The 2022 Arizona Cardinals were coming off of a 1-5 finish to the season in which, while mostly healthy outside of DeAndre Hopkins and Rodney Hudson, they had started out 10-2 with a undefeated start to the season.
Coming into this year there were questions, both short-term and long-term about how Arizona would respond and also an incredible amount of drama revolving around the extensions handed out to the front office and Kyler Murray...
And thus far this season, the idea of running it back (aka Injuries was the issue) has seen the opposite of what was likely the intended outcome:
- Multiple injuries to the offensive line and suspensions/injuries to almost the entire receiving core as well
- Defensively, Arizona has been inconsistent—they’ve made big plays and forced turnovers but on the very next drive display an inability to rush the passer, stop the run and stop the pass or hold teams out of the endzone.
- Kyler Murray has regressed and is on part for his lowest statistical output since his rookie season, in which the Cardinals were coming off of a 3-13 year.
- The kicking situation has been anything but stable, with Arizona using 4 kickers on the season, with one of them being so bad that he was benched after missing an extra point.
- Kliff Kingsbury’s seen plenty of criticism as a play caller and the team’s inability to throw downfield while Vance Joseph’s defense had Budda Baker saying that players
So in the end what is the CORE of what’s happened with the Arizona Cardinals this season?
Strictly speaking, most people had been discussing if the offensive struggles were a Kliff Kingsbury issue, or if last week’s Rams win showed it was more on Kyler Murray.
Instead, it’s simply that the Cardinals aren’t talented enough.
The injuries are rough but the talent on defense (one that was run over in the ground game) has been mostly intact and the team had no other players to go to offensively besides DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore’s backup in Greg Dortch (who wasn’t even slated to play!)
And that puts the onus not just on Kliff and Keim but the surrounding cast and general manager Steve Keim.
The Cardinals’ efforts to build a competitive team of veterans finally hit in 2021, only to see Watt, Hopkins and Hudson leave and the team seemingly hasn’t recovered since.
The choice to run it back and draft to fill gaps, while addressing the now versus the “build for the future” model was controversial at the time. But it has been Steve Keim’s M.O. for as long as he’s been the team’s general manager.
Cards GM Steve Keim on this year’s Cards Flight Plan training camp episode (which was fantastically done by the way): “I think you have to go for it every year.” pic.twitter.com/0nHfXrcYXO— Blake Allen Murphy (@blakemurphy7) September 30, 2019
Undoubtedly, Arizona being shorter on the talent end of the stick is unfortunate, and the question then comes...is it a down year due to bad luck, or is a change of direction needed?
There are two previous times that Michael Bidwill has reset the Cardinals with a change of direction (the third being when Bruce Arians retired, versus any sort of firing.
In 2012, Bidwill spoke about how the direction the team and head coach was going in the wrong direction.
That’s almost word for word what’s happened this season. 10 years ago, crazy.
In the 2018 season, Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim came forward and essentially said “We hired the wrong guy”. And that they went in another direction.
“When you made a mistake, admit it and move forward.”—Michael Bidwill.
Their pivot to Kliff Kingsbury and the following turnaround showed some promise, but the collapses each year and continued lack of draft success seems to have finally caught up to the Arizona Cardinals as they were unable to surpass the 49ers defense with the lack of skill players beyond Hopkins or a decent line and even Kyler Murray was injured.
The construction of the team put efforts into the wide receivers and paid defensive backs and drafted linebackers...but when it’s mattered most they’ve struggled to tackle and get off the field.
The offense looks broken. The defense looks broken. The special teams has cost them points and games.
The 2022 Arizona Cardinals are a consistently inconsistent sometimes competitive (versus worse opponents) team this season.
They’re not talented enough.
And I think that this past game without Kyler Murray has shown how while he has his flaws, Arizona is 38-10 away without him and needs to figure out an answer to maximize his talents. Kliff Kingsbury looks like a coach without the guys to compete...SF was just better. They ran the ball one entire drive down the field while Arizona had 6 plays of negative runs on first down.
Usually you talk about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but there’s been an inability of being able to make the “Go For It Every Year” Steve Keim method work.
The Cardinals paid their quarterback and he hasn’t paid dividends...but neither has everyone else.
I think the path forward is pretty easy.
Arizona has winnable games on their schedule this season, and their back half isn’t easy, but it wouldn’t shock me if the Cardinals could hit the reset button should Arizona go on to get only 1 more win this season similar to their 2012 year. But before that...
On the bright side?
It ain’t over yet. Sure the playoffs is a stretch but they have a winnable game next week against the Chargers, and the Cardinals’ second half schedule follows a bye week in which they get back Hollywood Brown and Kyler Murray. Maybe even a Rodney Hudson.
If the brass can show the leadership was there and it was bad luck or misfortune, a win against the Chargers and going on a run w/ a solid offense under Murray could do a lot to redeem Keim, Kliff and more.
Maybe it won’t redeem the issues that have plagued Arizona, from the contractual issue with Kyler Murray and his study clause to the team’s refusal to address glaring needs.
And truthfully, it probably is a needed reset if this is the state of the Cardinals in a “must win” game for their season when it comes to the talent evaluation.
Until then, every game counts.
Because even if you’re not in the playoffs, the NFL is “not for long” and jobs should certainly be on the line for the Cardinals the rest of this year.