When he spoke the words, Ken Whisenhunt did it with such certitude; it could convince even the most skeptical of souls:
“It’s not luck…it can’t be luck.”
Clearly the coach subscribes to Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”) and not Donald Trump (“Everything in life is luck.”)
After a crushing two-play swing that featured one of Kevin Kolb’s most egregious errors ever in a Cardinals’ uniform, immediately followed by an 80-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hartline (who ran as free as a dog that got out of the backyard), you’d be hard-pressed to think that luck didn’t have something to do with this.
After winning a game in which they were out-gained by nearly 200 yards, fumbled the ball four times — yet lost none of them — and gave up eight sacks, you might think lady luck is a season ticket holder hanging out in Section 137, Row 8, Seat 5 with a cold beer and a Cardinals’ logo tattooed on her shoulder blade.
Or if you really want to get fancy you could subscribe to the principle of Occam’s Razor, the one that says the simplest explanation tends to be the right one.
So what is the simplest explanation: that the 4-0 Cardinals are one of the elite teams in the National Football League or that they were lucky Seattle dropped a touchdown pass or that Stephen Gostkowski pushed it wide left or that Kolb converted a 4th and 10 for a touchdown with 29 seconds left in the game?
As easy as it would be to chalk it up to luck, I’m with the coach and Ralph on this one. I don’t believe in luck. OK, scratch that. The guy who walks into a random casino, drops a random coin into a random slot machine and wins a million bucks is lucky. The Cardinals have done it now 11 times over the last 10 months or so.
How does luck explain that?
Prior to last week’s 21 point win, the Cardinals previous 11 wins had come by 2, 4, 7, 6, 4, 3, 6, 2, 3, 3 and 1 point. Four of those wins (make it five now) came in overtime. Like the coach said, that can’t be luck.
They’re a football team, that over this 11-2 stretch is good enough and talented enough to win football games in spite of their own shortcomings. On the exceptionally rare days they rise above those shortcomings, they dominate (see last week’s game against the Eagles).
It doesn’t mean they always will.
Always the movie geek, I’ve got the line from The Return of the King stuck in my head (“A day may come when the courage of men fails…but it is not this day.”) The day will come when the Cardinals get burned for playing footsy under the table with foolish plays, but it is not this day.
And this is where the burden falls on Kolb. Be clear, the Cardinals are 4-0 in part because Kolb has avoided mistakes. He has risen above his own shortcomings. And yet…
The pick in the end zone was the mother of all foolish plays; as he said after the game “definitely the worst in my career…a terrible decision and a terrible throw.” Kolb’s own 4th down touchdown pass and the interception in overtime allow us to forgive that mistake, but we won’t forget it either.
Perhaps one day the Cardinals will win because of Kevin Kolb. For now they’d be happy winning with Kevin Kolb. After Sunday, its clear winning in spite of Kevin Kolb is too much to ask.