Tuesday, October 4, 2011 @ 11:36pm
Perhaps it's fitting that the players who helped save the Diamondbacks'
2011 season didn't begin the year with the team.
Trailing the Milwaukee Brewers two games to none, D-backs manager Kirk
Gibson sent rookie Josh Collmenter to the mound and gave Paul
Goldschmidt the start at first base, placing him fifth in the batting order.
Both delivered in the 8-1 win. Big time.
A player whose results tend to belie his stuff, Collmenter tossed seven
innings, allowing just two hits, one run and walking two. He struck out six.
Doing his part, Goldschmidt had a pair of hits: an RBI single in the first
inning and a grand slam in the fifth.
Neither played like overwhelmed rookies, and it started with the pitcher.
"He obviously has great character," Gibson said of Collmenter. "He was very
composed [Tuesday] and threw strikes, kept them off balance; it was what
Then there's Goldschmidt.
"When you're making the lineup, how you want to decide where you put
people," Gibson said, "you guys know how I feel about Goldy, you know the
big hits he's had this year."
Indeed, this is not the first time either player has come through for the
Diamondbacks and, while it may be their most important contribution yet,
their respective careers are just getting started.
And that's exciting.
Collmenter, 25, and Goldschmidt, 24, give the D-backs more than a
chance here in the present as well as hope for sustained success in the
While no one can say with certainty how things will ultimately play out, it's
important to note what you saw Tuesday at Chase Field began more than
seven months ago in spring training.
"The way we started out in this spring, with those guys in our camp, they
didn't break camp with us but we tried to lay it out how we were going to
approach this and expose them to as much as we could," Gibson said of
Collmenter and Goldschmidt. "And then when they both came up we put
them right in the fire."
That fire never burned hotter than it did Tuesday night, and neither
Collmenter nor Goldschmidt could have responded any better.
Goldschmidt, who already homered once in the series, added to a legend
that began in early August, hitting his grand slam after the Brewers elected
to walk the bases full ahead of him.
"If [Marcum] makes a good pitch we're probably not talking about it and
probably got out," Goldschmidt said. "And so it just ended up being good
timing for us."
The slugger became the first Diamondback to hit a grand slam in the
postseason and was the first rookie to accomplish feat since 1999.
Then again, seeing Goldschmidt, who had already homered off the likes of
Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee, take Shaun Marcum deep wasn't necessarily a
surprise. But watching Collmenter, whose fastaball consistently sits in the
high 80s, shut down a hot-hitting Brewers team?
Hell, even the pitcher said he probably exceeded his own expectations.
"My goal was to give the team a win," he said. "Whatever I had to do to just
keep the team in the ballgame and give us a chance to win down the
Yeah, well, that will do, Mr. Collmenter. Pitching the way he did not only
validated all the work he's put in this season, but the belief the
organization had in a guy who, to put it bluntly, wasn't exactly a top
"I give [Diamondbacks GM] Kevin Towers all the credit in the world,"
Gibson said. "He told me about Josh Collmenter last year in the Arizona Fall
League and like not many scouts would be on this guy. And then this year
when we watched him pitch in spring training, we have this thing, he says,
‘I'm on him.'"
A 10-10 regular season record with a 3.38 ERA, including two good starts
against the Brewers, led to the idea of giving the rookie the nod in an
"When we discussed who's going to start Game 3, KT had a lot of input and
he was on [Collmenter]," Gibson added. "And he was right."
Both prospects are just the tip of the iceberg for a team with an
embarrassment of riches in the minor leagues, and that the D-backs
struck gold (pun intended) with these two bodes well for the future.
"Those guys have shown a ton of composure and a ton of ability almost
against maybe some of the odds that some of the people thought they
could do," Gibson said.
No matter how or when they got here, the fact of the matter is you can't
help think this won't be the last time Collmenter and Goldschmidt come
through for the team on a big stage.
Monday, October 3, 2011 @ 3:29pm
The Arizona Cardinals don't know how to run out the clock.
They can't run a screen pass, either.
Both issues have cost them this season.
Whatever the reason for the latest loss, fans make it a
point to find someone to blame. It was the defense in Week
2, the offense in Week 3 and, it would seem, the coaching
staff in Week 4.
But anyone looking for significant changes is going to be
"I look at it that it's a growing process that we're going
through with this team," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt
said Monday. "We're close. We're better than we were last
week. We've got to stay the course and continue to work
Pick the loss, pick the season, and pick the press
conference: Ken Whisenhunt has said those words many,
many, times. Right about now fans are tired of hearing it,
just as it's likely the coach is sick of saying it.
But that doesn't give the coaching staff a, for lack of a
better word, pass.
Especially for calling a screen when the team was trying
to mount one final drive to regain the lead and win the
game. Not surprisingly, as has been the case this season,
the play fell apart and ended with QB Kevin Kolb taking a
critical sack on the play.
"The timing was a little bit off," Kolb said of the play.
"It's pretty well documented that our screen game needs to
get better and that was a perfect example of it."
So why run it in such a crucial situation?
"It was set up, it was ready to go," Whisenhunt said. "We
didn't execute it perfectly, but in that situation you
have to get the ball out. If it goes it's a big play."
But it didn't go for a big play, at least, not in the
Cardinals' favor, and Arizona, instead of maybe talking
about a thrilling come-from-behind win, was left trying to
explain how they let another game slip away.
The common themes in each loss have been defensive
meltdowns, shaky play-calling and an inability to complete
passes when the team needed it most.
Those issues would be enough to cost a coach his job,
especially if the 1-3 record turns into 1-4, 1-5 and 1-6,
but that's not going to happen in Arizona.
Ken Whisenhunt is not going to get fired, no matter how
much some fans may want to see a change, Ray Horton will
be given time to implement his defense, the offensive line
will not see a new coach anytime soon and Kevin Kolb won't
transform into a veteran signal-caller overnight.
Instead the hope seems to be that time will, if not heal
all wounds, cure their ills. Even a tired excuse can have
some legitimacy, and this Cardinals team is still
Pointing to the lack of an offseason as reason for being a
little behind, the team has shown enough glimpses,
according to Whisenhunt, to make everyone believe they can
turn this thing around.
"I think that we played better defensively, except for the
last part of the game this week, going against a very good
offense," he said. "We shut down the run game and we ran
the ball very well, we've improved the run game."
Then again, convincing others the team is improving may be
a tough sell, especially as the team has lost its last
three, so sooner or later the team will simply need to
start winning, as close losses just don't do anything for
"I feel for our players, I feel for our fans because we're
not where we want to be," Whisenhunt said. "After last
year that's very frustrating, but the thing that I'll say
is yes, you have to have patience because if you look at
our games there's no question in my mind that we're
close, and that's the way that we look at it."
As the cliché goes, close only counts in horseshoes and
hand grenades, and there is no column in the standings for
"almost won." Thus, it's about time for the Cardinals to
go from a team finding its way into one that has
discovered how to win.
"I'm not going to tell you it's a work in progress because
I'm tired of saying it," Kolb said. "Just ready to get it
done and win some games."
Sunday, October 2, 2011 @ 6:15pm
Two weeks ago the Cardinals had a chance to put together a game-winning drive against the Redskins, only to fall short after Chansi Stuckey
coughed up the football.
One week ago the Cardinals had a chance to, at the very least, get a game-tying field goal attempt, only to see a Kevin Kolb interception end that
drive and the team's chances of winning.
Sunday, in the friendly confines of University of Phoenix Stadium, the
Cardinals had a chance to rally for a win even after letting a two-score
fourth quarter lead slip away, only to see the drive stall at the Giants'
Final score: Giants 31, Cardinals 27 - and thousands of groans along the
It's not that you can point to any one reason for the team's loss, as there
The defense allowed the Giants to score two touchdowns in the game's
final four minutes, turning a 10 point advantage into a four
Kevin Kolb had his second straight poor game for the Cardinals,
completing just 20 of 34 passes for 237 yards and one interception, as well
as a red zone fumble in the first quarter.
The referees even deserve some blame, as a Victor Cruz fumble just before
the game-winning touchdown was negated due to something about the
receiver "giving himself up" on the play.
Whatever the reason, Arizona fell to 1-3 and faces a daunting schedule --
and plenty of questions.
"This is three games in a row when we had the ball in our hand at the end
with a chance to do something and we haven't been able to do it,"
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Indeed, I wrote a couple of weeks ago Kolb would lead the team to
a win the next time he
had a chance to.
Swing and a miss.
And, just like I wrote last week, it's too early to give up on
While 1-3 is bad it is by no means the end of the season. Not yet, anyway.
And, for the optimists out there, the Cardinals could use their struggles
today - and over the last three weeks - as learning experiences.
At least, that's what Kolb said the team has to do.
"You get better every time you do it but it is frustrating, especially in this
case to see them do it then we didn't back it up," he said about putting
together a game-winning drive, which would be his first.
And the team is right when they say it's about what they do to themselves
as much as what other teams are doing to them.
Take the first quarter as proof, when Arizona recovered a fumble on New
York's 16-yard line and mustered just seven yards before kicking a field
goal. The next series saw the team drive to the Giants' 17, but a Kolb
fumble prevented another score. Another first quarter drive ended with a
field goal, and instead of being up big Arizona had just a 6-0 lead.
That's not good enough if they want to beat good teams.
"That's the difference in the game right there," Whisenhunt said of the red
The difference? Maybe. A difference? Certainly. And that's why, even
though things seem bleak, there is a chance the Cards can still turn this
Provided, of course, the season doesn't jump off the tracks quite yet.
"Who wants to go and lose, first off, and lose the way we're losing," guard
Rex Hadnot said. "You can tell that it hurts the guys, but we're definitely
going to keep fighting. There's great leaders on this team, there's great
coaches that won't let us go into the tank."
That feeling is there because, as it is, most in the locker-room feel the
damage is self-inflicted, and if the team can keep improving the wins will
"It's one thing to go into a game when you don't have a clue and you just
get beat from the start," defensive lineman and captain Darnell Dockett
said. "That's not the case with this team."
It's not. The team is just good enough to be bad. Or is it just bad enough
to be good.
No matter, while Sunday will be remembered as a brutal day in Glendale,
there were some positives to take away from the game.
