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The Homework Clause

Syndication: Arizona Republic Michael Chow/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Which one of these three guys actually did his homework? Which two did not?

Yesterday’s Washington Post article, “The Cardinals doubled down on the Kliff and Kyler Show. It isn’t working”, by NFL insider/analyst Jason LaCanfora, may have been an eye-opener for some readers, but for leery Cardinals’ fans it was a confirmation of what we have been sensing and fearing for quite some time.

First of all, let it be said that NFL pundits nation-wide have been skeptical about Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray from the get-go.

The pundits insist that Kliff Kingsbury, based on his 35-40 record as the head coach at Texas Tech, did not deserve to be hired as one of the privileged 32 NFL head coaches.

As for Kyler Murray, his skeptics all along have doubted that he could achieve sustained success in the NFL because of his diminutive size, questionable durability and sandlot style of play.

The facts are that Kliff Kingsbury in his three plus seasons as the Cardinals’ head coach has led the team from the cellar of the NFL to its first playoff berth since 2015. Kyler Murray has played like an MVP candidate early in seasons, but like his head coach, has yet to show that he can lead his team to late season success.

The pattern has been that by November the rest of the league has caught up to Kliff and Kyler and the better prepared teams at that time of the year zoom right past them.

This season the Cardinals have come out of the gate very sluggishly and appear to be a team that is pathetically unprepared to the point of being disjointed.

This egregious unpreparedness and sluggishness are logically difficult to imagine for a team that —- like the Bucs and Rams the past two seasons —- could have the opportunity to play for the Lombardi Trophy in their own stadium.

Yet, unlike the Bucs and Rams, the Cardinals did very little to generate a national buzz with the way in which they treated the off-season. In fact, one could argue that the Cardinals did far more to tarnish their brand this off-season, than to promote it.

Think of last year’s buzz coming into the season with the additions of JJ Watt and Rodney Hudson. What has been the buzz around this year’s team?

Instead of an off-season of excitement and unity, the Cardinals’ off-season was fraught with superfluous drama, poor PR hits, OTA snubbing, retirement pondering and a general sense of confusion.

This off-season for the Cardinals was not about team building —- it was all about contracts.

The real winner of the off-season wasn’t the team itself, it was agent Erik Burkhardt who, through highly publicized tactics, managed to get his two top clients, Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray lucrative 5 year contract extensions. Burkhardt got the Cardinals to make Kyler Murray the 2nd highest paid QB in the history of the NFL.

As an added bonus, Burkhardt was also able to rejoice in seeing his good buddy, GM Steve Keim, get handed his 5 year contract extension.

Not one outside free agent of note was signed by a front office.

Instead of trying to go full-tilt boogie into a WIN NOW mode the way the Bucs and Rans did, the front office appeared to be more interested in acquiring compensatory draft picks —- ironically for a coaching staff that is stubbornly reluctant to play rookies and woefully ill-prepared to develop young talent, let alone provide them with confidence.

The issue of the Cardinals’ questionable practice habits has become more of a talking point these days, especially seeing as the QB and his offensive line spent the off-season in their homes while the rest of their teammates were toiling in the weight room and breaking sweat on the practice field under the scorching Arizona sun.

No Big Deal

Hosts of Cardinals’ fans insisted that players choosing not to participate in the OTAs, which after all is their prerogative, was no big deal.

The star QB scrubbing his social medias was no big deal.

The team’s GM and head coach traveling to the star QB’s home in Texas to try to convince him and his family to want to continue to play for the Cardinals was no big deal.

That the star QB’s refusal to go out on the field with his teammates for last couple of perfunctory snaps of the embarrassing 34-11 playoff loss to the Rams was no big deal.

That QB’s agent issuing a public ransom note to the Cardinals while suggesting how cheap the Cardinals are as an organization was no big deal.

That choosing to sit on the bench while the rest of the team was kneeling in prayer while Budda Baker was being strapped onto a gurney and loaded into the back of an ambulance was no big deal.

The only big deal that mattered to many Cardinals fans was Kyler getting the big deal.

The Rip-Off

Then came the discovery of the “homework clause” in Kyler’s big deal contract.

And when the real games began and the Cardinals were getting into first quarter holes, only one of which they were able to miraculously wriggle out of, the head coach, star QB and the players conceded that they need to improve their practice habits.

