With Wild Card Weekend over, the truth is inherent.
The NFL has completely changed.
The Arizona Cardinals apparently missed the changing landscape of the NFL in their 2018 head coaching hire, deciding to zig when everyone else had zagged and thinking it was the right move.
The problem was, it wouldn’t have mattered.
After this weekend, the numbers do not lie, winning with defense and running the football is not the way of the NFL.
No, instead you need innovation, you need athleticism, you need someone willing to gamble and most of all you need someone with giant… intestinal fortitude.
You see, in the NFL to win, you can sit back and let your rookie quarterback only throw eight passes in the first three quarters.
You can’t fear giving your backup quarterback the go ahead even after he’s thrown two interceptions in the game.
No, you have to go into the game knowing that unless you put points on the board, you’ll lose.
This season, the top five defenses in DVOA are sitting with the Arizona Cardinals at home.
The top five offensive DVOA’s are all in the playoffs.
Top 5 DVOA offenses: 5 teams remaining in playoffs— Ben Baldwin (@benbbaldwin) January 7, 2019
Top 5 DVOA defenses: 0 teams remaining in playoffs
Building around a defense sounds great, but they are at an inherent disadvantage in today’s NFL.
You can’t touch a wide receiver. You can barely touch a quarterback.
Quick offenses and change of possessions mean that a great defense can you get off the field fast, but not having an offense that scores points is going to keep you in a hole.
To try and protect your young quarterbacks, like the Arizona Cardinals did for so much of the season, is basically waving the white flag.
We’re not going to try to go score to score with you. No, instead we are going to try and win an outlier game. We are going to rely on our defense to give us a shot each week.
That just won’t fly right now.
It’s the problem with where the Cardinals tried to go last year in their coaching hire.
They wanted to play defense and run the football.
Well, running the football means very little in today’s NFL if you don’t have a competent passing game.
Top 5 DVOA passing offenses: 5 teams remaining in playoffs— Ben Baldwin (@benbbaldwin) January 7, 2019
Top 5 DVOA rushing offenses: 2 teams remaining in playoffs
It's a passing league
The Cardinals went all in on the idea of a defense and running the football.
They failed spectacularly and now are trying to right the ship.
What will that mean for their next hire?
Well, for now we know it means no defensive coaches have been interviewed at this point. The Cardinals are swinging wildly in the opposite direction they vowed to follow last offseason.
Which begs the eternal question, can they get back to being competitive in one offseason?
Last offseason they built an offense around the idea of running the football, grinding out games.
They had (when healthy) the worst pass blocking offensive line in the NFL.
They had (when healthy) the worst wide receiver and tight end rooms in the NFL.
They also had a rookie quarterback.
So, can they fix all of that in one offseason?
It’s unlikely, which is okay, it just means being reasonable with expectations with whoever the new coach may be, Adam Gase or Jim Caldwell.
It also means, getting veterans in that can stay on the field and contribute.
It is the new NFL, one the Arizona Cardinals were a part of just three short years ago… now, can they find their way back?