After all, Beanie Wells may have had his official coming out party against a
tough Giants defense, racking up 138 yards and three touchdowns. The
third pushed the Cards' lead to 10 with just over five minutes left, giving
the team a chance to finish off an impressive win.
And Larry Fitzgerald, who threw a key block on Wells' final score, caught
eight balls for 102 yards, including a 47-yard reception that saw him
literally take the ball away from a defender.
In the end it was all for naught.
"You see good teams around the league that when the game is close, they
are able to find a way to finish," Fitzgerald said. "The margin for error of
winning and losing in the NFL is very small."
Indeed it is, and even if by the slightest of margins, the smallest mistake or
just a random bad bounce (or call), the Cardinals have found themselves on
the wrong side of the scoreboard three weeks running.
"I felt like we should have won the last three games and each game we had
a chance to win at the end and we didn't," defensive end Calais Campbell
said, noting how frustrating it is. "We want to win those games and we
know we can win those games."
Sunday, October 2, 2011 @ 1:01pm
:51 left in fourth quarter
Kolb throws incomplete trying to force the ball to Fitz, that will do it. A
collapse the likes of which has not been seen since, well, a while. Cardinals
will lose 31-27 and be kicking themselves.
2:35 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals will begin the drive on their own 24, down four and needing a
win in the worst way. A loss in this one would be huge. Does Kolb have it
in him? I fear he doesn't.
2:51 left in fourth quarter
No fumble, ref's explanation does nothing for me. Confused. Manning hits
Hakeem Nicks for the long TD and suddenly the Giants take the lead.
3:10 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals pass twice after the Wells run, forced to punt. Awful playcalling,
reminiscent of the disaster in D.C. Giants take the short punt and complete
a pass, looks like there may be a fumble on the play. At the very least there
is a ton of confusion. Cards may catch a break here.
3:32 left in fourth quarter
Wells runs for three and the Giants call a timeout. Does the offense have it
in them to finish the game on the field? Need some first downs.
3:37 left in fourth quarter
Well that stop didn't happen. Giants march down the field and score on a
two-yard Manning TD toss, bringing the game to 27-14 with a decent
amount of time left. Cardinals will need to eat up some clock, don't want to
see New York get the ball again. #canttrustthisdefense
5:16 left in fourth quarter
Beanie Wells gets TD number three, a two-yard run where nobody wearing
blue touched him. Career day for the guy. Cardinals lead 27-17 and are
basically one stop away from ending this one. I think.
5:20 left in fourth quarter
Have I mentioned how good Beanie Wells has been today? He's running
mean against the Giants and a big run of his puts the Cardinals in position
to score. Alfonso Smith came in for a couple carries, was tackled at the 2
but the Cards felt the need to waste a challenge on the play.
Wells has over 100 yards for the second time in his career, and he's not
done yet. Maybe a third TD run of the day coming up here?
8:25 left in fourth quarter
Defense forces a huge three and out, gets the offense the ball back with
the lead still in tact. Move the ball, keep the ball.
10:48 left in fourth quarter
Cards take to the air and Kolb is picked off by Antrel Rolle. To sum up Kolb
today, the word I'd use is "terrible." Playing very poorly, and it's a shame
because the running game and defense are there. Giants take over at their
own 42 down by three.
12:07 left in fourth quarter
Giants drive finishes with a Jacobs touchdown run from one yard out.
Cardinals still lead 20-17 but this game is far from over. Offense needs to
prove it can move the chains, something it really hasn't done today. Beanie
Wells, who has 80 yards on the day, will finish with at least 100 if the
Cardinals win. Book it.
End of third quarter
Giants driving but Cardinals head into the final period up 20-10. Defense is
playing reasonably well, offense has done just enough -- so far. Kind of
feels like the offense will have to score some more points in this one.
2:55 left in third quarter
Campbell sacks Manning, Manning fumbles ball, Dockett recovers. Two
straight handoffs to Beanie result in another TD for the Cardinals and the
PAT gives Arizona a 20-10 lead. Defense playing big today.
3:42 left in third quarter
Comedy of errors leads to a Cardinals punt. Among the issues were a false
start on Kolb and intentional grounding. Offense looks bad when the ball
isn't in Beanie's hands. Concerning.
7:24 left in third quarter
Cards defense holds as the Giants O-line holds. Dockett playing like an
animal, pretty much having his way up front. Cards receive the punt, nice
return by PP21 is aided by some holds. Arizona starts drive at own 17, see
if they have some momentum here. Beanie, anyone?
10:24 left in third quarter
Cardinals drive down the field and score on a one-yard Beanie Wells run.
Nice job by the running back, looks healthy. Kolb, on the other hand, still
not particularly sharp. Threw a bomb to Fitz that, quite frankly, would have
been an interception had it not been for No. 11's greatness. Also just not
seeing open receivers. 13-10 Cards lead, but a personal foul after the TD
run leaves Arizona kicking off and the Giants with a good chance at great
14:55 left in third quarter
A.J. Jefferson with a nice return on the opening kickoff, but a delay of game
penalty pushes the Cardinals back a bit. Offensively, Arizona stunk in the
first half. Sans Beanie Wells they got nothing going but are still in this
Giants drove down and kicked a field goal to take a 10-6 lead, but may
have lost their kicker in the process. Patrick Peterson, who was offsides on
the FG, also was penalized for roughing the kicker as he just crushed
Lawrence Tynes on the play.
Arizona heads into the half down 10-6 and, to be honest, I wouldn't feel
good if I'm a Cards fan.
1:08 left in 2nd quarter
Cardinals force a three and out and this game is, well, still up for grabs.
Arizona starts drive from their own 20 after punt.
1:49 left in 2nd quarter
Well, so much for that. Cardinals go three and out, Kolb looks bad and
takes a sack in the series. If you can even call what that was a "series."
Giants get the ball at midfield and have a chance to really take control of
2:48 left in 2nd quarter
Giants put together an impressive drive that ends with a 13-yard TD run by
Bradshaw. Helps my fantasy team but not the Cardinals. Arizona has
dominated this half but now finds itself trailing in the game. Have some
time to mount a drive, do so and have momentum going into the
7:57 left in 2nd quarter
Cardinals move the ball well, even picking up a fourth-and-one along the
way. Some nice plays, but overall nothing special. Still, drive ends in a field
goal and the Cardinals lead 6-0. Kind of feels like they should be up more
-- like they need to be up more.
End of 1st quarter
Cardinals moving the ball some, Beanie looking strong. Team needs him to
play well to have a chance, and so far the Red Birds are out-physicaling
their opponents. Nice to see.
2:17 left in first quarter
Giants move the ball a little but ultimately have to punt. Arizona will start
at their own 12 yard line, needing a few first downs to help the field
position game. Offense, where art thou?
7:56 left in first quarter
Kevin Kolb scrambles, is hit, and fumbles the ball. He has fumbled at least
once in each of the team's four games. That can't happen yet continues to
do so. Cardinals lose out on a chance for at least three more points and
momentum returns to New York's sideline.
11:34 left in first quarter
Another three and out for the Giants, Cardinals defense still playing strong.
Getting to Manning, stuffing the run...who are these guys?
13:02 left in first quarter
Beanie runs for -1, a short pass to Fitz and a throw away by Kolb equals a
three and out for the Cards. Jay Feely hits a 27-yard field goal to give
Arizona the early lead, but you'd like to see them punch it in after the
turnover. Can't afford to not capitalize on opportunities like that against
14:37 left in first quarter
Cardinals D comes out ready, forces a fumble and recovers at the Giants
16. Ahmad Bradshaw coughed it up, Rhodes forced it. Good start for the
Cardinals, bad sequence for my fantasy team.
Giants win the toss, elect to receive. See if the Cards D can build off last
week's game in Seattle.
And, if you didn't already know, the Cardinals are wearing their alternate
uniform today. It's a good look for the team, though they haven't exactly
been successful in them.
3:00 to kickoff
About three minutes to kickoff and the fans, well, are not exactly here.
Stadium is about 65 percent full, maybe. Late arrivals? Still tailgating?
Enthralled by Cincinnati/Buffalo?
We'll see, hope they show up soon.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 @ 1:18pm
It's too early to throw the towel in on the 2011 Arizona Cardinals.
Three games is not enough time to really know how good or bad they may be, and even though the team has found ways to lose each of the last two games, chances are this team will have a say in the race (or stumble, really) towards the NFC West title.
However, it was tough to wake up Monday morning and feel good about the Arizona Cardinals.
To wit: While the team is just a couple plays away from being 3-0, they could just as easily be 0-3. And the schedule, thought to be marshmallow-soft in the early goings, is about to get a lot tougher.
And with a home date against the Giants, a road tilt with the Vikings and then games against the Steelers and Ravens, the Cardinals could easily find themselves 1-6 before hosting the Rams on November 6.
Once thought of as a game that could decide the division, it may very well be each team's last chance to salvage a season on the verge of complete collapse.
But we're not at that point, not yet anyway.
There is still time for the Cardinals to fix their problems, and that's the good news. The bad news, though, is one of the issues has plagued this team for the better part of forever: the offensive line.
The line is not going to magically improve -- if it even improves at all -- simply because what you see is what you get. There is some talent, but for some reason it just hasn't manifested into anything special.
So expect to see Kevin Kolb run for his life and hear "false start, number 75, offense" throughout the season, because the team isn't going to find anyone better to play and doesn't seem anxious to find a better coach than Russ Grimm.
However, even with their struggles the running backs have found some holes, meaning it's not totally unlike the Maginot Line: not perfect, but far from completely ineffective.
Given that their greatest issue has been pass protection, it's worth noting that some of what looks like poor blocking can easily be attributed to Kevin Kolb and his penchant for bailing on the pocket too soon.
That can be fixed. It should be fixed. It needs to be fixed.
The Cardinals' new QB has just 10 NFL starts under his belt, with only three as a Cardinal. While you'd expect a 27-year-old to have better pocket presence, lack of starts be damned, it would be unfair to deliver a verdict on Kolb's abilities until we see more of what he can or can't do.
In all honesty the same can be said for the team's secondary, which has been torched by opposing offenses and in the media.
But like Kolb, Patrick Peterson and A.J. Jefferson will improve, and as long as fans are patient they'll ultimately like what they see.
