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Stars Shine in LA and Dwindle in Arizona

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Built from Day 1 to go “all-in” on winning Super Bowl LVI, the Rams, led by All Pros Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp got it done.

It wasn’t easy —- having lost WR Odell Beckham Jr. during the first half to a knee injury and with super street free agent FS Eric Weddle tearing a pec in the second half (but continuing to play) —- it took the best of the Rams’ vaunted pass rush to stifle Joe Burrow and the perfectly timed chemistry between QB Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp to pull off the late game heroics in clutch fashion.

It also wasn’t an easy day for Cardinals’ fans.

First, with the rumors surrounding Sean McVay’s, Aaron Donald’s and Andrew Whitworth’s potential retirements perhaps contingent on whether the Rams would win the Super Bowl, this created a conflict of interests for Cardinals’ fans.

Did you root for the Rams?

I was hoping to see the Bengals pull off the upset, but the consolation of the possible retirements was comforting, if indeed they happen.

The thought of waving goodbye to McVay and his 10-1 dominance over the Cardinals and astonishing 48-1 record when his Rams were leading a half-time, is extremely appealing. Like John Madden, who felt at a very young age like he had given the game all he had, Sean McVay could transition quickly into the broadcast booth and rise to the top of the profession, while raising his family the way he would prefer.

One of the major reasons why the Rams under McVay are 10-1 versus the Cardinals is Aaron Donald’s sheer dominance in the middle of the Rams’ defense, as Cardinals’ fans witnessed at its highest level back in Week 14 when Donald air lifted RG Max Garcia into Kyler Murray on the first play from scrimmage on his way to a 15 pressure 3 sack demolition of the Cardinals’ offense.

It’s hard to go back and remember that in Week 14 the Cardinals were atop the NFL rankings and had a 2 game lead over the Rams for the division, plus a potential tie breaker.

Not only did the Rams outscore the Cardinals 30-23, they beat up the Cardinals in the process (as they typically do, just ask Tyrann Mathieu and Carson Palmer), knocking DeAndre Hopkins out for the season with an MCL tear and diminishing the outstanding production from James Conner when he suffered an Achilles injury.

From that point forward the Cardinals would go 1-4 while the Rams would go 7-1. And the one game the Rams lost actually helped them, in that the 49ers were able to make the playoffs and then beat the #1 seed Packers at Lambeau Field.

Sometimes things can go right for a team when it loses a game.

That game, the 49ers 27-24 come from behind shocker, also happens to be the only game that Sean McVay’s Rams have lost when they had the lead at halftime. Unreal. What are the odds?

Throughout the entire season, destiny seemed to be on the Rams’ side. Even when the team was hit hardest by COVID, the league helped them out by rescheduling a game —- it’s utterly amazing that Cooper Kupp was able to play at an elite level while taking a 21 game physical pounding that few NFL WRs have ever had to endure —- Aaron Donald is nothing short of a super-human ironman who has never missed a game due to injury —- and the Rams were able to play 3 of their 4 playoff games at home, thanks to roaring past the Cardinals to win the NFC West, thanks to the 49ers upsetting the Packers, thanks to yet another late game set of heroics by Stafford, Kupp and Donald at Tampa Bay, and thanks to the Super Bowl being staged this year in LA.

As for the Cardinals, they once again succumbed to what can be described as the “Arians Curse” —-

Consider this, since the Rams made an effort to climb out of their “8-8 at best” mediocrity by hiring Sean McVay, the Rams have gone 62-29 with two trips to the Super Bowl, while the Cardinals have gone 35-46, -1 with only one winning season and one playoff berth.

The Rams’ beatdown of the Cardinals in Week 14 not only carried over into their 34-11 trouncing of the Cardinals in the Wild Card round, in another “insult to injury” game where the Cardinals’ lone ,All-Pro S Budda Baker, was carted off the field after suffering a scary head injury, it is now rumored that QB Kyler Murray’s scrubbing of all Cardinals’ related photos on his social media accounts is related to him feeling “embarrassed” by the loss and being “framed as a scapegoat.”

