As Seth Cox reported, ESPN recently graded the Arizona Cardinals the #22 team in their 3 Year Future Power Rankings with a score of 73.4. Thus, I thought I would piggyback on Seth’s thread with an in-depth look at how they graded the Cardinals at each of the 5 assessments and then compare and contrast the Cardinals’ grades to the grades of the NFC West Teams.
Here is ESPN’s grading criteria: (https://www.espn.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/31812492/nfl-future-power-rankings-2021-projections-all-32-teams-next-three-seasons#ARI
Building a successful NFL franchise is about more than just the current season. The best teams are typically set up to stay among the elite for many years.
To project which NFL franchises are in the best shape for the next three seasons (2021 through 2023), we asked our panel of experts — Jeremy Fowler, Louis Riddick, Seth Walder and Field Yates — to rate each team’s quarterback situation, remaining (non-QB) roster, drafting ability, front office and coaching using this scale:
- 100: A+ (Elite)
- 90: A (Great)
- 80: B (Very good)
- 70: C (Average)
- 60: D (Very bad)
- 50 and below: F (Disastrous)
After averaging the results from the panelists, each of the five categories was weighted to create the overall score: roster (30%), quarterback (20%), draft (15%), front office (15%) and coaching (20%). The result is a comprehensive ranking based on how well each team is positioned for the future. Our experts each wrote a blurb for all 32 teams, hitting on biggest worries, stats to know and what could change in upcoming years.
Overall Roster (minus QB)
- SF: 86.5 (4th)
- LA: 84.0 (10th)
- SEA: 80.3 (13th)
- ARI: 72.5 (22nd)
I believe that the roster is a lot stronger than most pundits think, especially now that the Cardinals are making a concerted effort to build it around high-effort ballers.
- SEA: 89.8 (4th)
- LA: 83.8 (8th)
- ARI: 80.0 (10th)
- SF: 76.0 (14th)
I believe that Kyler Murray has the highest ceiling of any of the NFC West QBs. It’s possible that this year Kyler could challenge Russell Wilson for top QB honors in the division.
- SF: 90.5 (4th)
- LA: 88.0 (5th)
- SEA: 83.0 (12th)
- ARI: 66.5 (27th)
What surprises me about these grades are that Kyle Shanahan, as good as a play caller as he is, has had 4 losing seasons in 5 years, which is why the 49ers have been able to draft so well. He gets a mulligan for injuries —- but, after time, that can be considered a moot point.
I still believe that Pete Carroll is the best coach in the division because, even when his teams are banged up, he still has them winning and headed virtually every year to the playoffs.
There is no doubt that Sean McVay is a crackerjack play caller. Losing his outstanding DC Brandon Staley after one stellar season might set the Rams back a little.
The coaching grade for the Cardinals is not surprising. Kliff Kingsbury’s offense sputtered last year after Kyler Murray was injured. Vance Joseph’s defense couldn’t find a way to defend 2nd and 3rd string QBs down the stretch and has yet to defend the Rams’ bread and butter plays. And the Cardinals lost a couple of games last year on missed field goals. Plus, as all Cardinals’ fans lament, the team led the NFL in penalties last season.
On a bright note, it is noteworthy, and a cause for optimism that:
- Despite Kyler’s injuries, Kliff’s offense finished 6th in the NFL in total yards per game at 384.6 (best in NFC West).
- Vance Joseph’s defense, despite losing Chandler Jones after 5 games, finished 4th in the NFL in sacks per game at 3.0 (2nd best in NFC West behind the Rams at 3.2).
- Jeff Rodgers’ special teams, despite the placekicking woes, finished tied for the 6th best special teams grade in the NFL (per PFF) at 90.1 (best in NFC West).
- SF: 79.3 (9th)
- ARI: 76.5 (12th)
- SEA: 72.0 (25th)
- LA: 70.3 (29th)
These grades are very encouraging for the Cardinals and if the Cardinals keep their draft improvements up, they could move steadily up the overall roster rankings.
- LA: 79.0 (10th)
- SF: 78.0 (14th)
- SEA: 77.0 (17th)
- ARI: 71.8 (21st)
Again, this grade for the Seahawks is a diss. The 49ers have been to the playoffs only once in the last decade —- and yes got all the way to the Super Bowl in that one year. But the Seahawks are in the playoffs and Super Bowl chase every year and have the only Super Bowl win in the division over the last 20 years. The 49ers are getting far too much credit. The Rams deserve the credit because they have turned around the fortunes of their once woeful franchise, although they missed the playoffs following their Super Bowl year. The Cardinals have not been able to sustain any stretch of success and the Steve Wilks/Mike McCoy/Josh Rosen year was a PR nightmare for the Cardinals’ front office. For Michael Bidwill and his execs to be ranked 21st two and a half years after what transpired in 2018 may actually be considered a positive sign of progress.
It appears that the Cardinals are trending upward, especially in terms of their strength of personnel. It may continue to take some time for the Cardinals coaching staff to catch up with the longer established coaches in the division. Improving their NFC West divisional games record is typically a good sign as to just how far the team and the coaches have improved.
Cardinals NFC West W/L Record: Kliff Kingsbury