If you're a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, you have a reason to be disappointed. After all, the team blew a shot at the postseason down the stretch and played with an inconsistency this season that would make Rex Grossman jealous.
But with all that said, I think we can take a deep breath (or a dozen deep breaths), exhale and look back on the 2007 season with a grin. After all, for every step back the Cardinals took this season (and there were a few), they took two forward.
Look at where things were last season at this point. There was limited hope. Denny Green was on his way out and the question was, who will replace him? The Cardinals rarely have success picking coaches, but pulled out all the stops and signed a good one in Ken Whisenhunt. And though he himself would grade his coaching this season as "average," I think that a fan can look at it and be proud.
"Sitting in the locker room after that New Orleans game, I think we’re all pretty happy to be 8-8 now," center Al Johnson said. "If we made the playoffs, maybe people don’t work as hard (next season). This way, we end on a good note yet there is still a lot to be desired."
That is true. The expectations will only be greater next season and, in all reality, there was zero hope for success had the Cardinals made the postseason. After all, the AFC's two dominant teams (New England and Indianapolis) are well favored over the NFC's Cowboys and Packers who would probably mop the floor with the Cardinals.
Not that I'm happy that the Cardinals missed the playoffs. Not by any means. But the fact remains that the team made great strides this season. It was one that was adversely affected by injuries, especially those on defense.
And when you think about it, the Cards have never played quite so hard on the football field. For all the mental mistakes made, Cardinals fans can still take solace in the fact that their team's players played their hearts out most games of the season. And while playing hard isn't enough to make the postseason, playing hard and smart is. Arizona just hasn't gotten part two down yet.
But with Ken Whisenhunt in charge, I have little doubt the Cardinals will make even greater strides next season. He has the attention of his players and he's earned their respect. Now all he needs to do is continue coaching them to play smart football.
And you can bet he will.