“Something there is that doesn’t love” a young, unconventional head coach and his diminutive, wear his heart on his sleeve quarterback.
For some in the Arizona media, the Cardinals’ hiring of Kliff Kingsbury was a “bold move and a bad mistake” (Kent Somers) from the get-go.
Yesterday on the air waves, Dan Bickley and Vince Marotta were mocking the fact that a few weeks ago when the Cardinals were 5-2 hiding into their bye week coming off prime time wins over the Cowboys and Seahawks, that Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim was “doing victory laps.”
Yet, as far back as the Cardinals’ impressive 38-10 MNF win over the Cowboys, Dan Bickley decided to focus his post-game “Blast” on the fact that Kyler Murray was missing a number of easy passes in the first half. In the article Bickley offered apt praise for Vance Joseph and the Cardinals’ defense but was sounding the alarm bells when writing about the offense——
Talk about cherry picking. Bickley did not choose to mention the obvious positives that Kyler Murray and the offense achieved in that game—-in fact, he chose to mitigate and marginalize some of the success, like Kenyan Drake’s 80 yard TD bolt in the 4th quarter.
For those of you watched the game, Kyler Murray took command of the game in the first half by running the football in dazzling fashion. Let’s remember how charged up he was to play for the first time as a Cardinal at his favorite stadium in the universe where he is heralded as a legend. To make no mention of Murray’s brilliant runs in the first half is utterly negligent.
Murray’s final lines on the game:
Passing: 9/24/188-yds/20.9-ave./2-tds/0-ints./93.5 QBR
Because—-as Bickley said ever so didactically, “Don’t be fooled by the point total or Kenyan Drake’s late touchdown. The Cardinals offense isn’t nearly as impressive or electric as it should be”—-obviously for him the Cardinals rushing totals in this nationally televised game (35/261-yds./7.5—ave./3-tds) were really nothing to celebrate.
As a Cardinals’ fan since 1963, I don’t recall the Cardinals ever rushing the ball for those kind of gaudy yards on national TV. I thought this was an awesome performance and relished every yard and blade of grass of this achievement..
So, all week long during his show with Vince Marotta, Bickley was laser focused on what could be wrong with Kyler Murray’s arm and his passing accuracy. To this point in Kyler’s young career, his accuracy had been good—-if not, he would not have won the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 2019.
In the very next game—-again on national TV (SNF)—-Murray rebounded by putting up these numbers in the Cardinals stunning 37-34 comeback win over then then 5-0 Seahawks:
This time in his post-game “Blast”, Bickley jumped straight back on the Murray bandwagon and addressed:”concerns about his throwing accuracy” that no one did more to try to exaggerate than he did Here is precisely what he wrote:
Murray’s dominant performance arrived just on time. He dismissed concerns about his throwing accuracy and never quit competing against Wilson, occasionally breathing fire on his own sidelines.
Nationally, this was the beginning of something new and wonderful. This was their first truly epic battle between Murray and Wilson. And you can bet league executives will save their future encounters for only the biggest of stages.
Even naysayer Kent Somers went as far as to write this following the Cardinals 37-34 win in article where he focused very strictly on “Kyler’s mistakes” and “Kingsbury’s debacle”:
So what does the victory mean for the Cardinals? A more pleasant week off, for sure. More importantly, it’s validation that the preseason love shown them by prognosticators and pundits might be deserved.
Obviously, following the bye and the Cardinals’ current 3 game losing streak, the critiques of Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray have been amplified to a noise level commensurate with what the 12th man generates in Seattle.
It doesn’t seem to matter that Kyler Murray has been working through a shoulder (sprained AC joint) injury which he incurred in the loss to the Seahawks in Seattle—-or that Kliff Kingsbury could have been rewarded for his decision making had his kicker made a 45 yard field goal in Foxborough that could have given the Cardinals an impressive win over Bill Belichick and the now surging Patriots.
Meanwhile, high on Bickley and Marotta’s agenda has been drumming up support for their belief that Kliff Kingsbury should be squarely on the ‘hot seat” in light of the losing streak. Apparently, they have plenty of company because according to their last poll, 62% of the fans who voted agree that Kingsbury’s job security should be in question.
Heading into last week’s key game versus the Rams, here’s was Bickley’s condescending admonition to Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury, the team and to Cardinals fans:
On today's Bickley Blast, @danbickley explains why QB Kyler Murray needs to be the best player on the field when the #AZCardinals take on the Rams this Sunday. pic.twitter.com/JSi2a5LTg1— 98.7 Arizona Sports (@AZSports) December 4, 2020
First of all, Bickley is being obtuse here when he cites Pats’ DT Adam Butler as a no-name havoc-wreaker on Kyler Murray. Butler has been injured this season, but he was back healthy versus the Cardinals—-he had 8 sacks last season—-and has racked up 17 sacks in 3 3/4 seasons.
