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Gollin's Blog - by Jeff Gollin
The 2013 "Bite Me" Hall of Fame
(Reserved for media pundits who unfairly slam the Cardinals)
  • Donovan McNabb - For using incorrect information to criticize the Cardinals for drafting only one player (Cooper) to upgrade the offensive line to protect Carson Palmer. (Cards actually drafted two guards - Cooper and Watford - after drafting 2 tackles and a guard - Massie, Potter and Kelemete - the previous year).

  • Will Leitch (USA Today) - Actually, he wrote a pretty funny piece on the NFL Films' annual NFL Yearbook format (which seems to use the same cookie-cutter format for all 32 NFL teams). But he singled out the Cardinals for ridicule, using the obsolete "same old Cardinals" narrative that ignores the turnaround of this franchise in recent years (including a Super Bowl appearance). Leitch is also missing a changed narrative this year that's more than "just Larry" & includes the arrival of Bruce Arians, a change in team culture, new ways of doing things, Patrick Peterson and the Honey Badger as intriguing story-lines.


Pro Bowl Snubs
Sat. Dec. 28, 2013 -- Last night, I tuned in the latest episode of "NFL Follies."
This one featured Deon Sanders and Jerry Rice making yuks who did and who didn't make the Pro Bowl roster (& why Deon wouldn't draft established players instead of younger, "hungrier" ones). Congratulations to Abe, Patrick and Justin. But missing from the group of invitees were a relatively large group of Cardinal players who deserved a trip to Hawaii but weren't selected - Karlos Dansby (who's having his best season - many say a Pro Bowl season). Calais Campbell (said by some to be the best 3-4 defensive lineman in the NFL). Darnell Dockett (pretty darned close to Calais in both skill and production). And what about Larry Fitzgerald? Does anyone really believe he doesn't rank right up there in the Top 5 let alone the top 6 - 8?

Granted, Larry, Calais, Darnell and Daryl Washington were chosen as Alternates, but how can you ignore Dansby? Now I get that everyone can't go to the Pro Bowl (Willis, Bowman, Kuechly and Burfict are deserving). But shouldn't 'Los at least join DWash as a LB Alternate (especially with current alternate, Von Miller, injured)? To paraphrase what I said in the following section, Dansby's level of play (and his contribution to bringing the Cards to 10 or more wins) speaks volumes more about what kind of player he is than any rinky-dink Pro Bowl nomination.

(Note - At some point between now and the 2014 Draft, it will be fair to ask Steve Keim why - when the kid was playing under very noses at college in Arizona - our scouting dept didn't dig deep enough into Vontez Burfict's background to distinguish between an incorribable trouble-maker and a future defensive Pro Bowl linebacker. Like just about everyone else around here, I blew the analysis of Burfict, but evidentally, the Bengals didn't - which begs the question: "Is there anything the Cardinal scouting dept. could have done - where we could avoid having Burfict slip thru the cracks? (We were excellent with the Honey Badger; should we have been equally sound in our evaluation of Burfict)?

Possible Playoff Snub
Sat. Dec. 28, 2013 -- It's quite possible that the Cards could beat SF and reach 11 & 5 only to have NO (at home) beat the Buccos so that we don't make the playoffs. Most media pundits have ignored the Cardinals except maybe to drop an occasional comment that "the Cards are dangerous" or "have a really good defense" - if only to say something to keep their their butts covered. I know it's "the old school" way to grit our teeth and mutter - "the only thing that matters is beating SF and reaching the playoffs (intimating that "anything less is failure"). Yeah, yeah, I get it, but listen up, boys & girls: I know it's heresy, but, as far as I'm concerned - Winning 11 games defines us as a football team and is more important than making the playoffs. (There! I said it)!

Early Peek at the Draft
Sat. Dec. 28, 2013 -- TWhat better way to spend the holidays than to stack our "base" board for the 2014 Draft. Supply and Demand-wise, the next draft appears to be extremely lop-sided:

Quarterback - 3 -4 1st-Rounders; 13 before Round 7.

Running Back - None in the 1st Round; 19 before Round 7

Fullback - (No surprise) - None before the 3rd round; 3 before Round 7

Wide Receiver - (Talented and deep) - 7 could go in the 1st Round; 31 before Round 7

Tight End - (Thin and Shallow) - 3 could go in the 1st round; 12 before Round 7

Tackle - (Talented - 6 1st Rounders; 11 could go as high as Round 2; 19 before Round 7

Guard - 3 First Round possibilities; 12 before Round 7

Center - (Shallow) - 1 possible 1st rounder (Swanson); 6 before Round 7

Defensive End - 4 possible 1st rounders; 20 before Round 7

Defensive Tackle - 3 possible 1st rounders; 19 before Round 7

Outside LB - (Good year) - 5 possible 1st rounders; 22 before Round 7

Inside LB (Demand is heavy; supply lightz) - 1 first rounder; 11 before Round 7

Cornerback (Thin at the top but very very deep) - 4 possible first rounders; 28 before Rund 7

Strong Safety (Thin at top and bottom) - No 1st-rounders; 8 before Round 7

Free Safety (Thin at top) - One 1st rounder (Clinton-Dix); 10 before Round 7

Kickers and Punters - One kicker (Boswell) - in round 6 or 7; One punter (Van Der Kamp) in round 6 or 7

Thanksgiving - What a Weekend!
Sun. Dec. 1, 2013 -- The signature football "play of the decade if not the century (that will rank right up there with the "Flutie Bomb" and the "Cal Tech Band" trips down memory lane) was "Auburn's One Second Miracle", featuring the 109-yard return of a missed 59-yard FG attempt in the final one-second of a Auburn - Alabama rivalry game that had national-ranking implications) to break a 28 - 28 yard tie and hand the victory to the War Eagles.

Even if nothing else earth-shattering happens between now and the end of Thanksgiving Weekend, the past few days of holiday football will have been quite a ride - chock full of trickery, irony and good old fashioned great football. Never mind that there were two Eagles vs. Cardinals games this weekend (in addition to today's Philly - Arizona NFL game, there was a high school game yesterday featuring the Mentor (OH) Cardinals faced the green-clad St. Edwards Eagles.

There were also a few examples of kicking-game trickeration in other games on the championship high school football front (my two favorites being (1) a fake field goal attempt by Grand Rapids (MI) West Catholic that turned into a 30-yard catch & run for a TD that was instrumental in winning the Div. 5 championship and handing Menominee HS its first defeat of the season and (2) another game-chager - a shanked or blocked punt that failed to make it past the line of scrimmage (which meant the ball was still "live") and enabled the punting team to pick up the ball and (shhh!!) waltz quietly down the right sideline for a long TD score that changed the outcome of the game.

And how about Michigan's decision to "go for two" on the last play of the Michigan - Ohio State game that handed a one-point victory on a silver platter to the undefeated (and national championship contending) Buckeyes??? It was, anyway you slice it, a weird weekend.

What makes Watching HS football fun - Several reasons: (1) there's more diversity of formations, schemes and plays. There's more inertia and "follow the leader" at NFL (& to a lesser extent) college level. (2) unlike the pros (which mainly rely on the draft and waiver-wire) and colleges (which rely on recruiting) to stock their rosters, public high school programs and their coaches have to take pot-luck from the available kids in the community. (3) It's fun to watch the fans on the sidelines - because they reflect the unique flavor of the people who live in each community (a cross-section of America). (4) because there's such a big difference between a great player and an average player on a typical high school roster, extraordinary talent really jumps out at you.

I recorded the Menominee - West Catholic game on my my DVR and really looked forward to that contest (because Menominee runs a single-wing offense - not a wildcat, a pistol or a similar direct-snap hybrid, but an honest-to-God old fashioned single wing - and I find there's beauty in watching single-wing football). It wasn't a good day for Menominee (they were, frankly, out-physicalled by a bigger, stronger West Catholic squad and lacked that one single extremely tough or speedy dominating player who could carry the team on his back), but it was fun watching the Maroon roll up ground-yardage like a giant steamroller (just not "giant" enough).

Meanwhile, congratulations Cardinals! - The Stanford Cardinal for beating the Fighting Irish. The Stillman Valley (IL) Cardinals for their victory over St. Joseph-Ogden. The Mentor (OH) Cardinals (with their redbird on a silver helmets who won the semi-finals over St. Joseph-Ogden. The Webb City (MO) Cardinals who took care of Helias 28 - 14. And any other Cardinals I may have overlooked.

State of the Cards - End of Week 4
The Cardinals are 2 & 2 coming off a narrow road win over Tampa Bay. Offensively, our passing attack has shown flashes of brilliance, but not with any consistency. After hyping LT Levi Brown as "elite", the Cardinal brass finally gave up on Levi and dealt him to the Steelers. Former Colt, Bradley Sowell becomes Carson Palmer's new body guard. The Cards concluded that, right now with Sowells, there would be no drop-off in production from the changeover and that Sowells had room for solid upside growth whereas Levi's upside was behind him and he showed little improvement since his return to the starting lineup. Although many Cardinal fans wondered: "why the FO took so long", the move to Sowell does raise the question of "getting what you wish for" - whether or not the LT position will be locked down and solid - both from the standpoint of protecting Palmer's blind side and opening up holes for our RB's.

The Cardinal running attack is better than it was a year ago (less negative yardage, decent YPC average) and a provides a boat-load of options with Mendenhall, Smith and Taylor strong between the tackles and the rookie, Ellington and (the oft' injured) Ryan Williams providing outside speed and home-run explosiveness. But, as is true for the passing attack, we see flashes of in our run blocking but not a lot of consistency yet. One major gaping offensive shortcoming continues to be our inability to convert 3rd downs.

For the first time in recorded history, the Cardinals are ranked as high as the Top 2 in run-defense, led by our D-line, inside backersand SS/LB rover, Yeremiah Bell. Overall our defense is a big play turnover machine that can keep the Cards in games long enough for our sputtering offense to finally ignite. One major shortcoming, however, is in pass-coverage (poor coverage techniques and ball skills - especially at the "non-Peterson" CB position.

Cardinal special teams have equalled if not surpassed the offense and defense as game-changers - Zastudil has been uncanny dropping punts inside the 15 and, combined with Bethel's coverage, has given us a significant field-position advantage in most games, setting the stage for big plays by Peterson, Dansby, Moch & Co.

How far we go this season will depend on how much we improve over time. Right now, we're on a .500 "roller coaster track, but the good news is that there is an upside here, because our younger players continue to improve with each snap. The question remains, however, as to whether we can sustain that improvement?

Pro Football Focus (PFF) notes -
(There are some who justifiably question PFF's stats, but they "do their homework" and, for us, their output represents "the best info available" and therefore of interest to Cardinal fans):

Palmer has +4.2 overall rating.

Overall ratings at WR are Fitz +7.5 and Roberts +1.3; but Floyd has a negative -1.8. Fitz is +1.6 as a run-blocker.

At TE, Dray: -3.7 overall and -1.2 as a pass blocker. Housler: -1.3 as a receiver.

Fanaika, Winston, Brown and Potter had negative overall ratings. Colledge grades out at +4.4 as a pass blocker but -4.1 as a run blocker.

