also figures
to be a good time to clean a few things up, fine-tune other stuff
and add a few new wrinkles for the playoff run.
Depending on the
outcome next week's games, Green Bay might present a unique
situation: If they're still in playoff contention, will we be more
likely to keep both playbooks fairly vanilla in case we play them
in post season? Or would we instead, want to "show them a
little thigh" to make them have to prepare for additional stuff we
might (or might not) throw at them later on?
This & That
I was really impressed by Detroit HC Jim Schwartz who's
turning around Detroit's culture of losing (remember when we had
that problem)? They say that a team tends to take on the persona
of its head coach. If so, we can expect the Lions to evolve into a
feisty, hard-bitten bunch of overachievers. Granted, Schwartz does
use the "drama card" a bit too often (in fact, one time when he
was attempting to rip the red flag from beneath his front belt, I
was afraid that he'd reach in there and pull out a sock). But
sometimes you have to do what it takes to get everyone's
attention...One net "plus" of clinching yesterday is a personal
one - I really became grumpy after our loss to SF, dwelling on the
"what-ifs" of not making the playoffs. Now that we're "in", I can
look forward to the Holiday season as one of bowl games, draft
picks, family and friends without having that gnawing feeling in
the pit of my stomach.
Here's to a
happy, healthy, stress-free Holiday season for you as well!
X's & O's -
Plays of the Week
There were two that warmed the old cockles:
Eagles - Wildcat formation - A Smith and F Gore deep. Smith
acts as though the direct snap went over his head (causing
defenders to react to an apparent miscue). Meanwhile Gore takes
the actual snap and motors off RT for a sizable gain.
Central Florida - Wildcat formation -Greg Schiano
dialed up a play I diagrammed all the way back in high school and
have lobbied for ever since - Mohamad Sanu deep. Sanu takes the
direct snap and runs straight into the line (causing C Fla's
secondary defenders to flow to the ball). But just as he reaches
the LOS, Sanu rears up and hits the TE wide open on a seam route.
The beauty of this play is that the ILB's and safety are fcaught
between the proverbial hard-place of defending the inside run or
the short pass. (One minor glitch - the TE got hit 15 yards
down the field and fumbled away the ball).
The Blizzid of 2009:
Snow plow dude didn't show up until 9:30 pm ET. He had his wife
riding with him in the cab. Turns out they're both big Giant fans.
One indirect blessing of not being dug out from the snow storm -
when you're snowed in, there isn't very much to do except eat
Nachos and watch football. (I'll take it)!
Detroit Game Day
20 -- 15 minutes to kickoff, and I'm as nervous as a cat. I was
hoping we'd get this whole deal resolved by 4:30 pm ET, with the
Cards beating Detroit and the Eagles taking care of SF in Philly.
However the drama will be extended - they've moved the SF - Philly
game to 4:15 pm ET due to the snowy weather. Furthermore, the
closer we get to game-time, the less sure I am that either game
will be close to a lock.
Looks like Fitz
has cleared the medics and the coaching staff and will start. (My
fingers are crossed). After Warner's lack of sharpness last
Monday, I'm concerned about whether or not our passing attack will
get back on track. And it looks like Ralphie Brown will be
patrolling the deep nickel safety position in place of the injured
Looks like the
Lions will start Culpepper over the injured Stafford. Although
Culpepper's stats aren't particularly rosy, he is a pro and by now
may have shaken off the rust. In addition, the Cards of the past
have been notorious for turning new QB's into Pro Bowlers.
Meanwhile, it's been pointed out that Donovan McNabb has problems
with wet footballs, the Niners are 6 & 0 against the spread and
the Eagles have trouble covering tight ends
waiting for a new dude to come out and plow my driveway (We got
about 16--inches of the white stuff) and with new guys, you never
can be sure whether they'll actually show up. If he doesn't, it
means a 70-year old bald guy will be in charge of getting the
driveway done (not a pleasant - or for that matter wise - thing to
I so want the
issue of clinching to be over. The game in Philly is obviously a
must-win for the Niners. But, in my opinion, so is our game in
Got my game face
on. Seeya later.
Looking Toward Detroit
NJ -- Thurs. Dec. 17 -
hate to burst anyone's balloon, but in order to make the playoffs,
we may have to do more than just beat Detroit. The Niners
are 6 & 7. We're 8 & 5. Although the deal going into the SF game
was "we win and we're in",
this presupposed that we'd widen our lead by an additional game
(because we'd have won and Detroit had lost). Instead, they beat
us and the lead is now down to 2-games with three games left to
play. Both teams play Detroit and StL. Each team has one tough
game ahead of them (the Lions play Philly this Sunday'; we play
the Packers in 2 weeks).
Conventional wisdom suggests that both teams will beat StL and
Detroit but lose to Green Bay and Philly respectively. But nothing
makes conventional wisdom look more like conventional stupidity
than what takes place in the real world. Should the Niners (who
are built to run and stop the run) beat the Eagles in the snow in
Philly this Sunday and then run the table, we could beat Detroit,
lose to Green Bay and StL and wind up in a tie (& the Niners own
the tie breaker.
But if events prove faithful to the odds, we should beat Detroit
and the Niners should lose to Philly. Should that happen, we'd be
9 & 5 and SF would be 6 & 8 with 2 games left to play. We'd be in.
But if we were to lose to Detroit and SF were to beat Philly, we'd
be 8 & 6 and the Niners would be 7 & 7 with 2 games to play. We'd
be underdogs against GB but favored to beat St. Louis and would be
likely to wind up 9 & 7. But the Niners would have to be favored
to beat both St. Louis and Detroit - which would put them at 9 & 7
(and the tie breaker would put them in and knock us out of the
division lead). I don't even want to remotely consider the remote
possibility of backing in via the wild card route should the
latter scenario happen.
Bottom line - Either win or die vs. Detroit and probably StL.
Niner Fiasco - Post Mortem
NJ -- Thurs. Dec. 17 -
(I wanted to wait a few days to avoid saying something I'd regret
later. OK; I've taken a deep breath, so here goes):
The Cardinals flew into SF facing several challenges (most with
higher upsides than downsides): Beating a division foe who beat
them earlier. Clinching. Beating a team they ought to beat.
Burnishing their media-creds on Monday night. Being in a position
to rest banged-up players during the final 3 games.
They failed to meet those challenges.
Which in turn, raises some additional challenges: We still need to
clinch. We need to put away an NFL bottom-feeder. FItz's
knee. In addition, if we lose to Detroit and SF beats
Philly, guess who has the easier schedule? (We have to play GB and
StL. The Niners will face Detroit and StL).
So what happened in San...Fran...Cisco? Teams led by a fiery coach
like Mike Singletary may falter over the long haul, but they can
always get fired-up up for one specific game (in this case the one
with us). Their defense can get really physical (which they did)
and go after the football (which they also did). After that, all
they really had to do was take a step back and wait for us to
implode (which, you guessed it, we did). On offense, they made
just enough plays to put 21 points on the board (normally not
enough to win), but their defense and our 7 turnovers held our
point total to an uncharacteristically low 9.
What could we have done differently? I've never been a coach, but
I do believe that there are things you can do when the other
side's defense is repeatedly "going after the ball" (for example,
making sure both hands are on the pig and trying to spin out
of the tackle). And after the first (and certainly after the
second) encroachment penalty on the first defensive series, get
the message out to the troops - "No more guessing the snap-count -
go on what you see/not what you hear"). Finally, perhaps the
trigger could have been pulled earlier on Mike Gandy. Niner DB's
were covering our receivers aggressively but our O-line wasn't
giving Warner enough time to wait for his receivers to make double
moves or otherwise get clear. Bridges with a chipping TE or RB
worked against the Vikes - why not got back to it earlier?
This Sunday, we face the Lions. What makes me feel good? Well, we
match up favorably against Detroit in all aspects of play; plus
their RB Kevin Smith is on IR and it looks like Stafford may miss
Sunday game as well. Meanwhile the Niners must face Philly (who's
trying to lock up the NFC East) in Philly.
What makes me nervous? The Cardinals have proved that they are
capable of playing as badly as any team in the NFL. They've done
this more than once and they can do it again. They have also not
sold me on their ability to handle success. They could easily go
into the tank in their final 3 games (despite 2 of those three
games being against Detroit and StL). And the Niners are quite
capable of getting on a roll - and if they can somehow beat the
Eagles, they then need only beat the Lions and StL to wrap up the
season; and since they've beaten us twice, they own the tie
also get nervous about bad habits tending to perpetuate
themselves: Who's to say that, if we fumbled 7 times a week ago,
we won't fumble, 5 or more times this week? If Warner and his
receivers lost their mojo in the City by the Bay, who's to say
they're going to regain it this week in the Motor City?
There are lots of ways we can beat the Lions - We can bring our
"A" game and annihilate them. We can simply match our better guys
against their less-better guys, avoid dumb mistakes and let our
talent-edge prevail. We can hope the Lions "are who they are" and
self-destruct. But, given the fact that football is all
about "11 human beings facing 11 other human beings", supervised
by a frequently dysfunctional group of men in stripes and
working with an oblong-shaped ball that can get greasy at times -
given all of that: anything can happen.
My strong suggestion: Go the "A" Game route and get the job done.
