The Arizona Cardinals just lost to the worst team in the NFL head-to-head.
They’ve fallen to 2-8 with their only two wins against the one team currently ahead of them in the NFL Draft order.
What does that make the Arizona Cardinals, then?
So how does it reflect on Wilks himself?
At the start of the season following his hiring, Wilks was brought in as an aggressive, straightforward leader of men who would bring discipline and accountability and continue the Cardinals’ ability to be a competitive team in the National Football League.
“This is a rebuild, not a retool” was the phrase used. That belief hasn’t come to fruition.
Now with a difficult schedule ahead in which Wilks not winning another game for the duration of 2018 seems likelier than not, the question with the isn’t if the wheels have fallen off.
It’s more that throughout this season it feels like the wheels were never put on fully in the first place.
Following Week One’s debacle against the Redskins in which the Cardinals looked lifeless offensively and defensively, the mirage of the preseason turnovers evaporated and Wilks was suddenly left with a team that he’d promised would run the football on offense, stop the run on defense and win with a veteran quarterback making accurate, quick-paced throws riding David Johnson to victory.
Players would play faster, smarter with easier assignments.
And if there was trouble? A former head coach in Mike McCoy would be working with him to clean things up.
Instead, the exact opposite happened. The Cardinals are at the bottom of the league in running the football and stopping the run. They haven’t forced a turnover in over two games. David Johnson was not utilized, nor was Larry Fitzgerald. Sam Bradford looked shell-shocked an unable to find NFL accuracy as the lack of good offensive line play benched him after three games, one of which he couldn’t get the offense to the 50 yard line until the waning seconds of the game.
And that “steady hand” of Mike McCoy’s influence and indecision on the team proved costly , getting him fired mid-season for the second time in two years and Wilks was now with no support.
Normally, when the wheels come off, you’d expect that a few injuries or forgetting to change the oil or bolt a few things on would mean that the car would collapse after driving it off the lot, wheels bouncing down the road.
Rather, it feels like this Arizona Cardinals team has stayed on blocks, the engine sputtering on and the pedal pushed but going absolutely nowhere.
Sure, Steve Keim deserves blame, but he’s not the driver. Steve Wilks is.
And yet Wilks himself sees no reason to do anything different but shift into a different gear and try to step on the gas harder.
Repeating his own talking points from Week 1 about “executing better” and “not needing to change who I am” and pointing out missed plays from players is bad enough when it happens after the first disappointing loss of the season.
In Week 11 after blowing a lead to an Oakland Raiders accused of tanking that kicked a field goal on 4th and goal and punted from the Arizona 38 into the endzone, the fact that Wilks’ latest press conference is no different from his first one, and that there’s no changes forecasted shows exactly where the problem is with the Arizona Cardinals.
It’s with the Head Coach who won’t say the five words that every Cardinals fans wants him to say.
“This one is my fault.”
In order to fix a problem, you must first admit that you have a problem, and that’s been so far the one thing that Steve Wilks has been unwilling to do.
His press conference today highlights that even further, with Wilks admitting that he hadn’t reached out to a single one of his mentors for advice and for help.
And the Cardinals show it, without a single improvement made besides a game or two in running the football or in close game decision-making. Rumors of an unhappy locker room (natural for losing teams) has been leaking out, but never has there been such frustration like the Cardinals players showed post-game on Sunday.
What does that mean for his time in Arizona? Do Bidwill and Keim see the same thing that many fans do?
They might be closer than you’d think.
When asked if he’d received a vote of confidence privately from Bidwill or Keim, Wilks didn’t answer the question, which likely is already the answer.
Wilks has 6 games, almost 1⁄3 of a season left, but with games against Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Jared Goff, Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford and Russell Wilson left, there won’t be a layup like Wilks had against the Raiders.
And if he finishes the season by losing out, he’d start the season by losing four straight, and would finish the season by losing 8 straight and possibly finishing with the worst record in all of the National Football League.
Historically speaking, it’s not records that get head coaches fired, but fractured relationships and perpetual, continual losing streaks that do, especially for one-and-done coaches.
Neither seem to be present right now for Wilks. Could he still keep his job?
Perhaps—maybe Bidwill gives him and his GM one more season and keeps Byron Leftwich close by to preserve some familiarity for his potential franchise quarterback. Perhaps he won’t want to fire any head coach after just a season, or maybe he doesn’t want to see the guaranteed contract money go to waste (the fact fans are even asking that about the Bidwills again show how bad it’s gotten).
And if Wilks is to try to prove that Bidwill and Keim, as he said, “made the right decision” then he’s going to have to finally embrace change with his style of coaching. Is that even possible?
I’d certainly say so. His mentor in Ron Rivera became “Riverboat Ron” when he was with his back against the wall. Change is always possible.
It just feels like it would be too little, too late for a head coach currently trying to drive down a long, desolate highway with a car that he can’t get out of the shop.
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