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Op-Ed: Cardinals’ Owner, GM and HC sold players short from the get-go

Fortunately for Texans’ fans, their GM and HC had bigger ideas and no “off buttons”

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Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

A year and four days ago, I was eagerly connecting the dots with regard to the instant “alignment” Monti Ossenfort would have with Brian Flores. if you re-isten to the first 20 minutes of this Red Rain, I provide a host of reasons why Flores would have been a slam dunk for the Cardinals —— especially in the way he stifled Kyle Shanahan’s and Sean McVay’s offenses in going 3-1 vs. the NFC West (including a blueprint as to how to try to slow down Kyler Murray) as the head coach and defensive mastermind of the Dolphins.

If you click on this article by Jeremy Cluff of the Arizona Republic, he included some of my thoughts about the impact Brian Flores could have in Arizona.

Brian Flores Arizona Cardinals coach speculation swirls after Monti Ossenfort GM hire (yahoo.com)

I was deeply surprised and concerned when Brian Flores was not among the first set of candidates whom MB and MO interviewed. Then, finally on the day of Flores’ interview, I was appalled to hear the newsbreak that the Cardinals were rushing in Dan Quinn for a second interview.

I say appalled for two reasons: (1) I knew there was no chance that Dan Quinn would take the Cardinals job and that, like Sean Payton later on, the interview was their attempt to put pressure on the Broncos to offer him the job; (2) one of the main points of Brian Flores’ lawsuit with the NFL is how minority head coaching candidates are routinely given token interviews because of the Rooney Rule. Therefore, for Brian Flores,to hear the very second he leaves the interview with the Cardinals, that Michael Bidwill and Monti Ossenfort are rushing in Dan Quinn for a second interview, it was same ol’ sh^%, different day.

It’s no wonder why Brian Flores declined to interview with the Cardinals a second time.

So, why then was Brian Flores not the heavy favorite to get the Cardinals’ head coaching job?

When Monti Ossenfort was asked by the Arizona media just how much diversity would be a factor in his hiring practices, Michael Bidwill jumped right in and said how diversity could play a significant role in whom they hire as head coach. Hmmm.

On the one hand, if Michael Bidwill were to hire Brian Flores he could help to assuage and mollify the allegations made about Bidwill’s egregious handling of Steve Wilks and about the complaints of workplace malpractice that have been issued by black employees at the Cardinals’ headquarters.

Yet, on the other hand, hiring Brian Flores, who speaks black truth to white power, could put greater pressure on the owner to toe the proper lines.

That could have been the best thing ever for Bidwill and the organization.

But here’s the clincher ——

If Bidwill wanted to hire a head coach who would be ok with the kind of rebuild that would put no pressure at all on the coach to win games in year one, then Brian Flores is not that coach. In fact, he would be the last head coach an owner —- who is ok about losing games for another year —- would want to hire. Just ask Stephen M. Ross.

(I wrote the caveat above about as euphemistically as I possibly could —- you get what i mean?)

When I was going through my 11-year history of Lindy’s NFL Preview titles for the Cardinals, one that stood out as much as any other was:

  • 2013: Cardinals Supposedly Reloading, Not Rebuilding (Bob McManaman) -skeptical-no

Look at the way Bruce Arians came in with his “no risk it, no biscuit” mentality.

Very similar to the way DeMeco Ryans approached his rookie year.

“Rebuild” ain’t in their lexicons.

Both Arians’ 2013 Cardinals and Ryans’ 2023 Texans started out slowly, but kept their noses to the grindstone and started to win games —- in fact, 10 games.

On their respective sides of the ball they coordinated the schemes and brought the type of professional wisdom that gave their players a competitive edge.

Had the 2023 Cardinals made a better decision from the get-go as who would be the interim QB (heck, even Joe Flacco. was available) and had they taken the added $10+M in cap space and added a few more key additions on the defensive line and at CB, as it turned out, they could have been 3-0 to start the season.

Think of how different the season could have been, especially with the prospects of Kyler Murray returning at the half-way point.

Had Jonathan Gannon truly made each position a competition without coming to any pre-conceived decisions about who and where veterans should play (like Humphries, Jones, Collins, Simmons, White and Woods), he could have kept an open mind and learned first-hand on the practice field who was the right and best fit at every position.