Niner Game Day
NJ -- Mon. Dec. 14 -- How
weird to spend the entire weekend without a meaningful college or
pro football game to watch. (Actually, come to thnk of it, the
Eagles' shoot-out win over the Giants last night was pretty
exciting and was the focus of a lot of local interest here in NJ,
but there was nothing else on the tube that had much impact on the
Cardinals' march toward the playoffs. I looked in on Green Bay,
StL and Detroit. I respect (maybe even a little bit fear) Green
Bay, but this was not one of their more scintillating efforts. The
Rams and the Lions both got blown out, and Detroit RB Kevin Smith
had to leave the game due to injury.
This morning, I tuned in to KTAR on my new LIVIO internet radio
only to get this funky error message that they were streaming
music this morning. So I bopped on over to KGME. They had these
two dudes - one a Cardinal Kool-Aider and the other taking the
Niners and 3½. For my taste, there was too much gushing about the
Cardinals by the one dude and too much shallow speculation about
the outcome by both guys.
Which brings me to how I'm approaching the game at hand. Huge game
- we win and we're in. All the stats favor us. But - they beat us
the first game (and if they knew how to do it then, they logically
could do it again tonight). They have Crabtree now. They're
operating out of the spread with Alex Smith taking the snaps. How
fired up would you be on the Niners with Singletary sneaking up
behind at you and suddenly letting loose with one of his patented
screeches? If we lose, we still can (& should) make the playoffs;
if the Niners lose, they're done for the year - who do you think
will be the more desperate team?
That's the setup. The way I see it, on paper, the matchups are a
lot closer than you'd figure, but the Cards have a slight edge.
The first time we met the Niners, we had lost all 4 preseason
games and our offense had not clicked. We didn't have Breaston
(or Doucet) and SF pass defenders were all over Fitz and Boldin
like cheap suits. Warner looked "distracted." If I were
Singletary, I'd defend the pass the same way I did in Game #1
until the Cardinals proved they could beat it.
But the good news for Cardinal fans is that SF now ranks #27
against the pass and Clements is said to be "out" for tonight's
game. There's a lot more tape for Kurt Warner & Crew to prowl
through in search of NIner weak points.
In the first game, our running attack was close to nonexistent
(Beanie was a late arrival to training camp and was still
adjusting to the pro game). While our run game still isn't where
we want it, we have averaged closed to 125 yards in recent
games, and at the very least, it's enough of a threat to keep
the SF pass rush hounds at bay and set up play action passes.
Alex Smith has a higher "chi square" than did Shaun Hill (i.e.
Hill was a game-manager who seldom won or lost games for SF.
Smith is higher reward/higher risk). Smith will be operating out
of Urban Meyer's spread and throwing to newbie Michael Crabtree
but (even more importantly) newfound team leader, Vernon Davis
(who, at 260 lbs, can run a 4.3). Add Josh Morgan, Arnaz Battle
and Isaac Bruce to the chili pot (along with Frank Gore) and
you're talking about a pretty diverse arsenal for the Cardinals
The Cardinals have demonstrated that they can contain high
powered offenses like the Vikes or the Giants but have also
shown that, when they lose their focus, they can be ripped by
teams like Carolina or Indianapolis (or allow a team like the
Titans to reel off 18 plays to beat us on a final drive).
Our mantra during the early part of the season had been: "Which
Cardinal team will show up?" However, over the past 6 games or
so, the Big Red has played at a consistently higher level and
(with the exception of the near-miss in Tennessee) met every
challenge and then some. With the playoffs on the line and
memories of the opening loss needing to be expunged, the
Cardinals should successfully meet this challenge as well.
But....you never know.
What I do know (borne out of a lifetime in the NY Giants media
market) is that as Cardinal fans, we'd be well-advised to wait
until we succeed before we run our mouths. The Niners beat us
the first time. It's in their house. They're more desperate than
we are. The ball bounces funny. The zebras can act funky
(for proof, check out the blown calls in the Giant - Eagles last
10½-hours and counting..
Viking Game Day
NJ - - Sun. Dec. 6 -- How
huge? We're playing one of the League's elite. Battle of the
Greybeards. Sunday Night. National TV. Season on the line. It
doesn't get much better than this.
And we'll be in NYC eating Chinese food with close relatives
visiting from New Orleans. (Lucky for them we love them
madly. Otherwise, we'd be inclined to fake a case of Swine flu).
Great time of year to make the one-hour drive to NY - sure enough,
we got hit with our first snowfall last night. But fortunately, it
was light (and gone!) Weather will be clear and dry for this
The past week has been a blend of unease in the gut (over Young to
Britt on Play #18) with Holiday Madness (a raft of HS playoff
games to watch on TV - including 6 from Ohio and 6 from Michigan
plus some college dandies with BCS ramifications to consider).
Disappointments - Rutgers failing to covert 5 or 6 key
opportunities and losing by 3 to WVa. Nebraska losing to Texas on
a long 0:01 FG. Hurrahs: Cincy coming back to beat Pitt. 'Bama
upsetting Tebow. Boise State, Cincy and TCU all remaining in the
top #4 - #6. And congratulations to the Cardinals of Youngstown
(Cardinal Mooney HS and their great RB, Braylon Heard) who beat
DeSales 35 - 7 in the Div III finals).
Check out "The Livio"
The other nifty bit of news was our acquisition of this thing
called The Livio. It looks like a table model radio. It
plugs into the wall socket like a table model radio. It has a
speaker like a table model radio. And no other wires are needed.
What it does is connect with Internet Radio without your PC
needing to be turned on. All you need is WI FI in your house.
Setup is easy - just follow the prompts and enter the WEP key of
your wireless router/modem and you're in business. You can access
any Internet radio website that streams (either by scrolling to it
on-screen or typing in its call-letters).
From my distant perch in suburban NJ, now listen to Wolf and
Doug on KTAR with my morning coffee and Jurecki & Co. on KGME
later in the day. Plus I've been listening to Gypsy music from
stations in Romania and the Ukraine and Blues from a station in
KC. Plus PLus - the Livio makers are tied into the music service,
Pandora - so I've created my own customized streaming sites
featuring anything from Bebop to Rennaissance Music to Tom
Waites. Tres cool - costs about $175. Check it out.
Big game tonight - I probably won't post again til somewhere
around noon tomorrow. I've got my fingers crossed; we need this
One Inch (& 0:06) Short vs. Tenn...
NJ - - Mon. Nov. 30 -- Truth be
told, I didn't think we'd overcome a 150 yards per game RB and his
emerging triple threat QB. And when it was announced that Kurt
Warner couldn't go, yesterday, I steeled myself for a blowout.
The Thanksgiving weekend leading up to yesterday's game was kind
of strange: I was bummed that Menomonee HS didn't make the
Michigan District Finals so that I'd be denied the opportunity to
watch traditional single wing football. But I did watch a lot of
HS football and must admit to enjoying the creativity and
versatility of the HS and college game. It's nice to see some of
this finally carrying over to the pros - wildcat and all.
Here's the good and the bad of this thingy I installed over the
weekend: It's called The Livio that streams content from
Internet sights. After an initial connection to your wireless
network, it operates just like your old Philco table model radio -
just plug it into a wall outlet and, voila! You're in! No other
wires needed - just the wall plug. Your PC doesn't even have to be
turned on. How cool to catch Doug and Wolf's morning radio show on
KTAR and Cardinal pregame, game and post game shows (or so I
thought)! I was able to locate and connect with KTAR, but not KGME
or KDUS. And, although I was able to listen to Doug and Wolf
yesterday morning, I couldn't connect with KTAR today. One other
huge downer was, I believe, "man made." KTAR blacked out the
Cardinal pregame game and postgame shows. (I can understand why
they might have to black out the game due to contracts with SIRIUS
and nfl.com. But why black out the pregame and postgame shows)?
Bottom line - I've inched a bit closer to feeling closer to the AZ
sports community, but the team, league and media suits in charge
of programming are still biased in the direction of denying us
fans access. Oh well, at least I can tune in folk music from the
Ukraine, classical orchestras from Russia and Israel and blues
from KC. And - when KTAR feels like it - Doug and Wolf from AZ.
It was a mixed weekend for Cardinal teams: Hats off to Cardinal
Mooney (Ohio HS semis) and the amazing comeback by the Stanford
Cardinal. But the Cardinals of Louisville fell convincingly to (my
Rutgers) and then, of course, there were Our Cardinals yesterday.
The first half of the Cardinal - Titans game was "what we thought
it was" - A dull, ineffective offense led by a rusty Matt Leinart.
Our defense trying to figure out how to deal with a
breakaway RB and his triple-threat QB sidekick. I was thoroughly
amazed that we were only down 6 - 3 at halftime. (How did that
happen)? You could see Leinart shake off some of the rust as the
game wore on, but the offense still looked sluggish as we started
the second half. The wake-up call came later on in the 3rd quarter
when Chris Johnson blew open the Cardinal defense for a 75-yard
score. But the actual wake-up came on the following play, when LSH
took it 99 yards to the house to keep it a 3-point game. The Cards
somehow hung in their by the skin of their proverbial teeth and I
was amazed when Leinart led the offense to pay-dirt early in the
4Q and we actually led by 17 - 13.
