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GOLLIN'S BLOG - by Jeff Gollin
The 2010 "Bite Me" Hall of Fame
The Cardinals (Coaches, FO and Players) - The media guys below turned out to be right, and the team proved me wrong.

ESPN's Mark Schlereth & Herm Edwards
- 4/5/10 -"With Warner gone, the Cardinals won't win the division."

ESPN's Trey Wingo - 4/5/10 - Said the Cards reaching the playoffs for 2 straight years means nothing ("When's the last time they made the playoffs before then?")

Warren Sapp (NFL Network) - 6/2/10 - As much as said that Matt Leinart will not be successful as the starting Cardinal QB.

The Power-Rating Establishment - who almost to a tee rated the Niners and Seahawks higher than the Cardinals in their off-season rankings.

Jason La Canfora  (NFL Network) - 7/13/10 - Leinart won't succeed - SF has to be favored. Also advised that Matt Leinart would struggle without the services of "Larry Johnson."

Keith Jackson, Keyshonn Johnson and Mike Ditka of ESPN
- 8/24 -Who (without stating their sources) stated that "the Cardinal players don't have faith in Matt Leinart. Not that Leinart has proved otherwise; but at least evaluate him based on what he does on the field and not what some unnamed source says. The ESPN'ers also revealed a glaring ignorance of key Cardinal personnel.

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."

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.

Billy 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 roster page.

"Next Year" -- 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 and Minnesota

  • Seattle plays Atlanta and Chicago

  • St. Louis plays New Orleans and Green Bay

  • The Niners play Tampa Bay and Detroit

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.

"A  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 game.

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 Cotton Bowl.

  • 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 Holiday!


What Do You Say When You Rot? -- 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.  Long Snapper.

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 developmental pipeline.

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 season.

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 accountable.

(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.

How 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?

Happy Thanksgiving.

For a detailed preview of the MNF Cardinals - Niners game, click here.

The "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 them).

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.

But This 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 losses).

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, click here.

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, click here.

Sunday's Viking Game Looms Large -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Thurs.Nov. 4  -- 

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, DeGeare

 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 we?" 

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 here.

Turnovers Again Undo Cardinals -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Thurs.Oct  28 --  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: Boo!"

For a detailed analysis of the game (to be posted Tuesday morning), click here.

Oddsmakers: Tampa Bay Game Winnable -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Thurs.Oct  28 --

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 draftee.

Cardinals - Doubtful: LB Clark Haggans. Questionable: DL Alan Branch, WR's Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, LB Will Davis.

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. Go figure.

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 the football.

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 here.

We Now Know Who the Cardinals Are -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Sun.Oct  24 -- 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 here.

Figuring Out Sunday's Game -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Sat.Oct  23 -- 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 cannot do.

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 here.

Seattle - A "Must Game?" -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Tues.Oct  19 -- 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 here.

Defense/Hall Lead Cards to Upset Win Over NO  -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Sun.Oct  10 -- 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 Lions.


  • 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 losing.

Enjoy the week off, guys. For a detailed preview of Sunday's game vs. Seattle, click here.

It Feels Like a Preseason Contest -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Sun.Oct  10 -- 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 afternoon.

"Magical Thinking":
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 Cardinals).

For a detailed preview of Cardinal - NO rosters and matchups, click here.

Cards Lay Giant Egg in San Diego -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Sun.Oct  3 -- 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  here).

Chargers Game - full of questions -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Sat.Oct  2 -- 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 mere sidebar.

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 here.

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.

"Shankikowsi'd!": -- Holmdel, NJ   -- Sun. Sept.26 -- 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.  For a complete run-down of the game , click here

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 abyss.

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: Punked...Blacktopped...Steamrolled...Whomped....Stomped...Mutilated...Dismembered...All 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 stop.

  • 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  here).


We'll 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  here).

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 Keith).

  • 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 analysis, click  here).

Tracking the Roster Tweaks -- Holmdel, NJ   -- . Mon. Sept.6 -- The Transactions web page confirms the following moves:

  • 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,  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: 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.

Turk Whacks 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 college).

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 here.

Dockett 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 one Darnell.

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.

Cards Host 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 demoted).

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 philosophy).