For quite some time now, one of my biggest questions about the coaching staff is whether they actually spend the time in meetings and on the practice field in game planning ways in which to recognize and deal with their opponents’ strengths and ways in which to recognize and attack their opponents’ vulnerabilities.

For a couple of years now I have been saying that it appears to me that the Cardinals’ coaches and players are focused only on “doing what we do.”

Why? Because time and time again, this has appeared obvious, especially over the past 10 games.

For examples from the most recent game with the Rams:

  • Why is it that the Rams’ first run goes for 6 yards and the Cardinals’ first run goes for zero? The Rams studied the tapes to know which of their runs would have an optimum chance of working. Did the Cardinals do the same? With a whole pfff-season and week to study and plan? Obviously not.
  • Did the Rams know that the Cardinals had a different blocker in front of punter Andy Lee in Deionte Thompson? Sure looked like it, didn’t it? Meanwhile in the first quarter, why then did the Cardinals throw repeatedly in the direction of All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey all in ignorance of a 6th round rookie, Derrion Kendrick, playing in his first NFL start, and having to cover the speedy Marquise Brown?
  • Did Sean McVay know that Vance Joseph over the past four years has still not shown a basic understanding of how to recognize and defend even the simplest of McVay’s bread and butter plays? The jet sweep to Cooper Kupp (TD) and the counter play of running a TE slip screen (26 yards of a combined 153 yards for Rams’ TEs Higbee, Skwronek and Blanton in this game on 9/9 catches/targets —- many of which occurred while Isaiah Simmons was on the sidelines) are oldie goldies for McVay —- and yet the Cardinals’ defense looked like they had never seen those plays before.
  • Did Rams DC Raheem Morris know that Kyler under pressure on 3rd downs is more apt to throw underneath the sticks or out of bounds? Did Morris know that Kyler is far more apt to pitch the ball early on read options? Did Morris know that Kyler, despite his elite mobility, was rarely, if ever, going to move the pocket via bootlegs, waggles and spirt-outs?

Therefore, when Jason LaCanfora cited this quote from an anonymous NFL scout...

“There is an arrogance to their scheme on both sides of the ball,” said one scout who has watched the Cardinals closely but is not permitted to speak about them by his employer. “It’s like they just say, ‘We’re going to do what we planned to do, no matter what.’ But it’s not working.”

...bells went off.


The Cardinals’ opponents spent the summer preparing for what the Cardinals “do.”

Did the Cardinals coaching staff and players do the same for the Chiefs, Raiders and Rams?

The answer is obvious:

1st quarter points —- Opponents 31, Cardinals 0.

The arrogance to “do what we planned to do, no matter what” is the reason why we don’t see week to week or in-game adjustments from this coaching staff and the GM who is supposed to supervise them..

Well, that kind of arrogance is pure ignorance in the NFL.

This is why diligently prepared teams catch up to the Cardinals and surpass them with ease by the time Novemember rolls around.

Why have I been asking all of you repeatedly —- are Bidwill, Keim, Kliff, Vance and Kyler incorrigible?

In the NFL, you cannot win with a coaching staff who doesn’t diligently prepare for their opponents. Not only that, you cannot win doing the same things over and over.

The Cardinals were so easy for the Chiefs, Raiders and Rams to prepare for this off-season because nothing about Kliff’s offense and Vance’s defense has changed, other than a few personnel changes....oh, and to the delight of DCs, the tempo of the Cardinals offense has now been grinded down to a snail’s pace.

This arrogance that they can just keeping right on doing what they do —- is, in actuality, sheer laziness. It is an utter dereliction of responsibility.

Is it any wonder why Cardinals fans are getting fleeced, particularly at home where the Cardinals have lost their last 7 games. How’s that for treating the fans?

The Homework Clause?

This is an organizational issue. This has never been more clear.

If the GM and coaches aren’t doing their homework, how can they expect the players to do it?

How can Michael Bidwill be so blind to this?

This is precisely why the GM and coaches are failing not only their players, but are failing every Cardinals’ fan in the NFL universe.

The least we can expect is an honest day’s work.

This is precisely why —- unless things miraculously change in a hurry —- this GM, head coach and defensive coordinator must be expelled —- at once.

This isn’t just an F grade —- it is a big, fat zero.

As in 31-0.