But the 12+ remaining minutes loomed like an eternity - especially
when Young and Johnson could flip the game with one explosive
play. At this point in the game, I got summoned to dinner. The
best I could do was to falsely plead "prostate" several times and
peek in on our TV on the way to and from the john. The time peeled
off in 2 - 3 minute increments; yet the score seemed frozen in
time at 17 -14. It finally came down that last Titan possession on
their own 1-yard line with 2:37 left to play. A few seconds; a few
more yards; a few more seconds, some more yards. (18 plays all
told). As I saw Titan receivers keep catching passes and managing
to consistently get out of bounds, I finally remarked to my wife
during that final time out with 0:06 on the clock:
"We're going to lose this thing."
And we did - after all, we gave Vince Young 18 opportunities to
beat us. The law of probabilities finally ran out on us on Play
win would have kept us 3 games ahead of SF (with games against
Minny and SF next up). Now we have to face SF on a Monday night in
their house with the playoffs on the line).
Whoever said rooting for the Cardinals was for the faint of heart.
Championship teams have to know what to expect at crunch time and
how to deal with those types of game-situations. We have to hope
that this young Cardinal defense takes a long painful look at what
happened during that 18 play drive, stares the lion in its mouth
and figures out what it needs to do in similar situations in the
Next week Minnesota. Sunday Night. National TV. And where will I
be? Entertaining family from NO who want to take in NYC during the
holidays. Catch you next Monday after I watch the game on TIVO.
Holmdel, NJ - -
Thurs. Nov. 26 -- A word of thanks
who have walked through the Valley to keep us all safe - also their
invented: Chocolate, Satellite TV, The Internet, Pizza, Beer, The
Cheese Omelet, The Charcoal Broiled Hamburger, Hot & Sour
Soup...Coffee...the Single Wing.
StL Cardinals, the 1947 Chicago Cardinals and the 2009 Super Bowl
Trippi, John David Crow, Jim Hart, Sonny Randle, Roy Green, OJ
Anderson, Jackie Smith, Larry Wilson, Aeneas Williams,
Johnny Roland, Roger Wehrli, Mel Gray, Conrad Dobler, Ernie
McMillan, Dan Dierfdorf, Terry Metcalf, Neil Lomax, Ken Harvey,
Larry Centers, Jake Plummer.
Moore, Harry "The Cat" Brecheen, Stan The Man, Red, Enos, Slats,
Gibby, Lou, The Wizard, Jack Buck, Albert, Carp, Wainright
G, Michael B, Kurt , THT, Beanie, Fitz, Q, Steve B, D-Dock, Karlos,
A-Dub, Calais, Gerald, Antrel, DRC, Rack and BG.
Salinger, John Knowles, William Goldman, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Parker, Robert Tannenbaum, Mark Twain,
John R. Tunis
the dozens who matriculated from Blakey U.
"Mr. Howling"...Hook...both Walters...Bo...T
line of unsung tenormen perhaps a bit short on improvising but
long on driving energy - Red...Rusty...Sam The Man...Big
Al...Jimmy F...Jaws...Gator...Mr. Lee... Clifford...The King.
Brooks/Carl Reiner...Monty Python....SNL...SCTY....Early Second
City (Arkin, Darden, Schreiber, Zora... Barbara)...Richard Pryor.
the City..."Cukoo's Nest"...Deer Hunter...Ferris Buhler...Station
Dowd, Mike Lupica, Mollie Ivins, Dan Jenkins, Jimmy Cannon
S...BosnPipe...Brighteyes...Garth...and everyone else in our
extended family of cyber Cardinal fans.
else I've loved (& who loved me)
countless unnamed angels who let me make the left turn...pull into
traffic...cut me slack on the overdue library book... slowed down
to let me hop aboard the bus...overlooked the missing homework
assignment...or forgave the lateness of a bill..
Cards Tweak Roster...
NJ -- Wed. Nov. 25 - - Cards made
a bunch of changes at the low end of their roster. Re-signed
(after a brief internment with the KC Chiefs) is LB Monte
Beisel. Re-signed to the PS are DE Jason Banks
and LB Pago Togafau. To make room for them, TE Dominique
Byrd was released from the regular roster and FB Jed
Collins and DT Antoine Holmes were released from the
I'm glad to see Beisel back in a Cardinal uniform - he's always
been good for one or two big plays (like a fumble recovery or
goal-line stuff) that helps win football games. I'm sorry to see
Byrd leave the coop - our TE's lack speed (witness the way Ben
Patrick was caught from behind last Sunday) and the USC alum had
the kind of burst that made him ideal for a Novacek-type tweener
Just guessing, but I suspect the re-signing of Beisel and Togafau
were the direct result of the Cards feeling a bit exposed at LB
when Gerald Hayes and Chike Okeafor went down at the same time.
Highsmith and Walker may have potential, but they weren't Gerald
and lack the field smarts and toughness of Beisel.
Cards - Vikes Moved to Sun.
NJ -- Tues. Nov. 24 -- The Cardinal -
Viking game on Sun. Dec. 6 will be "flexed" from the 2nd Sunday
afternoon game on FOX to the NBC Sunday Night game (8:20 pm
ET). The original NBC game was NE vs. Miami, but - according to D
Urban - the "Graybeard Bowl" (featuring AARP members, Kurt Warner
and Brett Favre) made for a unique story angle NBC couldn't pass
up. (Meanwhile, FOX had already protected Dallas vs. Giants so
Minnesota - Arizona became available). Nice to get a little love.
Personal Relationship With St. Lou - Part II...
NJ -- Thurs. Nov. 19 --
Funny how - when you jot down stuff that happened earlier in your
life -- other memories bubble to the surface.
By now you can figure out that those early train rides to StL had
a big impact on my life. Watching the cities and small towns of
America speed past my window, with the scenery gradually changing
from the urban back lots of the Northeastern rust belt to
the flat farmlands of the Midwest embedded in my mind (and heart)
the sense of the great breadth and diversity of our nation.
When railroads were originally lain out, the major challenge -
getting from the East Coast to the Midwest - was crossing
the natural hurdle posed by the Appalachians/Allegheny mountains.
The Pennsylvania RR route did it the hard way - cutting tunnels
through the mountains, navigating Horseshoe Bend (near Altoona,
PA) crossing the Ohio and its tributaries at Pittsburgh and then
picking up old US 40 and following it due west through Columbus,
Indianapolis and on to St. Louis.
The New York Central RR followed the more out-of-the-way but
less challenging route; much of which was originally carved out by
the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Indian confederacy and followed the
level of the water - north up the Hudson River, then west along
the Mohawk RIver, crossing a short portage at Rome, NY and
continuing west past modern-day Syracuse and the northern tips of
the Finger Lakes before heading northwest to Buffalo, NY, along
the south shore of Lake Erie to Cleveland and then southwest
to Indianapolis and eventually St. Louis.
few other things I remember about those trips - (a) the
sandwich-cart vendors who'd travel through the Pullman cars at
every major stop, (b) being allowed to step off the train and
stretch during lengthy stops (and always being a bit afraid that
the train would leave without me), (c) the smoky taste of the
southern-cured bacon (gray-colored/not pinkish stuff you bought in
the grocery store), (d) Harmon on the Hudson station (when you
lived in suburban NYC, you didn't depart from Grand Central, but
instead drove north to Harmon; where the engines switched to and
from diesel or steam to electric - to control urban smog). and (e)
the interesting people you'd meet in the dining car (One
such bohemian-dressed woman - I was 15 or 16; she was an ancient
23 or 24 turned out to be a jazz vocalist.. I give her credit for
cluing me in to Dizzy Gillespie's big band which, in addition to
Dizzy, featured John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Milt Jackson,
Lee Morgan, Al Grey and Wynton Kelly).
One trip to StL wasn't by train (and, no, it wasn't by air).
Between my junior and senior college years, a friend of mine
and I were able to borrow the family Pontiac station wagon and
embarked on a camping expedition to fish for lunker bass, crappy
and trout in the lakes and rivers of the Midsouth - starting in
eastern Tennessee, making our way west into Arkansas. Our
game-plan was to spend a day in St Louis on our way back east.
Unfortunately, a gentleman named Arlie Reed (from Cassfield, ARk)
ran me off the road outside of Rolla, MO. The frame was bent and
we had to be towed into St. Louis, where I sent my buddy home and
spent the better part of a week there while the car was repaired.
But every silver cloud has its ray of sunshine - I got to watch
the StL Cardinals every day, got tickets to a major golf
tournament and was fixed up with a series of beautiful young
ladies - courtesy of my favorite aunt (who was infamous for never
fixing her younger relatives up with "dogs").
had one last opportunity to ride the rails - this time from
Chicago to Penn Station in NYC - A business associate and me were
on a business trip to check out billboard locations for a
well-known brand of Scotch when 2 things crossed our radar screen:
(1) a blizzard was about to hit us and all flights were canceled
out of O Hare and (2) Sleeping car service was about to become a
thing-of-the-past on all service east of the Mississippi. So my
friend, Ken and I loaded up on corned-beef sandwiches. paperback
novels and other supplies and boarded the 20th Century Limited at
LaSalle St. Station. The train left at 10 pm. We woke up at 8 am
the next morning to discover that we were stuck in the Gary, IN
yards. The power lines were down from the blizzard. They had to
send in the Red Cross with donuts and coffee. What was supposed to
be an 18-hour trip turned into more like a day and a half. But it
was worth it. (In fact, I got to experience circling around
PS For a much better-written account of mid-twentieth century
railroad travel from a football perspective, read Dan Jenkins'
excellent novel (I believe its title is "Fast Copy").
still get to St. Louis from time to time - more often for weddings
and funerals than everything else. But - despite many of the
cousins, children and grandchildren flying the coop and having
being born, raised and still live in suburban NY, I still consider
St. Louis the family homestead.
