Cardinals’ failures proof AZ has become kindergarten of pro sports
Woo-hoo. The Cardinals didn’t get blown out on Sunday. Their moral victory is proof of how far we’ve fallen.
It’s considered progress when they cover the spread against the Chiefs.
It’s failure when a 12-point defeat is considered acceptable, regardless of circumstance.
It’s an accomplishment when you hold Patrick Mahomes to under 300 yards passing in a single contest.
It’s a condemnation of Steve Wilks when you have an extra week to prepare for an opponent and give up a touchdown within the first minute.
It’s progress when your defense forces the Chiefs to punt three times in succession.
It is failure when our standards have been lowered so much that we are resigned to embrace baby steps, to search for the good with telescopes and magnifying glasses.
Sorry, winning is for winners. Progress is for losers. And our NFL team is back on the wrong side of the tracks, grasping for low-hanging fruit.
It’s further confirmation that Arizona has become the kindergarten of professional sports.
A 26-14 road loss to Kansas City might’ve been their best performance of the season, surpassing both victories against the lowly 49ers. But everything that felt good about Sunday’s performance was wiped away in the fourth quarter, when the Chiefs obliterated the Cardinals’ offensive line, pressuring Josh Rosen on almost every snap that mattered.
The lopsided ending was embarrassing, emasculating and spoke to a recurring nightmare in Arizona.
During his tenure, General Manager Steve Keim has failed spectacularly at assembling a competent offensive line.
He’s drafted Jonathan Cooper, D.J. Humphries, Mason Cole, Korey Cunningham, Will Holden, Dorian Johnson, Evan Boehm, Cole Toner and Earl Watford.
He signed Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati to big-dollar contracts. He still can’t find the right mix, even though the GM was once an offensive lineman at North Carolina State.
Before Rosen’s game-changing interception on an intended screen pass to David Johnson, the Cardinals’ quarterback was hurried 16 times with five sacks and 10 knockdowns in 35 passing attempts.
How is a quarterback supposed to develop when he doesn’t have time to learn on the job, surrounded by veteran linemen who perform like rookies?
Experience will teach a young quarterback to identify defensive linemen who are baiting him on screen passes, like Justin Houston did before his interception that spoiled the Cardinals’ comeback effort. But a good offensive lineman will also counter a cherry-picking defensive player by peppering him with body shots, teaching him to think twice before leaving his feet on pass attempts.
That didn’t happen on Sunday.
Hence, the dilemma surrounding Keim’s status as GM. He’s done more good than bad since taking over in 2013.
He traded for Carson Palmer and drafted Rosen. He traded for Chandler Jones. His 2018 draft class could be full of impact players, negating the big whiff of 2017. But do you trust him to fix the offensive line?
It was his first vow when he took the job and yet the problem still persists. Andre Smith just played his worst game in Arizona, spearheading a line that could ruin most rookie quarterbacks.
The latest example is stupefying, especially when Wilks once called the 2018 offensive line “the strength of the team.”
Nothing will change until the Cardinals figure out how to correctly build the nerve center of their football team. Bill Belichick makes it look easy. So do the Steelers. Why are the Cardinals so easily deluded when it comes to their offensive linemen?
Maybe all of this losing is for the best, yielding high-leverage draft picks to supplement their abundance of salary cap space entering next season.
They need to learn if this head coach is worth another year. They need David Johnson to build off Sunday’s performance, and stop running with his head down, looking for a soft landing at the first taste of contact. They need their defense to develop a real identity by the end of the season.
But they can’t let a matador offensive line ruin the verve and raw potential of Rosen. Keeping him upright and breathing is paramount, along with men upfront who understand the position, who know what it means to serve and protect.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.