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Disaster in the desert: Playing the blame game after Arizona Cardinals 0-2 start

The season has gotten off to a worse start than anyone imagined. How did we find ourselves here? Whose fault is this disastrous start?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals
The roster and the coaching staff have both been built by GM Steve Keim. Is he to blame for this 0-2 start?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I’m at a loss for words. Even though an 0-2 start was certainly possible, no one thought it would be like this. In the first two games under Steve Wilks, the Cardinals have scored 6 points total. After a 34-0 throttling in Los Angeles, we’ve totaled a paltry 350 yards, gained 19 first downs, and committed 18 penalties through two games. Only the Buffalo Bills have a worse point differential than our -52—and even they have managed to score 23 points.

Local radio, Twitter, and, of course, our own RotB comment section are rife with finger-pointing. Steve Wilks. Mike McCoy. Steve Keim. Sam Bradford. (A whole lotta Sam Bradford.) With such absolute ineptitude on both sides of the ball through two weeks, it’s hard to truly say who is to blame for the smoldering bucket of feces our team has resembled thus far.

But someone has to wade through the reeking detritus. While no one individual or group on the field or sidelines is 100% to blame for this disastrous start, it shouldn’t be too hard to get to that 100% figure given what we’ve seen. So let’s flex our pointer fingers and figure out exactly how we got to this dark place we’ve found ourselves in.

5% Blame – CB Jamar Taylor

A familiar weak spot reared its ugly head yesterday. Taylor wasn’t great last week (three penalties), and he was blistered by Brandin Cooks yesterday to the tune of 4 receptions for 106 yards (plus another defensive holding penalty against Cooper Kupp for a first down). The CB spot across from Patrick Peterson has been in flux for years, and Taylor looks to be the latest in a long line of letdowns there.

10% Blame – Steve Wilks

Steve Wilks doesn’t call plays on either side of the ball for the Cardinals, but you can’t have watched the team play the last two weeks and not assign some blame to the head coach. I was willing to give him a bit of a pass after last week (first game jitters), but when you follow almost the exact same game script again and all you have to say after the game is that it felt like déjà vu, that tells me you didn’t do your job this week. Cardinals fans should be expecting major changes in gameplan, personnel, and, especially, effort next week against the Bears. But if we get more of the same, is it too soon to start wondering if Wilks has what it takes to be an NFL head coach?

15% Blame – Offensive Line

On paper, the Redbirds’ O-line hasn’t looked terrible—3 sacks given up, 4.1 YPC for our RBs (28 carries for 115 yards). But watching the games, our blocking has been a huge issue in both the running and passing games. David Johnson has had to create a lot of yards after contact, Sam Bradford has been under pressure a ton, and they had 5 penalties yesterday. We just need our O-line to get at least a little push in the run game, keep the pocket somewhat clean for our QB, and limit the penalties. So far, we haven’t even gotten that, and it’s hard to see the blocking getting any better.

15% Blame – Linebackers

Okay, Josh Bynes has played pretty well with 17 tackles (12 solo) and a pass defended, but Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick have been badly abused by opposing running backs both on the ground and in the air. Out of position, slow to the ball, not recognizing plays—it’s hard to remember that these guys are both former 1st-round picks. With the majority of our defensive snaps coming in the nickel, we just need one of these supposedly athletic specimens to step up, and they haven’t been able to—they only had a tackle apiece yesterday. I don’t know if they’re just struggling to adapt to the 4-3 or what, but it looks like we’ll be seeing more of Gerald Hodges (5 tackles versus the Rams) moving forward.

25% Blame – QB Sam Bradford

I’m sure this number looks too low to many of you, but I have a hard time saying that Bradford is 100% to blame for our offensive woes. Remember that this is the same QB who set the single-season record for completion percentage just two years ago. Now, obviously, he’s looked terrible so far (59% completion percentage, 153 yards, 4.5 YPA, 27.6 QBR), but Bradford can only operate in the offensive system that’s been installed, throw to the guys on the field, and rely on the O-line in front of him. Yes, he’s been AWFUL, but he’s been put in a situation where almost no QB could succeed. Does anyone really think Josh Rosen would have done any better? Given the low bar, I suppose it’s possible, but I’m personally glad that Rosen has been viewing this all from the sideline instead of trying to produce in a no-win situation. Rosen will get his chance, and soon, but it’s foolhardy to suggest we’d be any better off if he had played these past two games.

30% Blame – Mike McCoy

To me, McCoy is more to blame than just about anyone else. The offensive numbers speak for themselves—3.7 yards per play, 4/20 on third down, 1 touchdown in 20 drives, 6 total points. We didn’t even cross midfield until there were 30 seconds left yesterday. And, most alarmingly, DJ has touched the ball just 28 times (for 118 yards) in two games. So much for that 1000/1000 season, huh? It’s hard to fathom that an offense with an OPOY candidate, one of the best WRs to ever suit up, and one of the most accurate QBs of all time has been this inept. The offensive has been absolutely embarrassing, and, frankly, McCoy deserves be fired midseason for the second time in two years. This performance cannot and should not be tolerated. Turn the offense over to Byron Leftwich or Kirby Wilson and see what happens. Of course, that begs the question of why McCoy was hired in the first place…

100% Blame – Steve Keim

I’m sure the more numerically astute among you noticed that we reached 100% blame with McCoy. But, of course, who hired McCoy and Wilks? Who signed Taylor and Bradford? Who put together the offensive line and linebacking corps? Obviously, the answers to those questions are Steve Keim, Steve Keim, and Steve Keim. And, because of those and many other decisions, I lay 100% of the blame for this unacceptable start at the feet of our GM, Steve Keim.

Keim drafted well his first three years as the organization’s head man, and became a fan favorite for his “Keim Time” signings. But he has whiffed on the draft for several years running, and his talent for finding veteran diamonds in the rough has seemingly dried up. Over the past few years, he tried to work with former coach Bruce Arians to mold the roster to his coach’s tendencies (not in itself a bad idea), but when BA rode off into the sunset, rather than churning an aging roster, he hired a coach who was the complete opposite of BA—and then failed to bring in enough players who fit his new coach’s defensive scheme. These puzzling decisions were then compounded by his well-documented off-the-field issues. If Keim hadn’t recently signed an extension, he’d probably be on the hot seat right now… and I’m not sure that Michael Bidwill isn’t considering all his options right now anyway. Our start has been that bad. And there is no one more to blame than Steve Keim.

Final Thoughts

So where do we go from here? According to Steve Wilks, “everybody will be evaluated.” We can assume that will mean guys like Bradford, Chad “0 Catches on 3 Targets” Williams, Bucannon, Taylor, etc. But that’s just on the field. If Keim wants to save his job—and if this season continues to careen off the cliff like it has, he had better not have a job at the end of it—he’d better be thinking long and hard about a change at offensive coordinator. That’s the most logical move to me at this point. And I don’t even know if that would be enough to save the season.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, Cardinals fans—much rougher than most of us anticipated. So, where are you at with the team? Whose fault is this start? What changes do you want to see before the Week 3 game against the Bears? Let’s play the blame game in the comments.