Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

24 Aug 2017

House of Cards. Who’s fault is this?

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wrote this article right after the Draft 2017. This is just a point a view from abroad, but i hope you'll enjoy it. I would be happy to get any feedback, thank you in advance.

House of Cards. Who’s fault is this?

At first, Larry Fitzgerald ran through the whole Grand Canyon, and then brought the victory in the overtime in the next game, beating Packers. Then followed the awful game from Carson Palmer, the defeat by Carolina Panthers, fans’ anguish and the hopes for the next season. The NFL draft is a wonderful time, when each draft pick seems to be at least an effective starter for a few following years and, at most, a future member of the Hall of Fame. This is the time of hopes and rave reviews from coaches during OTA for each new recruit sounds like: “He is learning the routes”, “He needs to polish his technique”, “He rocked us, everybody talks about him.”

We all know how Cards fared after this period: 7-8-1, no playoff for the Red Sea. Not only W-L balance was disappointing, but the game quality was pretty bad as well. As Bruce Arians said later, Cards lacked two field-goals to get to the post season. As can be seen from the above, the guilty are charged and brought to trial.

Why do I write this now, as we stand at the threshold of the new season? It seemed that we could forget the previous year as a nightmare and have enough of Kool-Aid while waiting for the last chance for Larry Fitzgerald to get the ring. But I would share my opinion about the reasons for the disastrous season right now as the fans’ wounds are healed, the draft is over, the free agents are gone and have come. This is just a private judgment without any attempt to convince someone of something.

So, whose fault is this?

The version Number 1. Chandler Catanzaro and the song of the nameless long-snapper.

Bruce Arians, as mentioned above, set all dogs on the young Clemson graduate. Indeed, two games are lost, New England took the victory, there is the tie with Seattle (or the team just barely managed to stay alive?), thanks to the Steven Hauschka’s mistake. It was a real fun to watch how the coaches competed in the anger management during the post match press conference. Carroll said he supports Hauschka and “he is our boy”. Arians: “You are paid to score field goals. Score, not miss.”

Feel the difference.

So, what we have in the end?
Catanzaro joined Todd Bowles in Jets, the nameless long-snapper (well, ok, I actually remember him, Kam Canaday), responsible for the awful ball throwing at the season’s start, is kicked out before the fall of the Christmas. Catanzaro was replaced by the bicentennial man Phil Dawson from San Francisco. According to the Headquarter's plan, this must work.

Alternative version Number 1. Amos Jones.

Who is Amos Jones? This is the Cardinals special team coordinator and the friend of Bruce. They went the long and wearisome way together hand in hand. They’ve been in the same league since 1983, since the times of Temple Owls coaching. Bruce Arians on his friend: «Amos is a hell of a coach» (с).

Through the year 2016, Cards gained 544 yards on returns, the opponents’ average gain is 671 yards. The Arizona’s average return distance 21.8 yards, the opponents have it at 23.1 yards. Jones’s team scored 3269 yards on punts. The opponents have it at 3633 yards. The punt’s average distance is 41.1 and 45.4 accordingly. The filed goals realization percentage is rather depressive: 75% against 89.3% from the guys on the other side of scrimmage. This is Hell of a coaching in full play.

The coaching personnel wears the t-shirts with the following writing - “Trust. Loyalty. Respect”. It appears that loyalty and trust are the only things that saves Amos Jones from retirement. What Bruce tells us? Yes, the reporters have been pointing out at this many time. The answer is simple: “Amos is not the one who runs long-snaps, Amos is not the one who tries to score field goal or extra point, Amos is not the one who returns punt or kicks it.” He is not the one to blame.

Moreover, during the season's run the unlucky punter Drew Butler gets injured and everybody tries to save his place in the roster. It feels like “Saving Private Ryan” movie. Cardinals tried to save his place in 53 man roster by cutting down the 5 round’s pick Marqui Christian. The grand design behind this was simple: we cut down the boy, nobody picks him, we claim him off waiver, profit. But something goes wrong and the promising safety (according to scouts’ reviews) is picked by the rivals Rams.

However, Arizona had two punters at that time. While Drew Butler battled the injury, the reporters asked hard question: “Why does the team need him?” The usual answer was: “He will play as field goal holder. He has the experience”. By the way, the back up-quarterback Drew Stanton played as holder before, but who the hell cares, when the team obeys the “Trust-Loyalty-Respect” creed.

Ironically, Drew Butler was kicked off the team later. The bottom line is: punter’s game was awful and mindless loss of the pick was even worse. We can endlessly blame Catanzaro, the punter, returner or any other player, but who trains them? Who’s showing them where to stand, where to run and what to do? The rot starts at the top. Amos Jones should give away his signature T-shirt.

The version Number 2. The players aren’t showing their full potential.

Bruce Arians scolded the team on the press conferences, blaming them for the lack of motivation, the lack of desire to put in work on the field. Why haven’t they realized the third down? The ordered play was pretty good, but the receiver made the mistake. He didn’t manage to get open. Where is the touchdown? The ordered play was pretty good too, but the runner didn’t manage to find the gap. He ran and thought slowly. The ordered play is always a good thing, but the players spoil the grand design. So, speaking by the words of Larry King, what happened to the submarine? It drowned. As all the hopes together with it.

Alternative version Number 2. The problem is how people think.

It is strange to hear the phrase like “everybody is to blame but me”. I have never been in the Cardinals locker rooms, but according to my personal experience I can surely say that the mood among the guys after hearing such things can be pretty oppressive. We can put the blame on one particular player. But other variants can be considered.