And maybe that's really how you have to look at the 2011 Arizona Cardinals. While flawed, there is enough talent to win an awful division, and as long as the team can scratch out a few wins over the next couple of months could be in line to make a late push. With so many young and inexperienced players you'd have to hope - and maybe even expect - gradual improvement throughout the course of the season.
Friday, September 23, 2011 @ 11:46pm
The word team president Derrick Hall used to describe it
all was "magical,"
and you'll get little argument here.
Friday night at Chase Field, in front of 42,606 screaming
fans, the team
nobody thought much of before the season began clinched
its first division
title since 2007.
And they did it the Diamondbacks way, rallying from a
"All year we fight through it right to the end," a
Not like this is the end for these Diamondbacks. Sure, the
NL West title
guarantees them a spot in the postseason, but there are
still five games to
play before the real test begins.
And, while the team is still fighting for seeding, the
guess here is none of that matters -- at least Friday
night, as the unlikely champions get to celebrate the
fruits of their labor.
"Nobody counted this team in, everybody thought they were
a bunch of
overachievers," team president Derrick Hall said.
They still might be, but the Arizona Diamondbacks have
way into the playoffs, and if I'm the Phillies, Brewers or
Braves I want no
part of them.
It's not that this is a supremely talented team with a
rotation that will shut
you down and a lineup that makes a pitching coach cringe.
The team is, however, a group of players that will
scratch, claw, and
pretty much fight until the 27th out, meaning they are
never out of a game.
That type of attitude will go a long way in the the month
of October, and it's exactly what makes this an especially
"This is a team," Hall mused. "The comraderie of this
cohesiveness, the culture."
All that was changed over the last year, a remarkable
turnaround for a
team that I, just like every other so-called "expert," gave little chance of
winning the division.
Then again, we weren't alone. Hall said he thought manager
Kirk Gibson was "a bit
crazy" when he spoke of getting to the postseason in
pitcher Daniel Hudson admitted he didn't really see this
"You don't really know what to expect with so many new
faces coming in
spring training," he said. "But everybody kind of rallied
around each other
and said ‘let's prove these people wrong' so we did that
Maybe that's part of what makes this team so fun. They are
a loose group,
seemingly playing with nothing to lose.
But it hasn't been easy. Of course, it couldn't be easy.
"It's been a whirlwind season, you know, the peaks and
valleys we've gone
through, the adversity, losing Stephen [Drew] and having
the young guys
step up," pitcher Joe Saunders said, "and then KT bringing
different pieces, we've all melded together and I think
that speaks volumes
for how good of a team we are."
And they're not done yet, not by a long shot.
This team, while understandably excited about what
night, does not have the appearance of a team that is
content with what
they've accomplished to this point.
"We still have work to do," closer J.J. Putz said. "We'd
love to catch
Milwaukee and be able to host an opening series here,
treat our fans to
that, I think that would be special."
While "magical" may be the word used to describe what has
the desert, maybe there's nothing supernatural about it.
Perhaps this is just
what happens when talent meets confidence, as the
to be brimming with both.
Monday, September 19, 2011 @ 4:49pm
The Cardinals had the ball on their own 20, trailing the Redskins for the first time since about midway through the third quarter.
In his career, Kevin Kolb had engineered all of zero game-winning drives in the fourth quarter. His team down 22-21 with just 1:45 left, this would have been a good time to lead his first.
The Cardinals thought it was going to happen.
"We really did," the QB said when I asked if the team was confident they were about to embark on such a drive. "The look in the huddle was great and it's really unfortunate we didn't get an opportunity."
Chansi Stuckey fumbled after a 12-yard pickup, ending any opportunity for the Cardinals to rally and win an early-season road game. Thing is, just like the team, I was confident Arizona was going to march down the field and score.
It's amazing what having a quarterback does for a mindset.
I've been slow to jump on the Kolb bandwagon, refusing to purchase a ticket while others were busy lining up a few months back. Unproven, I saw the Cardinals paying a fortune for the guy because he was "the best QB on the market," even if the market was known to be rather thin.
And while the secondary certainly misses Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (and their coverages, really), it's impossible to argue that the team is worse off because of the trade.
Hell, through two games the new QB has completed 61.4 percent of his passes and thrown for 560 yards, with four touchdowns and just one interception. He's connected on big plays and taken hits, and you better believe his teammates appreciate both.
"It means a lot," tight end Jeff King said. "You know you can follow a guy into war, into battle with somebody like that as your leader.
Strong words, but not the only endorsement.
"He's a tough guy and I'm excited to have him back there," running back Beanie Wells said. "I'm proud to say he's one of my teammates."
Was I wrong about Kolb? Well, don't consider this to be my mea culpa. We're not at that point quite yet.
It's too soon to say with any certainty, but I'll admit this much is true: simply having him on the roster, especially in place of what the team had last season, has impacted the team in a far greater way than I ever anticipated.
Because one can see, to a man, how much everyone in that locker room respects No. 4.
That goes a long way, as belief in the QB is vital to the team's success, and it was missing all of last season.
And maybe that's why the optimism over Kolb should not come as a surprise. When you are following in the footsteps of someone who kept tripping over himself, simply walking in a straight line would be good enough for most.
But you can tell it's more than that with Kolb and this team. Whether it's his ability to find and connect with the open receiver, make big plays downfield or just keep getting up after taking big hits, it's obvious the team has faith in their leader.
Give him another chance in the game's final minutes, and chances are good the QB will reward them with the first game-winning drive of his career.
Sunday, September 11, 2011 @ 6:44pm
Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb said he woke up at 6 a.m. Sunday morning, staring
up at the ceiling going over plays.
While not everything in Sunday's game with Carolina happened the way it
was drawn up -- on his ceiling or anywhere else -- as far as debuts go,
this one would have to be considered a success.
Kolb completed 18 of 27 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns, Patrick
Peterson returned a punt 89 yards for the game-winning score and the
2011 Arizona Cardinals began their season with a 28-21 victory.
They'll take it. All of it.
"We can learn from this, I'm happiest that we were able to win the football
game. That, to me, is something that we needed to do," Cardinals head
coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
While Week 1 is rarely what one would call a "must win," dropping to 0-1 in
front of 60,627 fans looking for a fresh start in the desert would have
been, as then-Cardinal-now-Panther Derek Anderson might say, "not
But the Cardinals, with the help of players who weren't around last season
as well as big plays that were also missing in 2010 did win the game, and
at the end of the day that's the most important thing of all.
Then again, Kolb said, the Cardinals "were lucky to win a game like that."
Luck may not be the right word, but the Cards certainly did all they could
to make things difficult on themselves.
So in a way, the 2011 Cardinals, at least through one game, are not much
different from last year's squad - and really every other version since the
team moved to Arizona in 1988.
Except, of course, for the final score. That is a new wrinkle.
"I'm not exactly sure that we would have won that game last year,"
They wouldn't have.
No, last year's Cardinals would not have received a similar effort from any
of its four QBs, the strong running game led by Beanie Wells or
contributions from eight different receivers.
It would have continued to allow Cam Newton, who threw for 422 yards on
the day, to continue doing his best Aaron Rodgers impression as he consistently
avoided the rush and found targets downfield.
Offensively the Cardinals were clicking; defensively they were a sieve.
Though to be honest, most of the damage seemed to be of the self-
inflicted variety. To a man, everyone in the Cardinals' locker room
lamented what could have been.
"We are just trying to get on the same page," defensive end Calais Campbell
said. "It was simple things that we can correct pretty easily."
"Every mistake we made is fixable, and that's on us," veteran linebacker
Paris Lenon added.
"I think this game the score doesn't indicate how we played the game,"
Wells said. "The game shouldn't have been that close and we just have to
clean it up."
But that's just it: even the most pessimistic of Cardinals fans would have to
at least be a little excited about what they saw Sunday afternoon.
After all, the Cardinals scored 28 points but could have easily had at least
six more. A fumble at the Carolina four along with a missed field goal cost
the team no fewer than six points, and 394 yards of offense really show
what this team is capable of.
"As long as we recognize things like that and we keep getting better," Kolb
said, "I mean this is six weeks.
"We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go."
Just how far they have to go is anyone's guess, but there is an air of
confidence surrounding the team and it's largely due to the new signal
"Great quarterback and great in the huddle," Wells said of No. 4. "The sky is
Sunday, September 11, 2011 @ 12:56pm
End of game
Cardinals hung on. Barely. Escape Week 1 with a 28-21 victory that seems
2:20 left in fourth quarter
Long pass to Fitz puts the Cards near midfield where the drive stalls. Punt
puts the ball at Carolina 17, with the home team up 7. Does the D have one
more stop in them?
4:55 left in fourth quarter
A Patrick Peterson punt return for a touchdown gives the Cards the lead,
and the rookie's dance down the sideline before turning the jets on for the
final few yards gives everyone else some laughs.
Defense comes up with a big stop, seem to have Newton rattled a bit.
Cards get the ball back deep in their territory, have a chance to put the
game away with one more good drive.
10:48 left in fourth quarter
Panthers blitz, Cards pick it up, Kolb finds Doucet for a 71-yard TD.
Doucet looked fast on the play and the Cardinals have tied it up. This is
shaping up to be a good game.
13:01 left in fourth quarter
Ask and you shall receive. Cardinals get to Newton for the sack and
Carolina punts it away. Cardinals will start the drive on their 10 yard line
trailing by 7. You get the feeling this offense has potential to do some
good things, but so far have yet to really sustain much.
Gotta do something here (thanks Captain Obvious, right?)
End of third quarter
Heading into the fourth the Cardinals trail the Panthers 21-14 and Cam's
crew is driving. Cards defense needs to come up with a stop, or at least put
up a fight, at some point here.
3:11 left in third quarter
Cardinals drive, which was helped to stay alive by a penalty, dies when one
isn't called on what looked like a pass interference against Fitzgerald.
Cards punt and badly need a stop, this game is in danger of getting away
5:49 left in the third quarter
Cam Newton leaps over the pile for a rushing TD, then plays the football
like it is a guitar. Panthers will take the lead and the penalty, as they
answered the Cards' scoring drive with one of their own.
Newton has looked real good throwing the ball, finding open receivers and
putting the ball on the money. Did not see that coming.
Anybody miss DRC yet?
