Green: Where are your expectations?
Last year as the Cardinals were set to open the season nothing but excitement and optimism was in the air. The team was coming off a trip to the Super Bowl and returned largely the same group of players who took them there. We all knew the Cardinals would win the NFC West – that was just a formality. No, the only question we had was whether or not they could make a return trip to the NFL’s biggest game.
But now, just one year later, the Cardinals are being picked by many experts to lose to the St. Louis Rams in the season opener, be beaten out for the division title by the San Francisco 49ers and likely make a return to the bottom of the NFL. Excitement has been replaced by trepidation and optimism has given way to doubt.
It’s amazing what a quarterback controversy can do.
I’ll be honest, back when I thought Matt Leinart was going to be the starter I was sure the team was going to take the NFC West again. Leinart, I knew, had it in him to be an effective QB, and would be just that once given the opportunity. I laughed at the idea of Derek Anderson starting because, let’s be real, guys coming off a season where they had a QB rating of 42.1 rarely find themselves starting for teams with playoff hopes the next year.
But here we are.
When I wrote before that I had faith in Ken Whisenhunt, I meant it. If he thinks Derek Anderson should be the team’s starter, well, Derek Anderson should be the team’s starter.
Anderson, after all, has been to the Pro Bowl, seemingly has his teammates’ support, and has a laser-rocket arm. However, do you think Anderson will finish the year as the starter? Are you confident his accuracy issues will be corrected, that he’ll learn to put touch on his passes and he’ll make good decisions with the football? Or do you, like me, have a feeling Anderson is there simply to keep the seat warm for Max Hall, a player who no team thought was good enough to draft in April. Neither option really inspires confidence, so at this point we’re banking on Whisenhunt more than the players themselves, and as great a job as the coach has done thus far in Arizona, no coach has successfully navigated through poor QB play.
Going into last year we knew Kurt Warner was a player who we all had confidence in. The only concern was about his surgically repaired hip – not his ability to throw the ball accurately to his receivers. This season, whether it’s the historically inaccurate Anderson or the people’s choice Hall, not one player on the roster is proven to be an accurate and effective QB. It’s not like that position is important anyway, right?
All hope is not lost, as the Cardinals won’t have to win 11 games to take home their third consecutive NFC West title. I don’t buy that the 49ers are the next great team, the Seahawks have not reached rock bottom yet (but they’re on their way) and the Rams are still at least a couple seasons away from being relevant. Nine wins could again win the division, and that’s a number that is attainable for a team with as much talent as the Cardinals.
Then again, the last two years have given Cards fans the mindset that just being decent is not good enough. As @jburning tweeted to me earlier this week, Anderson and Hall both have potential to excel and bomb, while at least with Leinart we could anticipate mediocrity. And, while expectations are justifiably lower than they were at this time last year, most fans would agree that mediocrity is unacceptable. Most feel the team should (and will) make the playoffs this year, even with the uncertainty at quarterback. Of course, I’d be lying if I said I was one of them.
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