Go Cardinals (both of you)!
Personal Relationship With St. Lou...
NJ -- Wed. Nov. 18 -- I may live
in NJ but a significant part of my heart resides in St. Louis, MO.
My family hails from there - both sets of grandparents (my mom and
her brother married my dad and his sister - separate weddings)
plus a bevy of uncles, aunts, cousins and friends of the family.
wasn't a frequent visitor (4 or 5 trips from NYC to StL by the
time I was 18). But - despite living in NY Yankee Country (in the
NYC suburb of Westchester county), I became a baseball Cardinal
fanatic from the age 3 (My first autographed baseball was signed
by centerfielder, Terry Moore. Its fate - like many before and
after - was to roll down a sewer after being pressed into service
because there was no other baseball available to have a catch in
the street in front of my home).
No one considered flying back then - the preferred mode of travel
was a sleeping car roomette on the NYC train that followed the
"water level route" up the Hudson, west along the Mohawk River and
on to Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis and finally to St.L.
great way for a young kid to see America - lying in the lower
berth at night, dazzled by the lights as the cities flew by - fire
spewing from the smokestacks and smelters, the hustle and bustle
of the station platforms and, as dawn arrived, the clothes-lines
in the backyards of farm houses.
learned how to read on an early train ride. Someone left a
newspaper on a vacant seat in the dining car. It was turned to the
sports pages and what looked like a baseball score. I remember
figuring out a word on the page that spelled C-a-r-d-i-n-a-l-s along
with the number
"16". Using my kindergarten and first grade skills, I sounded out a
second word that looked like C-i-n-c-i-n-n-a-t-i
followed by the number "0." Eureka! (That's what you'd say back
then when you had a mental light bulb go on). The Cardinals must
have beaten Cincinnati 16 to 0. Then I got confused because -
immediately below the first score was identical wording. It didn't
make sense - unless, of course, the Cardinals had swept a doubleheader
by an identical 16 - 0 margin. Which, after checking with my mom,
turned out to be precisely what happened.
My earliest recollections are where my grandpa and grandma lived
on Westminster Blvd. An uncle and aunt also owned a home nearby on
Westminster). The family was scattered amongst various other homes
in the Clayton and Ladue areas. I remember the Delmar streetcar
and milk trucks pulled by horses.
remember the floods inundating the Indiana and Illinois farmland.
And the shanty town on the Illinois side of the Mississippi. And
how the train had to back into Union Station. And the fountains in
front of the station. And how cool it was for a 5 or 6-year old
kid to look forward reading the Globe Democrat funnies
because his personal hero - The Lone Ranger - appeared there (note
- the NY Herald Tribune didn't have the Lone Ranger and the
NY Times didn't even have comic pages).
Those were the early years - plenty has happened since. As time
wore on, we'd make the Cheshire Inn on Clayton Rd. our base of
operations (they had the best Sunday brunch in America). Later on
it would be the Frontenac Hilton on Lindberg .My brother and a
couple of cousins are the oldest surviving family members of that
earlier era. Unfortunately, our younger relatives never
forgave the football Cardinals and the Bidwills for moving to AZ.
They're die-hard Ram fans now. So the only folks joining me in
rooting for the AZ Birds are my two sons (off and on) and my
"second family" - all of you who - year in and year out - support
the AZ Cardinals.
There's plenty more to reminisce about, but enough for now.
Anyway, that's what a 70-year old geezer was thinking about as the
Cards prepared to travel to StL to take on the Rams).
Upon Further Review
NJ -- Tues. Nov. 17 --It occurred to me the day after I posted my Seattle game write-up
that the outcome of the Seattle game had everything to do with
that cliche about "big time players making big plays in big
games." Who were our playmakers and what did they do last Sunday?
Kurt Warner -
His completion over Fitz's back shoulder is
impossible to stop and was as good as it gets.
- Til now not considered ready to become a
member of the Cardinal playmaking crew, but he's getting awfully
- His TD in the corner of the end zone was
- He's got this new move where he catches the
ball, changes direction, ducks his head under a would-be tackler
and then breaks free for a big gain..
Steve Breaston - Given the company he keeps, it's may sound
crazy to anoint him our most dependable wideout. But he's getting
awfully close. He's been extremely tough in traffic.
Darnell Dockett - Only half a sack, but he was living in
the Seattle backfield all day.
Calais Campbell -
Yeah, he's emerged as a playmaker, but
didn't come up with anything special like he has as a DE and
special teamer previously.
Karlos Dansby - Another playmaker who played well but
whose play was more steady than spectacular Sunday.
- His late-game pick was a huge play. But even
more impressive were the below-the-radar stops he made several
times to deny Seattle ballcarriers anything long.
Adrian Wilson - AA-Dub's big play came after a stretch
where he seemed a bit distracted. His interception of Hasselbeck's
shovel pass was the final nail in Seattle's coffin.
No picks, but shutting out Burleson (who went 0 for
5) was a big-time performance.
Ben Graham - It is time we designated key punts landing
inside the 15 as big time punts.
These are our playmakers (at least for now - note that there were
no TE's or LB's who made big plays; but that could change at any
time). When they needed to come up with big plays, that's
precisely what they did.
Seattle Win - Expected But Huge
Mon. Nov. 16 -- We were supposed to
beat the Seahawks, but "these is the Cardinals" - their biggest
challenge being the ability to consistently beat teams their
supposed to beat. For awhile yesterday, it looked like the Cards
would descend back to the abyss, falling behind 14 - 0 part way
through the 2nd quarter. What you hope for in these situations is
that the coaches and veterans calm the jitters, the team settles
down and then grinds its way back into the football game - and
finally wins the danged thing. Which is pretty much what
happened, Instead of falling backwards into the tank, the Cards
responded to Seattles second touchdown (an embarrassing long
completion off blown coverage) to respond with a TD drive of their
own. 14 - 7 is a lot less disconcerting than 14 - 0 and the Cards
were able to stick around long enough to right the ship. Which is
what winning teams are supposed to do. And we did.
What's With the Zeebs?
Chalk it up to post-game traumatic hallucinating but - While I was
gargling prior to turning in for the night, a yellow flag came
whizzing by my face and I heard the West Texas voice of head ref
Walt Coleman (the only official in modern society with the
chutzpah to call a "too many men" penalty on a "victory formation"
end-of-game kneel-down) exclaim: "You didn't rinse out your glass
- that'll be 5 yards. Then this morning - as I was leaving the
house, boom! Another yellow flag. "You didn't put your coffee mug
in the dishwasher (that one was for 15). He got me again when I
revved my engine at a stop light. ("False start! That'll cost you
Now I'm not saying that a case couldn't be made for every one of
the 20 penalties called by Coleman and his crew, but it sure did
slow the game up. And they did seem a bit lopsided in 2 areas -
(1) where they spotted the ball (we always seemed to lose a half
yard and not quite at the first down marker; Seattle always picked
up the first down) and (2) while their DB's were busy mugging
Fitz, Early, Q and Breaston with impunity, McFadden was busy
getting penalized for getting in front of a receiver on a deep
Mental Miscues Involve More Than Just Penalties
Let's review some:
- A-Dub and McFadden (?) did an Alfonse
& Gaston "after you; no after you! number and neither
one covered the Seattle TE who scampered in for a TD.
Kurt should have taken the sack
- While we were trying to
protect a lead and (supposedly) using up clock-time late in the
game, Kurt Warner - on a 3rd down with 5:33 left in the game
-scrambled to his left and was overtaken from behind. As he fell
to the turf, he managed to throw an incomplete pass. Cool if
you're trying to prevent negative-yardage but we were going to
punt it anyway. By throwing the incompletion, Warner stopped the
clock. Had he taken the sack, he would have either run off another
30 seconds or forced Seattle to use its final time out.
Hey Beanie, don't you watch NHL hockey?
Anyone who watches
those guys rumble and tumble knows that, in a chippy contest, it's
always the "second guy in" who gets caught and penalized.
Fortunately for you and the Cards, you were able to make up for
that breach of etiquette later on big time.
Only one guy can make an interception at a time - DRC was
in perfect position to pick off a Hasselbeck pass in the 2nd half,
but Ralph Brown and another Cardinal DB also broke on the ball
and, in doing so, prevented Rodgers-Cromartie from coming down
with the pick. (What's with you guys? You seldom break
aggressively on the ball throughout this and every other game, but
this time, all three of you break on the ball at once. Go figure).
Seattle & then StL - So Easy
& yet so hard....
NJ -- Fri.
Nov. 13 -- Boo! (Happy Friday the Thirteenth).
The Seattle Game
All fingers point to a lopsided win over the Seahawks. (Just like
they did over the Panthers). Wolf got it right on Cardinals
Underground - the Cardinals have proved they have the talent
to get to the Super Bowl. Their chief obstacle to getting back to
the Big Fiesta and then winning it is....them! If each
player would approach the preparation for each game the way Fitz
and Kurt strive to be the best in their profession, we can get
over the hump. It's all about us - & it's why - regardless of
"degree of difficulty" - this week's game against Seattle is our
biggest one yet and the following game against the Rams an even
bigger challenge. Nose to the grindstone, fellas.
