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Veterans Getting Their Pay and Having Their Way in Arizona

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

I am mad as hell at the Cardinals. But, I am also mad as hell with myself. You see—-I fell into an age old trap: I took the bait—-hook, line and sinker.

As a 55 year Cardinals’ fan, I’ve been there—-done that—-bought Bass Pro Shop t-shirt—-what feels like a thousand times over.

When Steve Wilks was announced as head coach and insisted that “every position is open to competition,” “I have no problem playing rookies” and that “the best 11 players play” I was about as excited as I have been since Kurt Warner’s Cardinals were in the Super Bowl.

Well, the honeymoon didn’t last very long—-did it?

Much to my dismay and confusion, days after hearing that prize rookie QB Josh Rosen had learned the playbook in a week and was comporting himself like a veteran, I learned from Steve Wilks that the starting QB position was “Sam Bradford’s to lose.”

Then, during the pre-season, I heard Al Michaels on national TV say that K Phil Dawson making the team was as certain as the roof of the dome being closed in September—-even though Matt McCrane was nailing 50 yarders and Dawson was missing his.

The next week, I sat in disbelief as I heard Steve Wilks say to Bob McManaman that they were “auditioning” Matt McCrane all pre-season for other teams because of how confident they were that he would make the long field goals. In other words—-it never ever was competition—-yet they were so confident in McCrane.

Is it just pure coincidence and a twisted irony that a host of veterans who were handed starting jobs from day one have been dreadful the first four weeks?

Even Steve Keim admitted on the radio that Sam Bradford did not bring the attractive elements they thought they were getting when they signed him. This is the same Steve Keim who assured Cardinals’ fans that this year was a “retooling” not a “rebuild.” What? A retooling using the dullest axes in the woodshed?

Even though it was clear that Bradford was way off his game, Steve Wilks insisted that he didn't think “one man could make a difference.” And now that Josh Rosen in his first start brought competitiveness and life back to an anemic offense, Wilks is saying that “the offense is ready to flourish.”

What remains mystifying is why the Cardinals are keeping Bradford as an inactive 3rd string QB—-is this punishment? Do they really plan to put him back in for some meaningless games later in the season for $310,000 a pop? What’s the point?

Deone Bucannon—-all during OTAs and the pre-season we were told how Wilks and DC Al Holcomb were building their defense around him as the true leader of the unit—-and then after Bucannon’s lackluster, injury-riddled pre-season where first Jeremy Cash and then rookie Zeke Turner showed greater fire, production and fury at the position, Bucannon laid a complete egg in the game one blowout loss to the Redskins—-which eventually forced Wilks to replace him with late ILB signee Gerald Hodges.

Hodges was clearly an upgrade—-and yet this past week Bucannon was re-inserted into the starting lineup and not only was he still wildly inconsistent as a tackler, he committed one of the most costly mistakes in the game when he inexplicably and blatantly interfered with a TE in the end zone who in no way was going to make a catch. It put the Seahawks on the 1 yard line where RB Mike Davis was able to plunge in for the TD.

Andre Smith—-yet another one of Steve Keim’s head scratching veteran signings—-who had lost his starting RT job with the Bengals to the point where they were using him as a swing guard—-got off to a predictably rocky start with the Cardinals—-injured his elbow—-and was replaced by John Wetzel, who should have been the starter all along.

Wetzel proceeded to earn the highest PFF grades on the entire line to the point of doing so well against Khalil Mack that the Bears flipped him over to the other side—-and to the point this past week of helping Josh Rosen and the offense start to look like a real NFL unit—-and yet Steve Wilks announced this week that Smith is healthy again and will slide right back as the starter at RT. Mike Jurecki reported that this was a decision that the coaches made a few weeks ago—-that when Smith was ready, he would return as the starter.

What in the world does John Wetzel have to do to get the recognition and respect he deserves from the coaches? Decisions like this one echo and reverberate around the locker room.

Why any coach would want to tinker with an offense that suddenly seems to have life and a semblance of cohesion is beyond all means of comprehension.

Phil Dawson—-why do we fans know this was coming and yet Steve Keim and the coaches didn’t? In all 4 of his FG attempts from 45-50 yards during the pre-season and the regular season, Dawson has missed all 4—-with the same snapper and holder—-and all 4 in domed stadiums. As a reminder—-Dawson missed 11 kicks last year.

To make matters worse, yesterday on Pat McAfee’s radio podcast, when talking about Phil Dawson’s woes, McAfee had A.Q. Shipley in as a guest and Shipley proceeded to say how dissed Dawson was in the pre-season by rookie kicker Matt McCrane who, per Shipley, while dropping choice f-bombs, said that the equipment guys told him that McCrane was gloating that he had a good chance of making the Cardinals because Dawson is “washed up.”

It was complete and utter lie—-and completely out of Matt McCrane’s character.

McCrane has manifested a profound respect and reverence for Dawson ever since he was signed by the Cardinals. What McCrane said in an interview was: “I think he is 43 years old and I am 23. To be here and learn from Phil and his experience in the NFL, that’s what i am going to do. But at the end of the day we’re competing for a job and there’s only 32 jobs in the NFL. if I play in the pre-season and do well and stay on the roster for Arizona, then great, but basically you’re trying out for every team in the pre-season.”

When McCrane was cut, he immediately tweeted a thank you message to the Cardinals and to Phil Dawson with a photo of he and Dawson.

Last Sunday, after McCrane kicked the game winning field goal for the Raiders, in his post-game interview, he again thanked Phil Dawson for what he learned from him.

McCrane was heavily recruited by the Cardinals—-prior to the draft they went to K-State to work him out—-and they called him twice during the draft—-they told him verbatim that he wasn’t going to be just a camp body, that there would be a full competition.

As it turned out—-it looks like Matt McCrane also took the “competition” bait, hook, line and sinker.

One has to wonder and question A.Q. Shipley’s motive in denigrating McCrane—-but is it just a strange coincidence that he too had a talented young rookie right behind him?

Regardless—the Cardinals’ veterans have been getting their pay and having their way for many years now. BA liked it that way—-and now it appears Steve Wilks is following suit—-or perhaps, is just simply following orders.