If we were making a list of the decisions that the Lon Babby/Lance Blanks regime got right…a full 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper would probably be too big. A post-it note would suffice.
They are all debatable with the exception of one. Goran Dragic.
(Ok, maybe two. If the Suns end up squeezing the Lakers' lottery pick from them this year if they don't make the playoffs, that's a major success. Right now, I wouldn't bet on them missing the playoffs. In fact, I bet Gambo just the opposite)
In a lost season filled with questionable effort, lost focus and waning desire, Dragic has been a steady rock and a great signing. Not great in the sense that he's leading the Suns to victories, but great in the sense that the Suns had a lot of choices this past offseason in the point guard market, and there were lots of question marks among those choices. They chose wisely.
For a second, just a second, put down your bracket sheet and watch the games. Because this year, if you're a Suns fan, it matters.
Indiana isn't just a one seed that may bust your bracket; they're Victor Oladipo or Cody Zeller. Georgetown isn't just that team that has lost to double digit seeded teams in the last four tournaments; they're Otto Porter. Kansas isn't just that team that "gets tight vs. mid-majors in the tournament" in the words of Jay Bilas; they're Ben McLemore.
They aren't just teams on blank bracket sheets with office pools hanging in the balance. One of those players might be just good enough to make the losing worth it.
As I write this, the Suns are tied for the third-worst record in the NBA, and that sits just fine with me. The loss to Washington on Saturday was productive. What kind of fan would dare root for the Lakers to beat the Suns? The same who understands that, like a surgeon, sometimes it's necessary to cut to heal.
This isn't meant to be another diatribe on why the Suns (or Suns fans) should want to lose. But I think as we dive into another NCAA Tournament, the stakes have changed. Yeah, I want to win my office pool as much as the next guy. But I also want to know if there is somebody out there who will make losing to the freakin' Wizards on a Saturday night worth it.
From here on out it's not just about ping pong balls. The losses have a face. It's "if i'm bad enough I could have this guy....or that guy."
Trust me, if a superstar emerges these next three weeks, you won't give a hoot if the Suns lose every game this year. You might not even care if you lose the office pool to the doofus in the cubicle next door.
I have a feeling the Arizona Cardinals are about to find out what their bird brothers from another mother have known for years: competing in a division with a couple of heavyweights trading haymakers is no fun.
The Baltimore Orioles won 98 games in 1997 and 93 games in 2012. In between they never won more than 79 games and won no more than 71 games in nine of those 14 years. Such is life when you share a division with a couple of superpowers in the Yankees and Red Sox.
After the Seahawks acquired Percy Harvin and the Niners picked up Anquan Boldin, the Cardinals might be in the same spot. The Cards share a division with two teams set at QB, loaded with skill players and possessing defenses that are among the best in the NFL. How can they keep up? Rashard Mendenhall? Drew Stanton?
It doesn't mean they shouldn't try, but consider this: even if the Cardinals do everything perfect this offseason -- in terms of free agency, the draft, who starts and who doesn't -- competing with Seattle and San Francisco just doesn't seem possible at this point. St. Louis, with Jeff Fisher in command and draft picks at their disposal, only compounds the problem.
A pessimistic view to be sure, but it also gives the Cardinals a little more time to look at their issues through a long-term lens. I get that might not sound good to season ticket holders and it doesn't jibe with the urgency of the NFL. But, given the undeniable reality of the NFC West, it might give the Cardinals some breathing room to address all their issues.
Sad about Adrian Wilson's release from the Arizona Cardinals? That's not the word I would use. Not even close.
Appreciative. That's the word.
I'm not sad, because it was time. In a league where roster spots are coveted and controlled by younger, fresher players, Wilson was out of time with the Cardinals. He just wasn't going to be able to bring the kind of value to one of those roster spots to justify owning one.
So the Cardinals put on their grownup pants and did what they needed to do: they moved on.
To Wilson's credit, and to no one's surprise whatsoever, his reaction was pure class. He had already taken a pay cut last year and had to know this was coming, yet he handled it gracefully.