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 here.


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 here.

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 it.

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.

"Bashed in 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 Pittsburgh Pirates)

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.

2nd  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 preseason).

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 here.

 1st 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:

The Offense
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)?

Running Back
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 blocking game.

Wide Receiver
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).

Tight End
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.

Offensive Line
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?

Defensive Line
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 themselves?

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.

Special Teams
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, click here.

Little New 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( of camp continues to be Stephen Williams (among his catches, one for a TD from Anderson.

  • 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 Fitz.

  • 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 anything).

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 former Giant).

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 counterpart.

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 gone/Togafau back.

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!).

Preseason TV:
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)
TV (Rebroadcast) - Mon. Aug. 16 - 1 am on NFLNetwork

Cards @ Tenn. (Mon. Aug. 23 - 8pm)
TV ("Live") - ESPN

Cards @ Chicago (Sat. Aug. 28 - 8:30 pm)
TV (Rebroadcast) - Sun. Aug. 29 - 4pm on NFLNetwork
TV (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. Double check.

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 yesterday (Sunday):

  • Leinart spent extra post-practice time working out with Gant and signing autographs.

  • Beanie said to look like a beast. Beanie, Ali (stone hands?) dropped passes.

  • Nice 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

  • Spach beat Rhodes for a 35 yard seam TD and got in a tussle with Rashad Johnson

  • Levi was beaten a couple of times. Herman Johnson's physical dominance stood out. Keith said to "look strong" at RT.

  • Dockett was blowing up everything in sight...Calais is working intensely - as though his job depended on it. Branch struggled vs. H. Johnson.

  • The rook (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 weight well....

  • 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 work...

  • 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?

Running Back
Will we see the same Beanie or THT we saw last season? Or are there areas where they might improve?

Wide Receiver
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?

Tight End
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?

Offensive Line
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?

Defensive Line
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 around?

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 rush?

Defensive Back
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?

Special Teams
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, it's fluff.

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. Please!

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 qualifying offer.

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 previous agent)?

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.

 Perfect Games, "Breakout Years" etc.  - Holmdel, NJ   - Thurs. 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 Perfecto.

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 contributors.

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.

A 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 badly):

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 Baltimore)...

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 over).

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 thought.

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 schedule.

BYE (Comes at a good time).

Sun. Oct. 24 - @ Seattle 4:05p ET (FOX)
Nice to catch Seahawks as we come off a Bye week.

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 one.

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 games.

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 Released Tuesday...
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.

Porter Charges 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 - McNabb).

Cards Sign Tenders/Lose Morey
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.

Porter Busted
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 morning

At approx 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 Joey.

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 Rhodes.

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 & see.

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.

Cards 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 Brandon Keith.

They also signed DL Jeremy Clark to an exclusive-rights agreement.

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 and see.

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!)

Quick Update...
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
Antrel Rolle $ \3,568,250
Kurt Warner $19,004,680
Total: 35,003,270

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 decisions.

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 and Rolle.

Porter Watch...
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 Kerry Rhodes.

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 now.

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 well).


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:

  • Karlos Dansby is on his way to visit Miami (&, though not a 110% lock, it looks like he'll sign there).

  • 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 traded.

  • 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 Rackers

  • 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).

That's all I got (for now).

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 organization.

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 midweek.

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).

Draft Work
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 NFL Network.

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 or Beanie.

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 consistent basis.

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 man."

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.

OT 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...
Holmdel, NJ   -- 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 here's why:

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...
Holmdel, NJ   --  Fri. Jan. 22 --  Cards re-signed TE Dominique Byrd to their list of  "Futures" signees. Also added to the Futures list were:

  • Reagan Maui'a FB

  • Trumaine McBride CB

  • Herana (Pron: "Hernandez") Daze-Jones S

  • Dean Muhtadi DL

You're not going to believe this...
The BRS has been flagged for an alleged copyright infringement.

Apparently, in 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).

Whatever the 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...
Holmdel, NJ   -- 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:

  • The framed picture of The Wiz (Ozzie Smith)  in the background of Jesse Stone's office

  • The nickname "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 Sunny Randall.

Fortunately, Mr. 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 accomplishments.