Time to Dump a Stupid Policy
What's with FoxSports-Arizona?. Like many Cardinal fans who live
outside AZ, I subscribe to DirecTV. I pay extra for their local
sports channel package (where I can watch single wing high school
football on FSN-Detroit, Baseball Cardinal highlights on FSN
Midwest along with local Devils highlights on the MSG channels.
Which brings me to FSN-AZ. They are blacking out all their
Cardinal highlights shows like Cardinals Overdrive and
Maximum Cardinals (These aren't even "live" or taped sports
events - just Glenn Parker, Jody Jackson plus some highlight
Who gains from the blackout? What does FSN-AZ gain by
denying Cardinals coverage to out-of-market Cardinal fans?
Audience? Customers? To the contrary, their local advertisers and
sponsors would probably gain potential customers in the form of
viewers who plan to pay one or more visits to the Valley during
the course of a typical year. (I know I'd be inclined to drop by
the local watering hole Jody and Glenn were broadcasting from).
During baseball season, FSN-MW does a super job of bringing the
baseball Cardinals closer to their out-of-town fans and marketing
the team. The Football Cardinals front office and FSN-AZ should
follow their example.
In the past, whenever I've contacted FSN or the Cardinal front
office to inquire about why team-related programming was blacked
out, I got a lot of cross finger pointing and "it's out of our
hands" excuses alluding to "team policy" or "contractual
obligations." I don't believe that for a second. Who really knows
what twisted logic goes on inside the heads of "the guys in the
suits & ties." If the Cardinals front office or FSN-AZ has a
legitimate reason for their blackout policy, the Cardinal fan-base
deserves an explanation.
I'm guessing that some language found its way into an obscure
section of a contract or team policy statement (with unintended
consequences) and everyone involved is too lazy to change or
remove it. The "it's not us/it's them" or "it's out of our hands"
excuses are bogus. Someone put the policy in place; that same
someone can remove it.
USA Today Ignores Fitz, D-Dock, A-Dub
I'm usually pretty thick-skinned when it comes to real or imagined
slights, but couldn't help but note that USA Today - in selecting
its mid-season All NFL picks ignored 100% of the players on one of
the two 2009 Superbowl teams. (That be us). I guess you can either
look at this as (a) the Cardinals are getting it done as a team
instead of a handful of superstars or (b) USA Today's
sports staff are uninformed, lame, lazy etc.
Carolina Game Day (in the Garden
Sun. Nov. 1 - This piece has a lot more
to do with NYC than it does the Cardinals, but if you live in or
near the Big Apple, it should resonate.
Maybe once or twice a year, everything seems to converge on one
point in time - like, for example....this weekend:
Sat. Afternoon - Rutgers pulls scores a last-second TD to steal a win from UConn
(who had appeared to eke out a come-from-behind win just
seconds earlier). It was an emotion-packed contest where the guy
who scored the winning TD on an 83 yard YAC (Tim Brown) was the
close friend of a UConn DB, Jasper Howard, who had been murdered
at a campus dance a week earlier.
Sat. Afternoon - NJ Devils rack up 7th consecutive road win
over the Bolts (which put them in select NHL company - one of
5 teams to have done so).
Sat. Afternoon/Night - Halloween
- We had our traditional "honor system" footstool
with the bowl of snickers and the Halloween sign set up on our
front stoop. Only thing is - I don't think any kids stopped by.
Gone are the days when - donning my Zorro black cape, black mask
and black hat - my friends and I would leave our homes at
sundown; not to return into well past 9 pm, with pillow cases
filled with sugar-laden loot. No more. Ever since 9/11, parents
living in the shadow of the WTC have been very protective of their
kids. They'd typically walk from house to house with their little
kids starting as early as 3 or 4 pm, with things winding down by
around 7. And usually, the bigger kids would visit each home in
one single pack of 15 - 20 and that would be it. But not
this year - despite the temperature climbing to 71-degrees. I now
for a fact that the neighborhood is turning over - more families
with kids replacing all us old geezers - but the kids were absent,
and I miss them.
Sat. Night - Oregon Waxes Southern Cal
- Although I never
attended Rutgers, they are NJ's state college team. My son
graduated from there and Dr. (Mrs.) G got her Masters at Rutgers,
so they remain my favorite college team. But most years, I "adopt"
a second college team to root for (more often than not one of the
college Cardinal teams - Louisville, Ball State, Stanford etc.).
But after watching the Ducks & their unstoppable offense totally
dismember the "33rd ranked team in the NFL (aka the Trojans), they
have one my heart. Their QB is only 5-10, but he's 220 lb
bowling ball, can fling it, make all the reads and scoot like a
scatback - the ideal tailback in a wildcat or single wing in the
pros. Their RB (James) is pretty special too.
Night - Yanks beat Phillies - This is a concession to all you
Yankee and Philly fans because (although hating the Yankees is in
my DNA), I really don't care who wins. But it was part of the NY -
Philly - NJ sports scene - another thing that was going on.
Sun. AM -
Daylight Savings Time -
Any hard core football fan hates the conversion from Daylight to
Standard time, because it means an extra hour's wait before
kickoff. Memo to Pres. Obama: Want to score big points with the
American people? Pass an executive order scheduling Spring
Standard-to-Daylight for a Saturday (to give everyone an extra
weekend day to adjust to getting up an hour earlier) and in the
Fall, scheduling Daylight-to-Standard for a Monday (so we can
enjoy the extra hour of sleep on a work day).
Sun. AM - The NYC Marathon - Back in the day (when I could
jog 5 - 7 miles instead of my current 3 mile max), I used to
get my running in early in the day so that I could sit in front of
my TV sweating while I watched the pack of runners flow across the
Verazzano Bridge. Sometimes (when the Cards would be scheduled for
the 1 pm ET game, the marathon finish would overlap the opening
kickoff, so I'd be toggling on my remote - back and forth between
the 2. This year, the two winners "looked the part" (i.e. short,
compact running style) and, not only did the USA produce a winner
in this new age of Obama - he appeared to be a multi-racial dude
representing the US of A.
Sun. Early Afternoon - Giants - Eagles -
Part of the Big Apple/City of Brotherly
Love weekend "sports fest." Making it especially interesting will
be to see whether or not the Giants can rebound from losing to us
last Sunday. (Note - I'm pretty sure that also, the Knicks played
the Sixers; however,. I don't think the Rangers played the
Sun. Late Afternoon - Panthers vs. Cardinals - Potential "trap game" - Don't
screw it up!!!! My single most concern - our banged up secondary.
True, quite possibly DRC, Antrel, A-Dub and Toler will all suit
up, but will they be able to make it through
an entire contest? Latest injury news from D Urban -
Keilen Dykes tore a bicep requiring surgery. Rolle returned to
practice and DRC appeared not to have missed a beat. Rolle (foot),
looked remarkably spry was back on Friday. D.U.'s guess is that
Rolle will be able to play. Anquan Boldin (ankle) looks better.
Tues. - Election Day - We have a tight gubernatorial race
in NJ (Corzine vs. Christi and a strong Indy candidate Daggett).
Latest polling has Corzine up by a single point (which makes the
race basically a "dead heat"). As I do every year, I'll be taking
the early (6 am to 8:30 am) shift challenging at the polls. (So
OK, politics isn't a contact sport --- or is it)?
Win Over G-Men: On second
NJ -- Tues.
Oct. 27 - In the glow of victory , things get overlooked
Gutty DB's -
It was, as predicted, a physical game. During
most of the second half, DRC was standing on the sideline, has
ankle packed on ice. Adrian Wilson was in and out with leg cramps.
Antrel Rolle was gimpy. I was frankly worried - how would our
backups match up with Smith, Manningham, Boss & Co.? Could we
withstand the onslaught? Kudos to Ralph Brown, Greg Toler, Matt
Ware and Michael Adams. And let's not forget Bryant McFadden -
yes, a starter but one entrusted to stepping up to fill the DRC
Gutty Q - Lots of TV speculation about whether Anquan
Boldin could make all cuts needed to run some pass routes. The
most I expected to see out of him was either as a decoy in a way
similar to how some TE's are used as possession guys
settling into zones. Instead, there were several times when he
made tough catches with defenders draped all over him. (The one
where he ducked under the primary tackler and scooted down the
left sideline for extra yardage was vintage Q). Boldin was
definitely hobbling as the game grew late, but he was still out
there (as Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is fond of saying) "chopping
wood." Q definitely made a difference in what turned out to be a
Resilient Cards - Back in the bad old days, DRC's
"Immaculate Deflection would have caused the Cardinals to fold
like a cheap tent. Not this time. Not never. Coach Whisenhunt
feels the team may have come of age and learned how to overcome
adversity in the Super Bowl when the Cards roared back in the 2H
after the Harrison interception. This is an important part of a
team's DNA - & one that can be used to differentiate winners from
losers in the NFL. Winning teams learn how to shrug off bad breaks
the way ducks shed excess water. (Check out New Orleans' comeback
vs. the Dolphs). As Satchel Paige liked to say - "Never look
back - someone might be gaining on you,"
(One Heartbeat) - We've seen our share of
high-fives, Gator Aid showers and other forms of celebration near
the ends of hard-fought football games. But I was moved almost to
tears at the sight of the entire Cardinal defensive squad on the
sideline kneeling in prayer and then breaking things down as
Warner took his final knees on the playing field. It was a
genuine gesture of unity, and very moving at least to this
Red Zone at 30,000 Feet
- It was a writer for the St. Louis
Post Dispatch (possibly Bernie M) who once said that one of his
prime functions was to take fans to places inside the StL Cardinal
organization that they'd otherwise be denied access to. Because of
the late (4:15 am) arrival time of the flight back to AZ, Wolf,
Paulie and Wiz decided to conduct their day-after interview on the
plane. Although all we could hear were the three guys discussing
the game over the hum of the plane engine, it was still possible -
from the verbal "body language" of the three guys - to get a sense
of what it was like to be on a team plane after a huge win. Thanks
for letting us fans "join you" on the plane ride home. Great
What makes beating the Giants so
Mon. Oct. 26 -- Where to start - First
of all, there's history - I grew up in a New York suburb at a time
when - even when they chronically sucked (remember "Goodbye
Allie?") - the Giants dominated the local media. There was little
if any coverage of the Cardinals except for a line-score and maybe
a short graf in one of the local dailies. Aside from an occasional
out-of market televised game we'd get (when the Giants had a Bye
or were playing on Monday, Thurs. or Sat or the Jets were off),
the only time I'd get to see the Cardinals (sometimes in
person/other times on TV) would be when they played the Giants.
