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Understanding why the 2013 Arizona Cardinals are looked down upon

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Fans want to get excited. Much of the media does not believe the Cards have what it takes. Why the disconnect? Seth Cox explains.

Not many believe that Bruce Arians can bring the Cards to success in 2013
Not many believe that Bruce Arians can bring the Cards to success in 2013

When the prognostications end and the season actually begins for the 2013 Arizona Cardinals, one thing will be certain... fans will have a lot to say.

That has been the truth going forward thus far for Cardinals fans as the 2013 preseason rankings begin to roll out onto the Internet, and it has done one thing to the lovable Birdgang and that's anger them.

I may not be drinking the red Kool-Aid quite yet, but I can see both sides of the coin: I see why Cardinals fans feel disrespected that the team that has had so much GOOD turnover could be scoffed at by the national media and football experts alike.

Yet the objective analyst in me can see where the national media is coming from, and why there is little positive coming out about the Arizona Cardinals heading into 2013.

What I'm going to attempt to do is explain some of the reasons as to why the Cardinals are generally looked down upon as we enter the 2013 NFL season, to arm you for the avalanche that will continue to come until the results on the field earn the respect of some, okay most, in the media.

Cardinals fan claim No. 1: Carson Palmer is an upgrade at quarterback

There's not a single person you will find, media, fan, or player, that will say that the Cardinals are not better at the quarterback position in 2013 than they were in 2012.

Sure, Kevin Kolb was having a very average season prior to being injured, but Kolb only gets into the lineup because of John Skelton's injury.

That improvement doesn't get as much credit as fans would like it to for a couple of reasons. First, Palmer has a career record of 54-67, has been to the playoffs two times and won zero games.

The second is his career average per season of touchdowns (taking out 2008 and 2011) is 24.5 and his career average of interceptions per season is 15.7, which puts him neatly in the middle of quarterbacks in the NFL on average per season in both categories.

Being average at the most important position in the NFL, and a career loser (again these are based on statistics and not necessarily my feelings) is not the BIG upgrade that Cardinals fans are banking on.

Cardinals fan claim No.2: The running game should be a factor

This is what I hear more than the Palmer claim, as the "upgrade" of Rashard Mendenhall is good in theory, but if we truly look at the numbers, Mendenhall has had one impact season in the NFL.

His best season came in 2009, his second in the NFL, where he carried the ball 242 times for 1108 yards and seven touchdowns -- really good numbers for a second-year back and definitely something to build on.

Then 2010 came and saw Mendenhall get the bulk of the carries -- 324 to be exact -- and his numbers dropped on a per carry basis, even though Mendenhall put up a career year in yards 1273 and touchdowns 13.

Where he had trended up in 2009 to a robust 4.6 yards per carry, he moved down to a paltry 3.9 yards per carry in 2010.

2011 wasn't much better, as he again received the bulk of the Steelers carries, but his per carry average was 4.1 yards, and an injury cut short his season, leaving him short of reaching 1000 yards again.

2012 was a year to forget for Mendenhall, as he only carried the ball 51 times for 182 yards, but much of that can be attributed to coming back from an injury.

Arians has stated numerous times that he prefers to only use one back as a three-down back, and while Mendenhall has put up gaudy total numbers in his career, he really only has the one season worth bringing up and has not shown the consistency to do it again.

Mendenhall's lack of career production, along with the group of unknowns backing him up, don't exactly yield high hopes to non-fans out there.

Cardinals fan claim No. 3: The defense didn't change

This is simply false. There will be at least six new starters game one of the season, with Daryl Washington out suspended, unless we want to count Rashad Johnson as a returning starter if he's able to beat out Yeremiah Bell and Tyrann Mathieu for the spot.

Not only are there six new starters, but there's a new defensive coordinator, a new defensive scheme and whether they run a 3-4 or 4-3 is moot, NO ONE runs the same type of defense that Ray Horton ran.

The Cardinals defense by most advance metrics last year was a top ten defensive unit and there are wholesale changes that have gone on.

Pundits are not going to say, "Well you changed coordinators, half your defensive unit, and will be missing one of the most important pieces to the defense for at least four games, but that shouldn't matter."

The defense still has key pieces and no one is saying it's impossible for the defense to have the same type of impact as 2012; it's just not something to bank on.

Cardinals fan claim No. 4: Everyone is going to get better without Whisenhunt and company around

We all expect Michael Floyd to make a leap, I even stated as such the other day where I think his floor is a player in Muhsin Muhammad that averaged 61 catches for 817 yards and four touchdowns a season for 14 years.

Jonathan Cooper is as can't miss as I can remember a prospect being in the last five years, and I have a really hard time seeing him not succeeding, but that doesn't mean success is a given.

Levi Brown has never been a good pass blocking left tackle, and just because Russ Grimm is gone doesn't mean that will suddenly improve.

The media will always tend to look at the Cardinals and their players with a glass half-empty approach, and as fans that really sucks, but the reality is we as fans can't expect more from those outside of the Birdgang, because why should they believe in this team and this organization?

That doesn't mean we as fans can't or shouldn't believe, but that also means I understand the jaded side of the Cardinals fandom, and can't expect every fan to jump in feet first, but I especially understand why those that aren't fans are going in with a cautiousness that befuddles, upsets and even angers the Birdgang.

All I can say is, let's hope they're wrong, and back the team even if they are right.

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