Eight games into the 2010 season, and it's difficult to determine if this is what we -- the fans -- expected out of the Arizona Cardinals. Sure they lost a Kurt Warner, an Anquan Boldin, a Karlos Dansby, and an Antrel Rolle -- and many critics felt this was enough to sink the Cardinals ship that sailed through the playoff the last two seasons. They may have been correct.
With half a season complete, the Cardinals have already become one of the worst teams in the NFL. Problems have stemmed from both sides of the ball. Balls that normally bounced their way the last two seasons haven't this year. Everything that could go wrong -- has.
So who is to blame for this fiasco? Is it Ken Whisenhunt, for releasing Matt Leinart before the season began? Or is defensive coordinator Bill Davis the culprit? Joe already touched up on this subject so I won't go into full detail. Many of the issues can fall on numerous shoulders, including the players. Derek Anderson has been disastrous this season. The offensive line can't block if their lives depended on it. If it weren't for a few big plays, I'd say the defense has been as useful as an inflatable dartboard. Things haven't boded well for Ken Whisenhunt's Cardinals.
There was one piece I saw on Sunday night after the game that opened my eyes. The news analyst determined that the quarterback situation -- although it's been abysmal -- has masked the bigger issue that is the defense. Did they improve the two games before Minnesota? Yes. Then they stooped right back down to horrible after Brett Favre led the Vikings to a late-game victory. For an NFL team, the blame-game always begins with the coaching, then trickles down to the players. In this case, Bill Davis is at fault. Whether or not he truly is the problem doesn't matter at this point. Somewhere down the line, he should be replaced. Defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson could be the man to step in for Davis. Either way, a change needs to be made and I'm positive Ken Whisenhunt is well aware of that. In fact, I'll one-up you that changes need to be made for the coaching on the opposite side of the ball.
Play-calling is a problem. In most cases a head coach should not call the plays no matter what confidence he holds in himself. For the Cardinals, Whisenhunt needs an offensive coordinator. It will more than likely come next season, but at this point, the subject should be immanent to the Cardinals brass.
On Sunday, the conservative play-calling in the fourth quarter allowed the Vikings back in the game, and eventually they stole the win. Instead, we should have seen the Cardinals take a chance and pull out the victory. Let me go back to the NFC Championship game if you will. Late in the game the Cardinals were faced with a fourth down situation. Toddy Haley was the offensive coordinator at the time, and rather throw the defense back in the game, the offense went for it. Tim Hightower ran the ball on fourth down successfully to seal the victory. Had he not, we may have seen an Eagles/Steelers Super Bowl. That same daring play-calling that Todd Haley brought to the Cardinals offense, is lacking this season.
So now I ask: where do we go from here? The Cardinals are halfway through the season and are only a game out of first place. Should they win on Sunday against the Seahawks, and the Rams lose, they'd overtake the top spot in the NFC West in surprising fashion. They also host 4 out of the next five games and face three division opponents in that span. The schedule does improve, but we also thought the previous three games were "winnable". The fact of the matter is -- who gives the Cardinals the best opportunity to win?
I think we've all figured out that Derek Anderson gives the Cardinals the best shot at quarterback. That's not saying he's a good NFL quarterback either. He's far from it. He'll make passes that you'll love, but will also leave you shaking your head soon after. On defense, an aggressive approach is best. The Cardinals front needs support and Joey Porter has been providing it as of late. A good push against opposing lines puts the Cardinals secondary in best position as well.
The division lead is slowly filtering through Ken Whisenhunt's grasp, and as the Seahawks and Rams continue to improve, the Cardinals wilt away. We can talk all day about what is best for the Cardinals. Only the members of the locker room know the truth. They know what needs to be done to achieve the same goal every week -- win. The team can play the underdog role, play possum, or play with their backs against the wall. It doesn't matter on gameday. What matters is a team that can play smart and efficient.
Sunday is the most important game of the season thus far. Where do you believe the Cardinals need to go from here? What changes need to be made?