always looked forward to the week leading up to any Cardinal -
Giant game with a great deal of anticipation and excitement. (Back
then, for the entire week, I'd buy a copy of every local daily -
from the Star Ledger to Newsday - because I knew there would
be news and feature stories about the Cardinals. And...and...and
when we'd be fortunate enough to win, I used to love tuning into
the Giant Locker-room shows on WNEW and then WFAN to listen to all
the whining and excuses about the Giants.
So I instinctively still get goose-bumps during Game Week. But
things have changed: I get to see every Cardinal game on DirecTV.
The official Cardinal websites and other websites give me more
info about the Cardinals than I have time to read. So I no longer
buy every local newspaper and, instead dive for my laptop for
up-to-date Cardinal news. And - because we invariably have our
kids over for dinner or (as it was last night) the game ended
"past bedtime"...or because we haven't beaten them often of
late... I haven't been catching the Giant post-game sob-fest.
Last night's game loomed huge - after losing a key home game to
the Singletary's and being embarrassed by the Colts on national tv,
we were kicking and clawing our way to respectability. The
previous week, we took care of Seattle - a formidable
division foe whose starting QB had come back from the dead. But
schedule-wise, there was still one major boulder in our path - a a
northeast road game against a physically dominant foe who had been
consistently whipping us handily. How would we respond. Would we
be the team that made mincemeat out of the Seahawks? Could we
compete physically against the Giants? If we won, we'd be 4 & 2.
If we lost, we'd be back down to .500 and one tie-breaker behind
the Niners for the division lead.
earlier in the day, Houston (a team we beat) hung on to nip the
Niners and the Colts (who certainly took care of us earlier) took
care of the Rams. So this game loomed huger and huger - both as a
statement game and a standings game.
Some football game last night: Air Warner opened the game flying
on only one or two engines. One turnover killed a drive. Another
set up a Giant score. A DRC volley ball tip was responsible for
another. We dropped a couple of sure interceptions. We were
offsides three times on two consecutive plays. But despite this,
we were able to stay close by halftime, prevail during the meat of
the 2H and then making a couple of key turnovers to hang onto a
Interesting; from what I read the NYC dailies and saw on TV,
you'd hardly even know there was a football game ; let alone a
Cardinal win. Most of the ink and buzz was devoted to the Yankees
reaching The Series and, whatever little was devoted to the Giant
- Cardinal game was spun to whine about the Giants instead of
giving any credit to the Cardinals. (When the Cardinals turned
over the ball, it was due to Giant heroics. But when DRC, A-Dub,
Calais or Antrel made something happen, the focus was on the
All I know is that (a) we won, (b) it wasn't easy, (c) we beat a
very good team and should feel good about ourselves, (d) it was a
huge win that gives us a leg up in the playoff race and (e) we'd
better not blink for even a split-second because everything could
disappear just like that.
As we get closer to game-day...
NJ -- Friday Oct. 23 -
Nice to hear Al Roker (NBC Today Show) give his usual max-echo
shout-out to "Football Sunday in America" featuring the Giants and
the Cardinals. He also confirmed that game-temperature is expected
to be in the mid-fifties...Latest buzz out of Giant Hq has Bill
Sheridan and key Giant defensive players conceding that they
played too passively against New Orleans and could be expected to
come after Warner. Sounds logical, but could simply be mind-games
(sometimes you beat a hot passer by rushing only 2 or 3 and
dropping everyone else back in coverage - especially since Warner
isn't likely to beat you with his feet anyway). So we expect
Sheridan to mix things up (i.e. sometimes "bring it" and sometimes
drop back)...there were also some reports that members of the
Giants' secondary spent a lot of time working on defending highly
thrown passes and getting their proper high-point timing down.
NJ Thurs. Oct. 22 -- Things are
always a pretty special when you live in NJ and the Cardinals are
coming to town. It brings back loads of memories - like sitting in
the stands watching Charley Johnson complete 16 straight passes
(over the late Dick Lynch) to Sonny Randle. Or when Johnson broke
his leg legging it down the right sideline toward the goal line.
Or when (with the help of the stadium crew who adeptly opened and
closed the doors at the north end of the stadium to create a
wind-tunnel effect favorable to the Giants) Jeff Hostletler led
the Giants back from a 19-point fourth quarter deficit to steal a
win from the Cardinals.
Then there's the local media - suddenly the attention of the fabled
NYC press turns toward the Cardinals and the upcoming game against
the hometown heroes. (Following the Cardinals as we do, you get a
pretty good idea as to which local sportswriters do their homework
and which ones are "faking it").
Indications are that Sunday night weather will be clear, calm and in
the low fifties - but, of course, in the unpredictable Northeast,
you can never be 100% sure.
injury to Giant LT Kareem McKenzie appears overblown, and I'm
pretty sure we'll see him on the field Sunday. By contrast, Anquan
Boldin's ankle sprain may be underblown and I'm not so sure we'll
see much if any of him Sunday night....Giant buzz is that the
coaches and players feel their defense was far too passive against
NO and that we should expect a large dose of blitzes, stunts and
other unorthodox stuff designed to hurry Kurt Warner and/or throw
his timing off...
Personnel Update - Cards released inside LB Lee Robinson
from the practice squad and replaced him with Rutgers alum, OLB
Brandon Renkart. (Robinson, from Alcorn State) was 6-2 256.
Renkart is 6-2 245 and most recently with the Jets. Two things we
feel strongly about, living in the Northeast: (1) the Jets under
Rex Ryan have been loaded at ILB and (2) we are huge fans of Gregg
Schiano's Rutgers program and felt Renkart was underrated coming
out in 2008.
Jax - Post Game Blog...
Mon. Sept. 21 - - Having the early
game in the East is sweet - I even spent 15 minutes in the sun
during halftime and had my game write-up half-completed by the
dinner hour (just in time to catch the Cubbie - Cardinal bb game
on ESPN)...For some reason, SIRIUS radio's reception is suddenly
clear as a bell inside the house, and I got to watch the video
with the sound down while I listened to Wolf, DP and Paulie PC
doing the audio. Sweet! ...Can't help noting that we were one "boink!"
off Nate Hughley's shoulder pads from coming within one on-side
kick and TD from suffering an even greater meltdown than the
legendary "they were who we thought they were" MNF loss to the
Bears...Memo to Wiz: For the sake of our coronary arteries,
please wait in a blowout until you're into the 4Q before yanking
your starters...Just wondering but: - given the high humidity and
temperature in Jacksonville, how come none of our players on the
sidelines were supplied with sun visors or at least baseball
caps?...Although there's a lot to be pleased about, certain
Cardinal players have a few things to clean up: DRC (pick
notwithstanding) has to cover and tackle better... Beanie
needs Ball Security reps - when someone passes him something at
the dinner table, he should instinctively put a second hand
over it...Calais ("Soupy") Campbell should be carrying
around a couple of tennis balls for squeezing - stronger hands
(and may I say better technique?) makes for fewer blown
sacks...When Bryant McFadden indicates to the refs that the
ball was incomplete, the odds are close to 100% that the pass was
caught...Assuming he keeps up the intensity and productivity, can
we please stop with the endless whining and obsolete CW
about Alan Branch's lack of the proverbial motor?....Our
next opponent (Indy) plays tonight - giving us a slight one-day
edge in preparation for next Sunday's game....
It's not just the mind-set of the team...
Fri. Sept. 18 - It's also the mind-set
of the rest of the Cardinal Nation.
Memo to Cardinal
die-hards: "It's OK, we're not going to die. But we'd sure as hell
better watch our ass."
aftermath of the woulda-coulda loss to the Niners last Sunday come
the two extremes: The dark siders want Whisenhunt fired, the OC
replaced and Leinart benched. The apologists are whistling "Don't
Worry. Be Happy." Neither extreme makes very much sense,
though both contain an occasional rare nugget of truth.
finished listening to Cardinal Underground (arguably the best
Cardinal-related show on radio (other than the game itself). The
number and variety of excuses for losing the Niner game
coming from Wolf and Calvisi reminded me of when I'd flunk
Accounting or get a "D" in statistics in college. I invariably
would come up with a dozen or so reasons for screwing up, and I'd
vow to do better, but the bottom line was that I blew the final
exam badly and the obvious next question was: "So what are you
going to do now?"
their excuses with my comments in parentheses:
Cardinals were hurting at WR (Injuries are a fact of life in the
defense really played well except for that last SF drive (which
cost us the game).
