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Dan Bickley

Absurdity of Arizona Cardinals’ season has reached new low

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) gets the throw off as Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Josh Reynolds (83) makes the hit during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Rams won 31-9. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Shame on you. Yeah, you. The people who decided attendance wasn’t mandatory. The Cardinals fans who chose to skip Larry Fitzgerald’s final home game in 2018, and maybe forever.

I wish I could’ve done the same.

That’s how bad the clown show has become. The Cardinals were blown out by the Rams for a fourth consecutive time in the Sean McVay era, losing 31-9 Sunday at State Farm Stadium. Even those who showed up had no desire to stay until the end of the fourth quarter, forgoing a goodbye kiss to the greatest athlete in Valley history.

So, if your holiday shopping trumped Larry Christmas…

Congratulations. You made a business decision. Just like the numerous Cardinals who checked out of the season weeks ago, uninspired by the lack of leadership and evolved coaching.

You missed a few highlight-reel moments. Fitzgerald was targeted three times on the first possession. He threw the first touchdown pass of his career, on a trick play that was installed three weeks ago.

The moment was nearly perfect, the football dropping softly into the hands of a wide-open David Johnson. It felt like a staged Hollywood moment, occurring directly after a timeout when the team played a lengthy video tribute to Fitzgerald. The play elicited “Lar-ry” chants even though he wasn’t the one who scored the touchdown.

“It’s a little uncomfortable to be honest with you,” Fitzgerald said. “I play a team sport. I’m not Michael Phelps or Tiger Woods. Those guys do individual things. Everything I’ve done in my life is in the context of the team setting. It’s a little uncomfortable to be singled out.”

At that moment, Fitzgerald was the Cardinals’ quarterback, Johnson was the big-play receiver and Josh Rosen led the team in rushing yards. That is the absurdity of 2018.

Maybe Fitzgerald’s personality helped influenced the sparse attendance, where the team was even soliciting volunteers to help present the giant American flag.

Fitzgerald made it clear there would be no obvious clues to his future, no victory laps around the stadium. He said he’ll relish nothing about the game, as it was just another non-competitive outing, just another day to forget. He took all suspense and intrigue out of the moment.

Fan apathy is only one reason why head coach Steve Wilks must be fired at the end of the season. It won’t happen on Monday, as it would be inhumane to fire someone on Christmas Eve. But the deed must be done, with responsibility shared by the entire organization. To wit:

You don’t fire a head coach after one season unless he’s really bad, unless you’ve been sold a bill of goods. And one must question how Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim ever decided Wilks was a good idea, a man who tried to fix what wasn’t broken, changing the scheme of a successful defense.

Was it arrogance? Did they believe their system had become bulletproof, that they could settle for last dibs on a head coach and everything would be just fine? Let’s hope they are properly humiliated.

Meanwhile, Wilks said the same stuff after Sunday’s loss, posting the worst home record (1-7) since the team moved to Arizona. Except for this:

“As I told you guys before, I really don’t listen to the outside noise,” Wilks said. “My head is down. I’m working, trying to do everything I can to win a football game and get these players and coaches moving in the right direction.

“I will say this: I walked into this organization with integrity, and whenever that time comes, I’m going to walk out with integrity. And hopefully that’s 12-15 years from now.”

The last part sounded laughable. The head coach said he and Bidwill have never discussed their future. But Wilks sounded like a man who has already been fired and knows it.

Credit Wilks for taking responsibility and for operating with class and dignity. But he never fixes anything that goes wrong. And the decision to keep Josh Rosen on the field is derelict, no matter how badly the rookie wants to play.

To understand Rosen’s regression, just watch how easily Mike Glennon moves the football team in garbage time. When it’s supposed to be easy. The conclusion is obvious. All of these “valuable” repetitions that Rosen is getting on the job are actually making him worse. And he knows it.

“I think I’ve started to evolve as a leader a little bit,” Rosen said. “I think the guys are starting to listen to me. Not even just listen. Probably more pushing than anything because I think they feel I’m starting to emerge into kind of one of those guys. And I have to be better for them as that leader.

“Because if you’re going to be one of those guys, you have to be reliable. And I haven’t been the last couple of weeks.”

Finally, the defense is atrocious, and that’s on Wilks. They have become roadkill for backup running backs. They quit easy and fail at tackling. Since April, C.J. Anderson has been cut by the Broncos, Panthers and Raiders. On Sunday, he started in place of Todd Gurley and rushed for 167 yards.

On Arizona’s sideline, Johnson can’t even gain a yard on fourth down. He doesn’t look like the same guy who lit up the NFL in 2016, from his lack of explosiveness to running up the backs of his offensive linemen. There’s a lot that needs fixing around here and the Cardinals are falling way behind in the NFC West.

That’s why many of you stayed away on Sunday. The stench of incompetence overpowers the allure of Fitzgerald. You know what football looks like under Coach Wilks, and you know how it ends. Badly.

Good news: Rams quarterback Jared Goff is a beacon of hope, proof that rookie quarterbacks can grow significantly in their second NFL season.

And like Goff, Rosen just needs a new set of coaches.

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

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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