Late in the second half yesterday, at the 2 minute warning in a 17-17 game with the Cardinals already in potential field goal range—-if you are Seahawks’ HC Pete Carroll—-what is your biggest worry?
Is it the Cardinals kicking a field goal with 1: 53 seconds left?
In fact, if Steve Wilks had called over to Pete and asked him what he would hope the Cardinals do on 3rd down and 6—-what would Pete Carroll have said?
“Thanks for asking, Steve, would you please try to run the ball between the tackles.
You see—-the Cardinals in that situation had Pete Carroll fearing the worst—-fearing that his two ill-advised timeouts during the second half would now come back to haunt him and the Seahawks if the Cardinals do what most teams would do in that situation—-try to pick up the 6 yards, then milk the clock down to 3 seconds and THEN try the field goal.
You see—-giving the ball back to Russell Wilson with 1:53 on the clock, even if Dawson’s 45 yard field goal is good—-is all that Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks want. That’s more than enough time for Wilson to pull yet another late game rabbit out of his hat.
In his relatively short career thus far, Wilson has engineered 20 game winning drives—-that’s 2 more than Aaron Rodgers’ who has been in the NFL for 7 more years.
If you are a new head coach in the NFC West and you are scouting the Seahawks, what is your number one concern?
That’s right—-doing everything you can to take the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands with the game on the line.
Why then did Steve Wilks not get that message?
Even worse—-why then did Steve Wilks say of his and Mike McCoy’s ultra conservative late game strategy that he “would do it exactly the same all over again”?
Moreover—-Greg Moore of the Arizona Republic wrote up his complete agreement that Coach Wilks “did the right thing.”
Well—-Coach Wilks did exactly the thing that Pete Carroll wished for most.
Wilks bailed Carroll, Wilson and the Seahawks out—-big-time. He played right into their hands.
He had them all on the ropes, but never threw another punch and just waited for the bell to ring.
But the frustration here goes well beyond Wilks’ and McCoy’s last two weeks of late game gaffes.
It further extends to RB David Johnson—-who fumbled deep in the Cards’ own territory early in the game (the 11th of his 37 game career)—-who rushed 13 times for 12 yards in the second half (a mere 187 yards rushing in 4 games @ 3.3 ypc—-that’s not even 50 yards a game)—-who ran the wrong way on a first and 10 off-tackle play—-who STILL comes off the field late in games because rookie RB Chase Edmonds knows the pass protections better.
After the game Johnson lamented all the mistakes he made and said he could and should have done much more—-but this is getting old and painfully redundant. No one ever questions Johnson’s innate talent—-but for a young player who was just given a 3 year $39-45M contract extension—-the time to be reliable is now.
Johnson ripped off a breathtaking 21 yard run in the second half and took the best thrown screen pass (from a Cardinals’ QB in decades) 30 yards at a key time in the game—-but other than a couple of other runs, Johnson’s day was characterized by getting tackled for losses on first downs and getting stood up and stonewalled at the line of scrimmage.
As for the defense, while Johnson was getting bottled up to the tune of 22/71/3.2/1TD, Seattle’s #2 RB Mike Davis, went off on the Cardinals for 21/101/4.8/2TDs. Why? How? Simply put—-the Cardinals have what appear to be the softest edges in the NFL and they must be close to leading the league in half-baked efforts and missed tackles.
If Steve Wilks doesn’t fix the soft edges and shoddy tackling this year—-one would have to question whether he is the right coach to lead this team beyond 2018. The problem is—-Wilks has insisted on trying to defend the run out of his nickel—-and there are times when the team’s CBs are actually the contain men, because Wilks has his DEs crashing down inside versus the run.
All the opponent needs to do is seal the DE, kick the CB out and get a hat on the ILB—-which teams are getting easily—-and it puts the RB 5 yards past the line, one-on-one with the safety.
Want to know why the Cardinals’ safeties are leading the team in tackles?
As for special teams—-why did Wilks and Steve Keim ignore the fact that Dawson missed 11 kicks last year (8 FGs/3XPTs) practically all in the games that mattered most to the team’s playoff hopes—-and then why did Wilks and Keim ignore Dawson’s two missed FGs in pre-season?
Part of Dawson’s problem may well be that for the past two years he has had one foot in Arizona and one foot in Texas (family and retirement). How can one of the highest percentage field goal kickers of all-time—-with the same snapper and holder at home in a dome—-not only miss now 13 kicks in 20 games—-but as we saw yesterday, those misses weren’t even close—-as Dick Stockton said—-they were “squirrelly.”
It was sad, but last week versus the Bears, many fans confessed that one of our biggest worries was that Rosen would lead the offense into FG range, get the crowd all excited and then Dawson would miss.
Thus, the frustration stems from the lack of competition in training camp for some of the higher paid veterans who were handed jobs—-Sam Bradford, Mike Iupati, Andre Smith, Deone Bucannon, Jamar Taylor and Phil Dawson—-and the concerns about Mike McCoy as OC and Steve Wilks switching to the 43 and then to a base 4-2-5—that the doubt we had as fans with all of these decisions were completely justified and foreseeable.
The most important question at this point is what the Cardinals need to do to put Josh Rosen and David Johnson in the best possible hands moving forward. I and many of you thought that the Cardinals would have the forethought to plan ahead for their QBOF and star RB—-but the last thing Rosen needs is the kind of musical chairs at OC that Blaine Gabbert, Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon have had.
The problem is—-as we saw with Todd Bowles—-good coordinators can quickly become attractive head coaching candidates—-and thus the safest way to ensure that a QBOF will have the stability of continuity is to hire an offensive guru as head coach, the way the Rams did in 2017 with Sean McVay and the way the Bears did this year with Matt Nagy.
If Josh Rosen and David Johnson are not in the best possible hands right now, this year—-what should the Cardinals do? What would you do?