Dockett (+3.0) , Shaughnessy (+6.7) and Ta'amu (+1.5) had positive overall ratings. Campbell, Talley and Rucker all are in negative territory overall. Dockett led all Cardinal defenders in pass rushing grades with a 4.7 rating.

Leading overall run defender on defense was Jasper Brinkley with a +7.7. Huge surprise among LB's were negative overall grades for Dansby (-2.8) and Abraham (-3.5)

Peterson, Powers, Mathieu and Arenas all had positive overall grades. Bell and R Johnson graded out negative (with Bell surprisingly unimpressive vs. the run, but still "average" in pass coverage).

To sum up - the Cards seem destined to wind up a game or three north or south of 8 & 8, but remember that we're dealing with a new coach, new offensive and defensive systems, a turned-over roster and unanswered questions about how much (if at all) we can improve. But however things turn out, one thing's for sure - this is a fun team to follow and one of the most exciting times to be a Cardinal fan.

Cards Make (Semi) Final Roster Moves  -- Sat. Aug. 31, 2013 -- After spending most of today on Final 53 "death watch", the news began to leak out around dinner-time in the East. I'll do a more thorough analysis in the next few days, but will just cover the high points for now:

  • We're keeping 3 QB's (for now).

  • We're keeping 5 RB's (though there is remote speculation that Ryan Williams could still be traded).

  • We only kept 4 WR's (Kerry Taylor was a late surprise whack).

  • DC Jefferson is one of 4 TE's still on the roster. (Cards will actively try to upgrade our TE's, and Jefferson looks pretty vulnerable.

  • No big surprises on the OL (other than the rookie Watford making it and the veteran, Rachal not surviving the final cut).

  • We're down to 5 defensive linemen. That won't stay this way. We'll be actively seeking to add a NT with a bit more sand in his pants than our current backup swingman,Talley (who weights just 286).

  • We're slightly overstocked at LB (due in part to DWash's suspension). We have 10 (including DWash) and only need 8. Demen looks expendible.

  • It's "Grand Central Station at Rush Hour" with 11 DB's still on the roster. Tony Jefferson made the final cut (though a few wise old souls caution that T-Jeff shouldn't buy the proverbial "car" quite yet. But we're only -deep in safeties and I'd think a few of our 6 corners (especially Fleming and McCan) would be more vulnerable.

So that's the deal for now. Expect more changes as Steve K scours the waiver wire. Stay tuned.

Final Preseason Game and Roster Issues  --  Wed. Aug. 28, 2013 -- After basking in the glory of two preseason wins and the excitement of the new regime, the Cards were then promptly waxed in the third contest by a SD team who evidently wanted it more. Plus - we lost our top draft pick and cornerstone of a crucial OL overhaul for most if not all of the season. Fan reaction has been as unrealistic in defeat as it was in those earlier victories. It's going to be a long, thrilling season. I  suggest we all cool it, play it as it lays and enjoy what figures to be a wild ride.

Now for the battle for a spot on the Final 53 - final cutdown date is Saturday):

QB - Do we keep 3 on our roster (and hang onto Lindsay) or do we go with 2?

RB - Do we keep 5 on our roster (or do we dump Ryan Williams and go with 4)?

WR - 5 players (Brown, Taylor, Hawkins, Thomas and Buckner) are battling to fill one to three open roster spots.

TE - We figure to keep 4. Five guys (Jefferson, Sperry, Gottleib, King and newcomer, Quinn) figure to compete for 2 open spots.

OL - 9 spots. With Cooper out, fewer risks figure to be taken when filling the roster. All but one spot has probably been decided. That leaves 5 guys (Rachal, Watford, Kelemete, J-Johnson and Bice) battling for one remaining open spot.

DL - We figure to keep 7. All the spots appear to have been filled, leaving Lumpkin and Scott odd-men out.

LB - We figure to keep 8. All the spots seem to have been filled. Nash, Demens, Parker and Rowe have nowhere to go.

DB - We figure to keep 8 to 10. Two spots appear to be still open, with 5 guys (Jefferson, Amaya, Fleming, Taylor and McCann) seeking to fill them.

ST - The Feely replacement experiment appears ended. It's doubtful BA will waste more time or roster spots - at least for now.

If we kept the minimum number of players projected for each roster spot, we'd wind up with 49, giving us wriggle room of 4 other players we could keep. The maximum number of players projected for each roster spot would put us 2 players over the 53-man limit. This doesn't account for the possiblility that Steve Keim will take advantage of some of the more esoteric waiver categories; plus - let's not forget we still have the Denver game to play before the Saturday cutdown deadline. Plus also - BA's comment that, after the final cutdown date, there may be players available from other teams that could be added to our roster, thereby making otherwise "safe" Cardinal players at the back-end of the roster expendible.. Enjoy.

Cards Tweak Roster  -- Thurs. Aug. 22, 2013 -- With the first major cutdown (to 75 players) about a week away, Coach Arians and Steve Keim continue to be busy little beavers; bringing in kicker Dan Carpenter to compete with Jay Feely, picking up veteran smurf, Mike Thomas (considered  "more speedy and experienced" than fellow smurfs Robby Toma and Robert Gill and making the 2 rookies expendible).

The kicking situation is interesting if not perplexing - last season, Feely chalked up impressive stats (i.e. many field goals/high success-average); yet there have been rumblings, rumors, body english etc. suggesting that Coach Arians was not totally satisfied with the situation at kicker. Feely says he's OK with the added competition, but you have to wonder. (Note - Carpenter was cut. Arians says they may bring in a couple more kickers anyway.

Wide receiver is even more interesting. If you review the roster and do some reading between the lines, you get the feeling Coach Arians wants to fill out his roster behind Fitz, Floyd and Roberts with specific role players - "Smurf", "Steady Eddie" and/or "Big Guy." He was happy to land 5-8 Mike Thomas - considered faster than fellow smurfs, Robbie Toma and Robert Gill who then became expendible. Competition for Big Guy would appear to be among 6-2 Jarod Brown, 6-4 Dan Buckner and 6-3 Nick Edwards. If the Cards decide to go with 5 wide receivers, these three guys will compete with more average-size guys, 6-0 Kerry Taylor, 5-8 Charles Hawkins (kind of smurfy), or 5-11 Jarrett Dillard. If I had to handicap the final roster, it would look something like: Fitz, Floyd, Roberts, Thomas, Brown and (if we keep 6) Taylor.

Other position battles worth watching - (1) Logjam on the OL with 11 guys (including veterans Colledge, Rachal and Gibson) battling youngsters like Fanaica, Potter, Kelemete and Watford for backup spots. (Note - Season-ending injury to Cooper complicates matters). (2) Ronald Talley showing how versatile he is by performing well at NT despite only weighing 286 lbs. (3) Ten linebackers having legitimate shots at filling 8 slots, (4) Tony Jefferson's run at a backup safety spot. (Considered a long-shot by some, due to less-than-gaudy workout numbers, but who proved he could bring it on the field with 5 tackles (2 for losses), 2 interceptions and 2 other pass breakups), (5) Overabundance of corners - with Powers, Cason and Arenas competing to start opposite Peterson and Bethel, Mathieu and McCann still very much in the mix and (5) Feely vs. Carpenter (How serious are the coaches)?

Fasten your seat belts!

Cards According to Football Outsiders  -- Wed. Aug. 14, 2013 -- Football Outsiders enjoys the reputation of providing stat-based insights that are much more enlightening than your basic average annual fan guide. While I don’t always agree with them, I do find their content interesting and thought-provoking at the very least.

Note - Outsiders compiles team and player ratings based on esoteric statistics that score each play and factor in such other elements as down and distance to compare each team and player with others in the league. It's a pretty complex process and, for that reason, I seldom if ever refer to such Outsider statistical terms - like DVOA (don't ask).

  • Outsiders wasn't very complimentary toward last year’s Cardinals (referring to  them as “the runt of one of the NFL’s best divisions”).

  • They point out that, at Age 60+,  Coach Arians now becomes a member of a head coaching fraternity that has compiled a 32 – 101 won & lost record since 1970.

  • While they don’t pull punches about Carson Palmer’s strengths and weaknesses, they do consider him a “veritable bargain” compared to what we had to pay to bring in Kevin Kolb a year ago.

  • Statistically, the Cards were next to last (to KC) in passing offense and dead last in the run game last year.

  • They expect better performance from an offensive line that has added Cooper, has a much-improved Massie and brings back Levi in place of (an even worse) Batiste.

  • They have a dim view on Mendenhall , who has worse Outsider stats than did LSH or Beanie. (“A savior? He will almost certainly not be. An improvement? That’s certainly a possibility").

  • Even with plentiful receiving talent in Fitz, Floyd and Roberts, “the Cardinals do not have a true vertical threat at wide receiver.

  • We no longer have Horton’s creative ways of applying pressure on opposing QB’s

  • Four members of last year’s secondary (Gay, Toler, Wilson and Rhodes) are no longer on the roster, and the replacements “ (Powers, Cason, Arenas, Bell, R Johnson) don’t seem any better. “ (i.e. Outsiders’ game charting statistics don’t rate the new guys' 2012 performances any higher than the previous DB's). Powers seems the likely starter, Arenas “fits the more traditional slot-cornerback prototype” and Cason is described as a slot cornerback whose potential as a slot corner “is based more on trait-prototyping than successful experience” in that role.

  • They conclude by saying “a playoff berth is unlikely”, but at least fans “should thank heaven for small favors – like potentially league-average QB play, no nine game losing streaks and not going 0 for 15 on third down in one game.”

Last Year’s Tendencies:

  • Card offense averaged a league-worst 2.5 yards per play on screen plays

  • All five Cardinal OL starters individually ranked no better than 7th –worst in “blown blocks” among all NFL starters at their respective positions. In Batiste and then Potter, the Cards had “two of the worst LT’s in the league last year. “And it’s easy to forget that Brown was arguably the worst left tackle in football the prior two seasons. (Note: Either Arians – who describes Levi as “elite” – or Outsiders is correct. Which one will it be)?

  • The defense has “one of the leagues weirder profiles – it got its pass rush pressure from an ILB (DWash) and a DE (Campbell) instead of its outside LB’s who typically are a 3-4 team’s sack leaders.  They attribute this to Ray Horton’s mad-scientist creative schemes for putting pressure on enemy QB’s to compensate for our lack of traditional pass rushing talent.

  • Bowle’s new hybrid front should make Dockett much happier and get more production from our defensive linemen, but don’t expect miracles from new additions, Brinkley, Alexander or Shaughnessy (and Okafor had the second worst SacksSEER rating at the Combine). (Note: We hadn’t signed Abraham when the Outsider Annual went to press.

  • Outsiders considers Powers “mediocre at best when healthy and points out that Cason was the culprit in a hypothetical 2012 horror film: “Ray Rice Converts 4th & 29.” They dismiss Johnson as a “career backup” and Bell as “already on the decline.” They expect Tyrann to “spend most of his rookie season on special teams.”

  • They point out that, on special teams, PP21 was “dead last” in the league a year ago statistically (including 2 fumbled  punts during the 58-0 slaughter in Week 14).