10:40 left in the third quarter
Darryl Washington picks off Cam Newton -- again -- and this time it
counts. Kolb throws 48 yard TD to Jeff King who was, surprisingly, wide
open. How do you not cover Jeff King, Carolina.
Seriously, all Kolb had to do was get it within 10 yards of King, he was
going to score. All tied in Glendale.
13:30 left in third quarter
Cards go three and out on the first possession of the second half. No
Some stats to throw your way:
Newton is 9 of 13 for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
Kolb is 12 of 15 for 139 yards.
Beanie Wells has run 10 times for 71 yards, including one score.
DeAngelo Williams has just 7 yards on four carries.
And the Cardinals are losing 14-7...
14-7 at the half. Cardinals didn't look particularly bad, but certainly cost
themselves some opportunities.
On the flip side, Cam Newton has looked pretty good when given time,
which he has often created by using his legs to avoid the rush.
Cardinals have some work to do, and 30 minutes with which to do it.
:06 left in the second quarter
A bad call against Richard Marshall nullifies and interception and two plays
later Newton tosses a 26-yard TD to Steve Smith. Panthers take a 14-7
lead that, quite frankly, they probably shouldn't have.
Cardinals have left a lot of points on the board.
1:08 left in second quarter
Cardinals put together another good drive, with Beanie picking up good
chunks of yardage and Kolb finding Fitz a couple of times for nice gains.
However, a crack-back block pushed the team back, and Arizona had to
settle for a 36-yard Jay Feely field goal -- which he missed. #fail
7:08 left in second quarter
Cards were driving. Kolb making nice throws, Beanie running strong. Then
the two couldn't connect on a pitch out, ball hits the turf and Panthers
recover at their own 12. Opportunity lost, we'll see about momentum.
End of first quarter
Quarter ends with game tied at 7. Cards started off strong, but went
downhill from there. Need to give Kolb more time to throw, get to Newton
4:59 left in first quarter
A hold, a near pick, a sack/fumble and a punt. Not exactly a good response
to Carolina's touchdown.
7:11 left in first quarter
Newton finds Steve Smith all alone for a 77-yard TD. On third and long.
oops. Looked like miscommunication in coverage, which can probably be
expected with many new pieces and a new scheme being put into place.
Still, not what you want to see. Unless you are one of the 5 Panthers fans in
8:45 left in first quarter
Yeah, that wasn't bad. Cardinals put together a 6 play, 54 yard drive
capped by a 7-yard TD run from Beanie Wells.
Only negative on the drive was Levi getting beat for a sack, but the offense
bounced back and made it not matter. Kolb was accurate, the running
game was strong and the Cardinals looked like a real team, which is very
nice to see.
12:27 left in first quarter
Cardinals force a punt after Cam Netwon, well, looks like a rookie. Kevin
will start his first real series from his own 46 yard line. No pressure.
2:00 to kickoff
The 9/11 ceremonial stuff was very touching, well done by the NFL. The
Cardinals won the coin toss, elect to start off on defense. Get an early look
Let's play some football!
20:00 to kickoff
About 20 minutes until the 2011 season is officially underway in Glendale.
The Cardinals are set to host the Panthers, as Heisman Trophy winner Cam
Newton makes his first career start at University of Phoenix Stadium.
In the meantime, I hope your fantasy football teams are doing well. I have
and things are going OK so far. So far.
Saturday, September 10, 2011 @ 12:34am
There they were, sitting in the post-game press conference 37-30 winners.
Brock Osweiler, Aaron Pflugrad and Jamal Miles were together, ready to
The first one was asked, and the QB's teammates looked to him for
Less than an hour earlier they were looking at him to make plays. And he
did, giving his team their first victory over an AP Top 25 team since October
"We couldn't make things easy," the junior said, noting the huge crowd,
which was raucous and clad in black. "Had to keep things exciting. Our
team is just relentless, we refuse to give up."
Osweiler, who completed 24 of 32 passes for 353 yards and three
touchdowns wasn't kidding. The game wasn't easy, it was exciting and the
Sun Devils did not give up.
They almost didn't win the game, either.
Up by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter, a muffed punt gave the Tigers
new life as they were able to score with 12 minutes remaining to pull
within seven and again with 2:50 left to tie it.
One final possession got as far as the Arizona State 31, but a 48-yard field
goal attempt by Grant Ressel sailed -- no, spun -- far, far left, giving the
Sun Devils another shot in overtime.
And just like that, a game that seemed like a "classic ASU" contest, one
where they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, turned into something
not seen around these parts in a while.
A close win over a good opponent.
"We came into the stadium tonight wearing T-shirts that on the front said
‘Band of Brothers' and we firmly believe that's how this team is and that's
how we stick together and we can get through these hard, hard fought
games," Osweiler said.
That attitude helps, as does the opponent committing 11 penalties for 114
yards, rendering your own 12 for 110 somewhat moot.
But it will be easy to gloss over the mistakes because hey, a win is a win
and Arizona State is now 2-0 and likely heading for a top 25 ranking.
"I have been in that locker room when we lost those close ones last year
and we were able to find a way to do it [this time] which I think is a
springboard," ASU Head Coach Dennis Erickson said. "Every week for us is
hard and our league is so difficult that you just never know what is going
"But to be able to have a big lead then blow it then he misses a field goal..."
Erickson is right, the Pac-12 is tough. Truth be told, while this win is
certainly nice for Arizona State the games that really matter begin in two
weeks, when Sun Devil Stadium will host the USC Trojans.
But in a way, the win is not so much about earning a non-conference
victory as it is a sign that maybe luck is finally starting to smile on Tempe's
team, as there would be no choke job -- hard as they may have tried -- in
a game on national TV.
A sign of growth? Perhaps.
"It's what you work for," Osweiler said. "When you're waking up at 5:30 in
the morning every day from January to August and you're doing all the
workouts and you're watching all the film...these are the games that you're
working for, the big games to win them when they're close.
"For us to do that tonight it's a great feeling, but at the same time it's just
Osweiler continued, saying the team has a lot more games they have to be
And he'll be leading the way.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011 @ 1:46pm
Rarely does an opportunity like this come along for a Valley team.
Arizona State, ranked in the top 25 in some polls, hosts Missouri, ranked in the top 25 in all polls, in a Friday night matchup that will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The game is a "blackout" for the Sun Devils, as they will wear their new black uniforms for the first time.
With a nation's eyes glued on Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, there is a golden chance for those in black to step up and make a name for themselves.
Yes, the players could play well too, but this game is about the fans.
To be honest, as an Arizona alum/fan/homer (really, pick whichever one you feel suits me best) I've made no secret of the fact I think ASU fans are a rather apathetic group.
There are some diehards, sure, but I've found a good number of Sun Devils who actually cheer for other schools -- if any schools at all -- first. Small sample size? Yes. But is that indicative of just how little they care about the university and its teams? Maybe.
The point is Arizona State fans don't exactly have a great reputation for being into (or even at) games. Yes, the game last week was against UC Davis and the temperature Thursday evening was in triple digits, but it was the season opener and having a listed attendance of 45,671 there to see it isn't good enough, especially when the building has room for 73,379. For comparison's sake, 51,761 of a possible 57,803 showed up to watch UA host NAU when the game time temperature was 95 degrees. A lot of people missed the game in Tempe. Do they care?
We'll find out Friday.
"We're excited to be on a national stage on a Friday night when we're the only football game that's out there," ASU Head Coach Dennis Erickson said.
Indeed, with a great stage to play on comes great responsibility, and the fans have as much as the players. Yes, a win would go a long way towards ASU actually living up to the hype surrounding them, and a good performance would go a long way toward showing they are a legitimate Pac-12 title threat.
A victory would turn a country into believers, the Sun Devils into contenders and possibly a Valley into fans. Already known for not being the best fans, the entire state is counting on the Sun Devil faithful to represent Friday evening. Remember, your team hasn't really played a meaningful game in the last three seasons, so don't just enjoy the atmosphere; go out and make the atmosphere.
Sun Devil Stadium should be full and blacked out. It should be loud and intense. Missouri should not feel comfortable playing this game, and it should have nothing to do with the heat.
Thursday, September 1, 2011 @ 10:22am
Kirk Gibson tried to hold back a smile.
"I know they are," he said in reference to the rumor that team president Derrick Hall and GM Kevin Towers will shave their heads if the D-backs win their 10th consecutive game Friday night.
Saying he's got the barber picked out but, "it's not going to be me," Gibson added that the team will witness the demise of upper management's follicles.
The room, filled with members of the media, laughed. Gibson did not. Instead, he turned somewhat serious.
"If it should happen, and you just have to understand and remain humble about what's going on right now…I hate even talking about it yet, if we're in a position to make that happen…it's what you do…you make sacrifices."
Talk about a buzzkill.
Then again, Gibson's job is to make sure his players don't count their chickens before they hatch, put the cart before the horse or, really, any other cliché you can think of. He needs to make sure they don't assume the West has been won, keeping the idea that the season's final 25 games carry much importance.
So ignore the six game lead on the defending champions, even if the team by the bay scores about as often as this guy back in high school. Don't put any stock into the idea that jettisoning of Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada is the baseball equivalent of one last, final gasp before the lights finally go out on the 2011 season. And that .238 team batting average the team is sporting? Don't pay it any heed, as they could turn things around at any moment.
At least, that's the message the skipper wants to convey, and by all accounts the team truly believes this thing aint over yet.
"Just like we went through a funk and then the next thing you know we win eight, nine in a row, the game just kind of works like that," centerfielder Chris Young said. "You never go into a series thinking that somebody is just going to lay down, especially with us coming to town."
Of course you don't.
"We can't get overconfident a little bit, we have to stay on the same level, stay humble and keep playing hard. There's still twenty-something games left, a lot of things can happen," added catcher Miguel Montero.
Agreed, a lot could happen. But it won't.
The Diamondbacks are going to win the division, and likely by a comfortable margin. While you never want to underestimate an opponent, it's not wrong to say a struggling team is struggling. The Giants won a single series in the month of August, and their inability to beat teams with nothing to play for shows they are just not capable of making a run this year.
Deep down, even if they won't - or can't - say it, the Diamondbacks know this. A chance to put the Giants away is before them, as they head to the bay for a three game set. Win one and the Giants pick up just a single game. Win two and the lead is pushed to seven. Win all three?
That would be something to smile about.
