Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Nov 2010

ESPN: Missed Moves Doom Cardinals

In this week's Monday Night Football feature for ESPN Insider, Doug Farrar details how the Cardinals left themselves unprepared for the loss of veterans before the 2010 season.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 27 Nov 2010

19 comments, Last at 29 Nov 2010, 11:58pm by Spielman


by Randy Hedberg (not verified) :: Sat, 11/27/2010 - 6:15pm

Summary: The Cards lost Warner, Boldin, Dansby, and Rolle from last season, and their replacements haven't been as good.

To me, the QB play has been the difference. Even the Super Bowl edition of two years ago was barely above average in any area but their passing game. This article blames the drop-off on the front office's failure to prepare an adequate replacement for Warner, but was there any indication Matt Leinart would implode as spectacularly as he did? Seems like you might want to give your top-10 QB with limited experience a chance...

by dmb :: Sun, 11/28/2010 - 11:40am

"Seems like you might want to give your top-10 QB with limited experience a chance..."

Right, which is why it's so odd that Wisenhunt didn't.

by Loki13 (not verified) :: Sat, 11/27/2010 - 6:27pm

The lesson is really simple.

Even assuming that Leinart had the locker room presence of Randy Moss on a bad catering day and an arm like a wet noodle, you have to give him a chance when your other options are:

A. Derek Friggin' Anderson (I believe he had his middle name legally changed)

B. Undrafted rookie.

Because these were the other options, they had to go with Leinart. If they had even a scintilla of doubt, they should have gotten another QB!

Is any other analysis needed?

by dmb :: Sun, 11/28/2010 - 11:45am

Well, the Cardinals' defense has gone from a 0.3% DVOA, good for 11th in the league, to 10.7%, 25th in the league. Although you could describe Anderson with whatever antonym of Warner's superlative play that you'd like, it's hard to imagine that the rather significant defensive decline has anything to do with who's taking snaps.

by Andrew Potter :: Sun, 11/28/2010 - 12:40pm

If the offense can't sustain drives, stay on the field, score points, or get their defense a break of longer than a couple of minutes, surely that's going to have a significant effect on the defense due to a mixture of pressure ("if I make one mistake, we're losing this game as the offense won't let us come back"), fatigue/lack of rest, and frustration?

by dmb :: Sun, 11/28/2010 - 1:55pm

It's pretty easy to find teams that have strong defenses and bad offenses, so if there is such an effect, I doubt it is very significant.

by db :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:00am

Ever play the game at any level? Didn't think so.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:50am

By all means disagree with his opinion, but a little justification of your disagreement would be much more useful to the overall discussion than outright ad-hominem dismissal.

by dmb :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:03pm

Actually, I have -- though admittedly not at a high level.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:02am

Of course, but aren't we dealing with a "worse than bad" offense? Arizona has the second worst offense in the league at -28.6% DVOA. Only one team has an offensive DVOA below -10 and still posts a negative defensive DVOA (Chicago, -23.8%, -9.3%). Only two teams have an offensive DVOA below -5 and still post a negative defensive DVOA (the other team is San Francisco, -9.1%, -0.1%) and even then the defensive DVOA is basically 0. Is that because any team with a below average offense (there's a fairly clear division between Cincinatti and Detroit) is bad from the ground up, or because there's a correlation in bad offense affecting the ability of the defense (with Chicago as the only outlier)?

It's perhaps worth a study - unfortunately requiring time I don't have (and I wouldn't really know how best to analyse it anyway).

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:10am

Further to this, the only team I can see that fits the "strong defense, bad offense" description this season is Chicago. All the other strong defenses by DVOA have either average (Tennessee, NYG), good (Pittsburgh, Green Bay, San Diego), or very good (Philadelphia) offenses to complement them.

Interestingly, the reverse is not true. Good offense most certainly does not seem to pair up with good defense, as exemplified by New England and Houston.

by amarquis :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 9:40am

The Cards are currently at 31st for time of possession with 26:40 per game, and the Bears are middlin' with about 30 minutes.

I looked at a couple of other years, and the time of possession swing between best and worst is never really that large. I expected that the worst offenses would be a downward spiral: punt early, get behind, and then live off of pass-heavy attacks that don't burn much game clock.

by dmb :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:11pm

A couple things I agree with:

Through last week, Chicago was actually the only team that fit "bad offense, good defense." But looking through previous years, it's generally pretty easy to pick out a few teams that fit the bill. For example, I'd say that last years' Jets, Bills, and 49ers would all qualify.

I also agree that it's a topic worthy of further research.

Anyway, to further the point made by amarquis, the difference in the Cardinals' time of possession from last year to this is 3 minutes and 4 seconds. So that's on average, what, about six plays? And considering how frequently teams substitute, only a handful of defenders are likely to actually be playing six additional plays. I suppose playing 4-6 extra plays a game per defender could make a difference, but I suspect that it's negligible in comparison to losing Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle.

by tonic889 (not verified) :: Sat, 11/27/2010 - 10:28pm

Always found it surprising they didn't go after Bulger, given their previous success with ex-Rams QBs allegedly past their prime..

by John (not verified) :: Sun, 11/28/2010 - 12:40am

As a Colts fan watching Manning approach (however yet remote) the end of his career, this particular cautionary tale scares me.

by db :: Sun, 11/28/2010 - 2:10am

All we really know about Leinart is that he couldn't beat out Warner and that Whisenhut doesn't like him. What we know about Whisenhut is the Steelers had him, knew him and didn't want him. He is, in my opinion, a guy who got lucky with an aging HOF QB and is now being exposed as the no talent pee brained POC that he is. I don't expect a contract extension is likely.

by tuluse :: Sun, 11/28/2010 - 3:05am

Just to float a theory here, is there a chance the Cardinals intentionally went with the worst set of QBs they could to go for a high draft pick to get another one?

by Adam B. :: Sun, 11/28/2010 - 11:31am

We in Philadelphia remain shocked that this isn't where McNabb ended up. It's where he maintains his offseason home.

by Spielman :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 11:58pm

Every time I watch them play, I want to yell at Ken Whisenhunt, "He's Derek Anderson! What the hell were you expecting to happen?"

Tonight has been pretty brutal.