  • Yet the entire unit was considered “above average” thanks to Zastudil and Feely. Also noteworthy was the 25.4% failure rate by opposing FG kickers (partly but not totally due to the intimidating presence of the 6-8 Campbell).

  • For the third straight season, our defense got destroyed by draw plays.

  • But we had the league’s best defense against passes in the red zone.

  • Outsiders enjoys a smirky potshot at Coach Arians, describing his staff as surviving a two-question interview process: (1) Have I coached you before? And (2) Are you experienced at the position? (Most of BA’s hires worked for him before but in different roles than required by their new ones). They do have nice things to say about the positive impact Coach Arians and Tom Moore figure to have on Carson Palmer.

So that’s the deal from Football Outsiders Almanac. Insightful and they have the stats to back it up. But – based on what I’ve seen thus far from Coach Arians, his staff and our new players – I’d be inclined not to ignore “the human factor” that involves strategy, evaluating talent, coach-on-player and player-on-player teaching  and leadership etc.

There’s a good vibe coming out of the desert. It should be interesting and fun to see whether Vibe trumps Past Performance Stats (or vice versa).

Tonight's the Night  -- Friday Aug. 9, 2013 -- It's only the first of 4 preseason games which would normally earn only passing interest, but this one is different:

Most years, you have a pretty good idea of what the head coach is expected to say or do. You know who your core players are and what they are capable of doing. At most, you're excited about a couple of rookie pheeenoms or a high-profile free agent pickups. But other than that, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect (i.e. starters in there for a quarter, followed by a lot of head-banging among the backups for roster spots). This year is different:

Check out the wholesale changes since the Cardinals wrapped up last season under Ken Whisenhunt. We have a new head coach and a new coaching staff with different ways of doing business. We have new approaches to both the offense and defense. We have a revamped Front Office. We have new starting and backup QB's. We have a new group of RB's. 80% of our OL is likely to be different from a year ago. With the exception of DWash (who'll be suspended for the first three games) our entire starting linebacking corps could very well be new.  50% of our base secondary and even more of our nickel and dime packages will feature new players.

Tell me this isn't like sneaking down early on Christmas morning and taking a peek at a whole bunch of Christmas presents.

To say that tonight figures to be exciting is an understatement. But it carries with it some words of caution:

As more and more Cardinal fans become more experienced and "hard core", we tend to fall into the trap of wanting to play "Soothsayer." (We have all the answers. We know more inside stuff than the next guy. We can predict the future). With this come an avalanche of overstatement, hype, certitude, global pronouncements and confusing strong opinions with fact. (The Cards will go 5 and 11. Keim is a genius. Keim is a bum. BA can do no wrong. BA can do no right. Tyrann Mathieu will definitely be rookie of the year). Yo, guys - it's early. We haven't played a game yet (and the one we'll play tonight will mainly serve to sort out what we've got on the back end of our roster).

That's not to say I don't like what I've heard and seen so far and that my hopes aren't high (Actually, my hopes are higher than they've been in a long, long while - because there are fewer nagging red warning flags surrounding Coach Arians and his merry band of followers. But - football continues to be a game featuring injuries, human frailties, unpredictable refs and an oblong ball that bounces funny.

Am I excited over the prospects of Carson Palmer hooking up repeatedly with Fitz and his cohorts? Am I jacked up thinking about Mendy or Stepfan banging it in there between the tackles or KW and Ellington breaking a few long ones? Do I find it hard to wait and see how Coop, Winston and the OL holds up? Or whether Housler becomes a legitimate receiving threat at TE? Do I drool over the prospect of watching Abraham duck under a blocker to nail an opposing QB? Or the havock #90 and #93 can wreak when finally turned loose? Or visions of Tyrann and PP21 single-handedly destroying an enemy passing attack? You betcha!

But the key here is that I'm excited and I'm hopeful, but I don't know with any kind of certainty. That's why they play the games. Enjoy tonight!

Cards Sign Abraham and Winston/Drop Schofield -- Fri. July 26, 2013 -- The rumors turned out to be accurate: The Cardinals added a 10-sack per year edge rusher and upgraded 20% of their offensive line by agreeing to terms with DE/OLB John Abraham and OT Eric Winston. To free up roster space (& probably a bit of  cap room), we dropped injury-plagued OLB O Brien Schofield and put 6th round pick WR Ryan Swope on the "Reserve-Retired" list. Cards also added young LB Kenny Rowe.

It was understood prior to the draft that the speedy Swope was a high-risk/high reward proposition because of a history of concussions in college. The whole concept of "risk" involves losing a few gambles as well as winning a few. The Swope risk didn't pan out. Same thing with Schofield - he was drafted in spite of having to rehab from a serious knee injury. We got most of a pretty good year from him as an edge-rushing factor, but he continued to be bitten by the injury bug, and Abraham (despite his age) is a known factor with a deluxe pass rushing pedigree.

All in all, though, the concensus throughout Cardinal Nation seems to be: "For the first time in recent memory, the Cardinal front office really stepped up and was pro-active in filling roster holes." At least on paper at this early stage, it looks as though the Cardinals have added a quality body guard for Carson Palmer plus a known pass rushing entity. Well played.

Abraham and Winston Possible Additions as Camp Opens --  Thurs. July 25, 2013 -- After week after week staring in vain at the NFLN and ESPN crawls for any sign of Cardinal activity, this  morning's wires buzzed with a couple of major rumors - (1) Pass rushing specialist John Abraham is reported to be on his way to the Valley for a visit (with one uncorroborated source indicating that the Cardinals have made him an offer). (2) Adam Schefter and Kent Somers are reporting that Offensive Tackle, Eric Winston and the Cards have agreed to a deal.

At the opening of training camp, two remaining roster holes are said to be: (1) Lack of an elite pass rusher and (2) Protecting Carson Palmer in the pocket. (Under the cautionary proviso that neither deal should be considered "done" until the team confirms it) - If Abraham and Winston still have enough gas in their respective tanks, these two moves - if actually consummated - could prove to represent significant upgrades at two important areas of need.

There were a couple of other roster moves: LB Dan Giordano was placed on the active roster PUP list. LB Tim Fugger failed his physical and was waived.

Rookies Report Tomorrow -- Mon. July 22, 2013 --  The 6-week news drought is all but over. Hopefully, there will be no more Top 100 lists of "players with the prettiest teeth" along with all the other garbage that exists only to fill up otherwise empty news-space. It's a unique year for the Cardinals community - revamped front office, new coaches and a lot of new faces on an expanded roster.

It's been my experience that, in normal years, it pays to expect the unexpected. There will always be at least one freak injury (or more than one surprise arrest or suspension). And not just on the Cardinals - there will be pleasant and unpleasant surprises on every team we compete with. 2013 figures to be far from being anything close to a "normal year." For this reason, I've tried extra hard to avoid "playing sooth-sayer" and making a bunch of fearless forecasts (that I'd have to hope and pray my readers will forget when they don't pan out bythe end of the season).

I've always preferred to watch events unfurl before opening my big mouth. However, I will share with you how I feel about the Cardinals on the eve of rookies reporting for training camp:

First of all, I like what I've seen so far from Bruce Arians as a "teaching coach" - I've been critical of shortcomings in player development by previous regimes, and am happy that he's increased the size of his existing staff and loaded it with coaches who can teach.

What I've seen on tape of Carson Palmer, I've liked. He looks like he knows what he's doing, and can still deliver the ball when and where he wants it. I haven't seen enough of Stanton not to be nervous about our lack of depth behind Palmer. (I wouldn't have released Hoyer).

It appears that Carson, Fitz and Co. are avoiding the humongous hole our receivers and QB's dug for themselves by never  getting on the same page chemistry-wise. What I had hoped to see a year ago, I'm seeing in informal workouts this offseason.

Since "Early Buddy" - this franchise has struggled in various attempts (too many half-hearted) to rebuild its offensive line. It has the potential to make huge strides this season, but for whatever reason, various Cardinal coaching staffs have found  this to be a more complex and daunting task than it should be. (For example, witness the Giants over past decades - no matter how decimated by departures or injuries, they always seem to find some no-name rookie or free agent who can step in and do the job. By contrast, the Cardinal OL situation seems to repeat itself each season like a broken record). BA and his staff seem to have enough room to work with. I sure hope so.

I was one of the big whiners when we let Ray Horton leave - he had finally lifted the Cardinal defense to a level Cardinal fans could only dream about as recently as a half-decade ago. It does appear that we have a suitable battle-tested replacement in Todd Bowles, and from what he says, we can expect (a) continuation of the 3-4 base defense augmented by other fronts where appropriate, (b) the same "mad scientist" approach to defensive play calling that Horton brought to the Cardinals, but with (c) a more aggressive approach to defensive line play. Sounds good; we'll see.

I like our depth and talent at RB. I hate our lack of depth and talent at TE and pass rushing off the edge. I'm antsy about whether DWash and Mathieu will stay clean - a boom or bust factor that I wish we wouldn't have to live with. With DWash on ice early, I think the pick up of Karlos Dansby may - after Carson Palmer -  turn out to be our most significant move of the off-season. I love our depth at corner. (Not sure about safety, but spillover from the cornerback position could give us the safety depth we need).

I suspect the competitive situation in the NFC West may be overhyped. While conventional wisdom certainly suggests that last year's W&L track record by Seattle and the Niners along with the Rams (who actually had the best division W&L record of the three) along with a series of high-profile moves in free agency, the trade front and the draft - let's not forget that football is a team sport involving an oblonged ball that bounces funny. There's no reason why a vastly improved Cardinal team shouldn't be right in the thick of things.

So that's the deal as camp prepares to open. Football is back. Yay!

Welcome to the Media "Black Hole" --  Wed. June 5, 2013 -- It's that time of year (between the Draft and Training Camp when news about the Cardinals is rare and the wires primarily filled with speculation instead of hard news. Since most workouts are closed to the press, it's even hard to get much more than mere hearsay about which players look good (and which don't). So, to fill the empty hours with something to entertain myself, I've put together a State of the Team report for the Cardinals - by roster position -  analyzing (a) what we hope, (b) what we fear and (c) what we logically can expect. Enjoy.

Hoyer is "History" -- Tues May 14, 2013 -- Steve Keim continues to grind away, revamping his entire scouting department (more people) and cleaning up a few loose-ends before rookies and veterans get together for OTA's. Cards finally bit the bullet, decided that Brian Hoyer was being overpaid for a #3 backup, couldn't work out a trade and finally gave him his release. To provide enough arms in camp, the Cards signed tryout undrafted QB Caleb Ter Bush (Purdue). They also added tryout center, Adam Bice (Akron).

"College Ties" -- Mon. May 13 -- (File this under "Minutiae during a slow news period) - 53 of the 88 players currently on the Cardinal roster have at least one teammate who's an alumnus of the same alma mater. LSU leads the colleges with 4 (Mathieu, Minter, Peterson and RB Curtis Taylor. Several schools have 3 alumni on the Cardinals; including ASU, Cal, Oklahoma, Texas and USC with 15 other pairs of Cardinal players perhaps getting the opportunity to sing their college fight songs "duet-style" before their Cardinal teammates.