Saturday, August 27, 2011 @ 11:09pm
Eight passes into the game Kevin Kolb looked every bit of
The new Cardinals QB had completed just two of eight
open receivers and failing to put enough air under his
deep throws to Larry
Fitzgerald. Give No. 11 time to get under the ball and
chances are he'll go
and get it.
"The two that I missed him on...I'm thinking, ‘Come on
Kevin, give him a
chance at it, he's Larry Fitzgerald,'" Kolb said after the
Then the QB called a play -- out of a no-huddle offense --
and his night
did a 180.
"That was the first of many hopefully," Kolb said of his
strike to Larry Fitzgerald.
For the first time this preseason, I'll admit I can see
that being the case.
It's not that Kolb had been bad, at least, not until the
beginning of this
game. It's that the guy had made exactly zero throws of
note, with his only
redeeming quality being that he wasn't the aforementioned
Great enough as that is, the Cardinals want more. They
need more. And,
Saturday night in Glendale, Kolb gave them more.
"I've said the sky's the limit for our offense, and that's
because the more
that I can take on and be able to communicate with those
guys the better
we're going to be," he said.
Yes, while many will say it's about the running game, the
defense or the
offensive line, the truth is this season will come down to
Finally one can say, not from hope but rather what they've
seen on the
field, that Kolb leading this team isn't such a scary
Kolb finished the game having completed 11 of 20 passes
for 205 yards,
one touchdown and one key block downfield. The block,
which helped free
Andre Roberts for a 34-yard touchdown run, was another
sign of just how
much Kolb cares.
"I told [coach Whisenhunt] I was going to go cut somebody
practice and of course he put an end to that real fast,"
Kolb said. "It was
good. My job is always to, I call it, ‘push and pester,'
I'm just trying to get
in the way of somebody without having to throw a shoulder
or flipper at
them and Andre did the rest of the work."
One long touchdown throw does not a QB make, nor does
throwing a block
on a running play. But Kolb got into rhythm after his
first touchdown as a
Cardinal, and in completing nine of his final 12 passes he
fans exactly why the team gave up what it did to acquire
His new favorite target is sure glad they did.
"I'm just excited that he's here," Larry Fitzgerald said
of his quarterback.
"He's a guy that wants to make the big play and wants to
make the right
pass, and I think that attitude is infectious amongst his
offense and we're really fortunate to have his services."
They say it's not about how you start, rather it's how you
matters most. Kevin Kolb is likely a firm believer in the
strong Saturday after a shaky beginning.
It's a start.
Saturday, August 27, 2011 @ 6:53pm
Chargers put together a nice drive featuring some amazing catches,
punching it in for a touchdown and the 34-31 win. Time to go downstairs
for the postgame stuff, I'd imagine the team is pleased with how they
2:30 left in fourth quarter
We've reached the point where I need to look at a roster sheet to figure out
who is who, and even still I ask "who?" Cardinals lead and the Chargers are
furiously trying to mount a comeback. OK, maybe not furiously. But they
have the ball.
8:15 left in fourth quarter
William Powell fumbles, Chargers recover and score a touchdown. Poor
Powell, he'll have the honor of being cut twice by the Cardinals this
9:35 left in fourth quarter
Bartel led a touchdown drive, completing a pass to Hyphen for a
touchdown. This is the first time the veteran QB has played in his team's
third preseason game and he has made quite an impression. I'm a John
Skelton fan but his injury, combined with Bartel's solid play and the
coaching staff being a fan of his, and I'd say the Fordham product will be
third string when the season starts September 11.
End of the third quarter
Bartel in and moving the chains. This guy has a serious chance to earn the
backup QB spot behind Kolb.
3:31 left in third quarter
Philip Rivers is quite good. Nearly completes an amazing throw for a TD,
dropped by Malcolm Floyd.
Kolb's night is done. Bad start, good finish. Promising debut at University
of Phoenix Stadium.
8:32 left in 3rd quarter
Cards defense did well and got Arizona the ball back. Kolb engineered what
looked like a promising drive, finding the right receiver and throwing some
nice balls. Beanie Wells picked up 24 on one run, running strong and mean.
However, poor line play does the drive in as Kolb takes a sack on third
down...Brandon Keith was called for holding on the play, he should
probably try and hold better next time.
End of the first half
Cardinals go into halftime wiht a 24-17 lead over San Diego.
Kevin Kolb started off poorly but finished strong, completing 8/16 passes
for 166 yards and a TD. Loved seeing the long TD throw, seemed to get
Beanie is running hard and seemingly getting all he can out of every run.
Cardinals fans will take that.
Defense has looked solid. Campbell, Carter and Peterson all making plays.
Then again, San Diego has one of the league's best offenses, so this effort
should be commended.
4:43 left in second quarter
Drive started off promising enough, but a penalty and a pass rush led it to
stall. Kolb made a couple nice throws and did a good job to evade the
rush, but there wasn't much he could do with this one. Good mobility, hope
he doesn't need it often.
11:09 left in second quarter
Andre Roberts scores on a 34-yard end around, taking advantage of a nice
downfield block from Kevin Kolb. While you love to see the QB making that
kind of play, you hope he doesn't get hurt in the process. Kolb had a
couple of nice passes on that drive, seems to be settling in.
13:44 left in second quarter
Rivers hits Gates for a TD...guess the Cardinals still can't cover tight ends.
That said, both Rivers and Gates are among the very best at their positions.
Here's hoping for a big year from the San Diego QB.
End of first quarter
Kevin Kolb has looked bad save for one play. But what a play! Cards first
team offense punches it in on a bomb, beautifully thrown by the new QB.
The defense has been solid too, from Patrick Peterson's pick six to David
Carter destroying San Diego's offensive line. Yes, we see you Mr. Carter.
3:52 left in first quarter
AND THERE IT IS! Kolb has nice pocket, pumps and hits Fitz for an 80 yard
touchdown. I've wanted to see the QB connect on something downfield all
season and there it is. While one pass does not a career (or great QB) make,
this was certainly nice to see. Nice job, Kolb.
7:53 left in first quarter
Cards put a drive together that ends with a field goal. Kolb looked meh.
Good news was he was throwing to the right receiver. Bad news is he was
inaccurate. Didn't put enough air under throws to Fitzgerald and threw
behind the tight end on another play. Cards will take the points, but...
12:32 left in first quarter
Drive ends after three sloppy plays. Doucet runs wrong route/bad throw,
Kolb slow to handoff to Beanie and then misses on a short pitch tot he RB.
Not good, Kevin, not good at all.
Defense's turn to step up.
15:00 left in first quarter
Cardinals get the ball first, we get an early look at Kolb. First play is a nice
slant to Fitz for a gain of 19 yards. Not bad, Kevin, not bad at all.
12:00 to kickoff
Well, the 2011 NFL season has finally arrived in the Valley -- sort of.
The Cardinals are getting set to take on the Chargers in their third game of
the preseason, which is generally considered to be the most important
before the games actually count.
The crowd is still trickling in (fans and media), and while the game was
announced as a sellout it's tough to believe every seat will be filled.
There's about 12 minutes left before kickoff and I'd say people want to see
Kevin Kolb lead a touchdown drive, Beanie Wells run strong and the
build off what was a solid effort in Green Bay just one week ago.
Sunday, August 21, 2011 @ 10:49pm
Eight years, $120 million, $50 million guaranteed.
The numbers are staggering for any player, let alone a
And you know what? Larry Fitzgerald is worth every penny.
The contract given to the 27-year-old seems awfully
generous for a player who, at most, will touch the ball
what, 10 times in a given game?
There's a thought that quarterbacks are the only players
who should get paid as handsomely as Fitzgerald, and it's
a completely understandable line of thinking. We know all
too well the importance of having stability at that
position, and it makes complete sense to spend as much as
possible to acquire someone of an elite caliber.
For any Cardinals fan concerned that this deal will hinder
the team's ability to get that signal caller, I assure you
it won't. After all, either Kevin Kolb is that guy (and
he's signed through 2016) or the team will have to find
their guy through the draft. Either way, Fitz's new deal
won't become a problem when it comes to the team's QB
In fact, one could say locking Fitzgerald up long term
makes Arizona an appealing landing spot for any QB. After
all, who wouldn't want to throw to a guy who has 613
catches and 65 touchdowns in his first seven seasons?
Kolb himself has already seen first-hand how much better
life is when Fitzgerald is on the field, as the wideout
has made a couple of awe-inspiring catches in two
preseason contests. We've almost become accustom to plays
like that from Fitzgerald, and that right there should
tell you something about how special a talent the player
But that's only part of where Fitzgerald's on-field value
Back to the idea that a receiver, on a good day, only
touches the ball maybe 10 times. Ten touches are not worth
the kind of money Fitz got, right? Well, while defenses
focus on No. 11, other players are getting favorable
matchups and, hopefully, exploiting the defense.
Hell, Fitzgerald's presence alone makes life easier for
everyone else on the field, whether it be the quarterback
who has a great target to throw to, the running back who
doesn't have to worry about the safety in the box or the
receiver who will NEVER face double coverage.
Indeed, Fitzgerald's accomplishments are
unrivaled in Arizona Cardinals history, but retaining the
wideout may hold as much value off the field as it does on
it. The face of the franchise, Fitzgerald is a great
ambassador for the team, and his impact is felt as much
off the field as on it.
Take, for instance, this tweet I received shortly after
the extension was announced:
"The Cards are a legit franchise now. Feels great."
The battle of perception is one the Cardinals have been
fighting for pretty much their entire existence, and if
the signings of Wilson and Dockett, combined with the
trade for Kolb were not enough to convince someone that
these are not the "Same Old Cardinals," paying Fitzgerald
Because, while drafting a great player is one thing,
keeping him around is a completely different animal. The
Cardinals are notorious for watching stars leave for
greener pastures, but by showing Fitz the green the team
made sure this one stuck around.
And that, my friends, cannot be understated.
All throughout the contract talks Fitzgerald made it clear
that winning was one of his top priorities. Sure, he
wanted to get paid, but the guy knew he'd make bank no
matter where he played next season. That Fitz decided to
stay in the Valley for the next eight years is a sign he
is confident the Cardinals will not only try to win - but
actually do it.
