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Antiques roadshow: Why Mike McCoy and his dated offense need to go

The Cardinals got their first win yesterday, but it wasn’t pretty—especially on the offensive side of the ball. Is it time to make a change on the coaching staff?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Josh Rosen is the future of this team, but offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is stuck in the past.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rosen takes the snap. Play-fakes to DJ. A beautiful rainbow pass right into Kirk’s arms. Touchdown.

“Huh,” I thought after watching the Cardinals’ first play from scrimmage yesterday. “Maybe I was wrong about Mike McCoy.”

Maybe this was going to be the game where we unleashed Josh Rosen, the game where we finally got the most out of our talented weaponry, the game where we broke out of one of the worst offensive slumps to start a season in NFL history. Maybe this would be the game Mike McCoy proved all the doubters wrong.

The next 55 and a half minutes would emphatically show just how wrong that momentary thought was.

Now, I don’t want to take anything away from the players on the field yesterday. It may not have been the prettiest of games, but divisional road victories are hard to come by, and these guys more than earned it.

Rosen and David Johnson did just enough on offense—to say nothing of Kirk and his first NFL touchdown—but the guys on defense were absolute warriors out there. They gave up a ton of yards—that’ll happen when you’re on the field for 40 minutes and 92 plays—but they came up with huge play after huge play to put the team in position to win.

Chandler Jones had one of his best games as a Cardinal, Haason Reddick looked like a man reborn, Josh Bynes was stuffing the stat sheet, Budda Baker and Antoine Bethea were flying all over the field, and Patrick Peterson was his usual self—and he nearly scored a TD. Just an impressive, impressive effort. (Even if, yes, we struggled to stop the run once again.)

Not many people have been talking about the Redbirds’ defense this season, but they should be. They’re a very good unit and will continue to get better.

But I’m not here to talk about the defense. I wish I were. I wish I were here to dole out plaudits for a well-earned win, to congratulate Steve Wilks on his first win as a head coach, even to say I told you so. But I’m not.

Instead, I’m here to talk about our offense and how Mike McCoy is crippling it in every facet—playcalling, tendencies, statistics, you name it.

For starters, his playcalling is utterly unimaginative. Even the opening touchdown was just a standard deep shot off a play-fake. Bruce Arians used to call a half-dozen just like it every game. This is the NFL of Sean McVay, Matt Nagy, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes II. Going horizontal is almost as important as going vertical. Offense in the NFL in 2018 requires creativity, ingenuity, inventiveness—not the prehistoric pabulum McCoy is having us run. Even the 49ers got in on the action yesterday, running a nice shovel pass play to Matt Breida for their first touchdown (after two clever throws to their fullback). We don’t run anything that makes a defense think twice. (And it’s not like Rosen isn’t capable.)

And his tendencies are maddening. Throw incomplete on first down? Run it into the pile on second down! (We did that at least five times yesterday). Short run on first down? Throw a pass they know is coming on second down! Then it doesn’t matter what you call on third down, because, again, they know what’s coming on third and seven or eight. There’s a reason we’re only 12/52 (26%) on third down this season.

And the rest of the numbers are just as ugly. I thought we’d be better in Rosen’s second start, but after his first pass to Kirk yesterday, he was 9/24 for only 95 yards. DJ scored twice, but he only gained 73 yards on his 20 touches (3.7 YPT). Larry Fitzgerald—one of the best WRs to ever lace up—is on pace for 54 receptions for 563 yards and 0 touchdowns. That’s worse than the John Skelton years. Think he’s coming back for another season like that? (Although he is dealing with a balky hamstring, which isn’t helping matters.) As a team, we’re averaging 211 yards per game (dead last), including 146 through the air (31st) and 65 on the ground (32nd—with a healthy DJ!), and 13 points per game (31st, ahead of only Buffalo).

In comparison, Arians was able to put together a passable offense last season with spare parts. With Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert handing off to the likes of Kerwynn Williams and Elijhaa Penny most of the season, we were putting up 314 yards (22nd) and 18 points (25th) per game. That’s over 100 yards and 5 points better than what we’re putting up this season with superior talent. It sounds crazy but every Cardinals fan would take those Gabbert/Kerwynn numbers right now—and we’d probably have another win or two if we had been reaching those lofty heights.

Simply put, Mike McCoy runs an antiquated, predictable offense, doesn’t know how to use his best players (it’s like he’s never watched film of DJ from 2016), and has the team putting up some of the worst numbers in NFL history through five games. It’s embarrassing and, more importantly, is stunting the growth of our hopeful franchise QB. We need an offensive coordinator who can install a modern scheme for Rosen, not one who still thinks it’s 2010 (which might as well be 1910 the way the NFL is evolving).

McCoy needs to be fired.

Now, it probably won’t happen anytime soon, not after our first win on the season. But what if we fail to score a touchdown on the road (again) next week in Minnesota? What if we lose at home to the Case Keenum-led Broncos because we can’t crack 20 points in Week 7? Would that be enough to fire him heading into the bye, Keim and Wilks?

I hope it doesn’t come to that, but it shouldn’t have to. The abysmal numbers and putrid on-field performance should speak for themselves. Let’s just hope Keim and Wilks see them for the writing on the wall they are and do what needs to be done. Fire McCoy and give Byron Leftwich, Kevin Garvey, or whoever a shot—they almost certainly can’t be any worse than McCoy.

And do it sooner rather than later. Rosen’s development—and the future of our franchise—could depend on it.