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Dan Bickley

Arizona Cardinals hit rock bottom in lopsided loss to Denver

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) sits on the bench during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Broncos won 45-10. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Hello, world. We opened the roof and pulled back the curtains for your viewing pleasure. Welcome to our nightmare.

The Cardinals are who we thought they were. They are 1-6 with cement shoes. Their stadium was half empty for Thursday Night Football, with the other half occupied by Broncos fans. You see less orange at Syracuse basketball games.

Anger is turning to apathy. Heads must roll.

“Definitely embarrassing, the effort tonight,” head coach Steve Wilks said. “Our fans deserve more than that. We have to come out and perform better than that.”

Team President Michael Bidwill is surely furious. He has risen to prominence in the NFL, changing the culture and perception of a laughingstock organization. No chance he tolerates this kind of embarrassment on national television.

The Broncos didn’t just beat up the home team. They clowned the Cardinals. Von Miller predicted Denver would kick Arizona’s (expletive), and instead of fighting back, the Cardinals went out and purchased whoopee cushions for their post-game commute.

The Broncos scored a defensive touchdown 59 seconds into the game. The Cardinals were forced to call a timeout on the second play from scrimmage due to alignment issues … on a scripted play.  Emmanuel Sanders threw a touchdown pass on a trick play and later somersaulted into the end zone following his 64-yard touchdown reception.

Finally, when the Cardinals needed to burn a second timeout later in the first half, Broncos players celebrated on the field, whipping their faithful fans into a frenzy. This performance was beyond disgusting. It was a time capsule back into the Dark Ages.

At intermission, the Cardinals trailed 35-3, facing the largest halftime deficit at home in team history. Chew on that for a moment. And try not to hurl.

“You guys are going to ask me about changes,” Wilks said. “That’s premature to talk about any changes right now. Everybody is going to be evaluated across the board. And as I said before, we’ve got to find ways to get this thing moving in the right direction. Not acceptable and our fans deserve better, as I said before.”

The offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, is the obvious scapegoat. The Broncos had allowed two consecutive teams to rush for over 200 yards, setting the stage for a get-right game from David Johnson.  That didn’t happen. But it’s also hard to run the ball when trailing by over four touchdowns.

Byron Leftwich is the obvious successor and his promotion should come down on Friday. He’s considered a rising star in the profession and would surely bring the offense out of the 1970s.  But is it enough?

Wilks is still saying the same things with a stiff upper lip. He’s disappointed about this. He needs to fix that. His words sound no different than they did after a Week 1 loss to the Redskins and absolutely nothing has changed. Along the way, he’s lost all belief among football fans in the Valley. Why would he have any remaining credibility in the locker room?

The Cardinals’ previous two head coaches won 94 games combined. Their current head coach might not win a second. Soon, we’ll get an idea of what Bidwill thinks about the latest debacle, and if he still believes in the all-business monologue of Wilks, a defensive-minded head coach who has only made the defense worse. And why was Josh Rosen still in the game, absorbing punishment late in the second half?

Wilks said that was a mistake, too.

If Bidwill still has deep trust in his general manager, he will also want to know how three of Steve Keim’s prized draft picks – Robert Nkemdiche, Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick – have had a hard time finding a place in Wilks’ defense. And if Keim felt compelled to fire Whisenhunt after a 58-0 loss to Seattle in 2012, how will he reconcile a regime that has been outscored 184-92 in the first seven weeks of the season?

Bruce Arians’ worst team only had a -66 point differential. Wilks is already at -92.

If Robert Sarver owned the Cardinals, he might promote Leftwich all the way to head coach. Or maybe he’d beg Arians to come out of retirement and extinguish this dumpster fire. Bidwill isn’t prone to rash behavior, and odds are, McCoy is the only one to lose his job, assuming his place in the Arizona Hall of Shame.

He’ll have plenty of company.

In 2000, the Cardinals lost 48-7 to the Cowboys. An outraged executive walked into Vince Tobin’s press conference and flipped him the bird. The head coach didn’t see the gesture, but Dave McGinnis brought a suit to work the next day, just in case. Smart man.

Meanwhile, the team famously fired Jim Hanifan in 1985 by changing the locks on his office door at halftime of a home game against the Redskins.

But this?

This is rock bottom for the new era Cardinals. They’ve been digging a hole for seven weeks. And now it looks like the Grand Canyon, big enough to bury an entire football team.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier