When things started to go south on that fateful night in St. Louis, there was talk that maybe the Super Bowl curse was just too much for the Cardinals to overcome.
In the end, it was losing your top two quarterbacks that was too much, as almost any position on the field can be schemed around, but the quarterback, and more importantly the quarterback in Bruce Arians offense is just to hard to compensate for.
Vince Marotta, excellent writer and afternoon host on Arizona Sports 98.7 showed the disparity between Palmer and Stanton and Stanton and Lindley:
Cardinals got points on 33.8% of Carson Palmer-led drives this yr. Pts on 32.1% of Stanton drives. 19% on Lindley drives.— Vince Marotta (@Vincemarotta) January 4, 2015
And even worse than the points per drive, was the touchdowns per drive:
% of TD drives for Cardinals. Palmer - 22.1% Stanton - 11.1% Lindley - 9.5%— Vince Marotta (@Vincemarotta) January 4, 2015
The Cardinals 2014 season was likely doomed after their first meeting with St. Louis, but that second meeting did them no help. Speaking of help, how much did the draft classes impact the 2014 Arizona Cardinals?
Cumulative career grades in parenthesis
2012 Arizona Cardinals Draft Class
Michael Floyd- C (C+)
Bobby Massie - B (C)
Justin Bethel- A (A)
(Note: Ryan Lindley was drafted in this class then released, then resigned... He will not be graded, my eyes have suffered enough)
The last class in the Whisenhunt and Graves era has produced basically what that regime was, average to above average talent.
Floyd is still an enigma of a wide receiver, he has games of complete domination, then will disappear for weeks at a time.
Floyd only produced 47 receptions in 2014, good for 86th in the league, he made up for that fact by going for 841 yards, good for 41st and tied with a plethora of players with six touchdowns ( career high). Floyd has not shown he consistency to be a 80+ catch a year type, but he has shown that he is a big play threat, which makes him an important, if slightly overrated receiver at this juncture.
Consistency is the name of the game if Floyd is to become more though, in seven games with 50+ yards he had 31 catches for 633 yards and four touchdowns.
In the other nine games, he had 16 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns (including two games with no catches).
Can the Cardinals afford to pay Floyd top-25 positional money for a guy that produces like a number two wide receiver?
Bobby Massie proved that a fourth round pick can be an average to above average right tackle in the NFL. Massie gets swallowed up by speed to often, but that's still learning how to work blocking angles in pass pro, including not getting to far outside trying to cut off the edge at times. He is a rugged run blocker, and will continue to grow into the position, for at least one more year in Arizona. He is a free agent in 2016.
Justin Bethel saw limited snaps on defense in 2014, but what he brings to the table as a special teams ace cannot be discounted, that's why he has an A exiting 2014, not only for the season but for his career.
2013 Arizona Cardinals Draft Class
Jonathan Cooper- INC (INC)
Kevin Minter- D (D)
Tyrann Mathieu- B (A)
Alex Okafor- B- (B-)
Earl Watford- INC (INC)
Stepfan Taylor- C (C)
Andre Ellington- C (B)
Cooper, there is really nowhere to start here. He got on the field for two full games, and was injured again. He may not be injury prone, but he has been injury plagued, and 191 snaps, well if I was to grade it, he was average. I am holding out hope that there is better to come.
Minter, on the other hand, was unable to get onto the field despite a glaring hole at inside linebacker. He wound up playing 344 snaps in 2014, despite being healthy for all of the games. His on field performance graded as a C, maybe a C+ even, but his playing time, that reduced his grade down to a D.
Tyrann Mathieu was not the player in 2014 that he was in 2013, where he was one of the best defensive backs in the NFL, but he was still one of the more consistent contributors to the Cardinals secondary, despite sustaining another injury in 2014. Clearly Mathieu was limited because of his injuries in 2014, but if you play, that does not warrant leniency on your grade.
Alex Okafor showed that he can be a nice situational pass rushing force, but he has a lot of work to do in the run game. As the season wore on, he became more and more of a liability against the run. His ability to get to the quarterback should keep him on the field though.
Taylor continues to be what he is, an average to below average back that will make the plays that are there, and not do much else. There is nothing wrong with that in the fifth round.
Andre Ellington, much was expected, and the results were not what we had hoped. Injuries set him back, he never recovered, maybe he needs to be just the slash player we saw in 2013.
2014 Arizona Cardinals draft
Deone Bucannon- B-
Troy Niklas- INC
Kareem Martin- INC
John Brown- B
Logan Thomas- INC
Ed Stinson- B
Hard to say much about this years class.
Bucannon was asked to play out of position for much of the year, and his play really tapered off the second half of the year, when teams just started running right at him. While he is an excellent downhill safety against the run, he's not an inside linebacker that should be taking on guards consistently.
Niklas and Martin were both projects when drafted, then both were injured and or ineffective, more needs to be seen from both.
Brown was a bright spot for sure, but he has consistency issues with catching the ball. He should begin to take the next step in 2015 with a bigger role in the offense.
Logan Thomas, not much to say.
Ed Stinson was a massive loss to the defensive line, as he was one of the key ingredients to a successful run defense. Huge win of a pick in round five.
If you were to grade just the classes for the 2014 performances overall:
2014: B- (lack of PT playing a factor in moving it down from B to B-)
There is a lot of unknown left in the 2013 and 2014 classes, if the Cardinals are truly take the next step, they need those incompletes to become above average NFL players.