Then came the report that Kyler refused to go back onto the field at the end of the playoff game, telling and insisting to Colt McCoy, “I’m done.” Details here:

https://www.si.com/nfl/2022/02/13/kyler-murray-colt-mccoy-wild-card-loss

I imagine that every Cardinals’ fan has his or her own reactions to these reports. I will offer mine and then I hope you will take the time to offer yours.

  1. Murray is described as self-centered, immature and finger pointer, per sources.

At this point, I am not sure how anyone can refute these notions. I think that Kyler’s primary flaws are his stubbornness —-which is the main reason for this:

Some fans responded to this tweet by saying this is the result of bad coaching on the part of Kliff Kingsbury. Kliff has said on a number of occasions that he and Kyler each week pick out the plays that the young QB is “most comfortable” with.

Another flaw is Kyler’s naivete in believing that he has all the answers:

“I think I was blessed with the cognitive skills to just go out there and just see it before it happens,” Murray said. “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team and watch every game because, in my head, I see so much.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/23/sports/football/kyler-murray.html

If you are one of Kyler’s teammates who is busting his butt watching film, how would you react to this statement from you own QB?

Another flaw is Kyler’s sense of entitlement. Like Patrick Peterson, Kyler believes he deserves to play on his own terms. You know, the old star treatment.

Does it bother you when Kyler keeps repeatedly saying after losses, “I am not used to losing”?

That one has always stuck in my craw.

First of all, football is a team sport. Teams win games, not single individuals.

Secondly, what Kyler is saying can be interpreted as he feels like he is absolving himself and having to put up with a bunch of losers.

To a certain degree when teams are going through a culture change, a young player can see which players are making the sacrifices it takes to win and those who clearly are not.

However, the best leaders try to make very one of the players around him better. They commit themselves to being an answer to the team’s problems and not another part of the problem. Like J.J. Watt, for example.

Kyler’s stubbornness, naivete and sense of entitlement are the very issues that teams at the 2019 NFL Combine were questioning after their interviews with him.

There is no question that Kliff Kingsbury has made Kyler’s transition into the NFL easier by putting Kyler in the offense he’s always thrived in —- but, every coach and player has to keep modifying the offense to counter for what defenses are doing to take some of the bread and butter plays away. This is where Kliff has needed to call for Kyler to evolve his role as QB. Alas, Kliff has not been able to get through to Kyler to do so, particularly down the stretch, after three seasons.

Could that change in year four?

2. Murray is frustrated with franchise and was embarrassed by playoff loss to Rams and thinks he’s been framed as the scapegoat.

First of all, every player on the Cardinals was embarrassed by the playoff loss, specially J.J., Watt who made a heroic return and left everything he had out on the field. The same cannot be said about Kyler, who played his worst game as a pro and then refused to finish the game —- a telling sign that he quit on his teammates, which is akin to scrubbing his socials of all of their faces,

Secondly, every QB in the NFL should know and understand that the QB position is by far the most scrutinized. It’s a major part of the deal when you are the team’s starting QB. As his teammates Colt McCoy and Zach Ertz have said “QBs get too much of the credit when the team wins and too much of the blame when teams lose.” After three years in the NFL, Kyler should know better. His head coach does. Kliff never shies away for accepting his part of the blame.

Thirdly, if you are Colt McCoy, who has done his utmost best to support Kyler all year, how would it feel to you to be told by Kyler to do the mop-up duty?

The profound irony here is that Colt McCoy was running the offense far more efficiently than Kyler did after Kyler returned from his high ankle sprain. I was heavily criticized on December 22nd for posing this suggestion:

https://www.revengeofthebirds.com/2021/12/22/22849817/if-kyler-struggles-play-colt

The main reasons why the suggestion made sense to me is that for two years in a row, Kyler has not been nearly as effective after being injured —- and —- by virtue of the confidence that Colt McCoy brought to the team and fans like myself when he led the team to two huge road wins over the 49ers and Seahawks when Kyler, Hopkins and Edmonds were weekly in-actives.