That is an important message to send, not only to fans but
to players as well. Suddenly the Arizona Cardinals are
more than just a team that will give you one last payday
(hello, Emmitt Smith); they are an organization that
will do what it takes to win football games.
Whether Fitzgerald is making plays on the field and taking
attention away from the team's other weapons or helping
to recruit top-flight talent to the desert, winning just
became easier and much more likely.
Think about it, Cardinals fans: there is now an NFL
superstar who made the choice to play his prime seasons
for the Arizona Cardinals.
As the fans know, you can't put a price on that.
Friday, August 19, 2011 @ 11:16pm
It's only preseason, it's only preseason, it's only
This is what I'm having to tell myself in order to not
panic over what I've seen from Kevin Kolb.
If you've read my columns over the last few months you
know I was not as high on Kolb as many others and, through
two preseason games the new signal caller has done little
to allay my concerns.
It's not as if Kolb has been bad, as he's completed 10 of
18 throws and racked up 148 yards, all without throwing a
pick. Kolb's scrambled, shown accuracy and been willing to
throw the deep ball.
But he hasn't completed a nice pass downfield (without the
aid of a miracle catch by Larry Fitzgerald), hasn't always
been accurate and has yet to lead a touchdown drive. Kolb
has held onto the ball too long and missed open receivers,
and struggled to see the entire field.
It's only preseason, it's only preseason, it's only
Roughly one year ago the Cardinals had questions about
Matt Leinart. Their starting quarterback at the time, he
completed 10 of 13 passes for 77 yards, but led no
Kolb clearly has a lot more rope than Leinart did -
and rightfully so - but that doesn't mean we should be
happy with what we've seen. And, let's not allow the awful
QB play we witnessed last season to cloud our judgment
into thinking competence is actually quality play.
Because, so far Kolb has been merely average. It's not,
and it won't be good enough to win the NFC West. The
Cardinals have been outscored by their opponents during
the time Kolb has played in the two games, and the lack of
ability to punch the ball into the end zone - regardless
of game planning and play calling - has to at least be a
It's only preseason, it's only preseason, it's only
The good news, for my sanity and the Cardinals' chances,
is that there are still three weeks left before the games
start to count.
There is still ample time to learn the offense, work on
timing with his receivers and get comfortable leading the
Arizona Cardinals offense, and it is not as if the QB is
starting from the bottom.
By all accounts Kolb has had a real good training camp,
one that has fans, media members, coaches and teammates
confident in his ability. That counts for something, and
is reason enough to believe in the QB's ability to build
off of the first two preseason games.
Here we are, though, heading into the final week of
training camp with the third preseason contest just around
the corner. As former coach Denny Green said in no exact
terms, nobody takes the third game of the preseason like
it's, umm, not important.
Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals will be no different this
year, as it will be the QB's first time playing in front
of the home fans and maybe his last chance to get a
significant number of snaps before the September 11 season
While it will still only be preseason, a strong
performance would go a long way to making us all feel
better about Kolb and the 2011 Arizona Cardinals.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 @ 11:33am
Maybe I should be worried about Larry Fitzgerald.
breaking news reported by ESPN Monday (and every other media outlet three years ago), alerting the world to the fact that, without a contract extension, the Pro Bowler will be a free agent upon the conclusion of the 2011 season was discussed ad nauseam.
While the Cardinals are trying to work out a deal, it is the player who holds all the leverage, once again. The Cardinals went through a similar scenario in 2008, finally agreeing to an extension that gave the receiver pretty much everything he wanted - including a guarantee that the franchise tag would not be used on him once his contract expired.
And yet, I'm not concerned.
Look, Fitzgerald leaving would be bad. Real bad. Think Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone bad. That is no secret to anyone, and is precisely what has people so concerned.
But here's the thing: Fitzgerald has made no secret of his desire to stay in Arizona.
"I always wanted to finish my career as an Arizona Cardinal; I really enjoy playing for this organization."
Those are Fitzgerald's words, and I'm not sure why we worry so much about his sincerity. The 27-year-old has been nothing but honest since joining the team in 2004, and if he says he wants to stay there's a good bet he means it.
Of course, it takes two to complete a contract, and the Cardinals appear ready to do whatever it takes to keep their player happy and in Arizona. If they were planning on playing games and trying to get a discounted rate, Rod Graves must have failed ‘Negotiating 101' whenhe said, "We are prepared to make Larry the highest-paid player in our history and we are prepared to make him one of the highest-paid players in the National Football League."
So if Fitzgerald wants to stay and the Cardinals want to keep him, where exactly would the holdup be?
Well, Fitz has been clear about his desire to play for a winner.
Reaching the Super Bowl a few years ago was great for all, but gave Fitzgerald a glimpse of the NFL's pinnacle. After falling to the base of the mountain last season, he wants to ascend once again. Though a great player, the receiver understands he can't do it alone.
And that's where this off-season came into play.
The Cardinals set out to make their team better not only because they wanted to improve on their 5-win season of a year ago, but also show their star how committed they are to winning. Granted, we won't know how successful they truly were until the games start to count, but the early returns are promising.
Take, for instance, the big move to land Kevin Kolb. While I'm not necessarily a fan of the QB, Fitzgerald clearly is. Sure, things could go south for Kolb, but it's hard for anyone to see that happening at this very moment.
You can say the optimism is due to "training camp-colored glasses" if you want, but the truth is it's hard not to be excited about the Arizona Cardinals right now.
It's hard not to see this team being better than last year's disaster, and you have to think their ceiling is rather high. By all accounts, Fitzgerald feels the exact same way. Why would he want to leave now, when things are on the upswing? He wouldn't. He doesn't.
So, rather than stress over fears that the team's best and most important player is going to leave for New England, Minnesota or wherever, let's take a moment to actually listen to what the guy is saying.
Friday, August 5, 2011 @ 4:42pm
Word came down Thursday afternoon that Braylon Edwards, a receiver the Cardinals were interested in signing, decided to take his talents to San Francisco.
Then, on Friday, it was reported that Malcolm Floyd, another player the Cardinals had been linked to, decided to stay in San Diego (I can't say I blame him, I was in San Diego a few weeks ago and, let's just say it was a little difficult to come back).
Seeing a pair of potential Cardinals taken off the free agent market may have caused some fans to groan, feeling like the team let an opportunity slip through their hands in the same way Edwards lets a football go through his.
Personally, the news made me yawn.
It's not that I don't think Edwards, Floyd or any other receiver out would have helped the Cardinals, as they most certainly have. Though not stars, they've proven over the course of their careers they can have an impact on the field, stretching defenses and making big plays.
But they're not going to be Cardinals -- at least, not this year -- and the team may have to make do with what they've already got.
And that's fine.
Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet, Andre Roberts, Chansi Stuckey, Stephen Williams. While Fitzgerald is the only one we can trust, there's a real good chance someone else from this group will emerge as a viable threat in the passing game.
We know what Doucet can do, provided he can stay on the field. His skill-set made the Cardinals comfortable enough to trade Anquan Boldin to Baltimore, and he has not gotten any worse. At 25-years-old the former LSU star is just entering his prime and if he can stay healthy Doucet will likely earn the nod as the No. 2 receiver.
If not, Roberts is the guy to really keep an eye on. One year ago he was dropping passes at an alarming rate, making people question the decision to draft him in the third round out of The Citadel. The 5-foot-11 player who is quick more than he is fast was struggling through his rookie season when, out of nowhere, something amazing happened: he got better.
Roberts made just four catches in the season's first eight games, and then hauled in 20 over the final half of the season, including a 74-yard touchdown reception against Dallas. And now, back in Flagstaff for camp, the now second-year pro's performance is earning rave reviews.
Besides them, Stuckey has proven to be a solid option and Williams, last year's training camp wunderkind, will likely take a step forward in his development. After all, receivers usually need a season or two before they really show what they've got.
Receivers also need a capable QB throwing to them, and the Cardinals may finally have that.
Remember a few years ago when Steve Breaston burst onto the scene? He wasn't supposed to be anything special as a receiver, but looked great when Kurt Warner was throwing him the ball. Now, nobody is (or should be) saying Kevin Kolb will be the next Kurt Warner, but it has been proven that good quarterbacks can make decent receivers look good, and there's no reason to think that won't happen in Arizona.
And, no matter who is throwing the ball, you better believe Fitzgerald and Todd Heap will earn the bulk of the defense's attention, meaning the Cardinals will be relying on everyone else to make plays. That includes the running backs, who will hopefully get around 20 carries themselves. If that happens the Cardinals won't be throwing the ball around 30+ times a game, which will take some of the burden off the guys who aren't Fitzgerald or Heap. You think the team doesn't realize that?
The Cardinals went into the abbreviated off-season with plenty of cap space, and, just more than a week into it, there is still quite a bit left. If they really wanted an Edwards or a Floyd they certainly had the means to get them, so why didn't they?
Because of names like Doucet, Roberts, Stuckey and Williams. You may not be familiar with them right now, but when the 2011 season concludes for the Cardinals the bet here is you will be.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 @ 5:57pm
Babe Ruth did it, and things turned out pretty well for
him, so I'm going to give it a go.
I'm calling my shot. Right here, right now, I am saying
the Arizona Diamondbacks will make it to the postseason.
A bold proclamation? Perhaps. Going out on a limb? That's
up to you. But as I sit here and type with the D-backs one
game behind San Francisco for the NL West lead and 2.5
back of Atlanta in the Wild Card race, I feel confident in
saying Arizona will be playing past game 162.
The Diamondbacks have not lost a series since the All-Star
break, and that includes a 6-3 mark on the road. They've
won 12 of 18 games - most of which have been without
Stephen Drew and J.J. Putz - and fought their way into the
race when most experts had them gracefully bowing out by
But that was never going to happen because these
Diamondbacks just don't quit. It's why they are 11 games
above .500 while getting virtually zero production from
first and third base and the occasional good start from
anyone not named Kennedy, Hudson or Saunders.
Then again, "grit" and "heart" and "gibbyup" will only
take a team so far. In fact, people saying those are the
reasons why the Diamondbacks have almost gone, to get
cliché, from "worst to first." They're wrong, and are
doing the team a disservice by feeling that way.
I had an epiphany Tuesday night when a friend of mine, who
happens to be a Giants fan, texted me, saying "The
injuries and overachieving are finally catching up [to the
Giants] I think." I read the message, typed out my reply,
and hit send.