Late Breaking Cards Sign Dansby   -- Fri. May 10 -- Cardinals signed Karlos Dansby to a one-year contract. He's listed at 6-4 250. "Jersical Chairs": Dansby's jersey number is #55. (Alex Okafor - who had #55 is now #57- and Kenny Demens - who had #57 now gets to wear #45).  (Dansby's old Cardinal jersey #58 currently belongs to DWash, but "you never know").

So Where Are We?   -- Wed. May 8 -- With Rookie Camp only days away, the logical answer to that question has to be: "Ask us again after we get to see  what our players can do on the practice and playing field." But it never hurts to establish a base-line evaluation from which to draw a comparison later on. And besides, there's little else going on (other than the Jets circus and NFL Network's avalanche of  "Top 100'" shows. So here's how I see things roster-wise going in:

Quarterback -
Last year, we had 4 questionmarks in Kolb, Skelton, Hoyer and Lindley. We enter preseason with Carson Palmer (who has a terrific pedigree but it hasn't necessarily been evident in his W's & L's), Drew Stanton (who has good physical potential and knowledge of how Arians runs things, but remains pretty much a questionmark), Hoyer (who's long on promise but has a very short body of work and, therefore, represents another questionmark) and the young Lindley (who has yet to show us very much).
The Hope: That Palmer will play like Kurt Warner and Stanton & Hoyer will be rock solid backups. Questions: Gas in Palmer's tank, whether he can stay upright should blocking break down and whether Stanton and Hoyer can step up if and when needed..

Running Back
Blame it on injuries or lack of blocking, but Beanie and Ryan couldn't get the job done last year. Williams is back, but Wells has been replaced by Mendenhall (who runs with a low pad-level but also sports a history of injuries). Rookie Stepfon Taylor figures to push Mendenhall as our inside runner. Stephens-Howling is no longer here to fill the role of pass-catcher/scatback, but the Cardinals did draft broken -field wunderkin, Andre Ellington (who could turn out to be the steal of the Cardinal draft). William Powell and Alfonso Smith provided relieable backup support a year ago, but may lack the overall talent needed to hold off the rooks. Sherman is a casualty of Arian's no-fullback offensive system.
The Hope: That Mendenhall and R Williams will overcome injuries and provide us with the inside, outside and breakaway running game we've been lacking and that Taylor and Ellington make their mark as rookie Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside RB's. Questions: The injury bug. Run-blocking. Are the rookies as good as their hype.

Wide Receiver
Fitz, Floyd and Roberts are back. Doucet is not. Fitz has good size, decent speed and can catch anything remotely near him. Floyd can be a beast but is still a bit inconsistent and rough around the edges. Roberts has good speed but can't be classified as a true "burner." Byrd is a "good-hands", "jump-ball" 2nd year man who still must continue to prove himself. Cards are looking for a true blazer who can take the proverbial top off the defense and provide the deep threat that's so important to the Arians "push the ball downfield" offense and are looking to speedy rookies like Swope and Gill. (Note - Recent buzz is that Cribbs may not be physically ready to play and the Cards may look elsewhere).
The Hope: Production should improve under better quarterbacking. Floyd will continue to develop. Roberts will become our Mr. Reliable #3. Byrd will emerge as a #4 go-to factor. One of our draft picks or FA's will emerge as our stretch-the-field dude.. Questions: Development of Floyd, Roberts and Byrd. Which rookie (if any) will step up to become our home-run hitter.

Tight End
Same as last year except (a) we don't have Heap (not that we ever did, considering his injuries) and (b) we've added a raw, unproven physical specimen in Jefferson. Plus - the position takes on added importance now that the lead-blocking FB has been eliminated in Arians' offense. Housler is our seam-buster. King is our best blocker. Dray, Sperry and Gottleib are competing for other roster spots.
The Hope: That Housler becomes a better blocker and King continues to improve as a receiver. That Jefferson (a 7th round pick) turns out to be special. Questions: Depth (who, if anyone, can step up should Housler or King go down?). Will Housler and/or King be an effective security blanket for Cardinal QB's?

Offensive Line
There seems to be 2 official camps in Cardinal fandom: (1) those who believe the OL stank up the joint last season (i.e. last in sack's allowed, nonexistant running game) and needs a complete make-over and (2) those who rationalize that "things would have been different if Levi were healthy" and that our rookies (plus Massey, Potter and Kelemete) will improve enough to make our OL good enough to win with. Count me in the the first group of fans. The Cards currently have a likely starting front-five of Brown-Cooper-Sendlein-Colledge- Massie. They invested a top draft pick in Cooper and a 4th rounder in the raw but promising Watford. Former starting RG Snyder is gonzo. Cards brought in FA guard Chilo Rachal and a ton of free agent wannabees.
The Hope: That Levi will be healthy and outstanding; and the youngsters from a year ago and this year's rookies will continue to develop into quality linemen.. Questions: Really? Will Levi really turn out to be outstanding and injury free? Depth behind Sendlein (Is Wedige the answer?) Will Colledge withstand competition from Rachal or the youngsters at RG? Will Cooper be as good as his clippings claim? How fast will Watford develop? Did Potter bulk up in the off-season the way his scouting reports said he should? Is he close to being ready to replace Levi if need be? What will be the impact of new (& more plentiful) coaches and their new focus on teaching?

Defensive Line
No changes in the starting unit of Dockett, Williams and Campbell (except that Todd Bowles' 3-4 scheme will allow the front three to play more instinctively and make more plays than did the Ray Horton scheme (where the DL occupied blockers so that the LB's could grab most of the glory). Lots of changes in the second-echelon: Rucker and Shaughnessy figure to be the backup DE's. Cartershould remain our backup NT. Talley is on hand to provide additional DE depth. Thompson and Lumpkin will press Talley for a roster spot, and I'm quite interested in seeing whether UDFA Padric Scott can can surprise everyone at NT.
The Hope: That Todd Bowles' new defense equals or surpasses that of Ray Horton a year ago. That the first string remains healthy and that FA's Shaughnessy and Rucker along with Carter will provide quality depth.. Questions: Will Shaughnessy and Rucker get the job done? How will our outside guys improve as pass rushers under new coaching by a pass rush guru, Tom Pratt? Will Padric Scott turn out to be the real deal?

Situation remains fluid. Lenon and Bradley weren't re-signed. We won't have our leading tackler - DWash - for our first four games (maybe longer). ILB figured to be our biggest roster challenge, but the May 10 signing of former Card Karlos Dansby to a one-year deal provides quality veteran depth. Nothing wrong with Dansby and Brinkley on the inside backed by 2nd round pick Minter with Alexander floating inside and out while we wait for Washington to return. On the outside, our most prolific pass rusher (Quentin Groves) won't be back. Our starters now appear to be Schofield and Acho. The brittle Schofield is a better natural pass rusher than Acho. Acho is more durable than Schofield and more solid vs. the run. Depending on the situation inside, FA pickup  Lorenzo Alexander could push Schofield.  Alex Okafor seems a natural rookie backup to his former college teammate Acho. Perennial backup stalwart Reggie Walker is back and the Cards have 6 other free agents from this year and a year ago fighting for a roster spot.
The Hope: That an outside pass rusher emerges. That Schofield remains healthy. That we sign Dansby. That our other new veterans (Alexander and Brinkley) deliver as promised. That Minter is plug & play. That at least one natural pass rusher emerges from our group of youngsters. (And my secret hope - that we sign Freenie). Questions: Will we sign Dansby? Will Schofield remain healthy? Will our new guys perpetuate the "fly around all over the field" culture of last year's group of LB's?

In terms of sheer numbers, "a zoo." Looking forward to this year, one bright spot seemed to be that "well at least we won't have to monkey a lot with the defensive backfield like we've done every year for the past three decades."  Next thing we know - A-Dub is gone. Kerry Rhodes is gone. Toler and Gay are gone. Money Mike is gone. The only survivor is Patrick Peterson. (So much for not fixing what ain't broke). Cards brought in a physical but aging tackling machine in former Jet Jeremiah Bell. They elevated Rashad Johnson (who made great late-season strides) to start at the other safety. The brought in Powers, Arenas and Cason to compete at CB and drafted "The Honey Badger"* Tyrann Mathieu to play either FS or nickel corner. Youngsters Flemming (CB) and Bethel (CB or S) are a year more experienced. Add to this a large group of FA wannabees (including S hopeful Jefferson) and we have 17 players competing for roughly 10 roster spots. (* Note - We respect Mathieu's desire to leave the "Honey Badger" monicker behind him as a relic of a darker time in his life).
The Hope: That Mathieu sticks to the straight & narrow off the field and becomes the talented player he can be. Whomever plays opposite Peterson turns out to be better than Gay and at least as good as Toler. That Bell, Johnson and other safeties can hit as hard as A-Dub and make as many game-changing plays as Kerry Rhodes. That Jefferson shows the world why he should have been drafted. That Bethel makes the quantum improvement in technique to go with his freakish athleticism.  Questions: Does Bell still have enough gas? Will Rashad stay good or will he regress? Will our new corners - Cason, Powers or Arenas - opposite Peterson improve our pass coverage? Will Mathieu stay straight? Which, if any, unknowns DB's  will emerge from the pack to steal a job or two?

Special Teams
We won't know about coverage teams until we see them in action after roster-positions have been established, but our overall roster in general seems to be laced with a number of new guys who can play special teams and play them well. (The departure of gunner-types like LSH and Mike Adams makes it imperative we replace them with equal or better talent, and the new regime seems to have understood and addressed it). The Cards seem to be set with Feely, Zastudil and Leach. The addition of Mathieu to join Patrick Peterson in the return game upgrades what was already a strong situation. Plus - there must be a number of other players with blazing speed who might press for returner-duty (First two guys who come to mind are Ellington and Swope. We don't know if it's true or not, but Gill was said to run somewhere in the high 4.2's)..
The Hope: Health to Feely, Zastudil and Leach. That the Mathieu, Ellington, Swope et al will turn out to good enough to give us the luxury of resting PP21 when we need to. Questions: Who'll step up? How good will our coverage and return teams actually turn out to be?

DWash in More Trouble   -- Fri. May 3, 2013 -- (Note - I said "in trouble/I didn't say he was or wasn't guilty). Authorities want to talk to Daryl Washington about charges brought against him by his Ex involving an alleged assault. I'm not going to comment farther, because these kinds of issues tend to involve a lot of "he-said/she-said" with the things not always being as they seem. That said - it certainly raises another red flag  about DWash in the wake of his 4-game substance-abuse suspension. Let's hope things get resolved amicably and that we're not witnessing right before our very eyes  "a personality quickly heading south."

Cards Trade Sherman for Arenas   -- Thurs. May 2, 2013 -- As expected, the Cardinals said goodbye to "The Shermanator" (FB Anthony Sherman) by trading him to the Chiefs for CB Javier Arenas. Coach Arians had signalled the move by pointing out in an interview that he wasn't an an advocate of using a lead-blocking FB in the backfield; preferring to use single-back sets with 2 TE's or an H-Back instead. (He feels that, when you insert a FB into the backfield, it gives opposing defenses fewer choices to worry about and, therefore, makes your offense more predictable). It's to Steve Keim's credit that the Cardinals got something in return for Sherman; in fact, more than something. In Arenas, we get a former starter who was credited with 60 tackles in 2012. He's a fireplug (5-9 197) who's expected to battle a whole bevy of corners (including Cason, Powers and Mathieu) for the starting spot opposite Patrick Peterson.