As Herm Edwards said so well, “You play the game to win.”

3. Despite the acrimony, the Cardinals expect things to calm down and Murray is their QB.

Yeah, the Cardinals slinked out of the shadows of their now customary post-season “covert ops” to issue this statement:

“We as a team and Kyler individually have improved each year he’s been in the league. We are excited to continue that improvement in 2022 and are excited that Kyler Murray is the quarterback leading us.”

Raise your hand if you feel 100% convinced that the Cardinals are speaking the truth here. And that’s the main problem, isn’t it? How much trust do you have in Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim decision making prowess?

Seriously, let’s remind ourselves that hiring Kliff Kingsbury was Michael Bidwill’s decision based on advice he received from Ernie Accorsi and Adria Wilson.

If there is no Kingsbury, would there have ever been Kyler Murray?

Steve Keim said that he didn’t even want to look at Murray’s tapes and that it took him until the middle of March to warm up to the idea of drafting Kyler and therefore trading Josh Rosen.

Not only does the Cardinals’ organization lack the ability to get the front office, the coaches and players all on the same page, the Cardinals continue to be plagued by organizational stubbornness and cronyism. Bruce Arians may be gone, but his stubbornness and his cronyism have remained.

They expect Kyler Murray to “calm down”?

This is the THIRD year in a row where a Cardinals’ star player has scrubbed his social of all Cardinals’ related images —- and Kyler is the only one as of yet not to drop the other shoe by asking to be traded.

What wound up happening with Patrick Peterson? Did that have a feel-good ending?

What do you think is going to happen with Kyler’s buddy, Chandler Jones?

Put it this way —- does anyone think that this year’s Pro Bowl players were congratulating the Cardinals’ players for being a part of a such a solid, well-run organization?

4. Select veterans hope to reach Murray on how he handle adversity better.

After three years?

How many veterans were actually hoping Kliff would put Colt McCoy back in?

How many veterans feel a sense of loyalty to the way the Cardinals continue to do their “covert ops” style of business?

What veterans would have the balls to go in to Michael Bidwill’s office to tell him what needs to change?

5. Coach Kliff Kingsbury also is self-scouting where he can provide better alternatives for QB.

What in the world does this mean? Does anyone have a clue?

Does it mean that Kliff is coming up with new coaching strategies as to how to deal with Kyler? How to coach Kyler?

Or does it mean that Kliff is trying to come up a list of other options at QB?

Man, with no key changes to the Cardinals’ front office and coaching staff, Kliff must feel like a total lame duck, especially now that his prize QB has said, “I’m done.”

Kyler is hanging Kliff out to dry. And aside from how close the two of them have been, they share the same agent, Eric Burkhardt, who has thus far refused to comment.

Did Kyler think Kliff was hanging him out to dry when Kliff was entertaining and unwilling to refute the Oklahoma job interest?

But, knowing Kliff, he will believe that he can get excellent play from a variety of QBs, as he always has. So, at least, Kliff will try to go down swinging.

Conclusion:

What do you think needs to happen?

I think that if Michael Bidwill doesn’t make immediate changes at GM, OL coach, DC and LB coach, then it doesn’t matter in 2022 who the head coach and starting QB are.

The stubbornness and cronyism manifested on a yearly basis by the owner has led to the ongoing fact that no top level head coach wants to even interview in Arizona and thus no star QB would want any part of this organization, unless he is at the back end of his career and is running out of options.

As for Kyler, with regard to the way the Cardinals do their business and accept mediocrity, I can understand much of his frustration, But, I also acknowledge that, unless some significant changes are made, then Kyler would likely prefer to move on, rather than play another snap for the Cardinals. Kyler has a history of moving on when he does not like his current climate.