We all remember the hype around “All or nothing” motto, devoted to Arizona before the start of 2016 season. Bruce obsessively repeated “you either a champion or nothing”. Super bowl or bust - this is our motto. We will win. We are ready to take the trophy.

This was widely discussed on the NFL official website and other sport resources. The rankings were complied and predictions were made, the experts shouted about Arizona’s big chances of getting to Super bowl, many columns reported that Cards should have bring the rings to Fitzgerald and Palmer, because the “Super bowl window” will close soon for the current team roster. It is now or never.

Later comes out eight episode of “All or nothing” with the same message: you need to get the trophy! It is now or never!
I honestly think that it was senseless and mediocre hype, which broke the team’ spirit. It seems that instead of playing safe, the players were boggled in their attempts to overachieve. They simply panicked and failed to soberly evaluate the situation. Instead of falling on the ball after Bills’ fumble and getting a possession, Tyrann Mathieu, during the game against Buffalo, tried to catch it on feet to bring it right to the endzone. As a result, he couldn’t hold onto the ball and it went over the sideline. Buffalo continued to dominate the field and enjoy their profoundly good running game. The same refers to almost every single match.

Your coach berates you during the press conference, blames you for not doing the best and ruining everything he had carefully planned. The press is puzzled at what is taking place. They ask why the hell didn’t you score the decisive field goal while you want to take the bowl. Our minds repeat the motto “It is now or never”, but 3 of our starters on offensive line are injured and the quarterback throws dragons into a double coverage, but run, Forest, run! You have to take the bowl!

Everybody knows what it is to burn out. Some battles are lost before they begin. Who is in charge of creating the right climate within the team? There are veterans who become the mentors for the young generation of players. But this is the work for coaches too - bring in the right climate, motivate, find the right approach to each member of team. They failed.

Version number 3 (combined). Weak draft.

The first round puck Robert Nkemdiche sat on the bench the whole season because of the lack of motivation and he didn’t have mature approach to his trainings. With Calais Campbell leaving the team, somebody must step up and Nkemdiche has all the chances to take the place in D-line, but right now the future is dim. By the way, D. J. Humphries, the first round pick of 2015, after sitting out the whole year proved to be a capable right tackle and successfully replaced Jared Veldheer as left tackle, when the latter suffered an injury.

The second round pick was sold for Chandler Jones, the only pick, which brought some good to the team in the 2016 campaign.

The third round - Brandon Williams, the former running back, who played a year as a cornerback in Texas A&M. He is very raw prospect, but got the respect from Cards’ coaching staff for the speed and his height. He was the reason for the two big plays in the game with Patriots, which resulted in two touchdowns. He played the season unsteadily, gave his place to Marcus Cooper, which played with varied success as well.

The forth round - Evan Boehm, center. He probably will be playing the right guard in the new season. He is solid and smart player, which can evolve to the killer game changer on the O-line.

The fifth round - Marqui Christian, safety, leaved the team for Rams. The common sense won him over.

The firth round - Cole Toner, tackle. Almost zero information after year has passed.

The six round - Harlan Miller, cornerback. Too little sample size, he has shown us his bad sides (had some problems with tackling) and the good ones (he is fast, has the ability to foresee what is about to happen on field).

Well, maybe It is quite early to make a conclusion, but draft-class 2016 looks bleak against the draft class 2015, where D. J. Humphries, Marcus Golden, David Johnson, Rodney Gunter and J. J. Nelson become starters in different time intervals. Marcus Golden became a leader of the team in sacks, and I will not even mention David Johnson. There are only two picks, who didn't manage to show their best with the team: Shaq Riddick and Gerald Christian.
But, my friends, I think you would agree that 5 starters from 7 picks is quite an excellent number. We can easily forget about the last two heroes.

2017 season considerations

Draft 2017 looks promising. Haason Reddick and Budda Baker, in my opinion, can easily blend into the team and and successfully impact the game. Chad Williams, the third round pick, the receiver from the small Grambling state program, managed to show good game on Senior Bowl, though he was not invited to NFL Combine.

Despite the fact that draft class 2016 was quite weak, Steve Keim and Bruce Arians managed to pick two very good players within 4 years from the small programs in 3 round - John Brown (Pittsburgh State) and David Johnson (Northern Iowa).

I have read the scout reports which claimed that Chad Williams is the Corey Davis version for poor. Larry Fitzgerald will probably end his career after the season 2017, which opens a good opportunity for a new player.

The situation around quarterback positions is frightening. Rumor has it that this is the last season for Carson Palmer. Drew Stanton is incapable of becoming the full-fledged starter - he is competent back up and a really good sideline dancer, but this is the end of his merits. Blaine Gabbert and Trevor Knight from Texas A&M, signed up as undrafted player, will contest for the position of the third QB. Can anyone of them become a starter player? I really doubt it.

Many experts expected Cards recruiting a new quarterback in the upcoming draft, but this didn't happen. It means that the choice will be made before the next season.

Summary

I believe that the notorious “Super bowl window” has been closed with the bang. Everybody needs to get rid of illusions and high expectations for the season 2017 and start gradually reforming the team. It is necessary to find “the right” quarterback. It is necessary to stop being overly loyal and finally fire Amos Jones, which is the stone that drags the club down. And may be after this the world’s oldest football team would finally take the Super Bowl.

Sincerely yours, DB

Posted by: Dmitry Burmatov on 24 Aug 2017

0 replies