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Dan Bickley

The Arizona Cardinals aren’t just bad, they’re also unwatchable

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) reacts to a dropped pass during the second half of NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Lions won 17-3. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The sun was setting when an elderly woman walked slowly out of State Farm Stadium, each step guided by her dutiful husband. She looked disgusted. He looked dazed.

“That was the worst football game I’ve ever seen,” she said. “And at my age, I’ve seen a lot of football games.”

Something awful is happening in Arizona. The Cardinals are really bad and really boring. They’re low on talent and completely out of touch. Those who witnessed a 17-3 loss to the Lions on Sunday would agree that raking rocks in the front yard would’ve been a better way to spend the day.

We have seen worse football teams in the Valley. We haven’t seen worse football.

Maybe this will be Waterloo for Steve Wilks, the rookie head coach who just posted Arizona’s first season with double-digit losses since 2012. Maybe another blowout wasn’t necessary to pull the plug on a new regime. Maybe it was a game like this.

The kind that bores you to tears, with decisions that are daffy and indefensible.

On Sunday, Larry Fitzgerald reached an epic milestone, finally passing Jerry Rice for a record he richly deserves. Fitzgerald set the NFL mark for receptions with a single franchise, and just like his infamous end-zone spike against the 49ers, his reaction was priceless.

He stood up and threw the ball the width of the field, to the Cardinals’ sideline, a memento worth keeping from a dumpster-fire season.

Except, Fitzgerald wasn’t even targeted until the second half. Even though Christian Kirk is no longer an option, done for the season. Stupid.

After a spectacular showing in Green Bay, Chase Edmonds was mostly a spectator. Patrick Peterson was tasked with half-hearted punt returns, i.e., the guy who might not even want to be here.

Meanwhile, the Lions stalked David Johnson and beat the stuffing out of the Cardinals’ running back. Their cornerbacks jumped routes and their linebackers snuffed out screen passes. They knew everything that was coming. And after the Cardinals’ offense finally showed a pulse, the Lions changed the rules of engagement.

They switched to a jumbo package and ran the ball down the throat of a defense that had performed admirably for most of the game.

It didn’t matter. By the time the Lions scored their clinching touchdown, most Cardinals fans had already left the building.

It was further proof the Cardinals need a change in leadership in 2019.

This is not personal. This isn’t about the mistakes Wilks and his staff have made over the previous 13 games, and there have been plenty. This is about the future, their rookie quarterback and their place inside a fast-changing NFL, where dynamic offenses are revolutionizing the game.

Rule changes continue to tilt the playing field in favor of offensive stars. The commodification of football is surely on the league’s agenda, feeding a new generation of fans weaned on fantasy statistics and joystick football. Innovation is hot and old-school dogma is dying, a long way from when Bruce Arians declared spread quarterbacks as no quarterbacks at all.

The Cardinals’ lack of sizzle on Sunday was troubling on many levels, despite their injury issues. They entered the game with a better offensive line than the one that walked off Lambeau Field in victory. They failed to build on the momentum of that celebrated win against the Packers, invalidating any hopes of Wilks finally building a solid foundation for 2019.

But that’s not the primary issue.

The Cardinals look lost in time. Josh Rosen is starting to regress. The offense is stripped of talent and any sign of intelligent design. They took over late in the first half, and promptly chose to hand the ball off to Johnson. It didn’t work. They called timeout. And then they asked Johnson to run up the middle again, running out the clock.

That’s white-flag football at its worst, the kind that sucks all pride from a fan base. And that’s why this loss was worse than either of the 45-10 blowouts.

Because this game made you feel nothing.

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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