 Schedule Released (Yechh!)  -- Fri. April 19, 2013 - Let me start off by saying that, when you play in a tough division and are coming off a lousy record, all games are tough. There are no "gimmes."

  • That said, our schedule really sucks. Some highlights:

  • We open in St Louie vs. the Rams.

  • We have one nationally televised night game - Thurs. Oct. 17 hosting Seattle.

  • 3 of our first three games (& 2 of our first 5) are on the road.

  • Our Bye week is exactly midway through our schedule (a good thing).

  • Catch Philly on the road early and you avoid miserable winter weather. We didn't. We play them Dec. 1. (To add a positive spin - at least we don't catch Chip Kelly's  fast-break offense early - we have 3/4 of a season to see them on tape).

  • Darren Urban points out that playing in Tennessee Dec. 15 and Seattle Dec. 22 could also present winter weather challenges.

  • We play Seattle 4 days after playing San Francisco. At the end of the season, we play San Francisco the week after we play Seattle.

  • From an Arizona time-zone standpoint, the Cards play 5 "breakfast games" (10 am vs. NO and TB and 11 am vs. Jax, Philly and Tenn).

  • It will be interesting to see whether or not the Cards will turn consecutive NFC South games (@ NO and @ TB) into an extended road trip.

Between now and the regular season, you'll see the Blogosphere loaded up with game-by game forecasts and prognostications for the season. Play along with that line of thinking and it will put you in the Loony Bin. This is the ideal season for following the time-worn cliches of "play 'em one game at a time", "they're all tough" and "don't get too far ahead of yourself." When you play in the same division with the Niners and Seahawks, you know that 25% of your games will be tough. (And don't forget the Rams - who may be on the verge of turning the corner). Best thing the Cards can do as a team (& we can do as fans) is to take the position that it will be up to the Cardinals to play well enough so that other teams will worry about what we're gonna do (instead of us worrying about what they're gonna do). NFL Draft in less than a week. (Life is good)!

It's Offical - Cards (Finally) Trade for Carson Palmer  -- Tues. April 2, 2013 - This one had all the earmarks of another Peyton Manning fiasco- complete with "deals all but done", "deal hit a snag", "they had dinner last night" and finally "Deal's done." Frankly I thought thus bore the aroma of another failed deal, but fortunately (IMO), I was wrong.

According to Darren Urban - The Cardinals acquired Palmer from the Raiders along with the Raiders' seventh-round pick in 2013 in exchange for the second of the Cards' two sixth-round picks (No. 176 overall) in 2013 along with a conditional pick in 2014. Palmer (who renegotiated his contract to make the trade happen) will be the starter. He signed a two-year contract, reportedly for $10 million guaranteed (Ed Note - plus, I understand) another $10 million in non-guaranteed income (including $4 million in incentives).

This sets up a preliminary depth chart of Palmer backed up by Drew Stanton and/or Brian Hoyer and Ryan Lindley.(Hoyer - who just signed his tender - is rumored to be on the trading block.

I like this deal (we gave up very little for a veteran QB we can rent for a couple of years while we try to identify, acquire and develop a longer term answer at QB (& perhaps strike it rich in the short-range like we did with Kurt Warner). I like talent and depth at a critical position. The Palmer and Stanton tandem give us that. I also happen to be a big fan of Hoyer, but even if we don't keep him, we still have Lindley and possibly a drafted prospect to battle for the #3 backup position.

Finally, something more "real" (& less hypothetical) for Cardinal fans to talk about. And oh yeah, Palmer's due to speak at a press conference in about an hour (2 pm AZT; 4 pm ET).

Cards Add Safety/Special Teamer -- Thurs. March  28, 2013 -- The Cards signed FA Jonathan Amaya a big-framed safety known for his special teams play. He played for DC Todd Bowles when Bowles was with the Dolphins. Amaya is 6-2 205 and is a 3-year veteran out of Nevada-Reno.

Post-Frenzy Housecleaning -- Sat. March 23, 2013 -- The Cards released OG Rich Orhnbereger and signed former Brown DE Frostee Rucker. Rucker has recorded 4 sacks in each of his two past seasons. The status of Josh Cribbs will remain in limbo until the Cards re-examine his knee in 3 - 5 weeks. When you clear away all the cap mumbo jumbo, it looks like the Cards may have $5 - 6 million in cap space available after all transactions and the draft are accounted for.

Some Post Draft Order (With Supplemental Picks) Announced -- Tues. March 19 -- The League announced the official draft order for 2013. (And, no, we weren't rewarded with any supplemental picks). We're missing a 7th round pick but picked up a second high 6th round pick, so we have 7 picks in all. Rather than fill up the site with 7 rounds of meaningless pick-by-pick minutiae, I'll just tell you which picks we now have: 1st Round (#7), 2nd Round (#38), 3rd Round (#69), 4th Round (#103), 5th Round (#140), 6th Round (#174) and 6th Round (#176). We don't know how aggressive our new GM, Steve Keim will be in packaging picks to move up and down the draft board (Heck! He could decide to stay put with the picks we currently have), but it should be exciting to watch Steve in action.

The Mystery of Joshua Cribbs
The following is educational and kind of fun: A week ago a local beat-writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Mary Kay Cabot) reported that WR/KR Josh Cribbs was in Arizona and had all but signed a contract with the Cardinals. There was even a tweet by Cribbs saying "sayonara" to his loyal Cleveland fan-base. Since then - nothing. No news that he signed. No news that he didn't sign. No news that Josh Cribbs even existed. It was as though he had vanished completely off the face of the earth. Then, the night before last, Cabot reported that she (or a source) had seen Cribbs on a flight from Cleveland to AZ and that he was coming in to take a physical and hopefully finalize a contract yesterday. Since then (once again) - Nothing.

Usually, when a FA visits the Valley (or anywhere else) there are regular updates (i.e. "The wheels are down", "He was picked up at Sky Harbor", "He's on the way to the facility", "He stopped for a Big Mac"). But, to say the least, the silence has been deafening.

So what's the deal? The following is speculation on my part: We're being played. When there are false or misleading reports of visits, meetings, unsigned contracts etc., you can usually track it back to a player's agent who's trying to gain leverage or jump-start negotiations with another team. Sometimes a local beat-writer (knowlingly or unwittingly) becomes a PR tool of the agent. In both the initial report a week ago and the one two nights ago, the same writer was involved and, in both cases, her report was picked up by various other news sources and filled the media echo chamber with a multiplicity of "late breaking" reports of various shapes and sizes) that resembled the "real news." Except that it all stemmed from 2 stories from the same single source - Mary Kay Cabot.

So what happened? Short answer: We don't know yet. But here's what I think: The Owners' Meeting is currently being held in Phoenix. Cribbs may have been on the plane en route to "getting his face in front of" a few NFL personnel people. Cabot probably got it right that he was seen on the plane, but may have speculated that he was coming in for the physical. (Note - The Cardinals never confirmed or denied that Cribbs was there to take a physical). The Cards need a shifty home-run hitter to replace what LSH gave us on offense and special teams, so I hope Cribbs signs with us. Meanwhile, it makes for an interesting story while also providing a window on how stories get out and how the media operates.

I also think it would make a terrific movie - "Where's Joshua?" (starring Christopher Walken and John Malkovich as the "2 dysfunctional partner-owners, Jodi Foster as the Cleveland beat-writer, Louis Black as an aggravated Cardinal fan (and Michael Moore as his jovial, more laid-back sidekick), Ed Norton as the industrious local investigative blogger, Mitt Romney as Commissioner Goodell, Barack Obama as Josh Cribbs and Fred Thompson as Cribbs' agent (& reverse mortgage expert).

Finally - now that I've wasted several paragraphs and a half-hour of my life that I'll never get back - we'll get news that Cribbs is officially a Cardinal afterall.

FA Day 4: Shaughnessy and Cason in Fold --  Sat. March 16, 2013 -- "Happy St. Patrick's Day (observed) Matt Shaughnessy!" He's a Cardinal. BA described him as a lunch-pail run-stopper. After what seemed to be endless negotiations, the Cardinals finally signed CB Antoine Cason to a one-year deal. He's expected to competer with Jerraud Powers for the starting corner spot opposite Patrick Peterson.Regardless of who "starts", ll three figure to be on the field at the same time quite a bit in passing situations.

Things are still a bit weird on the Josh Cribbs front. There's been absolutely no news since he was reported to be visiting the Cardinals, and when asked about it, Mike Jurecki tweeted something along the lines of "I'm not sure if he ever was in the Valley" (raising the possibilitythat it was a "ghost visit" concocted by Cribbs' agent).

Conventional wisdom after four days of frantic activity is that "the market has dried up" and will consist mainly of a bunch of aged, high-profile veterans signing one-year deals.  Good time as any to acknowledge Adrian Wilson's good fortune in signing with the Pats (Good luck., A-Dub!) and the inability of Beanie Wells to pass his Steeler physical (Those who are using the opportunity to take one final shot at Beanie's lack of durability should take a step back for a moment to realize that this is could be a career-ender and a personal tragedy.  I know the severity and chronic nature of his injury caught me by surprise and raises questions in my mind about where things went wrong to allowed things to get to this point).

Capping the four days - The Cardinals lost the "warm body for warm body" war on day one, losing a bunch of players, re-signing one other and causing Cardinal fans to reach for Dr. Kervorkian's speed dial. Since then, the Cardinals have - almost to a man - replaced every warm body they lost earlier. What remains unclear is the inflow and outflow of talent - that won't become clear until we see what these guys do on the field and how well they mesh as a team. What we do know is that we lost three very good players in Wilson, Rhodes and Toler and pressure will be on Cason, Powers, Rashad Johnson and Bell to step up to replace them. Meanwhile, Mendenhall's in for Beanie, we haven't replaced our scatback (LSH) and our QB situation is markedly different with Stanton and Hoyer essentially fresh faces. Unaddressed, however, is our O-line, and we figure to enter the draft with that at the top of our shopping list. (So far, this off-season's been crazy, but it's been fun).

 FA Day 3: Cards Add Brinkley  -- Fri. March 15, 2013 - - The Cardinals filled in a missing spot in their LB lineup by signing ex-Viking MLB Jasper Brinkley.  Almost immediately after the news of his signing came the obligatory "He sucks!" comments from the blogosphere; the most damning criticism being that he missed one tackle for every 5.7 attempts and that a gaudy 119 tackle number for 2012 was overhyped. (According to, Brinkley's actual tackle total was 99 - not too shabby anyway).

To put things in perspective about the missed tackle percentage - this works out to 17.5% missed tackles. (Another way to look at it this that Brinkley successfully tackled the ballcarrier 82.5% of the time - that doesn't seem to be a very significant problem).

