It got real fun there for a while yesterday for the Cardinals and their fans in Seattle, didn’t it?
Man, after treating their home fans to yet another listless, pathetic effort in the home finale the week before, a whole new Cardinals’ team showed up versus the Seahawks.
Guys were balling, left and right. There was excitement—-a big interception—-game changing special teams’ plays—-a hand full of rough sacks on Russell Wilson—-we even saw for the first time this year Deone Bucannon plug a hole and David Johnson perform one of his patented jump cuts.
Some pundits claim the Cardinals were doing this for their much beleaguered rookie head coach, Steve Wilks. After all as rookie QB Josh Rosen said, “We all love Coach Wilks.”
Don’t be fooled.
This game had nothing to do with trying to save a coach’s job.
The effort versus the Rams pretty much put that notion to rest.
For the Cardinals, the regular leaders who show up every game, showed up in Seattle. Stalwarts like Larry Fitzgerald, Corey Peters, Antoine Bethea and Andy Lee. The difference yesterday was that a flock of followers got into the act.
But, this had much more to do with players trying to make a last ditch effort to impress Steve Keim or the other 31 GMs in the NFL.
It was akin to a final class of the year where typically lethargic students are suddenly chock-full of passion and energy, knowing that it is their last chance to impress the teacher with grades due the next day, along with the sheer excitement of summer vacation.
Making Steve Wilks the scapegoat for the complacency of the GM and the fat-cat members of the Cardinals’ Country Club is egregious.
But, man, Wilks has a bad habit of getting in his own way.
How is it that in Week 17—-his defense still gives up wide open passing plays?
Why is it that with all the momentum in the world with his offense in FG range and his team balling their guts out, Wilks allows Byron Leftwich and Josh Rosen—-with 0 timeouts and 15 seconds left on the clock to attempt another pass, having already taken one wild shot at the end zone?
When you lose by 3 and decisions like that are made—-it makes you look foolish.
Even worse, Wilks defends the move after the game by saying that the QB should have known to get rid of the ball quickly. Really? Where would there have been a quick pass versus the Seahawks tight man under, cover 2 deep defense?
Then—-after losing on a last minute drive to Russell Wilson the first time around—-and knowing how you have been effectively pressuring him while playing man coverage—-if there is one thing that Steve Wilks does brilliantly is he has a gift for dialing up pressures—-so why oh why in the world do you go back to the shoddy, soft zone coverage, where your players all look at each other like the other guy next to him blew the coverage?
Just another late-game choke job by the defense—-but in a pass overage that should have never been called in the first place.
The reality is, the Cardinals’ defense hasn’t closed out tight games down the stretch since Dwight Freeney and his mates were making his late game splashes in 2015.
The Cardinals’ defense gave up yet another Russell Wilson last second heroic drive at the end of the game at Seattle last year—-but Blair Walsh missed the 48 yard FG which would have given the Seahawks a 27-26 victory.
Steve Wilks talked all year about “finishing.” But, in the end, neither the coach’s decisions, nor the players’ execution were acceptable.
So now we wait for team owner and president Michael Bidwill to break his 17 week silence.
If recent rumors are correct—-Steve Wilks will take the fall—-and Steve Keim will be given another chance.
The irony of the latter part of this rumor is stinging, because Wilks and the players were at their very best and most excited selves while Keim was serving his 5 week suspension.
Once Keim returned, the team went south in a hurry—-and started the year at home with one of the most lethargic performances imaginable—-and ended the year at home the same way. Only there were more Cardinals’ fans in attendance to boo the first pathetic effort.
If Bidwill fires Wilks and retains Keim—-the Cardinals’ organization will continue to be plagued by croneyism. This is why the Cardinals are pretenders. It’s a buddy system where star players get special treatment by the owner, the GM and ultimately the coaches.
This is why the Cardinals’ talk is cheap. They’ll point to yesterday and tell you how much better they are going to be—-and just how dedicated and committed they are to winning.
It’s stunningly remarkable how few Cardinals dedicate and commit themselves to the game the way their teammate Larry Fitzgerald does. Here they have the ultimate role model right under their noses every day—-and the majority of the players follow the pretenders instead.
Because the pretenders can get away with it. It’s that simple. When the owner, the GM and the coaches have their back anyway—-why change?
But—-all of the pompous rhetoric and sporadically exciting glimpses of competitive football are a tease—-it’s all a well calculated manipulation to get fans like you and me to buy in.
And to that, perhaps the wisest thing one can say at this point is—-caveat emptor.
For a couple of years Bruce Arians came in and actually reminded the organization what the ultimate prize is and should be—-but ultimately he and his team’s plights were foiled by the very croneyism that has been the bane of the Cardinals’ organization for decades.
Michael Bidwill could wipe the slate clean—-but most likely—he won’t—-
Thus, like F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote at the conclusion of The Great Gatsby, the Cardinals will continue to “beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”