Starts for Arizona Cardinals, Arizona State all about perspective
I watched 24 games over the course of the weekend from Thursday through Monday. The best games to me were Sunday Night Football between the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs as well as Alabama at Florida.
However, out of all the games I watched, the two games I’m having the most difficult time putting into perspective are the Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State Sun Devils. When I say, “perspective,” I’m trying to project what I’m seeing — in Week 2 of the NFL season and Week 3 of the college football season — into future weeks in order to anticipate what will happen.
It’s basically a question of “What do you believe?”
If your perspective of the 2020 Cardinals was, “if they only had a kicker, they would have been a playoff team,” the first two weeks of 2021 may have proven you right. Cardinals kicker Matt Prater was four points better than Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph. Cardinals win. With the kicking problem solved, it’s safe to assume the Cardinals will win more games and they were only one win away from the playoffs last year.
What if you had a different perspective on 2020? I thought general manager Steve Keim assembled a 10-6 team talent-wise that was coached to an 8-8 record by Kliff Kingsbury last year.
The offensive penalties from last year still haven’t been brought under control, and this isn’t a new theme. Kingsbury was not only in charge of an offense near the top in both penalties and penalty yardage last year, but throughout his tenure at Texas Tech.
In addition, Sunday’s fourth-quarter clock management before the two-minute warning for Arizona was abhorrent. The 2020 Cardinals didn’t make the playoffs precisely for these reasons, so why are they reoccurring?
The line between winning and losing in the NFL is too slim for Kingsbury to continue down a pass of indifference to the problem — yet we’re talking about the leader of an offense that is averaging 36 points and 445 yards per game. The Cardinals are in first place in the toughest division in the NFL and should be 3-0 after Week 3.
Being 2-0 is a huge historical indicator of making the playoffs. The 2020 Cardinals were also 2-0. The next week, they didn’t show up against a terrible Detroit team. Then in Week 4, they lost to a team on the East Coast, coached by a college coach in his rookie season as an NFL head coach.
It feels like weeks 3 and 4 of 2020 are combined next week for Arizona as they go to the East Coast to play a terrible team coached by a college coach in his rookie season. Beating Jacksonville doesn’t make the Cardinals a good team but it shows they learned from 2020.
I’m not telling you what to think because there’s logic behind either opinion. If you blame kicker Zane Gonzalez for 2020, the Cards are looking real good. If you blame Kingsbury, then you’re not impressed with a 2-0 start because you’ve already seen it.
The other game I can’t get my head around is ASU at BYU. Herm Edwards said his team isn’t distracted by the NCAA investigation. If that’s true, then you’re forced to accept another reality: ASU is overrated. Which is it? In three games they’ve looked unimpressive. Are they distracted or just not that good? I realize BYU has the best record in the Pac-12 (even though they’re not in the Pac-12) so I’m not downplaying their success but it shouldn’t matter versus the hype of this ASU season.
Arizona State fans were sold on the fact that this was the year the recruiting wins were going to lead to on-field wins. ASU is one of only 10 teams in a Power Five conference to play zero nonconference games against a team from a Power Five conference. With a schedule that soft, and if this team was as special as it was supposed to be, they’d be 3-0 with two dominating home wins.
When Todd Graham was fired, the Pac-12 South was much stronger than it is now. The Sun Devils finished in second place in Graham’s last year. Athletic director Ray Anderson wasn’t impressed. Since then, ASU has finished in second, third and fifth place, sliding down each year.
Graham also finished in second place in his first year, just like Edwards. Then, Graham won the division in 2013 and finished second the next year, which was Graham’s third. Graham went 23-10 in his first 33 games. Following the BYU loss, Edwards is 19-14 in his first 33 games.
Right now, how do you foresee 2021 for the Cardinals and the Devils? I don’t have any idea what will happen. I thought the Cardinals would be 1-1 and the Devils would be 3-0. I think now, you could sell me on putting a lot more of my optimism on the Cardinals.