"Well somehow the D-backs are actually pretty good."
And they are, though it's actually pretty easy to see why.
Gone are the days of Mark Reynolds, Adam LaRoche and all-
or-nothing swings, as they have been replaced by five
players with more than 10 homers, and four with at least
five. Strikeouts are not the issue they once were, and the
D-backs are reaping the benefits of having people actually
put the ball in play.
But the D-backs' resurgence, and push towards an
inevitable playoff spot, have less to do with who's not
here than it does who is.
Think about it: the Diamondbacks boast an MVP candidate in
Justin Upton, a Gold Glove caliber defender in Chris
Young, one of the game's best hitting catchers in Miguel
Montero and utility players, like Ryan Roberts and Willie
Bloomquist, who keep getting the job done.
While everyone wanted Kevin Towers to fix the offense by
the trade deadline, the Diamondbacks, maybe surprisingly,
lead the NL in home runs with 127. True, they lack the
traditional big bat in the lineup, but that hasn't stopped
them from crushing baseball sand scoring runs.
Of course, nobody will confuse the D-backs for the Blake Street Bombers of the
mid-90s, and we wouldn't even be talking playoffs if it
weren't for one of the better pitching staffs in baseball.
Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders all have ERAs
under four, J.J. Putz is back to locking down the ninth
inning and David Hernandez is still getting the job done.
Knowing that's not enough, Towers did go out and add a
couple of pitchers, pulling off a pair of trades that
would make Jerry Dipoto blush. And
yes, calling up Paul Goldschmidt from Double-A to play
first base, adding a guy who was just tearing up the Minor
Leagues, will do nothing to hurt the team's confidence. In
making the moves Towers not only made the team better, but
showed that he thinks the Diamondbacks are ready to make a
run at the postseason.
I believe him, and it appears the Diamondbacks do. If
having the talent is one half of the battle, belief may be
the other. The Diamondbacks are lacking neither.
In 2007 the marketing them was "Anybody, Anytime" and
that has been reborn, to an extent, in 2011.
The key difference between then and now is the '07 team won with smoke and mirrors, finishing the year having
given up more runs than they scored, while this year's
squad is actually, legitimately good. They win not because of flukes, but because they are simply a better ball club.
And that's why they'll return to the postseason.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 @ 5:28pm
Greg Toler is a third-year pro out of Saint Paul's college. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, and in just two seasons has amassed 92 tackles and three interceptions.
Greg Toler is also the reason Arizona is trading Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Philadelphia for Kevin Kolb.
Yes, the Cardinals need a quarterback. And sure, they've identified Kolb as the guy who can lead them in 2011 and beyond. Whether you believe that to be true or not, the fact of the matter is the Cardinals would not even think about trading Rodgers-Cromartie if it weren't for the faith they have in the 26-year-old Toler.
For all their faults, one thing the Cards seem to have been pretty good at lately is planning for the future. They drafted Calais Campbell because they knew Antonio Smith was going to leave, they snagged Rashad Johnson in anticipation of Antrel Rolle's departure, they took Early Doucet as Anquan Boldin insurance and they snagged Daryl Washington when they realized Karlos Dansby was going to command a larger contract than they wanted to offer.
Now, while the question of whether or not these moves have worked is up for debate (OK, maybe not, seeing as only Campbell can really be considered a success so far), but the point is the Cardinals, lately, have rarely been caught with their pants down, so to speak.
That's the trick in the NFL. Teams draft players, develop them, and say adios when they are either too expensive or no longer needed. The strategy has served the Pittsburgh Steelers rather well, and the Cardinals are trying to do business in a similar fashion.
While Toler was not drafted to replace DRC, his growth as a corner has made the former first round pick expendable as far as the Cardinals are concerned. You may not buy into the idea of Toler being a starting cornerback, but the tools are certainly there.
Toler, after all, has good size at 6-feet, 192 pounds, good speed and a willingness to hit. He showed great improvement from year one to year two, and one would have to think his career is still trending upwards. The Cardinals obviously do.
Because, while the quarterback position is without a doubt more important than cornerback, it would make little sense for the Cardinals to weaken one area in order to strengthen another, especially when the defense isn't exactly filled with playmakers.
Add in the fact that teams can always use more corners and it becomes obvious that while the coaches may covet Kolb and be souring on Rodgers-Cromartie, this exact move would not even have been considered had it not been for the presence of another young player who, much like Kolb, is just waiting for his chance to step up and show what he's got. Oh, and bringing Patrick Peterson into the fold likely did nothing to discourage the team from pulling the trigger.
The smart organizations know when the time is right to part with a player and do their best to sell high when given the chance. The Cardinals and Eagles seem to be in a battle of this very idea themselves as they trade young, somewhat unproven players for each other. The Eagles are willing to part with Kolb because they already have a QB and don't want to lose their backup for nothing,whereas the Cardinals will move DRC because they feel the need for a QB very much outweighs the risk of losing a talented corner.
And because they have Greg Toler ready to take his spot.
Monday, July 25, 2011 @ 6:00pm
After a long search, plenty of waiting and a lot of
waiting, the Arizona Cardinals will finally, officially,
get their starting quarterback for the 2011 season.
And, if all indications are to be believed, the guy they
get will not only be the starter this year, but for every
season in the foreseeable future.
Kevin Kolb, it is thought, has the ability to be a
"franchise quarterback," someone who can successfully lead
a team, the type of player the Cardinals can build around.
I just wonder why.
At 26-years-old (Kolb will be 27 when the season starts)
it is not as if he is incredibly young with plenty of room
to grow. No, Kolb has been in the league for four seasons
since being drafted in the second round out of Houston.
And, in those four years, Kolb has tossed a meager 11
touchdowns against 14 interceptions, with a completion
percentage of about 61 and a yards-per-attempt average of
6.5. The first two numbers are nothing to be proud of, the
latter two aren't bad. But still, not franchise-worthy.
Then again, Kolb has just seven career starts under his
belt, so maybe it's the fact that he's just waiting for
his chance to be some team's starting quarterback. Well,
he had that chance, just one season ago. The Eagles traded
Donovan McNabb to make room for Kolb who promptly got
injured in the first game of the season after completing
just five of 10 passes for 24 yards.
Sure, the fact that Michael Vick took over and
resuscitated his career shouldn't be an indictment of
Kolb's abilities, but we in the Valley witnessed a similar
situation and were mostly happy to run Matt Leinart out of
town. Why is it different for Kolb?
Well, from what I gather, it's out of desperation.
The Arizona Cardinals have never had a true, bona-fide
franchise quarterback. Yes, Jake Plummer guided the team
for six seasons, most of which we'd all like to forget. A
franchise quarterback? Not quite.
Sadly, though, as as
my colleague Espo points out, Arizona Cardinals
history is not really filled with world-class signal
callers. Besides Plummer the only other one to have any
kind of success in the Valley is Kurt Warner, and his
greatness only lasted for two-and-a-half seasons. Though
his ability was certainly franchise QB worthy, his time at
the helm was not.
So yes, the search for a true franchise quarterback has
been going on for the better part of the last two decades,
now reaching into its third. Is Kolb the guy? Cardinal
fans hope so, and it appears the team itself wants him to
be. But you can't wish Kolb into being a franchise QB; he
either is or he isn't. He's done very little in his career
that would make anyone think he's nothing more than a
decent player, and if Kolb is not much more than what he's
been the Cardinals are going to be sorely disappointed.
After all, you do not trade a player like Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie and high draft picks for the right to
give a big contract to someone who is probably more A.J.
Feely than he is Matt
The issue, of course, is that the very desperation that
seems to be leading the Cardinals to Kolb will cause them
to miss out on some pretty solid options.
Is Kyle Orton what one would consider a franchise
quarterback? Not a chance. But the veteran, who is just
two years older than Kolb, has already proven himself to
be capable of leading a team and putting up big numbers.
He'd even cost less than Kolb. But again, he's not a
franchise guy, so he's not exactly an exciting prospect
Matt Hasselbeck, Carson Palmer and Marc Bulger are
veterans who, if they're even available, certainly
wouldn't be around for more than a couple of seasons. So,
while they may be effective and get the Cardinals back to
the playoffs, there is no chance any of them would be a
franchise QB for Arizona.
Out of anyone, the only other player who could be
considered a franchise QB is John Skelton, but while he
may develop into a quality starting quarterback in the
future there is no way last year's fifth can be counted on
Then again, everyone seems as concerned with 2014 as they
are 2011. While it would be great if the Cardinals could
find a long-term answer at the position Tuesday, that guy
just does not seem to be out there. However, there are
plenty of players who would be considered a massive
upgrade over Derek Anderson (you know, because they are
actually NFL-caliber QBs,) and next year's draft is going
to be filled with top-notch options at the position.
The Cardinals seem ready to ignore all that, instead
choosing to rush into trading for a player who they hope
is the long-term option, if only because they want him to
Unfortunately touchdowns and wins are not made out of
hopes and dreams.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 @ 10:51pm
Kevin Kolb has not played a down for the Arizona
He has not thrown an interception. He has not fumbled a
snap. He has not taken a sack and he has not missed a wide
open receiver. Hell, he isn't even on the Arizona
And yet, he's done something only people like Jake Plummer,
Matt Leinart, Dennis Green and Bill Bidwill can claim to have accomplished:
turn Cardinals fans against each other.
"Larry Fitzgerald will ONLY stay if the Cardinals get
"The difference between Kyle Orton and Kevin Kolb is that
Orton isn't terrible."
"Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie stinks, team would be better
off without him anyway."
"Kevin Kolb fights against cancer while every other
available QB is hiding the cure for the disease in their
"Kyle Orton is average, Kevin Kolb can be great."
"You want to give up what for Kolb? Do you even watch
You've heard (most of) it. You've seen it. You've probably
even been a part of it. And it needs to end.
Everyone knows the Cardinals need a QB, and it's exciting
to see the Cardinals even being mentioned with some of the
top signal callers available. Remember in the past when
guys like Joe Montana feigned interest in Arizona just so
he could get a better contract somewhere else? That
doesn't seem to be the case anymore.
No, these quarterbacks are being linked to the Cardinals
because they'd actually like to play for them. Having a
player like Fitzgerald helps, as does the team's newfound
reputation as a team that actually cares about winning.
