If you haven’t heard this latest sound bite from Dan Bickley, have at it:
On today's Bickley Blast, @danbickley highlights the need for the #AZCardinals to bring in an experienced offensive coordinator to aid HC Kliff Kingsbury and why the team's "Wild Cards" nickname became even more fitting after last night's loss to the Seahawks. pic.twitter.com/F2z8UQwwfk— 98.7 Arizona Sports (@AZSports) November 20, 2020
A few weeks ago, Bickley was freaking out about Kyler Murray’s missed passes during the Cardinals’ 38-10 win over the Cowboys on MNF.
Now—today—-Bickley is adamant that Kingsbury needs to hire a “veteran offensive coordinator” to help him with play calls and game management, because the Cardinals mostly lost last night’s game because Kingsbury was unprepared to take on the “NFL’s worst defense.”
As i wrote when i questioned Bickley’s dramatic over-reaction to Murray missing passes in the Cowboys game at the expense of not even lauding Murray for the great job he hid running the ball and then connecting on a perfect bomb to Christian Kirk, I usually take a good deal of interest in reading Dan Bickley’s articles because I respect his journalistic style.
But, for the second time in a little over a month, I am having a very difficult time trying to understand Bickley’s visceral and repulsive reaction to this most recent shortcoming.
Sure, the game was ugly for the Cardinals. We are all frustrated.
But—-this was the first time in three nationally televised night games this year where the Cardinals did not win in exciting fashion.
Even Meatloaf was reasonable enough to conclude that “two out of three ain’t bad.”
There was time not too long ago where the Cardinals couldn’t even get a whiff of a primetime game.
What does Bickley and others like him expect in year two of what has been a major retooling of all three phases of the football team?
By any reasonable standard of expectation, Kliff Kingsbury with Kyler Murray at QB are way ahead of schedule.
The facts are:
- They have the #1 yards per game offense in the NFL in year 2.
- Murray was the NFL’s Rookie of the Year in 2019 and now he’s won NFC Offensive Player of the Week twice in 10 games this season.
- DeAndre Hopkins has also won the NFC Offensive Play of the Week award and Budda Baker has won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week Award.
- Hopkins is leading the NFL in receiving yards with 912 and he is 2nd in the NFL in receptions with 72, 1 behind Stefon Diggs who has 73. Both have played 10 games.
- RB Kenyan Drake is 6th in the NFL in rushing at 641 yards (4.4 ave.).
- Kyler Murray is 8th in the NFL (1st among QBs) in rushing with 619 yards (6.7 ave.).
- Kyler Murray is #2 in the NFL in rushing TDs with 10 (2 behind RB Dalvin Cook).
- Kyler Murray is 2nd in the NFL in total QB TDs (passing and rushing) with 29 (2 behind Russell Wilson with 31).
The whole point of naming Kliff Kingsbury as head coach was to have him groom Kyler Murray and style the offense to Murray’s strengths and the strengths of the personnel. Not only has Kingsbury delivered on a top level offense in year two, he has surprisingly adapted his offense in order to develop one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL (which is currently #4 in NFL at 157.7 yards rushing per game—-and is #1 in the NFL in rushing TDs with 16).
I am not sure what Bickley’s bias towards Kingsbury is. His former colleague Kent Somers was an immediate critic of the Kingsbury hiring, calling it a mistake. Somers has since sounded like he’s warmed up to the Kingsbury/Murray combo.
But, for Dan Bickley to have the temerity to suggest that Kingsbury needs to turn to an experienced OC because he can’t handle the job, is beyond unreasonable and unfair.
Then, while the Cardinals are in the thick of the NFC West race, 1 game behind the Seahawks (having split their two games with), but also having the better NFC West division record than the Seahawks to date (2-1) to their (2-2), and because the Seahawks have the easier strengths of schedule remaining—-Bickley is already crowning their arses and calling the Cardinals mere “Wild Cards” because that is all they are playing for now.
There are 6 games left.
Again, if anyone told you or Bickley or me or anyone else two years ago that the Cardinals would be 6-4 and one game out of 1st place in the prodigious NFC West after 10 games in the 2020, we would have guffawed out loud, right?
Let’s remember that the NFC West boasts head coaches Pete Carroll, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay and has won 6 NFC Championships over the past 12 years, with every one of the 4 teams winning at least one Halas Trophy. Think about that—-6 of the last 12 NFC Champions have come from the NFC West.
For Kliff Kingsbury to be moving the franchise forward and back into contention within the toughest devision in the NFL in a mere 26 games, especially in light of all of the local and national scrutiny surrounding his hiring in the first place, he deserves to be lauded, not excoriated.
While Kliff Kingsbury has welcomed criticism by offering his own mea culpas on a weekly basis for one thing or another—-he has done this to protect his players—-and he has done this to show that as the head coach he is responsible and that he holds himself 100% accountable.
That is admirable.
One would think (and hope) that by now, if he and the team have a rough game, maybe it would be nice to still say “rough one man, but I got you, Coach.”
Like beating Russell Wilson and the Seahawks is ever easy, right?
Not since 2015, have the Cardinals competed “down to the wire” in 9 of its first 10 games.
The Cardinals’ 2015 team lost two games it was supposed to win early in the season at home to the Rams 22-24 and 13-25 at Pittsburgh with Landry Jones playing for an injured Big Ben.
Say what you will about Kliff Kingsbury, but he has the Arizona Cardinals, warts and all, competing in every game.
And it isn't just this year—-Kingsbury’s team last year went “down to the wire” in 12 of the 16 games.
What a far cry from 2016, 2017 and 2018.
How quickly some people—-who get a fresh whiff of success—-are apt to forget.