As each NFL team is officially eliminated from postseason contention, the Eye on Football crew will whip up a review of that team's 2012 season. Today, we look at the Cardinals. For more of our End of the Road series, click here.
What Went Wrong
A publishing error pushed Arizona's End of the Road piece back a week, but perhaps it was a sign not to write off everyone from the desert just yet: the Cardinals blew out the similarly hapless Detroit Lions in Week 15. That win didn't do anything to mitigate the nightmare that is the Cards quarterback situation, which might be the worst in the NFL. At the very least, it's a bottom-three setup, competing with the Jets and Chiefs.
Kevin Kolb helped the team to a 4-0 record early, but even his start wasn't as rosy as it's now remembered; Kolb and John Skelton engaged in the football version of a slapfight during the preseason, with Skelton eventually winning the job. When he suffered an injury in Week 1 against Seattle, Kolb stepped in and led the team to a game-winning drive. Kolb's last game was Week 6 against Buffalo (he's currently on injured reserve) and Arizona's last win before the game against Detroit. Ryan Lindley's been a disaster and the trio of quarterbacks must be fixed before next year, if only to keep superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (having the worst year of his career) from going insane.
The biggest problem for Arizona might actually be the offensive line. Levi Brown -- sandwiched in the 2007 NFL Draft between Joe Thomas and Adrian Peterson! -- is a big-time bust and it was, somehow, devastating when he went down. D'Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie have been disasters in all facets of the game and could be the reason Aldon Smith breaks Michael Strahan's record.
None of these issues exactly helped the running game either. Ryan Williams flashed the upside everyone thought he might have, right before he suffered his second-straight season-ending injury. Beanie Wells was on the PUP, then off the PUP, then on IR, then off IR, the he scored three touchdowns, but still, he's not that great. Blame the Lions. The reality is you can't get away with being a team that only competes on one side of the ball in today's NFL, and that's what Arizona does without someone to get Fitz the ball.
What Went Right
Here's the good news: Arizona's defense was legit good enough to keep them undefeated for the first month of the NFL season. Provided they're able to keep the pieces together (and they should be able to keep most of them). Patrick Peterson has had another very good year, Daryl Washington is criminally underrated and Calais Campbell is a stud and locked up, to name a few key pieces. There should be some concern about whether Darnell Dockett is happy however, but he seems fine when the team's winning (see: him hanging up on me last year amid a losing streak), so I suppose they should do more of that.
It'll be interesting to see what happens in Arizona this offseason. Beating Detroit isn't guaranteed to save Ken Whisenhunt's job, but given the length of time remaining on his deal and the Bidwell family's propensity to, ahem, not spend money, the bet is he stays. There's almost no chance that he can get away with not mixing up his coaching staff though; the offensive side of the ball is too bad to get away with the status quo.
Ray Horton's a guy who could get a look from other franchises for a head-coaching job. But the Cards fall from shockingly-hot team to an are-they-the-worst-squad-in-football scenario might be detrimental to his rising status as a potential coach. That would be a good thing for Arizona.
The front office, including GM Rod Graves, should be a little concerned considering their attempts to aquire a quarterback haven't gone well. The trade for Kolb -- which involved giving up Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick to the Eagles -- was an unmitigated disaster. That pick ultimately ended up being the 51st overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft; Russell Wilson, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins were all taken well after that pick. (Although Arizona also passed on them with the 80th overall pick too, so ... yeah.)
Kolb looks like a good bet to be gone -- he's due $9 million in salary in 2012 and a $2 million roster bonus in March. He's 6-8 in two years playing for the Cardinals, having completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 3,124 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 seasons. The best thing Arizona could do at this point is admit their mistake.
As of right now, the Cardinals are sitting at 11th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Rob Rang and Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com have different ideas about what the Cards will do at this stage, but both make sense. Rang has Arizona taking quarterback Matt Barkley of USC while Brugler has them taking tackle Taylor Lewan of Michigan.
Both make sense when it comes to need; I'd prefer the move to grab an offensive lineman, provided using the top pick on an offensive lineman doesn't convince Arizona that Kolb's the guy. They simply can't expect to succeed in any facet of offense with their current group of offensive linemen and between Luke Joeckel/Jake Matthews of Texas A&M, Lewan, Chance Warmack of of Alabama and Jonathan Cooper of UNC, there's a ton of offensive line talent in this draft.
Barkley's definitely in play should the Cardinals, as Rob notes, feel the "pressure" of not having a quarterback and decide to pull trigger. But I'd venture they try and make a move in free agency or via trade (Matt Flynn, Michael Vick, Alex Smith come to mind) before the draft, making it too redundant to draft a QB in the first round.
Regardless of what they do with their first selection, Arizona needs to figure out a way to drastically improve their offensive line and upgrade their quarterback situation ASAP.
2013 Will Be ...
Offensive. Either Arizona will improve the line, get a new (or older?) quarterback to come on and they'll actually begin to produce on the offensive end of things. Or, alternately, they could draft another wide receiver in the first round -- how's Michael Floyd working out??? -- fail to improve the line and roll dice with Lindley/Skelton/Kolb again next season. Which would be the most offensive move of all.
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