No news on the Cribbs and Cason fronts. (I Googled both players and, although there were news posted that they had visited the Cardinals, there was nothing new posted for the better part of a day. In an era where agents tweet about where their clients had dinner or that  "they're en route by limo from the airport", the absence of news about the two is not encouraging and a bit frustrating.

Cards are said to be bringing in DE Matt Shaughnessy (Raiders). He's more a big (6-5 285) 3-4 DE/UT than a small hybrid outside speed rusher.  Nothing new on the Kolb front - the conventional wisdom is that (unless a miracle happens and they successfully renegotiate his contract) he'll be released before tomorrow's roster-bonues deadline (when he'd be otherwise due $2-million dollars).

FA Day 2: Wild & Crazy  --  Thurs. March 14, 2013 -- It was hard to keep up. By early yesterday evening (EDT) every time I'd read about a Cardinal free agent move, there'd be another one bouncing off the newswires. For the sake of sanity, let's dissect everything position by position:

Cards signed Drew Stanton. Kolb's situation remains in limbo (CW has him gone before the Sat. roster bonus deadline). Hoyer, Skelton and Lindley are still around.

Running Back
Beanie Wells and LSH won't be back. Cards replaced Beanie with Rashard Mendenhall. Reggie Bush was also considered (according to unofficial Cardinal reports - a  #2 option behind Mendenhall - but signed with the Lions).There are unconfirmed reports that we signed Josh Cribbs last night. (Irresponsible Media Warning - Cribbs' agent said no deal had been struck as of Wed. night). While technically a receiver, he could conceivably be considered an LSH replacement - definitely as a returner/maybe as a small RB out of the backfield. Powell and A. Smith remain reliable backups.

Wide Receivers
Early Doucet was released. That leaves Fitz, Roberts, Floyd and Byrd. No indication Cards are looking at FA receivers.

Tight End
Nothing happening. KIng, Housler, Dray and Sperry are our tight ends (for now).

Offensive Line
If Cards are looking at any FA's, it's a well-kept secret. One insider report suggests Cards will use two of their top three draft picks on offensive linemen.

Defensive Linemen
Cardinals seem to be standing pat with their core group of Campbell, D Williams, Dockett, Carter, Lumpkin etc. and there are no reports of free agent activity by the Cards.

ILB's Stewart Bradley and Paris Lenon won't be back. Cards lost backup OLB and pass rusher, Quentin Groves Cards added ILB Lorenzon Alexander and are looking at other ILB's - they brought in Rey Maualuga in for a looksee (no deal struck), Jasper Brinkley is due in today and there's a totally unconfirmed report that we might have interest in Brian Urlacher.

Defensive Backs
Both starting safeties (Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes) are gone. Starting RCB's William Gay and Greg Toler are gonzo. Cards expressed interest in safeties LaRon Landry, and Dashon Goldson. (Golson was given the full-court press treatment by Tampa Bay and signed there). We re-signed S Rashad Johnson and signed free-agent S Yeremiah Bell and CB Jerraud Powers. Antoine Cason was brought in for a visit yesterday (with no outcome reported). There had been some interest in Sean Smith, but those rumors cooled down of late.

Looking back on Day 2, it seems as though we replaced a number of big name Cardinal players with FA's of various shapes and sizes. Burning question of the hour is: "Are the new guys as good as the old guys?" (i.e. Is Yeremiah Bell as good as Kerry Rhodes? Will Mendenhall be better than Beanie?) What you do hear from Cardinal HQ (aka "the Birds Nest") is that the guys we're bringing in are smarter, tougher and, by and large, really good on special teams. Three bits of unfinished business - (1) Signing a second CB (Cason), (2) Signing a 2nd (higher profile ILB (hopefully Brinkley) and (3) getting the Cribbs contract finally nailed-down).

Free Agency: Cards Slow Out of the Gates -- Wed. March 13, 2012 --  "Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! Thirty-one NFL teams exploded out of the starting gates. The Cardinals appeared to have been left standing. Not that expectations were that high - the best Cardinal fans could expect would be to hang onto most of our own UFA's and sign a few under-the-radar free agents . Well, let's see how that turned out:

We released Adrian Wilson. We released Beanie Wells. (As expected) we released Early Doucet and Stewart Bradley. And we allowed our #2 corner, Greg Toler, our 3rd down RB LaRod Stephens-Howling  and a rare pass rusher, Quentin Groves escape to other teams. Our one crowning achievement was the re-signing of S Rashad Johnson. Buzz is that Cards want to restructure Kevin Kolb's contract and, if they can't, may opt instead to sign veteran FA Drew Stanton instead (odds are very strong that they won't keep both). I can't help but notice that we've apparently done nothing in free agency to bolster our dysfunctional offensive line.

On the FA front, the team was said to have interest in QB Drew Stanton, RB's Rashard Mendenhall and Reggie Bush, Returner/WR Josh Cribbs, LB's Rey Maualuga, Lorenzo Alexander and DB's Sean Smith, Dashon Goldson, LaRon Landri and Jerraud Powers.

From reports of varying credibility - Stanton is supposed to be on his way here. Mendenhall (who must decide between Arizona and Denver) dined with the Cardinal brass last night and will spend today with the Cardinals. Cribbs is said to be deciding between NE and AZ. Bush is visiting Detroit and they're not expected to allow him to escape the Motor City without a contract. Maualuga is traveling to the Valley. Dunno about Alexander. Interest in Smith seems to have waned. Tampa Bay owner is said to have sent his personal jet to SF to retrieve Goldson (so that option looks less likely). Landri's name moved above the radar recently, but without any supporting substance. Powers is said to be coming in for a visit.

Bottom Line - Lots of irons in the fire, but nothing actually happened on Day One of free agency. There is a psychological war being fought during the off-season. Free agency signings take on a momentum all their own: Teams who get on a roll signing free agent after free agent are perceived by other unsigned free agents as "franchises on the upswing" and worth their interest. Teams who don't get anyone during early free agency are perceived as "losers." As a team begins to acquire that "dead-ass'" label, everything begins to snowball downhill.  Fan frustration fills up the blogosphere with negative comments - all reinforced by snarky commentary from our friends in the national media. (Guess which category the Cardinals currently fall into). If you were a FA, would you want to walk into a setting filled with negativity?

I'll admit it - By expressing my frustration over a front office that has, for example, allowed a talented defensive secondary (that included A-Dub, DRC, Jefferson and Toler) to fade away, I'm adding to the negative vibes flowing out of the Valley that would convince any sane free agent on his way here to consider doing an about-face and putting as much distance as possible between him and the current hornets' nest otherwise known as Cardinal Nation.

I hope Day 2 will be better.

A-Dub Released   -- Sat. March 8, 2013 - While it came as no surprise, it did come as a shock. The Cards said goodbye to safety Adrian Wilson, 12 year veteran and 5-time Pro Bowler. A-Dub accepted a pay cut a year ago but was unwilling to take another cut this year. (Can't say we can't blame him). Both Adrian and members of the Cardinal FO and coaching staff said all the right & classy things. And the media herd chimed in with all the cliches about how "it's a business." But something just doesn't taste right - a long time veteran who played his heart for the team and had indicated his desire to "retire as a Cardinal" will be headed elsewhere. I can't help but wonder out loud - "Did the Cardinals go the extra mile and do every thing possible to find a way to accomodate A-Dub?" Many  teams have a small group of ex-players who spent their entire playing careers with that same team. This, unfortunately, has not been the hallmark of the Cardinals, and I don't think it helps the franchise. Good luck Adrian. 

Roster Moves Announced/Post Combine Update   -- Mon. March 4, 2013 - The first shoe dropped  late last week when the Cardinals released ILB Stewart Bradley and CB William Gay.  The Cards were a few million dollars over the salary cap and the production of both players was considered lower than the cap space they were taking up. Bradley's case was unique - he looked pretty good when he got the chance to play, but he couldn't beat out Paris Lenon to start opposite Daryl Washington and, therefore, became cap-expendible. Gay was brought in from the Steelers a year ago and won the starting CB spot opposite PP21 by default when Greg Toler went down with an injury and rookie Jammell Fleming didn't progress as fast as needed. In my opinion, the times when Gay would make a play (staying with a receiver or aggressively breaking on the ball) were the exceptions instead of the rule. The return to good health by Toler late in the season made Gay and his cap-cost expendible.

Differing cap-onomic concepts get tossed around like Frisbees, and for every report that has us under the cap, there's another one indicating that we're over. Best guess right now is that we're roughly $3-million under the cap, but there are few immediate things the FO wants to do early and there's the rookie cap pool down the road. If the Cardinals want to have some wriggle-room to explore free-agency, re-sign Brian Hoyer etc., they will have to make additional moves - whether they includ restructuring Kevin Kolb's cap-heavy contract or releasing Kolb or other players whose production hasn't justified their compensation-level. The new regime are pretty good poker players, so it's hard to read whether fan favorites like Adrian Wilson or Beanie Wells are "safe" or whether the team is as high on returning Levi Brown as they say they are. Stay tuned.

Combine has come and gone (Time flies when you're having fun). Froma fan standpoint, this pre-draft period is the weirdest in a long, long time, because we're dealing with a new GM and a new coaching staff with a different rhythm to get used to. (Under Graves/Wiz, you could pretty much guess correctly which direction they'd go in the draft/free agency and which types of players they favored. Despite what Keim, Moore and Arians say, it will take a season or two before we could even try to read their minds.

Sure, we're hearing from the folks who cover the Cardinals (and fans who are positive they know what the FO will do) that "Arians favors a strong-armed QB to suit his vertical passing game" or that "Keim "won't shy away from drafting a guard if he's got Pro Bowl potential", but most of that comes from taking one or two comments from pressers out-of-context and anointing them as "absolutes." I'm not so sure about that - We'll need to wait for things to happen and base our conclusions on actiions on the ground in real time.

Until then, I'm inclined to hang my hat on what might be considered "Pro Football Common Sense" (or what any sane coach or GM would probably do under similar circumstances:

First, I think BA will keep his QB options as open and varied as possible. If he takes "one QB from Column A, one from B, one from C and one from D, I'd guess he'd try to (a) restructure and re-sign Kolb, (b) re-sign Hoyer, (c) bring in a FA like Stanton and (d) draft a rookie like EJ Manuel, Landry Jones or Scott in the  mid-to-late rounds. There is an outside chance that they could take a first-round shot at either Geno Smith or Matt Barkley IF, Arians, Moore and Keim felt either was worth drafting at #7 or trading down for, but since I can't read minds, my common-sense says: "Not likely."

Second, I think Todd Bowles will be very careful about shaking up a defensive unit known for big play explosiveness and pretty good production. At the very least, I don't think he'll get rid of a veteran player unless he feels he's got a backup player at the same position waiting in the wings to step up and take hold of the job. (If he's not sure about how good Rashad Johnson is - or whether we'll re-sign him - I don't think Adrian Wilson or Kerry Rhodes go anywhere).