Regardless of what Wiz says about penalties, you're not going to
bench Adrian Wilson (Then don't say it if you don't mean it).
team is like the kid in high school who gets a C-Plus or B-minus
but then scores over 1500 on his SAT's. The Cards will flip the
switch when there's money on the line (Unless they don't).
Whisenhunt (And replace him with who?)
absence of Haley to lean on is why Warner is struggling (I doubt
it - Wiz can effectively do that job - but I'll concede that the
offense might be missing some of Haley's fire. (Not being on the
sideline, makes it hard to know whether or not there's a critical
loss of intensity).
Warner with Leinart (Just what we need right now with an unsettled
receiving corps - a new QB. That said, there may come a time -
this week or next - where it becomes obvious that Kurt isn't
getting any better and that the assessment is that we'll do better
with Matt in there. Should that time come, Wiz should not be
hesitant about pulling the trigger. But not yet. Hopefully never).
important, "what are we going to do now?"
guys out on the field past midnight if necessary if that's what it
takes to clean up false-start, off-sides and roughness penalties.
blown coverage on the final 3 yard TD catch & run by Gore -
coupled with our chronic difficulty stopping opponents on 3rd
downs suggests that we need to become more familiar, poised and
comfortable handling various
3rd down & goal line situations. More practice time
should be devoted to situational defensive drills.
of our O-linemen to get their hands high enough when pass blocking
is a failure in technique that can be solved by rep after rep
after rep (accompanied by screams and threats from the coaches).
Beanie doesn't know which way to run during a particular play,
perhaps the coaches should spend more time with him during the
week (including pop quizzes) to make sure he knows his playbook.
- We would be nuts to jump to conclusions or do anything
rash. But we'd be foolish not to take on a sense of urgency and
put our collective noses to the grindstone in order to work our
way out of what to me, walks, talks and smells like an obvious
"Keepers" (Blogs I feel are worth preserving
Book Review: First Things First by Kurt and Brenda Warner
Aug. 5, 2009 - I was asked by publicist Christy Wong to review
Kurt and Brenda's new book. I consider it an honor. I haven't
reviewed a book since I was in Mrs. Newton's English class at
Scarsdale H.S. in 1957. But here goes:
Not being one who believes in an all-knowing supreme
being who decides the fate of each of us, I was prepared to
dismiss First Things First as some sort of
evangelical, autobiographical “how to live your life” guidebook.
To do so would be to sell it short.
You’ll want to read this book if –
You want to know
more about what a Cardinal quarterback and his wife are like.
You’re inspired by
rags to riches stories.
You want to know
what it’s like for a football family outside of football.
eavesdropping on a big, ol’ messy, sprawling family.
You’re looking for
additional parenting tips.
You’d like to find
better ways to deal with success as well as disappointment.
You seek ways to
make Christianity a more important force in your life.
While First Things First is chock full
of “rules for living” and the importance of religion to the
Warners, both Kurt and Brenda are quick to point out that neither
is by any means a “perfect” human being and that the rules they
establish as standards are occasionally broken (& sometime for
What I found most unique about Kurt, Brenda and their
book, however, was that unlike many religiously devout people,
they’ve kept their priorities straight - placing “doing the right
thing” and “service to others” above straight-laced behavior,
rigid ideology or suppression of “things you're not supposed to
think about.” (i.e. it’s OK to talk about sex or kid one another
about bodily functions. And what clothes you decide to wear are
less important than how you treat people).
The Warners are a creative couple. You see it in the
way the book is written (Check out how they set up the reader for
a surprise in Kurt’s Introduction and Kurtis the Stock
Boy and Brenda the Checkout Girl. More important,
you see it in the way they lead their lives – from buying meals
for strangers at restaurants to who chooses meals during road
trips or going around the table at dinnertime to recap the best
thing that happened to each family-member during the day. You can
see part of that creativity translated into what might be best
described as “Making Lemonade” – not only seeing opportunity in
the direst situations but also looking for ways to seize on good
fortune to to make it even better.
The most obvious (yet ironically the easiest to
overlook) quality of Kurt and Brenda is their genuine and intense
commitment to raising good kids, being good parents, good
Christians and good people. (This is one of those
few special families who walk the walk). They may insist this
isn’t intended to mainly be a “how to” book, but by example,
it really is, and that’s OK.
If there was one minor negative to nitpick about, it
would be the tendency of Kurt and Brenda to beat a couple of dead
horses; specifically: overzealous autograph-seekers and giving or
loaning money to friends and family. (While important topics –
obviously to the Warner family – they began to get a bit
repetitious after awhile)..
Other than that, I found First Things First a
good read -
a very casual,
quite readable often funny glimpse of family life (its
high-points, low-points and foibles) in the big, ol' sprawling Warner family.
Say "Goodbye" to the draft as we know it...
Ed Note - I screwed up. I erroneously reported that the draft
would be held on Friday and Sat. eves and during the day Sunday.
It's actually Thurs and Fri. evenings and during the day Saturday.
Oh well, no harm; no foul. Sorry.
Fri. July 24 - What have they
done to my draft?
the day, the NFL draft was a marathon event held at one of NYC's
more obscure hotels and covering 2 complete weekdays. If you
didn't personally attend, the best you could hope for would be a
brief updates on all-news radio stations, a recap at the end of
the 6 pm or 11 pm local TV news or a hit-or-miss recap in the
following day's local newspaper. Not only wasn't it televised,
those who wanted to attend the draft were viewed by the NFL as
went to weekends and they decided to televise it (with the early
rounds on ESPN and later rounds on ESPN2 - if your cable system
you attended the draft personally or followed it on TV, it
typically turned out to involve a 2-day marathon involving plenty
of snacks, beer, felt-tipped pens, highlighters, notebooks, draft
guides (& now laptops). We draft-nerds took a great deal of pride
in knowing that only a handful of us were crazy enough to even
care about whether some skinny receiver from Butthead Northern
University "looked like Tarzan/played like Jane", scored 9 on his
Wonderlic and was expected to drop out of the 5th round.
Now the draft has gone Hollywood.
get the first round in prime-time on Thurs. night.
get the next two rounds in prime-time on Fri. night.
the rest on Saturday..
Everyone's going to follow the draft. Which means that my 92-year
old Mom-in-Law (who of late, has become a fanatic follower of the
Orioles and Tiger Woods) will now engage in snappy dinner table
conversation about Dez Bryant's forty time. And the geeky Iranian
kid down the block who likes to run around yelling "I keek a
touchdown" and asks me "how many home runs did Larry Fitzgerald
make today?" will want to talk about Brandon LaFell's combine
I guess the days of feeling superior - because I know stuff most
others don't know (or care) about - are over. Then again, imagine
the mixed feelings of terror and pride I'll have when a 92-year
old woman who bakes mandelbread beats me head-to-head in her mock
Cardinal Family Loses
One of Its Best, Most Loyal Fans
Thurs. June 25 - It wasn't the
first time Jim Skane (aka Skkorp) had been confronted by a serious
medical emergency - a quadriplegic stemming from an auto accident
in the 1970's had made it difficult for Jim to breathe and made
him risk-prone to even the slightest of colds.
This time he didn't make
Skkorp lived in AZ. I
live in NJ. So we never got to meet one another in-person
(although we did come close one time: On a rare trip to AZ, we
planned a dinner get-together only to have it canceled due to a
medical issue). But we did get to know one another fairly
well via e-mail and an occasional lengthy phone call.
We met back in the late
1990's via the old AOL Cards Corner website. Things weren't all
that different back then - the Cards weren't doing so hot, so
there was the usual griping about which coach to fire, who was or
wasn't a 'real' Cardinal fan or whether "this year would be
different." Through it all, Skkorp was one of the voices of reason
who seldom failed to respect that, win - lose - or draw - the
Cardinal front office was trying hard to put a successful team on
When I considered
creating this Big Red Sheet, one of the first people I reached out
to was Jim Skane. When he and others planned to launch the ASFN
website and bulletin board, Skkorp contacted me directly to
discuss ways we might either merge sites or at least find ways to
co-exist as "friendly competitors and in some instances help out
It was a good
relationship borne out of respect and trust.
Perhaps one of the most
revealing (and ironically rewarding) things during our brief
relationship took place two Decembers ago. I don't recall if
it was by phone or e-mail, but Skkorp wanted to talk about (of all
things) Presidential politics. He observed (and I agreed) that
there was a better-than-even possibility that the list of
candidates would eventually boil down to Obama vs. McCain. Jim
wanted to know my views (pro or con) on each. I won't tell you
what he felt or what I said, because that's not the point, anyway.
What impressed me was that, of all the politically-aware people
I've ever known, Jim was the only one who skipped all the
knee-jerk stuff and, instead was genuinely interested about what
very different candidates were really like and how they felt about
As I near my 70th
birthday, one depressing fact of life is that, each year, more and
more people I know and love disappear from the list of the living.