These things are not likely to change anytime soon, and
that's something Cardinals fans should be celebrating.
Instead, we're fighting.
It's not that long ago where we were united behind a team
that surprised us all on the way to the Super Bowl. We
did, indeed, do it together, but no more than a couple
years later the rallying cry has been replaced by
repetitive discussion about what the team should do to
move on from the Derek Anderson/Max Hall/John
Skelton/Richard Bartel era.
The good news, though, is that the options are there.
Whether the Cardinals land Kolb, Orton, Matt Hasselbeck or
someone else, the odds are very much in favor of the next
starting QB being better than the last. That is important,
because once this is all over we can finally get back to
what matters: the Arizona Cardinals.
Because, as we know, the team has more issues than just
quarterback, as the offensive line is a mess, the
linebackers are old and they have a dozen running backs,
each of whom will want (and deserve) touches.
And, when it gets down to it, that's what we all care
about. That's what we all should care about. Because soon
the games will start, and every worry a fan could have
about a team will be on the front burner.
Why did _____ throw that interception? What the hell kind
of a play-call was that? Wow, could this defense
impersonate a group of matadors any better? Nice tackle,
you bum. You call that coverage?
Ahh yes, the sounds of Cardinals fans who want the team to
be better. In the end that's all we are.
Whichever QB we want we do so with the belief that he will
make the Arizona Cardinals a better team. That's all any
of us want. We're all on the same team.
But Kevin Kolb's not on our team, and yet he managed to
turn us against each other.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 @ 3:50pm
In most walks of life people get rewarded for a job well done.
Bonuses, vacations and salary increases are all given to people who improve the companies they work for. Not the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Put it this way: If the franchise was in a desert, Dipoto was their Moses. He led them out of a bad situation but was unable to join them in the Promised Land.
To put it simply, the D-backs rewarded Jerry Dipoto with, if anything, a demotion. It is hard to argue against the team choosing to hire Kevin Towers, but even still it's worth remembering just how much Dipoto did for the team while he was in charge.
Last year the Diamondbacks, mired in another season where mediocrity would have been a healthy step up, had a weak farm system and an even weaker roster of players at the Major League level. Whether it was high-priced players not performing up to their contract level or others not playing at Major League level, something had to change. A lot had to change.
Enter Dipoto, who replaced Josh Byrnes the same day Kirk Gibson replaced A.J. Hinch. While Gibson's job was to change the culture in the clubhouse, Dipoto was tasked with remaking the roster. Nobody was quite sure what kind of moves a guy with an ‘interim' tag would be allowed to make, but we soon found out.
Dan Haren was the first domino to fall. Arguably the team's best trade chip, Dipoto sent him to the Angels for a quartet of players. In one move the D-backs unloaded a pitcher who, while supremely talented, was really only good for half a season. Though he was struggling in 2010, the D-backs were able to land a quartet of players, including Joe Saunders, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin.
In what was his first big move at the helm, Dipoto scored a major win by adding a solid lefty to the rotation and restocking the farm system with two quality arms. Sure, Haren has been solid for the Angels, but he needed a change of scenery and the Diamondbacks needed talent. Both got what they wanted, and the D-backs' future looks brighter because of it. Because of Dipoto.
But the GM's masterful work didn't end there. No, in what may have been the most impressive move of the summer the D-backs were able to ship out Edwin "8 walks in my no hitter" Jackson in exchange for Daniel Hudson and David Holmberg.
In 21 starts for the Diamondbacks Jackson had a 5.16 ERA and won just six times. In 29 starts for the White Sox he's carried a 3.68 ERA and a 10-9 record. Not bad, but not Hudson.
The 24-year-old has gone 17-6 with an ERA of 2.86 since the July 30th trade, looking every bit the frontline starter while costing much, much less than the departed Jackson. Merely swapping those two would have been declared a win for Dipoto and the D-backs, but Arizona also landed lefty David Holmberg, who currently has a 2.39 ERA through 14 starts for Single-A South Bend.
A team that was once devoid of talent all throughout the organization now sports quality players at nearly every level.
One year ago Ken Kendrick was quoted as saying, "And our farm system is a less talented part of our organization now than we'd like it to be."
Now? Well, suffice to say things have improved. Not bad, you know, for an interim GM.
Dipoto's current title is "senior vice president of scouting and player development," which seems like a convoluted way of saying "miracle worker." While he now works directly with the man who replaced him, the team surely would not be where it is today - and wouldn't get to where it will in the future - without the work he put in last summer.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 @ 10:53pm
In a pair of All-Star at bats, Diamondbacks right fielder
Justin Upton lined out to second base and left field,
But, as the dust settles from what will be remembered as
an incredible weekend in the Valley of the Sun, it is
obvious that while the 23-year-old didn't get any hits
Tuesday night, he's certainly become one with the local
It was not long ago that new GM Kevin Towers put the
talented-but-inconsistent player on the trade block. Now,
we'll never really know if the team was really considering
moving the former top pick or, just as likely, was just
trying to light a fire under his ass, but either way it
seems the best trade for Arizona was the one they didn't
Because, though he's been criticized and doubted more than
he probably deserved to be up to this point, the chants
Upton received Monday during a home run derby he wasn't
participating in as well as the cheers he received Tuesday
night proved that the fans have moved on from the past and
are excited about a future - with Upton.
"I've been through some rough patches here with the fans
here in the Valley," Upton said after the game. "For me,
that was awesome for me tonight.
"Whether I go 0-20 again and they boo me, they really
showed me something tonight; they showed how much they
care about the players."
The fans seem ready to get behind Upton and, for the first
time in his career, the prodigy seems ready to lead them -
and the team - forward. This is a scenario that didn't
seem possible just a few months ago.
Perhaps even more important, though, is that for the first
time in the team's history the Arizona Diamondbacks have a
star they can truly call their own.
Sure, Luis Gonzalez made a name for himself while wearing
the purple and teal, but he didn't don those colors until
he was 31-years-old and in his 10th Major League Season.
Brandon Webb is a maybe, but it's hard to be the face of a
franchise when you appear out of the dugout once every
The search for the next star has gone so poorly for
Arizona that, for a while, Captain Fake Hustle himself,
Eric Byrnes, was promoted as such. The spectacular and
embarrassing failure caused fans to be slow to rally
behind any player since then, afraid of getting Byrned
(get it?) and instead taking a "show me first" approach.
Apparently Upton has showed them enough.
Whether it's the average that has hovered around .300 most
of the season, the tape-measure home runs, the improved
defense in right field or just an increase in maturity,
Upton is finally starting to flash the skills that made
him the number one overall selection in the 2005 MLB
Draft, ahead of future All-Stars Ryan Braun, Troy
Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce.
Sure, he may never be as good as those guys are. But the
tools are there, and with the knowledge that Upton's best
days are still ahead of him, it's difficult not to get
excited over what could be.
In fact, while it seemed for a moment Upton would never
become what the D-backs hoped he would be when they
selected him, the idea of parting with the two-time All-
Star gets more and more unfathomable the more he plays.
That's a good thing, and Upton has noticed the fans taking
Upton hopes to see the fans at the park. While they may
not exactly come in droves, the ones that do will surely
continue to voice their support for Number 10. They're
invested in him now, and will want to see him do nothing
other than succeed.
Because, after all, Justin Upton is an Arizona
Diamondback, for now and the future.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011 @ 2:19pm
Justin Upton's selection to the 2011 National League All-Star team shows what happens when a team acquires a young player with unlimited potential and ability. Guys with five tools don't come around very often, and it's great when a team can land a guy with that kind of ability.
It's even greater when the team shows patience with the aforementioned player, going through the ups and downs that riddle the path to stardom.
It wasn't long ago that a 21-year-old Upton made his first All-Star team, looking every bit the promising player the D-backs thought they had. Showing power, speed and a big-time arm in right field, Upton was destined to be a star.
Then 2010 happened.
Upton - along with the rest of the team - struggled, and his name was one that reached the trade block in the off-season. The Diamondbacks, with all the hype and fanfare given to the prodigy (Upton, really?), considered moving the former number one pick. While he was not playing at the level everyone hoped he would, Upton had already shown great promise and potential. That didn't matter, though, as many thought if he hadn't gotten it by now he never would. Might as well admit he's not what they thought he'd be and trade him now while he still has some value.
It's a good thing Kevin Towers did not pull the trigger on a deal, as the team is again reaping the rewards of sticking with their guy. An All-Star for a second time, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone willing to move Upton for more than a handful of current Major League players.
This exercise in patience, whether by choice or necessity, has proven to be a good thing for the Diamondbacks. Here's hoping the Cardinals follow suit.
With rumors of them being ready to part ways with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gaining steam, chatter of them moving on from Beanie Wells getting louder and what seems like a rush to declare John Skelton as nothing more than a career backup, the team appears ready to give up on talent when they should be nurturing it along.
This isn't to say the players need to be babied or anything of the like. If DRC avoids making a tackle he should be reamed for it. If Beanie coughs up the football he should be reminded, again, how unacceptable that is, and if Skelton looks like a 5th round pick he certainly should not be leading the Cardinals on Sundays.
But DRC, who has been to a Pro-Bowl, has shown enough promise to make it worth sticking with him. Wells, as a rookie, showed a strong downhill running game and looked every bit the feature back. And Skelton, with nothing expected of him, led the team to a couple of wins and flashed remarkable poise along with his size and big arm.
However, young players having issues is nothing new, and it would behoove the Cardinals to, while not tolerate the mistakes, understand that it is an unfortunate part of having young players. You deal with it because, well, they're very talented and you'd like to see their success come while wearing your team's colors, not someone else's.
So, while the Cardinals go about filling holes (whenever that may be), here's hoping they realize moving DRC for Kolb would fill one void while creating another, sending Beanie packing now could be reminiscent of the team dumping Thomas Jones before he became a legitimate NFL running back and, in all honesty, giving up on Skelton so soon could be like, well, there is no Cardinals comparison but you get the point.
If a team -- in any sport -- is unwilling (or unable) to spend big bucks in free agency the only way to get superior talent is to draft it. Save for the NBA, most young players need a little seasoning before anyone can reasonably pass judgment on how good they will ultimately be.
And, as the Diamondbacks and Justin Upton have shown, a little patience can go a long way.