Secondly, to think that Kyler Murray could single-handedly beat the Rams’ defense and emerge as the best player on the field last Sunday is absurd. Thus, to pile this kind of weight on his shoulders was just setting him up to fail.
There is no way that the Cardinals in practice could have simulated the Rams’ defensive power up front and speed on the back end. Kyler’s 1st half struggles to acclimate to the speed and power of the Rams defense reminded me of the first half he had against Alabama in the 2018 FBS semi-finals.
The good news is that, just as was the case versus Alabama, Kyler started to figure out how to crack their defense—-pretty much all in the air. The Cardinals scored 3 TDs in the second half versus a defense that hadn’t given up more than 1 TD in the second half all season.
Meanwhile, all this week Bickley and Marotta have been hosting pity parties for the Cardinals’ defense “having the be on the field so long” and for “getting gassed.” Awww.
Again, this is yet another occasion where Bickley should know better. Anyone who has been carefully watching Rams games for the past 4 years would know that their bread and butter plays are (1) the power off-tackle run; (2) the fake off-tackle play bootleg to the opposite side in which they hide Robert Woods behind the line and then have him run through to the flat, while the TE runs a deeper crossing route—
Actually i could go and list so many of the other core plays (I have watched every one of the ir games this year that were not during the Cardinals game)—-but let me stop here because the Cardinals’ defense never defended either of these two plays (as if they had never seen them before)—-these are the Rams’ two most basic plays—-which is why the Cardinals’ defense was on the field for long stretches, to the point where the Rams only had to punt once in the game.
Nevertheless, here is the next installment of Bickley’s campaign:
I carefully chose the word “campaign” because Bickley is taking pages out of a woefully familiar candidate’s campaign book where he resorts to name calling (“Grumpy Cat”) for any persona non grata and just as worse, if not more, is desperate enough to conjure up blatant lies: “Everyone has concerns now, about most everything.”
I will speak to you directly now Dan—-you know that “small circle of vultures” you have been alluding to?—-one of which calls Murray a “Coney Island side show”? Did it ever occur to you that as a journalist and radio host can make matters worse for a young head coach and QB who are going through growing pains? And for the fans’ perceptions of them?
if I were Steve Keim, I would hold a press conference today to state how proud and confident the Cardinals’ organization is with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. I would make it clear that the Cardinals, as an organizatio,n are in a growing stage and in the learning process of how to become a legitimate contender and that they are extremely focused on the next challenge which is this week’s game.
The truth is, Dan, despite your cynicism and overwhelming doubts, if you and Vince were to poll NFL fans across America which teams they would most like to see make the playoffs, the Cardinals would, without a doubt, be one of them. America is fascinated with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray and Americans have also fallen in love with Budda Baker.
Deep down inside, America always loves a classic underdog.
If anyone had said at this time last year the Cardinals would be 6-6 in 2020 and right in the thick of the playoff hunt—-wouldn’t most of us have been happy to hear that? Especially in light of there being no off-season workouts, minicamps or pre-season games?
When you moved to Arizona in 1998 to cover the expansion Diamondbacks, I had already been a Cardinals’ fans for 35 years. Long lasting Cardinals’ fans are a rare species, Dan. Just ask my friend, “since61! You really cannot speak for all of us, In fact i would surprised if you could speak for too many of us. I, and others of my ilk and disposition are not a part of “everybody” you claim to have gathered into your diaphanous and unctuous web.
You see—-over my 57 years of being a Cardinals’ fan—-if it there is one thing i have learned it is that we have seen and endured through far, far worse than this. This season is one of the truly joyful ones because it’s Week 14 and the Cardinals are IN THE HUNT! Plus, I can’t recall ever seeing the Cardinals at #1 in total yards in the NFL after 10 weeks—-and certainly not with a 2nd year head coach and QB.
But most of all, Dan, Cardinals fans like me have been conditioned and weatherproofed like steel grandstand seats to root for the underdog. I love that the Cardinals made such a bold move to hire Kliff Kingsbury and to draft Kyler Murray. Not only are they underdogs—-what I know to be true about both of them is—-they are, as Emily Dickinson would say—-’punctual as a Star.”
Neither one of them has ever had anything handed to them—-they have gotten to the NFL through good, old-fashioned hard work and steadfast perseverance in the face of constant scrutiny. If anyone wants to find Kliff Kingsbury at 4:30 AM, they know where to find him, don’t they? Same thing for Kyler Murray—-you can find him on the practice field whenever practice starts.
Lord knows, both of them have their vulnerabilities right now, but as one who believes that “success = preparation + opportunity”....I am banking on them to learn and grow and prosper as Arizona Cardinals for years to come. I believe that no HC/QB tandem will work harder. And for the first time since the Don Coryell/Jim Hart days in the 1970s, I can reiterate this with confidence—-no HC/QB tandem in the NFL will wok harder.