But one thing that lifts my mood is to observe that "we wouldn't
feel so sad if it weren't for the fact that those we miss were so
terrific in the first place, when they were with us."
With this in mind, I'll
close by just saying that Skkorp was terrific to know; which makes
him so tough to lose.
RIP Jim. And GBR.
y. All we have to go on are scouting write-ups and
reports on "athletes running around in shorts." Before I get into
the prognostication biz, I'd ratrher wait & see how things
develop during training camp and preseason before popping off.
Wrap Up Draft With RB and a G
Sun. April 26 - The Cards finished
the day by drafting a scatback and a pretty good guard at #''s 240
and 254. With their first pick in the 7th round, they picked up
LaRod Stephens-Howling, LeRon McCoy's teammate at Pitt and
Trevor Canfield (whom we rated as 3rd best guard in the
draft and was second on our overall Board when we picked. (The
selection of Canfield took the sting out of seeing Rutgers WR
Tyqan Underwood get snapped up just before we picked). We like
both picks - Stephen-Howling as a return-artist and Canfield to
shore up our O-line strength. Some saw him as overhyped. We view
him as a great value late in the 7th.
the draft bring us: A big between-the-tackles RB, a rush OLB, two
offensive guards, a centerfield safety, a non-descript DE, an
athletic but raw CB and a scatback/returner. Since we were looking
for a big RB, a rush OLB, OL depth inside, a ballhawking FS, some
more CB depth and improved return game, we didn't do to shabbily
(the only unaddressed need might have been TE, but even there we
strengthened the position in free agency). All in all a nice job.
Go DE With 6th Pick
Sun. April 26 -Cards drafted
with their 6th pick. There's nothing special that leaps
out at you with this guy. He comes across as not very fast for a
relative light DE. We'll have to wait to see what the coaches say
before we jump to conclusions. Besides, it's not as though you're
likely to draft the next Julius Peppers late in the 6th anyway.
Sun. April 26 -The late George Young
used to call certain players "planet people" (because there are
only a small number of people on the planet who are that larger.
Well, 359 - 400 lb
Johnson (he's currently 359) is the poster child for
planet people. The Cards want to be more physical in their run
game. Question is: Can Johnson be a dominant interior lineman? Or
will he turn out to be just one more big fat guy who's all push
and no explosion. Johnson figures to be Russ Grimm's newest pet
project. If the Cardinal assistant HC can turn Johnson into a
legitimate professional football player, the Cardinals will really
have something. We trust Grimm - enough so that we rated Johnson
our #4 offensive guard and 3rd highest available player on our
fifth round board. (Who knows, maybe he'll be good enough to make
them change Leonard Davis' nickname to "Tiny.")
Pick is a Corner...
Sun. April 26
- I was busy catching
up on various pressers, highlight videos and conference call audio
when I finally caught up with Darren Urban's blog to discover that
the 4th round apparently sped jauntily along and the Cardinals had
made their 4th pick in the draft. The Cardinals drafted St. Paul U
Greg Toler. He was one of those late-minute fast-risers
who caught our attention just prior to the draft. His story is one
of a kid who strayed off the straight and narrow but turned
his life around at a relatively young age and put things together
at a tiny school. He's described as a less big, less athletic,
less speedy version of DRC but with much of the aggressiveness and
ball skills that propelled Rodgers-Cromartie to the top of his
rookie class. Toler comes across more as a man cover guy than a
zone guy. We actually had a write up oh him (click Toler's linky).
Lord knows we don't need another corner, but then again, you can
never have enough corners. One other thing - I listened to the
guy's phone interview. Both he and Rashad Johnson sounded like
hungry guys who want to be here and understand they will have to
earn everything they get. Here's an excerpt of what D Urban was
able to dig up:
He's not huge -- 5-11, 191 pounds...He lacks Rodgers-Cromartie’s
frame, elite speed, feet and ball skills, however he’s still a
solid prospect and was present at Richmond U's pro
day...He has intriguing mix of athletic talent and skills but he
has not played much press coverage. He was little known until a
few months ago: 15 teams: (Browns, Cardinals, Felons Dolphs,
Packers, Houston, Jax, Jets, Pats, Steelers, Ravens, Niners,
Bucs, Vikings & Skins),all had worked him out individually."
Select Safety in 3rd Round...
Sun. April 26 - The Cardinals passed
on G Duke Robinson, S Derek Pegues, TE Shawn Nelson, C Jonathon
Luigs to select Alabama safety
Johnson at #95. Not a bad pick. (Actually, we had him #95
on our updated #64 - #95 board. Pro Football Draft Guide
listed him as their #1 safety. I was a lonely minority in
believing that one "need" area for the Cardinals was at safety -
Although Antrel Rolle was coming into his own at FS and A-Dub of
course owns the SS spot, we could use some depth behind Wilson
(Keith Lewis notwithstanding) and still lacked a center field
presence deep. While not considered elite in run support, Johnson
is said to have superb centerfield range and ball skills. Just
what the doctor ordered. He's listed at 5-11 and 203 and runs a
4.50. We like the pick, but are still waiting for us to help
ourselves at G and/or center. We also couldn't help but notice
that 260 lb injured MLB Jaspar Brinkley is still available (&
might be worth the risk at the bottom of the 4th round).
Two - Start Your Engines Running...
Sun. April 26 - I woke up feeling
better about the Cody Brown pick after reading more about him in a
couple of draft books. While probably not the pass rushing hybrid
end/backer in the draft, he's certainly part of the Maybin, Barwin,
Ayers pack (albeit toward the tail end...
First project of the day - Analyze the various media mocks. First
off - yours truly sucked big time. I only had 4 direct hits,
correctly predicted 5 players-to teams and players-to-slots and
only 26 of my projections actually made it to the first round.
Media stars - Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News had 9
direct hits (Next highest were Gary Myers and Pat Kirwin with 6).
This automatically gave Gosselin a natural advantage in Players to
Team and Players to Slot. Kirwan accurately got 30 of the 32
players going in the 1st round correctly (Next highest were Myers,
Charles Davis and the Asbury Park Press's Kevin Steimle).
Lesson of the Day - If you want last minute inside info on draft
info, Gosselin and Kirwan seem to be the best plugged-in (with
Myers right behind them).
we are facing Round 3. Cards need a G and/or C, could use a center
fielder FS, a TE and more ILB heft. (So far, Wiz's desire for the
defense and offense "to get a little bigger and tougher" remains
unaddressed). Plenty of time to accomplish this with 6 more second
day picks. Top 8 guys on our 3rd round board: Jonathon Luigs C,
Duke Robinson G, Derek Pegues FS, Shawn Nelson TE, DJ Moore CB,
Kraig Urbick G, Michael Johnson DE and Derrick Williams WR. Go git
Grab Pass Rusher With Second Pick
Sat. April 25 - I'll admit I wasn't
jumping up and down when the pick was announced (but that might be
my fault more than the Cardinals). We had
rated #86 on out BIg Board (and got him at #63 - not so hot a
value based on my Board, but no doubt a better value the way the
Cards rated him). We also note that he improved an extremely
lackluster Combine forty time by 0.2 seconds (improving to 4.60
from 4.78) which may account for his being under-appreciated early
in the process. He played DE at UConn but is projected to be an
OLB. He impressed at the Senior Bowl and did have very good
shuttle and 3-Cone scores (suggesting exceptional agility). Cards
wanted pass rush help. Most of those guys were gone by the time
#63 rolled around. Brown logically would be converted to a 3-4
outside linebacker in a Berry or LaBoy mold. Note: When I watched
his game tape, what leaped out at me was that (unless the tape was
speeded up) his closing speed to the QB looked quicker and more
explosive than higher rated guys like Orapko or E Brown.
The good news accompanying the pick is that Anquan Boldin was
apparently not traded - either for a one or a two in this year's
draft. According to Darren Urban:
As expected, no one really fought to try
and acquire Anquan Boldin. Whatever the reason], Boldin is going
to stay a Cardinal. We’ll see how bumpy that gets, starting with
the minicamp next week.
is that the Cardinals and Boldin - recognizing that they will be
both sitting in the same boat for the next 2 years will agree on a
compromise interim contract that - while it may not give Q all
that he wants - will still increase his pay during the next 2
years to a level that is both fair and doesn't bust the Cardinals'
budget. It is in the interests of all to have a happy Q.
Land Beanie Wells
Sat. April 25 - Just as I
expected, a few highly regarded prospects dropped to us at #31,
including Wells, Maualuga, E Brown and D Butler. As Beanie dropped
thru the first 30 picks, we fantasized about Rod Graves trading
down 3 or 4 notches in the knowledge that he'd get one of the four
with McCoy or Shonn Green as a fallback at #63. Then I thought
"nah! Here I've been pleading that Rod G not get cute with the
pick and there I go. I'm very happy with Wells - who represents
great value, fills a position need and fits a system need as well.
Well, OK, onward toward #63. We're in the market for a pass
rusher, guard-center (2 of whom are gone), free safety, tight end
(or for that matter, good football players). Later.
And Down the Stretch They Come (Well, Sort of) ...
Fri. April 24 -
My guess is that the Cards may have to decide
among D Brown, English and Mack; with Wells and Moreno
possibilities but long shots to last that long.
Who'll Be There at #31?...
Mon. April 20 - Do we
have a shot at Beanie Wells or Moreno? What about Maualaga or