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Arizona Cardinals Free Agency: A Pair of Star-Crossed Throwers

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The Cardinals are hoping for another fairy tale ending with the quarterback positions.

Arizona Cardinals v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Two quarterbacks, both alike in dignity

In fair Glendale, where we lay our scene

From ancient grudge, break to new mutiny

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

At this time last year, Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon were two of the happiest quarterbacks on planet earth.

Bradford, a few years removed from his exile from the once-woeful Rams, and now the starter for the Vikings, was coming off a season in which he started 15 games completing 395 of 552 passes for 3,877 yards with 20 touchdowns and a mere 5 interceptions. In doing so, Bradford set the Vikings’ franchise record for completions---and he set the NFL record for completion percentage (71.6%), surpassing Drew Brees’ mark of 71.2 in 2011.

To illuminate how extraordinary Bradford’s record breaking 2016 performance was…he accomplished these stunning numbers behind what was largely considered to be one of the worst rag-tag offensive lines in the NFL.

Thus a year ago, Bradford was delighted to see that the Vikings’ priority was to rebuild their offensive line and did so by signing bookend free agent tackles in Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. A month later in the draft, the Vikings added their starting center, the highly touted Pat Elflein of Ohio St.

In week 1 of the 2017 season on MNF, Bradford put on an aerial display versus the Saints that was mind-numbingly spectacular. He completed 27 of 32 passes (84.4%) for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Vikings won the game 29-19.

Yet, just when Bradford, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner and 1st player taken in the 2010 NFL draft was finally on track to set the NFL world ablaze---alas, in week 2 at Pittsburgh, his left knee gave out. He would spend the rest of the year watching Case Keenum lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship game. O what might have been---were it not for that knee.

Meanwhile, over in Chicago a year ago, Mike Glennon finally had his turn to be a starting QB. Despite being a hot name in trade talks the past three years while being the backup to Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay, the Bucs decline all trade offers. But now that Glennon was a free agent, the Bears signed him to a 3 year $45M deal with $18M guaranteed.

Imagine what it must have been like on draft night…to be the Bears’ new bright and shiny QB and to be the center of attention at the team’s draft party, only to watch the Bears give up a small fortune to trade up one spot on the first round to pick QB Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina, which not only was a major and embarrassing shock for Glennon, but evidently it was also a major shock to Glennon’s new head coach, John Fox.

This was about as shocking a public display of reverse fortunes as when the ecstatic crew of “La La Land” were called down from the stage at the Oscars after a delirious Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway retuned to the mic to announce that the real winner for Best Picture was “Moonlight.”

In essence, this was déjà vu all over again for Mike Glennon, the QB infamously known for being the talented college QB who bumped Russell Wilson off the roster at North Carolina St. and who, as a 3rd round draft pick by the Bucs in 2013 was named to the Pro Football Writers’ All-Rookie team for passing for 2,608 yards with 19 TDs versus 9 interceptions, when in 2014 the Bucs drafted Jameis Winston as the 1st overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

When Lovie Smith took over as the Bucs’ head coach in 2014, he proclaimed Josh McCown as his starter, but insisted that Glennon was the Bucs’ QB of the future. After a miserable 2-14 season, after which Smith and Bucs selected Jameis Winston with the 1st pick in the draft, the Bucs received six trade offers for Glennon, all of which GM Jason Licht rejected.

With a chance to start the first 4 games for the Bears last season, Glennon, in Week 1 versus the Falcons completed 26 of 40 passed for 213 yards and a TD and had marched the offense down to the Falcons’ 5 yard line only to have RB Jordan Howard drop a wide open TD pass that would have secured a stunning upset win. After a Week 2 loss at Tampa Bay where Glennon threw for 301 yards and two interceptions, in Week 3 Glennon and the Bears upset the Steelers in overtime, despite Glennon’s late game interception. In week 4 on Thursday Night Football versus the Packers, Glennon threw two interceptions and fumbled twice in a dispiriting loss, which prompted John Fox to turn to rookie Mitch Trubisky in week 5.

Anyone who watched that Thursday night game on national TV likely walked away thinking that Mike Glennon is the epitome of an awful QB. The stigma of that game is now such that pretty much everyone in the NFL world has scorned and ridiculed the Cardinals for signing Glennon. Local talk show hosts Bertrand Berry and Dan Bickley have expressed their vehement disapproval of Glennon, with Berry going as far as saying he can’t stand to look at Glennon’s giraffe-like neck.

But, Steve Keim has always believed in Mike Glennon and could care less what the radio heads say. Glennon’s career numbers: 467/770/60.6%/4,933/34 TD/20 int/83.2 QBR. Not too shabby considering the teams he played for.

The Cardinals’ signing of Sam Bradford has been met by some with similar scorn. Ravens’ safety Eric Weddle went out of his way to tweet: “So dumb. Bradford has been paid more for nothing than anyone in the history of the NFL.” The Sporting News promptly wrote an article titled: “Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon signings prove Cardinals are lost.”

After this rather unlikely marriage of Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon performed by Friar Keim, the streets of Glendale in 2018 are going to be sweltering well above the 110 degree mark…only to become further enflamed by the highly anticipated addition of a 1st round rookie QB…the very exact turn and twist of fate that Sam Bradford was dealt when the Eagles traded up to draft Carson Wentz in 2016---after which Bradford immediately demanded a trade..and the same twist of fate Glennon endured in 2015 when the Bucs drafted Jameis Winston and in 2017 when the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky.

But for now, Bradford and Glennon are in the welcoming hands of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who within the past 14 months has suffered a good deal of misfortune himself when he was fired by the Chargers after 4 years as head coach in 2017 and then 10 months later exiled by the Broncos to the NFL’s version of Mantua for being the scapegoat of a miserable 4 game losing streak following the team’s bye week, which dropped the Broncos’ record to 3-5.

And thus the plights of the Cardinals’ two new star-crossed QBs and their offensive coordinator who has left Mantua for the sunny valley of Glendale is now the “two hour traffic on our stage…the which if you with patient ears attend…what here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.”

Postscript---on a personal note, I would like to say that anyone who has been Cardinals’ fans as long as we have---possesses the extraordinary ability to pull for the underdog and to imagine the unimaginable. Thus, it is my most fervent hope that Prince Bidwill, Friar Keim, Steve Wilks, Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon, Mike McCoy, Byron Leftwich and our yet to be known rookie QB defy the odds and turn the Cardinals’ “unweeded garden” of an offense into a neatly cropped field of red roses. After all, “a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”