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Ramming Back at the Rams

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Could the LA Rams lead the way for the Arizona Cardinals to get back into the NFC race?

NFL: Tennessee Titans-Minicamp Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2014, Bruce Arians, like Odysseus flaunting his escape from the Cyclops, cast a curse on the Rams by taunting them for their yearly mediocrity under head coach Jeff Fisher.

The next time Arians’ Cardinals played the Rams, the Rams put a pounding on the Cardinals in Glendale, which made for a very awkward post-game handshake between Arians and Fisher.

In 2017, the Rams fired Fisher and rocked the NFL world by hiring Sean McVay, then 31 years young, as their new head coach. They paired McVay with veteran DC Wade Phillips so that McVay could spend most of his time developing 2nd year QB Jared Goff.

In McVay’s first two years, his Rams have ascended to the top of the NFC West, while the Cardinals are sinking deeper and deeper into the furious swirls of the Charybdis. McVay’s Rams, like the savage Scylla, have bloodied the Cardinals in all 4 meetings—-knocking QB Carson Palmer out for the 2017 season, injuring backup QB Drew Stanton in 2017 as well, and this year injuring the Cardinals’ rookie QB Josh Rosen.

In McVay’s 4 game sweep of the Cardinals the Rams have won by a combined score of 130-25.

After yesterday’s embarrassing 31-9 loss to the Rams which ended the Cardinals worst and most inept home field performance (1-7) in their 31 years in Arizona, team owner and president Michael Bidwill finds himself trapped in the Cyclops’ cave—-

In the hours and days ahead, Bidwill has to find a way to get the Cyclops drunk, blind him when he’s asleep and when the Cyclops removes the giant boulder from the opening of the cave—-Bidwill will need to do what Odysseus and his surviving men did—-they need to cling to the underbellies of the Cyclops’ rams when the blind Cyclops is frisking their backs and letting them out to graze.

That’s right——escape from the Rams by latching on to present and former Rams!

It could start with Bidwill hiring Taylor Morton, the Rams’ current Director of Player Personnel (and Les Snead’s right hand man), as the new GM.

Morton was one of the top college scouts with the Falcons when they were grooming young QB Matt Ryan and then when they traded up to snag WR Julio Jones in 2011.

The Rams hired Morton as DOPP in 2012. Since that time they have drafted the likes of QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, WR Cooper Kupp, TE Gerald Everett, T Rob Havenstein, DT Aaron Donald, DT Michael Brockers, LB Alex Ogletree, CB Janoris Jenkis, CB Trumaine Johnson, S Lamarcus Joyner, S John Johnson and K Greg Zuerlein.

Some will say, yeah, but the Rams had so many high draft picks.

True—-but they created a number of them by crafty trades—-and they took advantage of being able to draft some elite talents—-which is exactly the position the Cardinals find themselves in right now.

Morton has been there and done that. He understands what it takes.

Then—-Morton could appoint Matt LaFleur (currently the Titans’ offensive coordinator) as the Cardinals’ new head coach.

LaFleur is in his late 30’s, 7 years older than McVay. Just as Morton was Les Snead’s right hand man in the front office, LaFleur was McVay’s right hand man in helping him develop QB Jared Goff.

Imagine, therefore, what Morton and LaFleur can do for the development of Josh Rosen and the resurgence of the Arizona Cardinals.

One can imagine that Taylor Morton could take a very similar off-season approach to Les Snead’s in 2017, where Snead added two key free agent offensive linemen (T Andrew Whitworth, C John Sullivan) to help open holes for Todd Gurley and to help protect the young Goff. Then Snead added a key FA addition at WR in Robert Woods—-and continued to upgrade Goff’s receiver options by adding TE Gerald Everett and WRs Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds in the 2017 NFL Draft.

In that same draft, the Rams added two defensive starters in safety John Johnson and edge rusher Samson Ebukam.

Think of how similarly the Cardinals could start building their talent level the way the Rams did.

With their 1st pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, they could trade down a couple of spots, add another couple high draft picks and the select their version of Aaron Donald in Houston DT Ed Oliver.

They could address the LG position—-arguably their most important position to fill in order to block Aaron Donald—-by offering UFA G Rodger Saffold a multi-year deal that the Rams would be hard pressed to match—-who is more prepared to block Donald than Saffold who practices against him every day?

The Cardinals could make serious efforts to sign UFA DT Ndamukung Suh and S LaMarcus Joyner, that is, if neither is given the f-tag this year. It’s unlikely that either one will.

The good news is that it appears that the Panthers and Jaguars are expected to keep their head coaches for 2019—-which leaves the Cardinals, Jets, Dolphins, Broncos and Bucs as the teams most likely to be hiring new head coaches.

if the Jets and Broncos let Todd Bowles and Vance Joseph go, here are two very good, experienced 3-4 defensive gurus who could be superb compliments to Matt LaFleur. Otherwise, perhaps the Cardinals could make a run at Rams’ assistant head coach, Joe Barry, as the new DC. Barry was the DC in Washington when McVay was the OC.

Many expect that Barry will take over for Wade Phillips, if and when Phillips retires—-and there’s a chance that the Rams might even promote Barry to DC after this season and let Phillips go—-in which case, the Cardinals could jump on Phillips, if he is still eager to coach. Having Taylor Morton as the GM could give the Cardinals the edge for hiring Barry or Phillips.

If Vance Joseph were to be named DC—-these are the top defensive free agents on the Broncos: OLB Shaquil Barrett, OLB Shane Ray, CB Bradley Roby, NT Domata Peko.

If Todd Bowles were to be named DC—-these are the Jets top defensive UFAs: ILB Avery Williamson, CB Morris Claiborne, CB Buster Skrine, S Rontez Miles.

Rather than dwell on the negatives from yesterday’s game—-we have analyzed and discusses ad nauseam by now what the Cardinals’ problems are both in scheme and personnel—-let’s just keep our feet on the ground and our eyes on the stars.

Then best thing we Cardinals’ fans can do today—-is hope.

Hope that Michael Bidwill is creative and resourceful enough to find a clever way to blind the Cyclops, and to escape the darkness by clinging to the underbelly of the nearest ram—-

And—-while Bidwill is at it—-let’s hope that Larry Fitzgerald is fiercely clinging to the underbelly of the ram right next to Bidwill’s. Fitz’s extraordinary career should not end in such staggering bleakness.

if there is one thing that Cardinals’ fans know—-where there is Larry—-there is hope.