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...
Holmdel, NJ   --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 Pestock.

DRC Injury Update
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...
Holmdel, NJ   --  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 Bowl.

Beating NO 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 gut-wrenching).

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 ground):

Injuries 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.

Injuries 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 Bowl).

  • 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...
Holmdel, NJ   -- 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.

Starting with 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 controversies

  • 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 this week).

  • Finally, there's 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 scrimmage?

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...
Holmdel, NJ   -- 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 DVR's).

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...
Holmdel, NJ   -- 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 newbie.

Unfortunately, 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.

Next Week
Playoff 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 website):

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 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 location).
    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 "leftovers" yesterday.

Green Bay (Week 17) Game Day Blog...
Holmdel, NJ  -- 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.

No expectations 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 afternoon).

Pro Bowl - The Good, The Bad, The Weird...
Holmdel, NJ   - - 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 Vegas strip.

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 of brilliance.

  • Robert DiNiro - My favorite actor of all time.

  • Mel Brooks - 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.

  • Dave Brubeck - 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."

  • Bruce 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 remember hearing.

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...
Holmdel, NJ   - - 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:

  • Protecting Kurt Warner (Bridges looked a bit shaky handling Chris Long all on his own).

  • Punt Coverage (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)

  • Killer 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 vs. Detroit.

Other Game Notes -

  • For the first time this season, Early Doucet "played tall."

  • Tim Hightower's blitz pickup cold-cock was a beautiful thing.

  • Toler's 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.

  • Congrats to Kurt Warner (for his 100th), Early Doucet and Greg Toler (for their first) and the Cardinals (for their 10).

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:

  • Super Bowl Losers Never Bounce Back  (Cards won 10 games so far and repeated as NFC West champs).

  • "Same Old Cardinals"  (Apparently not).

  • Cards Can't Run the Ball (Since Game #8, the Cards have gained 94, 182, 122, 183, 75, 113, 85, 122 and 110 yards on the ground).

  • Cards Can't Rush the Passer (40+ sacks says different).

Canfield Gonzo:
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.

Tech Question:
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 laptop)?

St. Louis Game Day...
Holmdel, NJ   - - 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.

The sensible 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...
Holmdel, NJ   - - 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 Johnson.

ed a tackle and a safety from the free agent wire: They signed safety Hamza Abdullah (6-foot-2, 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.

Ironically, if 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 Detroit...
Holmdel, NJ   --  Mon. 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 Bay).

Fortunately for 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).

Perhaps more 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.

Sure enough, 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 it:

At certain key points in any football game, there has to be a collective "healthy paranoia."

  • 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 penalties!"

  • When coverage 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!"

Many hard-core 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 come down:

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 home stretch.

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:

  • Niners vs. 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.

  • Rutgers vs. 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).

Aftermath of 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
Holmdel, NJ  --  Sun. Dec. 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 Matt Ware.

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 (like...uh....perhaps...Vernon Davis)?

Meanwhile, I'm 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 do).

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 Motown.

Got my game face on. Seeya later.

Looking Toward Detroit
Holmdel, NJ  -- Thurs. Dec. 17 - I 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
Holmdel, 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 breaker).

I 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
Holmdel, 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 to defend.

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. 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 night).

10½-hours and counting..

Viking Game Day
Holmdel, 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 evening.

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.

One Inch (& 0:06) Short vs. Tenn...
Holmdel, 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 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 #18.

A 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 future..

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 for:

  • Those who have walked through the Valley to keep us all safe - also their loved ones.

  • Whoever invented: Chocolate, Satellite TV, The Internet, Pizza, Beer, The Cheese Omelet, The Charcoal Broiled Hamburger, Hot & Sour Soup...Coffee...the Single Wing.

  • The 1946 StL Cardinals, the 1947 Chicago Cardinals and the 2009 Super Bowl AZ Cardinals.

  • Charley 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.

  • Terry Moore, Harry "The Cat" Brecheen, Stan The Man, Red, Enos, Slats, Gibby, Lou, The Wizard, Jack Buck, Albert, Carp, Wainright

  • Wiz, Rod G, Michael B, Kurt , THT, Beanie, Fitz, Q, Steve B, D-Dock, Karlos, A-Dub, Calais, Gerald, Antrel, DRC, Rack and BG.

