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Thoughts on the Alleged Rift

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Training Camp Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
  • This is what can happen when the GM and new HC of a team promote the season as a “retooling” with the expectation of being a legitimate contender. It gets the team’s hopes up, and as Seth Cox said, the hopes meant the most to the veterans on the team (especially Larry Fitzgerald) who already have a good sense that this is their last year in Arizona.
  • Look at the play of those veterans—-not one of them is having a good season to date: QB Sam Bradford (having to learn whole new playbook*—-more on this later), LG Mike Iupati (took a pay cut to stay), WR Larry Fitzgerald (injuries, QB changes and play calling issues), DE Markus Golden (injury related thus far), LB Deone Bucannon (trade block), CB Jamar Taylor (beaten badly early and then beaten out by Bene Benwikere) and K Phil Dawson (1/3 FGs after a 1/3 FG pre-season).
  • The veterans’ empathy for Sam Bradford is understandable in that they know how hard he worked in the off-season to prepare himself for what quickly became a lame duck year once Josh Rosen was drafted. Had the Cardinals drafted more of a project QBOF, Bradford would likely have felt encouraged by the thought that he could at the very least be the starter for 2 years.
  • The transition to a new HC and coaching staff is always hardest on the veterans—-it’s that way in any company—-as many of you can attest—-because of the uncertainty of whether they could prove their worth to the new coach. Coaches always want to know who “their guys” are—-how often does Steve Wilks talk about trust?
  • When Steve Keim signed Sam Bradford*—-the first thing I wrote was that Mike McCoy should take the plays that Bradford mastered under Pat Shurmur—-just go to his game 1 tape last year versus the Saints where Bradford was sensational all game—-take those plays and run with them. Instead, McCoy threw his fat playbook at the whole offense and there is little resemblance to the plays and play calling that Bradford ran in Minnesota. (Note—-Bradford’s best bet may be to rejoin Shurmur in NY as their bridge to the QB they draft in 2019—-at least he would have a complete command of the playbook from day one and a confidence in his relationship with Shurmur).
  • The only experienced play caller on the staff is McCoy—-bu even for McCoy, last year was the first year in five years that McCoy has called the plays and he was fired in the middle of the season in Denver. Players talk. Has anyone heard a former player of McCoy’s rave about him? Did McCoy attract a few of his former players to Arizona? The rap on McCoy coming in was that his playbook was too big and difficult to learn and that his play calling was old school. McCoy had a year to combat that rap and to evolve as a creative play caller—-but it appears that McCoy is set in his ways. In light of the fact that the Cardinals’ offense has been a 3 and out machine and is the lowest scoring offense in the league—-this is bound to upset everyone in the organization—-but most of all it is demoralizing not only for the veterans on offense, but for the players on defense who most of the time might as well not even sit down between series because the offense will likely be trotting off the field in a New York minute.
  • The best hope the Cardinals have right now is that the younger players continue to take command of their units. The Cardinals’ brightest hopes right now are many of the younger players. Veterans typically don’t like to see younger players show them up—-kind of like the way Budda Baker did with Tyrann Mathieu last year—-but teams need leadership wherever they can get it—-no team can afford to sacrifice the love of the game, the sense of swag and the pursuit of excellence—-because losing can very quickly become an attitude and a habit.
  • This year there was bound to be what one could call a “BA hangover.” BA’s tenure as HC was like a Gatsby-esque 5 year whirlwind. He came bustling in like a charismatic Audi dealer and sold every car on the lot to the players—-and for three years he was best dang dealer the franchise has ever seen—-alll the players would tell you that. That is, until BA’s hubris started getting the better of him. Getting trounced in the 2015 NFC Championship game was like watching that line of luxury Audis lose their traction on a slippery highway—-and suddenly the drivers were wondering whether the product was up to standards. They got tired of seeing the dealer toot his own horn all over the airwaves and when they questioned the dealer as to why their cars lost traction, he blamed them for not keeping up on the maintenance as diligently as they should, even when the drivers knew that they had followed the maintenance schedule as dictated.
  • “No risk it—-no biscuit” taught the players how to put the pedal to the metal at the end of games—-and not to downshift or slam on the brakes. But the highway remained too slippery and the trust between the dealer and the drivers, who felt the dealer had put them in harm’s way, became frayed.
  • Thus, bringing in a new head coach who is in many way the polar opposite of BA was going to have its major challenges....the biggest of which being whether the players would be so quick to buy in to the new coach’s rhetoric as they were with the “Cool Uncle’s in the Kangol.” It’s just like gambling—-when you get burned, you are little more reluctant to push your chips to the middle of the table the next time. The only way Steve Wilks can overcome the BA hangover is to get his guys in place and——through daily diligence and getting the right coaches in place——to develop their trust and confidence.
  • The question is whether Michael Bidwill will maintain his faith in Steve Keim and Steve Wilks. The rift may not be just in the locker room, it may be occurring very rapidly in the front office.