If you left your couch to get a snack, yell in frustration or vomit at halftime of the Arizona Cardinals’ 29-18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, you missed an interesting comment.
FOX NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson suggested the Cardinals may need to look at a very controversial figure in hopes of jump-starting their sputtering offense.
“Arizona’s gotta get some offense,” Johnson said. “A week ago, they scored three points, they rushed for two yards per carry. They’re struggling running the football again today. Now, Andre Ellington’s got a bad hip, he’s out. It might be time for Bruce Arians to sit down with Steve Keim, the general manager, and the Bidwill family and say ‘hey, how about Ray Rice?'”
Let me be the first to say “no, no, no…a thousand times, no!”
And it’s not why you think.
The mere mention of Rice’s name elicits a negative response. Curt Menefee, the ringleader of the proceedings on FOX, responded to Johnson’s query by saying, “Really?”
Another panel member, Michael Strahan, cocked his head to the side uncomfortably and said, “whoa!”
Fair or not, Rice has become the face of domestic violence in this country following the release of a video which showed him knocking out his then-fiancé Janay with one punch last February at an Atlantic City casino.
He was initially suspended for two games, then received an indefinite suspension and a pink slip from the Baltimore Ravens in a highly-publicized case that didn’t paint the league or commissioner Roger Goodell in a positive light. The running back won his appeal and is immediately eligible to be signed by any NFL team — and several have reportedly shown interest.
“It gets down to do you believe in giving a guy a second chance,” Johnson asked.
That’s partly true. But for the Cardinals, it’s more about weighing whether or not the guy you want to give a second chance to can actually help your football team in the final month of the season in a playoff push.
I don’t believe Rice helps the Cardinals’ broken running game at all.
First, he hasn’t played since August, when he had five carries in two preseason games for the Baltimore Ravens. Secondly, you’d have to think by the time Rice got up to speed and learned the offense, the regular season would be over. And third, how is a guy who averaged a woeful 3.1 yards per carry last season in Baltimore with a Pro Bowl guard on the offensive line going to suddenly awaken a dormant running game in Arizona?
Not to mention, the shelf life of an NFL running back is about four years in most cases. In six years, Rice has 1,800 touches. That’s a lot of pounding and mileage on a 5-foot-9, 195-pound back.
Part of the problem with the Cardinals’ running game — which has amassed 145 yards in the last three games — is that there is nowhere to run. Arians shuffled his line Sunday by inserting Jonathan Cooper at left guard in place of Ted Larsen, who eventually returned at right guard for the injured Paul Fanaika.
Look at the yards per carry numbers. Ellington is averaging 3.3 yards. Stepfan Taylor is at 3.3. Jonathan Dwyer, in two games before running into legal problems similar to Rice’s, averaged 3.2 yards. Marion Grice averages 2.6.
It’s not a running back problem.
I’m not saying the Cardinals or any other team shouldn’t give second chances. There are players on every roster, including Arizona’s, who have had awful off-the-field transgressions, but have been given second chances. Ray Rice will get one as well.
It just shouldn’t be given by the Arizona Cardinals — strictly for football reasons.
The Cardinals will be better off by sticking with what they have, hoping that Ellington heals quickly and that newly-signed Michael Bush — a big back who runs physically and can move the pile — can contribute sooner rather than later.
Avoiding the public relations headache that comes with inking Rice is just an added bonus. This Cardinals team has bigger and more important things to worry about.