The offensive line situation is perplexing, because there's a disconnect between what we saw on the field and what the new regime is telling us. For example, regardless of how much the rookies improved during last season or what Levi Brown will bring to the table coming off rehab, it is no secret that the Cardinal offensive line didn't play very well - it couldn't keep our QB's upright and our RB's seldom saw a glimmer of daylight. The way you hear it from the FO, it sounds like we'll be OK if we stick with the current OL and let it develop. That scares me. It's axiomatic in most organizations that major changes (or improvement) seldom gets made incrementally - big shifts in personnel and policy have to take place before the rest of the organization falls in line. Otherwise, there will be a lot of backsliding (because it's human nature for people to want to feel comfortable doing what they've always have been doing). I'm hoping, for example, that we draft at least two top offensive linemen capable of starting within a year or so. (We've got to shake that tree until all the bad leaves fall out).

Meanwhile, the Big Red Sheet rolls on. We've posted our 2013 Draft Issue, with  "living pages" of player analysis by position and new pages added as new info comes in. Today I posted three 7 round Cardinal mocks, based on the boards (reflecting very different "realities") of three draft guides. I urge you to check out the Draft Issue and re-visit early and often.

Later. - JGG

New Coaching Staff Announced  -- Wed. Feb. 6, 2013 -- But first, a Super Bowl joke - Jimmy Kimmel uncovered the real reason for the blackout: Apparently, an elderly fan sitting near the top of the stadium "clapped her hands twice"...

As promised, the Cardinals announced their new coaching staff all at once (see below). Without going into much detail, the coaching staff is (4 coaches) larger than Wiz's staff and laced with experienced "teaching" coaches whose forte is teaching (The offensive line alone will be guided by Goodwin, Zierlein and Moore, with Arians, Moore and Kitchens available to teach the finer points of quarterbacking.

A word of caution, though: Looks and words can be deceiving (Who among us didn't have faith in Russ Grimm's ability to coach-up the OL)?

Next on the agenda will be reviews of the current roster (including cap issues & possible restructuring of contracts), the FA and trading market and Draft prep; and with it another word of caution: We don't know what Steve Keim, Coach Arians and their staffs will see that we don't see let alone what their priorities will be as they refit pieces of the puzzle to the over all big roster picture. There is an interrelationship between players at different positions that will come into play. (For example, a mobile offensive line may make it more desirable to keep a QB who can scramble or a RB who can execute certain running plays. A defensive line laden with big uglies may make it easier to go with smaller more mobile inside LB's).

Right now the blogosphere is chock-full of simplistic opinions about "trade this guy/sign that guy." Oh if it were that simple. We'd be well-advised to first wait and see what Keim & Co. and our 21 new coaches come up with before we make snap decisions on players and positions. For example,you have to consider two different Kevin Kolbs: (1) the brittle Kevin Kolb who gets rid of the ball too fast and throws too many interceptions and (2) an improved (though still potentially brittle) Kevin Kolb benefitting from world-class coaching and better blocking from his offensive line. Michael Bidwill made his staffing decisions for a reason (By all appearances, he wanted more teaching from his coaching staff). Before we make snap judgments, we should give Coach Arians and his people the opportunity to implement Michael's plan.

Meet Your New Arizona Cardinals Coaching Staff  -- Wed. Feb. 6, 2013  --

– Head Coach: Bruce Arians (Interim HC/OC Colts)

– Assistant Head Coach/Offense: Tom Moore (Retired/OC Colts)

– Offensive Coordinator/OL Co-Specialist: Harold Goodwin

– Offensive assistant: Kevin Garver (offensive assistant, University of Alabama)

– Quarterbacks: Freddie Kitchens (Cardinal TE's)

– Running backs: Stump Mitchell (head coach, Southern University)

– Wide receivers: Darryl Drake (receivers coach, Chicago Bears)

– Tight ends: Rick Christophel (head coach, Austin Peay)

– Assistant tight ends, assistant special teams: Steve Heiden (tight ends coach, Concordia University)

– Assistant offensive line: Larry Zierlein (OL coach, Hartford of UFL; was Steelers’ OL coach from’07-’09)

– Defensive Coordinator: Todd Bowles

– Defensive line: Brentson Buckner (intern DL coach, Steelers, 2010-12)

– Pass rush: Tom Pratt (consultant, IMG Academy)

– Linebackers: Mike Caldwell (linebackers coach, Philadelphia Eagles)

– Outside linebackers: James Bettcher (special assistant to head coach, Indianapolis Colts)

– Defensive backs: Nick Rapone (defensive coordinator, University of Deleware)

– Cornerbacks: Kevin Ross (safeties coach, Oakland Raiders)

– Defensive assistant/assistant defensive backs: Ryan Slowik (Cardinals OLB's)

– Special teams coordinator: Amos Jones (last job, special teams coach, Pittsburgh Steelers)

– Strength and conditioning: John Lott (Cardinals S&C)

– Assistant strength and conditioning: Pete Alosi (Cardinals Ass't S & C)

Offensive line teaching duties will be split between Zierlein, Moore and Goodwin.


Mon. Morning: Where are We?  -- Mon. Jan. 21, 2013 -- The goal stated by new HC Bruce Arians was to have a complete staff signed, sealed and delivered by today (some intepreted that as "by end of the weekend or "yesterday"). We're not all the way there yet, &, (since the plan called for releasing all the names at once), all we actually have are a bunch of "expected" and "rumored-to-be" hires. Most of the sources are fairly reputable, so - with the caveat that rumors sometimes melt away into the land of fantasy -here's what I'[ve heard thus far:

Assistant Head Coach (Offense) - Tom Moore

Offensive Coordinator - Harold Goodwin

Defensive Coordinator - Todd Bowles

Defensive Line Coach (Pass Rush) - Tom Pratt

Wide Receiver Coach - Darryl Drake

Offensive Line Coach (wild-ass rumor is that Alex Gibbs might be coaxed out of retirement)

Arians, Moore and Pratt (& if true) Gibbs are all senior citizens considered football gurus. Moore (a widely-respected offensive genius from the Don Coryell coaching tree & who believes in tailoring scheme to player rather than the other way around) was a huge influence on Arians and considered the architect of Peyton Manning's passing attack. Bowles comes to us with a strong background coaching DB's and a half-season as Philly's DC. Pratt is considered the "Dean of Pass Rush" tutors. To paraphrase one ASFN'er: "If you were an up and coming Florida high school pass rusher seeking to improve your game to succeed at the college level, you were coached by Tom Pratt. And if you were a college DE looking to gain an edge before trying out for the pros, you sought to be coached by Tom Pratt. Goodwin is a nuts & bolts offensive line specialist. The one wild-card might be Drake (who was ripped by more than one member of the Chicago media for failing to improve the Bears receiving corps and not teaching such basic techniques as coming back out of a pattern to help your QB on busted plays). But it's not as though Drakes would lack backup support  - he'd have Moore (who started out coaching receivers 8-trillion years ago) to cover his back.

Coach Arians indicated in his introductory presser that he'd stress teaching and technique-development, and these anticipated hires would tend to bear this out - just what the doctor ordered for Cardinal players (especially on offense) who oft' times looked "lost" trying to execute out the assignments they were given.

An enterage is expected to be heading down to Mobile for the Senior Bowl, but I'd imagine we'll hear something more definitive before the day is out. When I know, you'll know. Stay tuned.

Uncorroborated Todd Bowles Update - As of 9:30 am ET Jan. 19 - Wikapedia's bio on Eagles' DC,  Bowles lists him as Cardinal Defensive Coordinator as of Jan. 18. I haven't seen anything official to corroborate this, but the CW is that Bowles is expected to become our DC.

Other background info on Bowles - Generally considered one of the "hot" defensive coaching prospects coming into the 2012 season. Most of his background has been coaching DB's and he came to Philly as their secondary coach. Although the Eagle defense, by and large imploded, blowing several leads earlier in the season, the cause was generally attributed to (a) the death of a previous DC Jim Johnson, (b) Coach Reid's arrogance in trying to plug the hole left by Johnson, including (c) naming offensive coach Juan Castillo defensive coordinator and, when that didn't work out (d) replacing Castillo after 6 games with Bowles and (with Reid's insistance) (e) allowing defensive line coach Jim Washburn to convert  to a controversial "wide-nine" defensive setup. Washburn was considered a divisive force within the Eagle locker room and he was fired with 4 games left to play. It is said by some that, after that, the defense led by Bowles ooked a lot better. A former Temple Owl player, Todd had been up for the Temple head coaching job this off-season.

Arians Presser/Horton Officially "Gone"  -- Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 - Bruce Arians held his first official presser as Cardinal head coach and answered some of the questions fans and media have been wondering about.
  • Ray Horton will not be back.

  • Arians took responsibility for that decision, indicating that, although he and Ray were friends from their Steeler days, Bruce "wanted to go in another direction."

  • First item on Bruce's agenda is to fill out his coaching staff, shooting for this Sunday (Jan. 20) to have this in place.

  • The new Cardinal defense is likely to be a hybrid (he doesn't want his defensive schemes limited to any one scheme).

  • Coach Arians indicated that his typical offensive game plan is primed to "take shots deep"  6 times a game and that, by game's end, he does not intend that any of those 6 plays remain unused.

  • He'll coach-up his quarterbacks and expects them to be better than they were before he arrived, but will turn to "Door #2" (one or more QB's from the outside if that's what it takes.

  • Coach Arians mentioned that he had favorable conversations with Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson and others, and plans to do what it takes to know everyone a lot better as soon as possible..

Before the media, Coach Arians was very much the same as he was in his post-interview media-session a day ago - straight-shooter, little if any coach-speak, what you see is what you get.

One thing that Steve Keim said about Arians that impressed me was that, in the film room, you could immediate see that Coach Arians knew more about the ins and outs of football play than just about anyone. (To me, a key part of any successful head coach's job description should be: "Having an answer for just about anything that can come up." Too often last season, there was a sense of  futility among Cardinal players and coaches in the midst of games. You had the impression that, in key situations(espeically when they played from behind,  the Cardinals were just running plays to run plays and not because they thought the plays would work).

The way the Horton situation turned out still concerns me (and could quite possibly rank right up there with some of the Golden Oldies in Cardinal Franchise-Wrecking History). Never since I started following the Cardinals in 1947 did I ever face each game being so excited about the havoc about to be wreaked by the Cardinal defense. For 66 seasons, the Cardinal defense was at best, decent. Then in one day, Ray Horton showed up and it all changed. Our defense was the one thing the franchise could count on. Now everything built during that one year is in jeopardy.

But Coach Arians says he wants to build on the defense that Horton leaves him, and I think we have to give him the benefit of the doubt until we can see what ends up on the field. (Sometimes, we fans make snap judgments based on way too much certitude. Let's just cool our jets and watch (& hopefully be favorably excited about) what develops.

That's the deal - stay tuned for more coaching news as it develops.

Arians Named Head Coach  -- Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 - As first team to fire and last (of 8 teams) to hire, it would be safe to say that the search for a Cardinal head coach was huffing and puffing along at an agonizingly slow pace for Cardinal fans. The process speeded up considerably slightly more than a day ago when Bruce Arians came in for dinner, stayed overnight to be interviewed the next day, visited with the media in the early afternoon and - amid a flurry of rumors - was named the new Cardinal head coach by 8:15 pm AZ time. His official presser is scheduled for this afternoon -  at (1 pm AZT and 3 pm ET).

