DAN BICKLEY

The Cardinals are 0-4 yet the biggest takeaway is cause for celebration

Sep 30, 2018, 6:46 PM | Updated: 8:04 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

We are trapped. Wedged between disgust and delight. Stuck between a Rosen and a hard place.

The Cardinals are 0-4 for the first time since moving to the Valley. A new coaching staff is so desperate for validation that it addles endgame judgment. A 20-17 loss on Sunday marks the sixth consecutive home game without a victory against the loathsome Seahawks.

And yet the biggest takeaway is cause for celebration:

“That hopefully I’m going to be in the NFL for a while,” rookie quarterback Josh Rosen said.

Rosen could’ve, would’ve, should’ve posted one of the greatest starting debuts in NFL history. But his wretched receivers made a series of despicable drops. His offensive coordinator went soft in the second half, authoring more curious play calls in defining moments. And then a 40-year old teammate missed a potential game-winning kick, confirming the folly of the moment.

Play for a field goal, die by the field goal kicker.

“The relief on that is the fact that we all played a very substandard game to all of our expectations and we were still right there at the end of the game,” Rosen said. “So imagine what happens when it all clicks.”

The mixed emotions are hard to reconcile. With a little help, Rosen would’ve been the talk of the NFL around Monday morning water coolers. He was calm and in control, standing tall above the moment. He wasn’t perfect, once missing a wide-open Christian Kirk in the end zone. But he was everything we could rightfully expect, and then some.

He also became the first quarterback in memory to use the word “binarily” in his postgame press conference. As in:

“Binarily, I wanted to win the game,” Rosen said. “I didn’t care if I threw 10 picks. I’d prefer that and a win over what happened today.”

Rosen has produced two snapshots in his short career. His relief appearance late in Week 3 was a testament to his uncanny poise and could’ve been his first come-from-behind victory if not for a daffy call from offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

The organization quickly shut the book on that chunk of malfeasance, refusing to elaborate on why David Johnson was on the sideline, chewed out for mental errors before and during the biggest play of the season.

The dysfunction continued on Sunday, on what should’ve been Rosen’s second game-winning drive.

The Cardinals reached the Seattle 31-yard line with 2:59 remaining in a tied game. They chose three consecutive running plays, successfully forcing the Seahawks to burn their timeouts but settling for a 45-yard field goal attempt.

With another kicker, the move might seem palatable.

But Rosen was the guy with the hot hand. The strategy guaranteed Russell Wilson would get the ball back with plenty of time to tie or win the game. And at the moment, the Cardinals were a winless football team, no longer deluded by playoff dreams. Just like they are now.

What was there to lose? Especially in an NFL market that fell in love with the aggressive nature of the former head coach.

No risk it, no biscuit, indeed.

McCoy’s offense has been the biggest disappointment of the season. He is under considerable civic fire, a guy who has lost his last 10 football games as offensive coordinator. The Byron Leftwich watch has begun, words you never thought possible in August.

“It feels bad,” head coach Steve Wilks said. “This is not what we expected. This is not even close to what we expected. And, you know, the pulse in the locker room is still good, believe it or not. And we’re going to dig ourselves out of this hole and win one football game. That’s all we have to do. Just win one.”

The pulse of the locker room is good because Rosen has changed the dynamic. He seems to be the answer to our biggest problem entering the 2018 season. He looks, sounds and throws every bit like a franchise quarterback in the making. That will energize a room.

Rosen defended McCoy’s conservative approach in the fourth quarter. He showed no frustration over receivers who can’t catch the football. He appealed to Larry Fitzgerald’s long-term vision, hoping he could “convince him back to go more than one season with me.”

He also playfully chided a media member who asked if Rosen was worried about the emotional hurdles inside a 0-4 locker room.

“You’re the pessimistic writer,” Rosen said with a smile.

Then he turned serious.

“No,” he said. “Not at all.”

This is great stuff, glimpses of a young quarterback on the cusp of greatness. But what about the people in charge?

That’s the problem. The winless foibles of a new regime are making it hard to focus on context, to zoom out and peer down the road. The future will be our salvation. But the present is a debacle, and Wilks is right about one thing:

This football team needs a victory in the worst way, to let us know our hotshot rookie is in the right hands.

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

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