  • JD Salinger, John Knowles, William Goldman, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Parker, Robert Tannenbaum, Mark Twain, John R. Tunis

  • Pops...Bird...Pres...Miles...Monk...Trane...Sonny...PC...Dizzy...Horace...Bags...Griff...and the dozens who matriculated from  Blakey U.

  • Muddy... "Mr. Howling"...Hook...both Walters...Bo...T Bone...Eric...Johnnie...Albert....JB...George C...Bootsie...Dennis C.

  • The long 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.

  • Mel Brooks/Carl Reiner...Monty Python....SNL...SCTY....Early Second City (Arkin, Darden, Schreiber, Zora... Barbara)...Richard Pryor.

  • Edge of the City..."Cukoo's Nest"...Deer Hunter...Ferris Buhler...Station Agent...Everything's Illuminating...Fargo.

  • The Coen Brothers...DiNiro...Pacino...Buschemi...Totoro...McDorman...

  • Maureen Dowd, Mike Lupica, Mollie Ivins, Dan Jenkins, Jimmy Cannon

  • Bill Bernbach

  • Skkorp...Reino...Carl...Gene S...BosnPipe...Brighteyes...Garth...and everyone else in  our extended family of cyber Cardinal fans.

  • Everyone else I've loved (& who loved me)

  • And the 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...
Holmdel, 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 PS.

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 WR/DE spot.

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. Night...
Holmdel, 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...
Holmdel, 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.

A 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").

I 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 Horseshoe Bend.

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").

I 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...
Holmdel, 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.

I 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.

What a 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. 

I 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.

I 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
Holmdel, 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.

Beanie Wells - Til now not considered ready to become a member of the Cardinal playmaking crew, but he's getting awfully close.

Larry Fitzgerald - His TD in the corner of the end zone was iconic Larry.

Anquan Boldin - 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.

Antrel Rolle - 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.

DRC - 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
Holmdel, NJ  -- 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 5 more).

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 ball.

Mental Miscues Involve More Than Just Penalties
Let's review some:

  • Carlson's TD - 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....
Holmdel, 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 footage).

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 State)...
Holmdel, NJ  --  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.

  • Sat 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 Flyers).

  • 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 thought...
Holmdel, NJ  -- Tues. Oct. 27  - In the glow of victory , things get overlooked that shouldn't:

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 vacuum.

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 close game.

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,"

Our Defense  (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 Cardinal fan.

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 stuff.

What makes beating the Giants so special...
Holmdel, NJ  --  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.

I 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.

 But, 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 win.

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 Giants miscue).

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.

Great win!

As we get closer to game-day...
Holmdel, 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.

Holmdel, 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.

The 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."

In the 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.

I just 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?"

Some of their excuses with my comments in parentheses:

  • The Cardinals were hurting at WR (Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL.

  • 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).

  • This 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).

On the flip side:

  • Fire Whisenhunt (And replace him with who?)

  • The 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).

  • Replace 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).

More important, "what are we going to do now?"

  • Keep our 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.

  • The 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.

  • Failure 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).

  • If 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.

Net-Net - 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 funk.

"Keepers" (Blogs I feel are worth preserving for posterity:

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.

You enjoy 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 good reason).

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?

Back in 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 interlopers.

Then it went to weekends and they decided to televise it (with the early rounds on ESPN and later rounds on ESPN2 - if your cable system carried it).

Whether 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.

  • We'll get the first round in prime-time on Thurs. night.

  • We'll get the next two rounds in prime-time on Fri. night.

  • And then 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 workout scores.

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 draft.

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 it.

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 the field.

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 one another.

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 key issues.

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.

Cards 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 scatback/return man 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.

What did 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.

Cards Go DE With 6th Pick
Sun. April 26 -Cards drafted Will Davis 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.

Guard Your Pantry...
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 Herman 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.")

4th 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 corner 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."

Cards 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 Rashad 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).

Day 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).

So here 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 'em!

Cards 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 Cody Brown 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.

Note - 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.

My hope 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.

Cards 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 -

Cardinal Pick: 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 Matthews. Click Here.


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