Quite frankly, I didn't know a whole lot about Arians, other than that he had mentored Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning (in Manning's final year at Indy) and Andrew Luck, while subbing for a sick head coach to lead a Colt franchise - that had won only 2 or 3 games the previous year - to a playoff spot.

His post-interview media-session opened my eyes. Without going into too much extraneous detail (which you can get from any one of several stories in the newspapers or www) what stood out the most was Coach Arians' "bottom-up" approach to coaching. He relied on specific down-to-earth anecdotes and terms - from figuring out what a QB "sees" when executing a given play to sitting in his car with tears in his eyes when realizing that Coach Pagano had finally returned from illness to coach the Colts

Coach Arians avoided standard boiler-plate "coach-speak" and avoided speaking in generalities. Compared to the other HC candidates who interviewed with the Cardinals, he projected more warmth, strength, confidence and focus on specifics.  Plus - his reputation as "QB Whisperer"  is something the Cardinals desperately need.

The hiring of Arians does not come without its potential downside: There have been rumors swirling around Cardinal Nation that
Ray Horton is upset about "being left at the alter" with some reports that he is officially "out" (& to be replaced by Philly defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles). Should this be true, it would mean that perhaps the one individual responsible for building the single best thing about the Cardinals this past season - an aggressive "take no prisoners" defense - will no longer be here.

The "Horton is Out" rumors have created a firestorm of comment among the Cardinal faithful, but - like the premature Andy Reid rumors - the rumors remain just that: Rumors - plus some logical conjecture. Horton is still under contract to the Cardinals, and Bowles is still under contract to the Eagles. If Ray is genuinely unhappy, I could see the Cardinals ridding themselves of a potentially divisive problem. And, with Chip Kelly expected to bring a whole new program to Philly, it's quite possible that Bowles would now be available. (Note - Bowles has coached a 3-4, so we wouldn't have to learn a whole new defensive system, but "there are 3-4's and then there are 3-4's" - I'd hate to lose the "take no prisoners" feature of the current Horton defense).

But that's all it is - gossip and conjecture. I'd estimate that, during the past few weeks, we Cardinal fans have wasted roughly 70% of our emotional energy overreacting to events that ultimately "never took place." I hope Ray Horton stays with us for at least the one final year of his contract. The defense he helped build is the one building-block in place for the current franchise. But rather than rush to judgment and say dumb things about Cardinal ownership based on faulty info, I'll save the vitriol until it actually happens (if it happens).

Coaching Update -- Wed. Jan. 16, 2013 - Given the recent  fluidity (& uncertainty of various coaching changes, I've refrained from posting a lot of unsubstantiated rumor and speculation indiscriminately. However - with the number of teams in search of a new head coach narrowed down to just four - my gut tells me that we may finally be honing in on "who'll coach the Cardinals." Here's what we know: Coaches still said to be in play whom the Cardinals have interviewed are: Ray Horton, Todd Haley and Jay Gruden. Interviews are expected to be held with Darrell Bevell and Bruce Arians. That's all I know. Anything can happen.

Reid This & Weep (Or Laugh) -- Wed. Jan. 2, 2013 -- Journalistically, the following will not go down in history in the same breath as, say, Fox News getting the Supreme Court decision upholding ObamaCare ass-backward but, in some ways, the way the 2 stories were handled are similar:

Rumblings in the media started to bubble up mid-morning (ET) New Years Day: "There was a 95% certainty that Andy Reid would become a Cardinal before the end of the week." Count on it.  Money in the Bank. It's gonna happen. (Reports of the forthcoming signing seemed a bit strange to me - especially less than a day after Michael Bidwill's presser in which he made public three names (Ray Horton, Mike McCoy and Reid) with interviews lined up with the the first two and nothing yet lined up with Andy).

Media attention began to boil like stew on a hot-plate. The usual suspects (Jason La Conforta and Adam Schefter chimed in with corroborating reports. A couple of local Phoenix TV outlets came in with similar reports. The "news" went viral throughout the blogospere - among ASFN regulars, it was no longer a matter of "if" but "when?" (& who would be his DC, QB and the Cardinal GM). Everyone seemed to have inside info ("I know a guy who knows a guy...").

How about this gem? "A source tells a linchpin of Andy Reid's pitch for the Cardinals' coaching vacancy will be that he can "fix" Kevin Kolb. According to reporter Ian Rapoport, the Cardinals would "like to keep Kolb if possible." Reid apparently believes he has what it takes to salvage the career of a player he helped make a second-round pick in 2007. " (How does this source know this? Did he actually talk to Andy Reid about how Andy would pitch the Cardinals? Really)?

By afternoon's end,  a humongous media  "echo chamber" monster had been created where one misleading story would reverberate as 20 unique stories by an exponential number media sources so that, the sone incorrect story morphed into 20 new bits of "confirming" information

Finally, midway through the Rose Bowl, sanity returned - official Cardinal sources (including Darren Urban) issued what essentially was reconfirmation of Michael Bidwill's presser statement: That Horton had been interviewed Tuesday, Michael planned to speak with McCoy in Denver Saturday and  the Cardinals had reached out to Reid but no interview had been lined up yet.

According to Urban (edited quote) - "Until an interview takes place and until important details are fully discussed, it’d be hard to say anything was close to being done...It’s possible Reid will be the guy, but - so soon after Mr. Bidwill's cautionary  comment that  'this wasn’t going to happen at 'lightning speed' - it seems quite odd that things would now be happening at lightning speed."

In the wake of what seems to have been an avalanche of misinformation, Adam Schefter walked back his earlier remarks by tweeting:  “One source close to Andy Reid insisted deal w/ Cards not close. Another source said Cards search open and no leading candidate at this time.” (Way to go Adam)!

And there was this exquisitively sweet tweet from Cards’ VP of media relations Mark Dalton:

“I’m 99% sure that reports of a deal being 95% done are 100% incorrect."

How does this stuff happen? Unless someone we trust sat in on every conversation - like a fly on the wall - we'll probably never know where these rumors come from. One possible reason may lie in the pens of various agents and PR people who are using the "free media" to gin up interest, gauge fan sentiment, create leverage etc.

What drives me nuts is that each new unconfirmed report launches a new barrage of comments from the fans which represent  "wild theory based on a foundation of rumor." Equally vexing is that enough of these rumors turn out to be true, tso that we find it difficult discount them entirely. As for the Reid rumor (& other rumors) we'd all best be advised to keep our panties dry and wait for official statements from the Cardinals (i.e. Bidwill, Dalton, Urban) before jumping on a story and repeating it as fact. (The old "2-source rule" no longer works - since it appears that guys like Schefter, Rappaport and La Conforta use one another for corroboration).

Postscript - (Take the following with a grain of salt, but these are the unconfirmed stories that are flying around this morning) - There are reports in today's newspapers that Keim is scheduled to visit San Diego about their GM job and is also said to be interviewing with the Jags. A Buffalo Bills task force is scheduled to fly into the Valley to interview both Horton and Wiz. There are also uncorroborated reports that Reid plans to visit the Chiefs today en route to interviewing Thursday in AZ. Penn State's Bill O Brien's name has surfaced on the rumor mill (no corroboration). PFT is reporting (uncorroborated of course) that Horton will be interviewed a second time by the Cardinals today.

Coaching/GM Update
- Tues. Jan. 1, 2013 -- Not much news to report. Michael Bidwill held his presser late yesterday afternoon (& the video was finally posted on the Cardinal website). He mentioned that (1) both Ray Horton and Steve Keim were in the mix for the HC and GM positions respectively; as were (2) Andy Reid (formerly Philly) and Mike McCoy (Broncos) from the outside. Horton, Reid and McCoy will be the first HC candidates interviewed. (3) Mr. Bidwill also indicated that he will explore coaching candidates from the college ranks. (4) Although he plans to move ahead with "a sense of urgency", Michael also acknowledged that the New Year holiday, Playoffs and Bowl contests would likely slow the process a bit. Finally, he (4) indicate that the searches for both HC and GM would go on simultaneously with neither position necessarily being filled before the other (Sometimes you have to move quickly (on either front) to seize an opportunity that could otherwise disappear).

- Equally as interesting as those on Mr. Bidwill's "short list" were the names of those he didn't mention. For example, there are reports that Lovie Smith has indicated interest in coaching here. Among possible college coaches, you hear the names Koetter and the two Kelly's mentioned (& I'd add UCLA's Jim Mora Jr who brings with him a pro resume). All it takes is one phone call to AZ for a new name to surface.

The Oregon Kelly (Chip) is known for his innovative uptempo offense (& some have dismissed him as "just another 'Steve Spurrior guy' whose offense will never cut it in the rough tough NFL." Not so fast: It was pointed out on ESPN's Mike & Mike show, this morning that there's a lot more to Kelly than a bunch of play cards with pretty pictures printed on them. For example, it's said that he's all but turned on its head the way teams practice (i.e. instead of a lot of individual drills/reps, ¾of Kelly's practices are more like real games (which are taped and then reviewed with players later). So keep an eye on the chipster.

On the GM front, Bill Pollian's name has surfaced. Plus high-profile, unemployed executives like AJ Smith and Mike Tanenbaum will be available.

With nearly the entire Cardinal offensive coaching staff gone, the issue of Offensive Coordinator couldl be nearly as important as GM or HC (though hiring a head coach with a strong background in offense could render the choice of offensive coordinator less critical. Norv Turner is said to be a better OC than a HC. As OC in Denver, McCoy kept his team afloat during the Orton/Tebow year (with a #1 ranked running attack) and helped manage the transition to Peyton Manning this past season.Chan Gailey, like Turner, may have succeeded well enough as an OC to earn a second chance as a HC but simply may be better suited in a coordinator's role.

In my opinion, the ideal offensive coordinator should be hired to be "the Ray Horton of the Offense."

Finally, (other than our internal coaching options) trying to predict who will or will not be coaching for us next year will be between tough and impossible because of the number of coaching vacancies throughout the NFL. (Competition for big names will be intense). That's it for now.

Cards Fire Wiz & Graves -
Mon. Dec. 31, 2012 -- Late-breaking news which, no doubt, will evolve as the day wears on. This is what we think we know: Both ESPN and NFL Network reported at roughly 1:00 pm ET that Michael Bidwill had met with both GM Rod Graves and HC Ken Whisenhunt and that both had been let go. NFL Network (Rappaport) added that both Graves and Whisenhunt were said to play instrumental roles in decisions about the QB positions. There are also reports that DC Ray Horton will be among those candidates considered for the head coaching position.

All within the broader context of at least 7 coaches and a couple of GM's (including Reid, Crennel, Lovie Smith, Turner and others) being bed "farewell" on what is being termed "Black Friday."

Things we're going to want to know - "What's the fate of the rest of the Cardinal staff? Who if anyone was also fired, today?" "What are the names of other candidates being considered for each position?" "What if any structural changes in management are expected to be made by Cardinal ownership" "Are there any time-lines for various decisions?"

As new substantial info is gleaned, I'll update it here.



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