I'm appreciative of AW, not sad. When you consider what the Cardinals were when he got here and what they are now that he's leaving…it was a difficult gap to bridge. But AW bridged it and in doing so remained loyal to an organization that at times didn't deserve it. His willingness to stick with this team is what made him so unique. That loyalty, combined with the fact he was one of only six players in the history of the league to amass 25 or more interceptions and 25 or more sacks, made him special.
Hoge compared Todd McShay mock-drafting Smith at No. 7 to Mel Kiper hyping up Mike Williams before the 2005 draft. "In recent memory, I have never seen a more inconsistent thrower than Geno Smith," said Hoge. "Receivers that are wide open, (he) absolutely completely misses them. I got frustrated by watching him. ... You cannot be that inconsistent in college and then fix that in the NFL. Decision making, I thought under pressure he was below, below average. ... There ain't no way the Cardinals are gonna draft him. If Bruce Arians has anything to do about it, he will look at (Smith) and say there is no possible way.
Hoge is one of ESPN's most opinionated NFL analysts. Remember how he lit into Cam Newton a couple of years ago?
But "ain't no way" is pretty strong stuff.
I want to agree with him, especially when looking at McShay's mock; he has Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher available but the Cards passing on him. I find that difficult to believe.
But I won't give Smith the "ain't no way" label just yet.
Two years ago I knew the Cards drafting Blaine Gabbert was an "ain't no way" proposition despite several national types who suggested otherwise. This time around, I'm not so sure just because Arians and his staff are new to me. Saying no to Gabbert was an educated guess. Saying no to Smith is just a guess.
Another offseason, and another Kevin Kolb bonus sitting squarely in the middle of the Cardinals' plans.
Last year it was a $7 million roster bonus due to Kolb that essentially forced the Cardinals to excuse themselves from Peyton Manning's table. This year, it's a $2 million roster bonus that Kolb is owed if he's on the roster on March 17th.
While the options aren't nearly as enticing and the money just doesn't pack the same punch, the effect is the same: it's a deadline to decide. With that deadline now less than two weeks away, it's interesting to note that there hasn't been a ton of chatter in the media about any conversations between Kolb and the Cardinals. At least, none that I've heard or read on Twitter from those who are better connected than I on this one.
Does it simply mean they have yet to start talking? Or that they have started and nobody has heard about it? Both possible.
In the leverage game, I believe the Cardinals have the edge. Surely Kolb can point to the dearth of QBs around the league and dare the Cardinals to do better than him. The Cards can point to the other starting jobs available and dare him to do the same. Ultimately, I think the team's stance is stronger.
It's also possible, as Darren Urban suggested a couple of weeks back, that they'll cut Kolb and once he finds out that there isn't anything better out there, he'll be back.
I can't help but to wonder if the silence (perceived or real) is a sign the Cardinals aren't terribly interested in bringing Kolb back. At first glance that seems illogical. After all, they've invested a lot in Kolb. They would look foolish for giving him $20+ Million for a handful of games over two years.
But that should not be Bruce Arians' concern. He is trying to find a QB who can play his style of offense. Perhaps after watching the tape (again, speculating here) Arians has decided that person is not Kevin Kolb. After all, Arians has said in the past he wants big chunks of yards downfield; not really Kolb's game. If Arians has determined that Kolb isn't his type of QB, then perhaps the Cardinals aren't motivated to bring him back.
In which case, you could have a complete do-over at the QB position.
This morning I wrote that I agreed with what NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported about the Cardinals; that they were very pessimistic the Niners would ever trade Alex Smith to a division rival.
That column had the shelf life of day-old bread. Right after it posted, the Niners traded Smith to the Chiefs.
Clearly the Cardinals don't benefit from the move…on multiple levels. I'm not sure they were ever on the Niners' list, but clearly, they're off it now. San Francisco now has 15 draft picks (three coming from expected compensation picks), the latest of which was acquired for what was essentially a spare part in Smith. It gives them tremendous flexibility moving forward.
I wouldn't have wanted the Cardinals to attempt to top the Chiefs' offer. Smith is a good quarterback, but I look at him more as a product of his environment. He had a lot of talent around him in San Francisco. Maybe he'll be a perfect fit in Kansas City. I suspect he'll be…OK.
So what's next for the Cards?
