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Dan Bickley

Cardinals have looming decision over Steve Wilks after loss to Chargers

Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks fields question during a post game news conference after an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong )

The Cardinals are surrounded by police tape. Every loss is a crime scene. Evidence keeps piling up against Steve Wilks.

A 45-10 loss to the Chargers was more of the same, nothing too egregious and nothing we haven’t seen before.

It will do nothing to help the rookie head coach keep his job … the one he likely lost in a home loss against the Raiders.

There is too much failure to go around for anyone to feel comfortable. Too many key members of the Cardinals are searching for alibis. Too many opposing players are turning into legends against our NFL franchise.

The latest is Philip Rivers, who completed 25 consecutive passes before his first incompletion on Sunday, finishing with 28 completions in 29 attempts. He broke a record for completion percentage set by Kurt Warner in 2009, a milestone that should’ve remained in Arizona.

Rivers is a very good player, a fiery sort who likes to vamp and preen at the line of scrimmage. But he’s not that good. A stout defense with real pride would never allow what transpired on Sunday, enabling an immobile quarterback to rattle off 25 consecutive completions.

At some point, someone on the Cardinals would hit him hard and for effect, just to knock him out of rhythm.

Maybe it’s wrong to call these Cardinals soft. But this defense doesn’t always seem interested in going to the wall for anything, including their head coach. Too often, they don’t seem to give a rat’s asterisk. Their collective attitude begs for a change in leadership.

The Cardinals yielded 180 rushing yards to the Chargers, allowing Los Angeles to score 45 unanswered points. They lost for the ninth time in 11 games, allowing 138 points more than they’ve scored, regressing under a defensive-minded head coach who came to Arizona insisting on changing the Cardinals’ defensive scheme.

Why did anyone think that was necessary? And does anybody think Patrick Peterson has changed his mind about wanting out of Arizona?

There are countless variables in every NFL season, from insults to injuries. But every football team knows when its head coach is on the hot seat, vulnerable and flapping in the wind, looking for a few friends to lend a hand.

If that head coach is a valued leader, a martyr, a victim of fate and unfairly accused, the team will usually respond with great fire and conviction. It will fight hard to save his job because NFL players value justice over all else.

The 2018 Cardinals are not that team and Wilks is not that coach. They just made a 35-point loss look easy. They are becoming routine roadkill, the blind possum crossing a Texas interstate after sunset. They next face Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field, and the NFL’s greatest quarterback has a couple of scores to settle with Arizona.

Aesthetics matter because it’s all that we have at this point. They reveal the beating heart of this team, where here their devotion lies, and whether it’s worth giving Wilks more time to build the team he wants.

Team President Michael Bidwill could simply hire somebody new, considering something else along the way:

Every move he makes to accommodate Wilks is counterintuitive to the hot trend in the NFL, where progressive teams are built on scoring points and capitalizing on offensive design, recruiting young fans who love the commodification of the NFL.

They are the generation weaned on high-scoring video games and fantasy football leagues. They yearn for high-scoring shootouts, not defensive struggles. They have no appreciation for a guy like Wilks, who always sounds embarrassed after losses, and always blames technique and gap integrity.

Yawn.

The Cardinals have huge decisions to make before retooling for the 2019 season. They have money to spend, a quarterback in pocket and high-leverage draft picks to flaunt. But do they have the right leader?

That question will be answered soon. By those who won’t waste a minute playing for a dead-end coach.

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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