Potential changes linger over Cardinals heading into finale

Dec 27, 2018, 5:30 PM | Updated: Dec 28, 2018, 12:18 pm
In this Nov. 18, 2018, file photo, Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks speaks after an NFL foo...
In this Nov. 18, 2018, file photo, Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks speaks after an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Would the Arizona Cardinals be subjected to knee-jerk changes after a 3-13 or 4-12 season?

That, and hardly the Week 17 opponent Seattle Seahawks, was the lingering question heading into Sunday’s 2018 finale.

Arizona ranks last in ESPN’s Football Power Index predictive statistic, scoring -12.8 overall, a good 5.2 points worse than the next-worst NFL team. That’s mostly due to an offensive unit that produces 244 total yards and 13.4 points per game.

Defensively, the Cardinals haven’t been nearly as effective as they had been under former head coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator James Bettcher. On Thursday, new DC Al Holcomb admitted switching from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3 could be a multi-year long project, something that might not be afforded to him if Arizona moves on from this current coaching staff.

“I think there is a learning curve there. I think it takes time to develop not only to understand the terminology but to understand exactly what my fit is, what my role is within the defense,” Holcomb said, citing a similar learning curve he experienced as linebackers coach with the Carolina Panthers from 2013-17.

“There was glimpses, and then by the third year, took off and then you started to see the results and the production from the defense.”

In Arizona, Holcomb’s boss, first-year coach Steve Wilks, could take the fall.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the decision has all but been made to move on after a season in which specific answers haven’t been found and improvements have hardly been made.

“I honestly think coach will be here next year,” said Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, who made headlines when word leaked he wanted to be traded midseason. “We all love Coach. Heck of a motivator, just the way he’s able to get guys going for games, the messages he sends across and then just the practice etiquette. I definitely hope those speculations are false. At the end of the day, that’s something out of my control.

“I told guys (after the loss at Atlanta), Coach says he has to do a better job of putting guys in position. I have to tell Coach after that, me as a leader and a captain, I’m tired of hearing Coach say that. You have to get tired of getting your behind handed to you. It starts with you, it starts with us (players).”

Peterson said it was above his pay grade to speak with owner Michael Bidwill or general manager Steve Keim — who himself could be on the hot seat — about how they should handle a potential coaching change.

Of course, Peterson’s voice as a captain carries weight. His meeting with Bidwill, Keim and Wilks following reports of his trade request at least put his unhappiness on ice.

Another key player who might have enough cache to give Cardinals brass input about leadership changes is quarterback Josh Rosen, who has struggled playing under Mike McCoy and then offensive coordinator replacement Byron Leftwich.

Rosen was asked Wednesday if his status as a first-round pick and quarterback of the future could influence any decisions.

“I don’t know. Maybe. We’ll see. Not yet, obviously,” Rosen said.

“I love all the coaches here, we’ve battled our butts off. All of that stuff is kind of out of my control. It’s kind of useless to comment.”

Leftwich hasn’t even had time to begin piecing together a plan for Rosen’s offseason — other than he will ask the rookie to take a few weeks off after the season finale.

“We’ll evaluate once it’s all over,” Leftwich said, adding he hasn’t thought about his own future. “Right now … that’s a really good football team we about to go and play on Sunday that requires all our focus. We’ll give them that, and then we’ll see what happens.”

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s own future could be tied to what comes next for Arizona.

The 15-year pro again on Thursday passed on the opportunity to discuss whether he would retire after this season. He wouldn’t indicate if a coaching change — or lack thereof — would be considered in his own decision of whether to retire or return for 2019.

“I haven’t even thought about. Just focused on trying to get a win in Seattle,” Fitzgerald said.

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