As much as I hate to admit it, I'm beginning to give more and more though to Gambo's idea about Ryan Mallett. Tom Brady is clearly not going anywhere, so Mallett really isn't being groomed for any type of promotion. He's got the cannon arm Bruce Arians has implied he's looking for. By sheer osmosis, whatever attitude problems he had coming into the draft should have been cured by hanging with Brady. The Patriots only have five draft picks this year so they'd be looking to add. Oh, and Cards personnel man Jason Licht was employed by New England when they drafted Mallett.
If you're going to select a quarterback with your 2nd or 3rd round pick anyway, can you get one who is better than Mallett? In this draft? Questionable at best.
This piece in the Boston Herald reports the Patriots aren't actively shopping him, but suggests they would want better than the 3rd rounder they used on Mallett in return.
WEEI says it's time to move Mallett and suggests the Cardinals as one of the landing spots.
I still wouldn't mind the Cards taking a look at Nick Foles as well.
I'd like to think I'm an optimistic guy. I own several ‘Life is Good' t-shirts to prove it.
But when it comes to the possibility of the Niners shipping Alex Smith to their division rival the Cardinals, I tend to agree with NFL.com's Ian Rapoport's assessment of the Cardinals own opinion on the subject:
The idea of the 49ers feeling this sudden surge of charity towards Smith (by trading him to an ideal spot) and the Cardinals (by giving their rival the QB they need) seems foreign. Division rivals trade players to each other all the time. The Eagles traded McNabb to the Redskins to the surprise of most.
The Suns traded Steve Nash to the Lakers for goodness sakes. It happens.
But in both of those circumstances the trade wasn't really affecting the rivalry. Philly knew McNabb was washed up and that the Redskins were no good anyway. No harm, no foul. Same applies to the Suns, except they were the ones who realized they weren't good enough to be in active competition with the Lakers for a Pacific Division title. Again, what's the harm?
But I have to think the Niners would look at the Cardinals and how many games they could have won last year if they just got decent -- not great, just decent -- play out of the QB last year. And Alex Smith, on his worst day, is a decent quarterback. The Cards have many leaks to plug; I just can't see the 49ers providing the thumb to plug their biggest.
Worst case scenario, as ESPN's Mike Sando suggested, the Cardinals will provide the Niners with more leverage to squeeze a better draft pick out of whatever team they do trade Smith to.
Now there is a report from CBS Sports' Jason LaCanfora (the Django Unchained of NFL reporters....good but not THAT good) that says the Cards' offer for Smith was "weak".
As much as I hate to admit it, I'm beginning to give more and more thought to Gambo's idea about the Cardinals going after New England's Ryan Mallett. Tom Brady is clearly not going anywhere, so Mallett really isn't being groomed for any type of promotion. He's got the cannon arm Bruce Arians has implied he's looking for. By sheer osmosis, whatever attitude problems he had coming into the draft should have been cured by hanging with Brady. The Patriots only have five draft picks this year so they'd be looking to add. Oh, and Cards personnel man Jason Licht was employed by New England when they drafted Mallett.
If you're going to select a quarterback with your 2nd or 3rd round pick anyway, can you get one who is better than Mallett? In this draft? Questionable at best.
Matt Barkley won't get past the Arizona Cardinals at number 7 in the draft?
Unfortunately, a day after Ben Affleck delivered the only genuine acceptance speech of the whole Oscar telecast, my internal B.S. meter is a little out of whack. Too bad. This time of year it comes in handy.
Information. Misinformation. Misdirection. Flat out lies. You read or hear an NFL rumor this time of year and it requires not only a grain of salt, but a whole shaker. Separating fact from fiction can be as tough as separating conjoined twins, but since these two rumors directly involve the Arizona Cardinals and their quest for a QB, we'll give it a shot.
To the best of my knowledge, Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports was the first to report that an Alex Smith trade was basically done but can't be announced until March 12. Where he's going and what the Niners are getting in return aren't known.
I won't lie, for whatever reason, LaCanfora has never been my favorite source of rumors. To me he's the Django Unchained of NFL reporters. Good movie, but best picture good? Nah.
I can see a teeny bit of legitimacy to this story and so the B.S. meter isn't totally pegged out. Is it possible? Of course. But if it's true, it seems we would have heard more on the what-they're-getting and where-he's-going parts of the story. Without those details, the story is unusual.
