“We need to fire Wilks AND Keim.”
“I’m done with Bradford put in Rosen.”
“Mike McCoy needs to be fired.”
Maybe the only thing more concerning than the Cardinals’ performance on the field yesterday was the RotB comment section. Sure, most of it was probably just frustrated fans blowing off steam—and Cardinals fans definitely had reason to be frustrated—but there was a lot of this kind of sentiment before the game was even over. I haven’t seen an overreaction this bad since Veronica Corningstone told Ron Burgundy that he had bad hair.
Now, no one blames Cardinals fans for, ahem, seeing red after yesterday’s game. We all know the numbers by now. Outgained 429 yards to 213, 30 first downs to 14. Time of possession 38 minutes to 22. One third down conversion. Only 37 yards rushing for David Johnson. A 4.5 YPA for Sam Bradford. To say nothing of the 24-6 final score. Yeah, it wasn’t a pretty start for the Steve Wilks era.
But I’m here to tell Cardinals fans to not panic. I never thought it would be me—the guy who predicted the team to go 7-9, and saw a potential 5-11 season—but here we are. So, while there’s definitely reason to be concerned about the Cardinals after yesterday’s debacle of a season opener, it’s not time to panic. Here are a few reasons why. (All stats courtesy of ESPN.)
Nothing That Happened Was Surprising
Perhaps the three biggest issues yesterday—shaky passing game, leaky run defense, and penalties—were also issues in the preseason. While it’s concerning that Wilks and his staff weren’t able to do more to address these known issues, at least no new problems surfaced. It might be time to panic if, say, Larry Fitzgerald looked old and slow instead of the lone bright spot in the passing game. Or if Chandler Jones and the pass rush struggled to generate pressure. Or if Patrick Peterson and Co. were beat over the top by Washington’s mediocre WRs. But none of that happened. What we thought would be strengths are strengths, and what we thought would be weaknesses are weaknesses. We can work with that.
There Were Bright Spots
You might have to squint a bit, sure, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. As mentioned above, the pass rush was as advertised—the Redbirds generated 3 sacks and 8 QB hits in a game where the opponent really didn’t have to pass a lot. That should continue to be a strength. Washington WRs only had 8 catches (on 13 targets) 65 yards. Yes, that’s partially a function of Washington not needing to throw to them much (we were victimized by their RBs/TEs), but it’s still encouraging. The running game averaged 4.5 YPC—again, small sample size due to the game script, but we’ll take it. And special teams looked vastly improved. Andy Lee might’ve been our MVP yesterday (52.6 yards per punt, with 3 inside the 20) and rookie WR Christian Kirk had a nice long punt return, continuing his solid preseason play as PR. The game could’ve been even worse if it’s wasn’t for these areas.
It’s Just One Game
It’s obvious, but that doesn’t make it not true. Week 1 was bad, yes, but it’s just one game out of 16. We wouldn’t be having the same kind of hyperbolic reactions if this were, say, Week 4 or Week 11 or any other week. For context, here are some teams who all lost in Week 1 last season: New England, Tennessee, New Orleans, San Diego, Seattle… oh, and Arizona. What do all those teams have in common? They all finished .500 or better, and the first three even made the playoffs. There’s plenty of season left to go—94%, to be exact. So let’s maybe hold off on talks of firings or benchings for now?
It’ll Get Better (Mostly Because It Has To)
Let’s face it—this was about as bad a debut as anyone could have imagined. But we’re not going to go down 21-0 in every game. Our non-Larry WRs aren’t going to catch only one pass per game (at least I hope not). Our defensive staff isn’t going to underestimate our opponent’s RBs every game (especially with Todd Gurley up next). Sam Bradford isn’t going to average 4.5 YPA every game. And, almost certainly, DJ isn’t going to touch the ball only 14 times every game. Yes, Wilks and his staff were badly outcoached yesterday, and we were badly outplayed on both sides of the ball, but this is not the new normal. I repeat: this is not the new normal. Wilks, Holcomb, McCoy, Bradford, and the rest will figure it out. It might not always translate to wins, but we will play better than this.
“I know this was a bad game but people need to calm down a bit.”
“Everyone calm down.”
While it seemed like most Cardinals fans were ready to throw in the towel on the season, at least there were a few voices of reason out there in the RotB comments section. So I hope Cardinals Nation will follow their—and my—advice and don’t panic. It’s not time for that yet. And it won’t be even if we lose next week on the road against the Rams. Let’s give it a few weeks as this season—and this team—takes shape.
So tell us, Cardinals fans, are you panicking already? Or are you like me and taking it a game at a time? Let’s all get through this together in the comments.