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Leading the league in excuses doesn’t win championships for the Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians talks with media members after an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Buffalo won 33-18. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

POINTS PER GAME: 18TH

RUSHING DEFENSE: 13TH

EXCUSES: 1ST

The Arizona Cardinals appear to lead the league in excuses.  Here’s what we’ve heard after losses so far this year.

Excuse No. 1: Officiating

Against Seattle, Bruce Arians challenged a play that wasn’t challengeable, costing his team a timeout that was needed at the end of the first half. This week he didn’t challenge an incomplete pass to Greg Olsen that was ruled a completed pass and a first down. Despite an inability to use his league-given right to improve officiating through challenging calls correctly, every loss has an officiating decision to blame. Good teams overcome bad officiating, bad teams blame them.

Excuse No. 2: Kickers

“If the kicker made two chip-shot FGs, we’d be 5-2.”

You signed the kicker, so live with him. If you don’t think he’s productive enough, you have two choices: get a new one or get a first down. In game one, Chandler Catanzaro could have bailed out a Cards’ defense that couldn’t stop an offense with a backup quarterback, backups at each tackle position and without their franchise touchdown leader. In week seven, he could have bailed out the Cards’ offense that produced zero touchdowns. Each of these two games, an entire unit of coaches and players failed miserably for at least 60 minutes, yet it’s the kicker’s fault.

Excuse No. 3: Dropped passes are the reason the Cards can’t score in the first quarter

Arians loved to talk the last three years about how good of a play-caller he is. He loved to let us know why some teams are losing teams and why his team wins. This year, dropped first-quarter passes have been cited as a reason Arizona has one first quarter touchdown. If Bruce Arians is the offensive coach we thought, isn’t a week of planning enough time to outcoach your opponent? Teams that aren’t about a Super Bowl, but are about a Super Bowl ring, should be able to overcome a dropped pass.

Excuse No. 4: Mental errors

After eight weeks of football, are the players failing you or are you failing the players? At what point are you calling plays the players can’t execute? At what point in the midst of an eight-sack (and seven other hits on the QB) day do you admit you aren’t making enough changes to your offense to keep up with their defense? Ken Whisenhunt used to love to say, “We had our opportunities,” which meant, “I called the right play and we had a receiver open even though Levi Brown couldn’t block it long enough.” Actually, he didn’t call the right play because he expected players to do what they’d proven they can’t.

Next excuse: Injuries

Injuries are real and the Jared Veldheer situation is a huge problem. However, injuries are not why the Cardinals are 3-4-1. If Arizona was 7-1, they might have enough of a cushion to overcome these injuries. Secondly, the love affair with Arians was earned by the brilliant job he did coaching through injuries in his second year. If he’s going to accept the praise he deserved for “Next man up,” then he needs to overcome any oncoming issues.

The Cardinals are 3-4-1 playing against a schedule of teams that are 27-31. Keep in mind, the Patriots are 7-1 so minus game one, the rest of the schedule has just a .400 winning percentage. Arizona has only played two teams with a winning record. The Cardinals couldn’t beat Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyrod Taylor and Case Keenum. Arizona has to win six of their last eight to have any chance at the playoffs, despite five of those games being on the road.

I think Bruce Arians is a good coach. I don’t think Bruce Arians has had a good season. This is not a “fire Bruce Arians” article. Bruce Arians did not become a bad coach during the offseason. This season is not over. Bruce Arians is the right guy, however, if the excuses don’t stop, Arizona will not recover this year.

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