More likely to me is that, with more than two whole weeks before March 12th, this report has been floated to stir the chili. Maybe there aren't enough teams bidding. Maybe they're not offering enough. The Niners aren't in a huge rush to move him just yet; there's no harm in waiting just a little bit longer to make sure you're getting the best offer.
The Barkley rumor? Scoop of chocolate, scoop of vanilla...don't waste my time. The B.S. Meter is way in the red here, it's just a question of what shade. USC or Cardinal.
Could I buy that the Cards were impressed with Barkley in the one-on-one interview? Absolutely. But enough to decide, on February 24th, that he'll be the 7th pick in a draft two months away? You'd have a better chance of dragging me to "Les Miserables" than convincing me of that. I just can't see it. The rumor or the movie.
I'm much more intrigued in why this rumor exists. An agent trying to boost the value of his client by creating demand in the marketplace makes sense. The Cardinals are certainly desperate enough, which makes for an easy target. I suspect that's what happened with the Andy Reid rumors. I suspect that's what's happened here.
But an alternate theory was proposed by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk; one that suggested the Cardinals were behind the rumor to serve as a smokescreen to obfuscate their real target: Geno Smith. Mind you, I like this theory not because I like Smith. But I very much like the idea of the Cardinals playing the game instead of getting played by it.
Seems hard to believe the Cardinals could be so nefarious. But hey....we live in a world where Ben Affleck is now one of the most talented directors working in the movies. Anything can happen.
The "Uptown" sign has been mothballed and donated to Goodwill. Major League Baseball is trying to sell its own script of brotherly love: The NFL has the Harbaughs? We see your DNA and raise you the Uptons.
No team underwent the offseason face-lift the D-backs did, and they have the scars to prove it.
The Diamondbacks drew 25,000 people to Fan Fest on Saturday and GM Kevin Towers and President Derrick Hall spent much of their day sounding like parents trying to convince their kids to try the funny-smelling new food on their plate. "I think you're going to like these players," Towers is quoted as saying on azcentral.com. "All I ask is to give them a chance."
Regarding Towers' moves, Hall added "That man knows what he's doing."
Like it or don't; the early focus will be centered on who isn't here as opposed to who is. Most of that attention will be directed towards Upton, or Chris Young.
I'm wondering if the D-backs will regret that move the most.
Montero was pleasantly candid. "When you get a guy like that and he thinks he's got everything figured out, it's just tough to commence and try to get on the same page with you," he said. "He never wanted to listen," and my personal fave: "Good luck to (Indians catcher) Carlos Santana there."
I understand Montero's and the organization's frustrations with Bauer; show me any workplace when the young kid comes in and thinks he's the smartest one in the room and I'll show you a whole bunch of eye rolling and complaining. Such was the nature of Ken Kendrick's comments on Bauer back in October.
I'm sure there are plenty of off-the-record tales to be told of how stubborn the kid was and certainly Montero deserves more respect than he was shown. But the D-backs had to know that there wasn't anything about Bauer that was standard or typical. What surprises me is how little tolerance they had for it.
Usually a process like this involves the Try phase, followed by the Fail phase, and finally (hopefully) the Reinvention phase. For Bauer and the D-backs it was a little bit of Try, a little bit of Fail, followed by Go-Directly-To-Cleveland/Do-Not-Pass-Go-And-Do-Not-Collect-$200.
That's why the potential for regret is higher for the Bauer deal than it is for any other move made by the D-backs, including the Upton trade. With Bauer, you don't have the first foggy clue what you had and lost. Maybe he's sensational. Maybe he flames out. Maybe, like many top prospects, he's somewhere in the middle. You. Just. Don't. Know.
We don't know about Upton either, but at least we've had six years to try and figure him out. To learn his tendencies, his strengths and flaws. To make a reasonable judgment about what kind of player he'll be. He's a mystery too, but you can't say you didn't give him plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
I get the D-backs dealt from a position of strength (young pitching) to fill an area of need (shortstop) and Didi Gregorius certainly has a say how this turns out.
But if Bauer tries, fails and successfully reinvents himself in Cleveland, this will be the deal Towers and the gang will regret for a long time.