For all of you crying “worst roster in NFL” —-

Look at this:

Updated NFL roster rankings for all 32 teams: Strengths, weaknesses, rookies to watch and more | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF

Worst 10 NFL Rosters 2023 —- Per PFF:

23. GB —- over/under 7.7 —- 10 wins —- Wild Card

24. CAR —- over/under 7.5 —- 2 wins

25. TEN —- over/under 7.5 —- 6 wins

26. DEN —- over/under 8.5 —- 8 wins

27. ATL —- over/under 8.5 —- 7 wins

28. TB —- over/under 6.5 —- 10 wins —- NFC South Champion

29. HOU —- over/under 5.5 —- 11 wins —- AFC South. Champions

30. IND —- over/under 6.5 —- 9 wins

31. LAR —- over/under 6.5 —- 10 wins —- Wild Card

32. ARI —- over/under 4.5 —- 4 wins (3 over 2023 playoff teams, no less)

The last thing an NFL GM and HC should ever do is sell their players short.

Once a GM and HC shows they are ok with losing games, it’s the kind of “off” button that sends out a piercing alarm.

It’s like a selling of football souls.

There is so much more to be lost by not giving the team every iota of a chance to win, than adopting a dubious mantra of “this year we dip so next year we rip.”

When a GM and HC adopt this type of passive resignation to losing, it means they are using their own players as pawns and mere props.

And when you make the kind of rash personnel decisions in exiling and ostracizing players which effectively weakens the roster and the team’s chances to win, it causes players, who are being asked to take all of the lumps for the GM and HC to fear losing their jobs. Good thing?

Would you rather have players playing out of fear than playing out of pure desire and confidence?

Losing football games is the most painful an experience as there is in sports. After each grueling game, players are not only physically beat up, they are mired up to the crowns of their heads in mental agony. As Herm Edwards said so well, “You play to WIN the game!”

Take it from this baller of a HC who played in the NFL:

To ask players to sacrifice themselves this year for next year —-when so many of them won’t even be on the team next year —- is a form of abject cruelty.

We once had a new department head in my English department at Foxborough High School who pulled me aside one day and said, “Dan (a new veteran teacher whom she had hired) and I have decided that with this being our first year at the school we are going to allow ourselves to be “B” teachers this year.”

I said, “you know that kind of allowance is unacceptable, right?”

“No, first years at schools are very difficult,” she replied.

My response: “You owe it to the students to bring your “A” game, no matter what. You cannot give them the short stick. Besides, if there is any year to set them most positive tone for the betterment of yourself and everyone in the building, it’s your first year. You do it out of respect.”

Predictably, both employees were let go after year two.

And now, as for Jonathan Gannon, his parting words to the team was “we’re starting over from scratch next year” —- on all three levels.

Oh —- you mean next year he is actually going to try to win?

I have never seen a HC so comfortable with losing and so much of an aloof spectator on the sidelines. If you are coaching to win games, do you not throw a single red challenge flag throughout the course of 16 games? Do you meet the media after each loss looking unperturbed with what had just transpired?

It was unbearable to watch the utter disparity of watching Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and 72-year-old Pete Carroll work the opposite sidelines with such intensity and passion than a rookie head coach who was the first Cardinals’ head coach to go winless in the division by a scoring differential of 163-78.

The “off button” switch —- once its off is very hard to turn back on and it gets all too easy to turn off again.

The “off button” is the last thing any GM, coach or player should have in the game of football.

And if you think this HC is responsible for some kind of seismic culture change in Arizona, that’s a fantasy.

JJ Watt left behind a cultural blueprint —- a torch, if you will —- that James Conner, Budda Baker and Dennis Gardeck have also blazed from the moment they became Cardinals.

True leadership comes from the players.

True leaders play hard no matter who the coach is.

The players play for the pride of playing for each other.

As a former Patriot Danny Amendola said so perfectly, “I worked for Bill, but I played for Tom.”

Chris Hogan reiterates it here:

Which is precisely the reason why —- you never want to sell the players short and deprive them of the most optimum opportunities to win. Let alone treat them like steppingstones or even worse, as sacrificial lambs.

The saving grace, thank goodness, came from Drew Petzing who kept evolving the offense as the season went along and provided great hope with the level of play he got down the stretch from James Conner, a highly tenacious offensive line, a budding star in Trey McBride a couple of nifty playmakers in Michael Wilson and Greg Dortch and the enthusiastic way in which Kyler Murray rose to the challenge of running a new style of offense.

Yet —- the HC wants the offense to “start from scratch” next year too.