To say Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is having a down year is to massively understate the reality. Fitzgerald, 30, is off to the worst statistical start since his rookie season in 2004, tallying just 39 receptions and 493 yards, though finding the end zone five times through the first nine games of the season.
Everyone sees the superstar’s struggles, so it’s no surprise that Fitzgerald’s own father, his namesake, does too.
On Tuesday, Larry Fitzgerald Sr. took to Twitter and seemed to allude to the Cardinals’ mis-stewardship of his son’s talent as a possible reason for the decline in performance, though never explicitly naming him nor the team in his tweet.
I saw a football game sunday where a gifted great player.A champion-Winner role model-team player is being used like a blocking tight end.
— Larry Fitzgerald Sr. (@FitzBeatSr) November 13, 2013
The elder Fitzgerald has long been known as outspoken, with tales of such complaining dating back to his son’s days as a Pop Warner legend in Metro Minneapolis-St. Paul. And a couple of years ago, Senior caused a stir by stating that his son “always wanted to be a Viking.”
But his latest verbal misstep, if not problematic to his son, head coach Bruce Arians and the Cardinals, may have some validity. As Yahoo! Sports points out, the 10-year veteran was made a run blocker on nearly half of his 66 offensive snaps against the Houston Texans. He finished the game with just three catches for 23 yards, though being targeted six times by quarterback Carson Palmer.
Earlier this season, former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner — who was under center during the best stretch of Fitzgerald Jr.’s career — weighed in on the usage of the Arizona receiver, saying the team needed to move him away from the slot and back out wide, where he thrives.
“You have a guy like Larry Fitzgerald and you want to get him the ball and you want to find ways to target him more often because he’s so dynamic,” he explained, “but I think one of the problems is they’re putting him inside so much that he loses some of what makes him great and what makes him great is getting in those one-on-one situations on the edge, using that big body, really stretching the field and getting those big chunks.”
Of course, to the point of Fitzgerald’s father, the more inside a receiver is, the more he blocking assignments he’ll get.
Perhaps for that reason, when Arians arrived in Glendale and told Fitzgerald Jr. of his plans to play him inside once in a while, the receiver “thought (he) was nuts.”
Fitzgerald Jr. leads the Cardinals in all major receiving categories this season, with 39 receptions, 493 yards and five touchdowns. Among players with four or more receptions, only Michael Floyd is averaging more yards per catch.