Another Cardinals home defeat the latest sign of a doomed regime
As much of America shivers and shovels through an arctic nightmare, we are blessed to live in a region where the Cardinals can open their stadium’s roof on Christmas night.
Alas, we are cursed with a football team that has lost its way in Arizona. A team apparently allergic to warm weather and home cooking.
Their 19-16 overtime loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday was just the latest example.
The Cardinals are now 4-11 on the season. They have lost 16 of their past 21 games, including last year’s playoff debacle in Los Angeles. But no statistic attached to a collapsing regime is more damning than the following:
The Cardinals have lost 12 of their last 13 games at State Farm Stadium. Unless owner Michael Bidwill responds with a massive housecleaning, there will likely be massive attrition among season ticket holders in 2023.
Entering the game, the Cardinals and the Buccaneers had a lot in common. They are bad football teams with aging rosters and losing records. Neither has been the same since Bruce Arians departed as head coach.
Not surprisingly, their Christmas night confrontation was a masterpiece of malfeasance.
The Cardinals battled hard. J.J. Watt continued his stellar play, the kind of finish that should guarantee him one more lucrative contract in the NFL. Marco Wilson produced a pair of interceptions. Trace McSorley battled hard in his first career start. Greg Dortch was the best player on the field, a player who has been underutilized all season, a player who had just 10 snaps in the previous two games.
Yet DeAndre Hopkins had just one reception in 10 targets. And for most of the night, a national audience watched with mouths agape, stunned at how much Tom Brady suddenly looks like a 45-year-old man attempting to play quarterback in the NFL.
When the Cardinals took a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, it appeared that Brady was going to be saddled with a losing record for the first time in his career. And then it all fell apart. Again.
Many diehards in Arizona intuitively realize it’s probably for the best. The Cardinals have already been eliminated from the postseason. Their franchise quarterback, Kyler Murray, is reportedly undergoing surgery on Jan. 3 and will likely miss the start of next season. A meaningless victory would only cost the team in draft positioning.
The Cardinals occupy that regrettable space where a victory is a loss, and vice versa.
A victory might also create a false sense of security around the head coach and broken culture, one that was highlighted in a recent ESPN piece. The story described Kingsbury as “miserable” and handcuffed by the organization. It claimed Kingsbury wanted to fire Sean Kugler long before the alleged groping incident in Mexico City, only to be denied by Bidwill, who didn’t want to buy out the contract.
This season has placed Bidwill at an unfamiliar crossroads. Largely popular for most of his career, Bidwill is now a target of much criticism. He awarded absurd contract extensions to Kingsbury and General Manager Steve Keim before the season. He was ultimately responsible for the study clause snafu attached to Murray’s contract.
We have also learned that Bidwill watches film every week with Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, which is a bridge too far for any owner. And he directly questioned the effort of some players during a recent episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” sounding more like the head coach than an owner fortunate enough to inherit a billion-dollar enterprise.
Either way, Bidwill needs to fix the home-field disadvantage in 2023. He needs to hire real football people, including a new head coach, and get out of the way. Just like Robert Sarver eventually did with the Suns.
The future depends on it.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6–10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.