Rapid Reactions: Arizona Cardinals end season with loss to 49ers
The Arizona Cardinals capped off a disappointing 2022 season with a 38-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Arizona opened the game with a 77-yard flea flicker touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. The Cardinals were outscored 38-7 for the rest of the ballgame.
Quarterback David Blough was taken to the locker room late in the third quarter with concussion symptoms, adding to the many injuries that plagued the team throughout the year.
The loss puts the Cardinals’ record at 4-13, clinching the No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft in April after the Denver Broncos’ victory.
Arizona’s loss was the seventh straight to end the year as well as being losers of nine of the last 10 contests.
As the final clock struck zero, the Cardinals have many questions in terms of which direction the team is heading both on and off the field.
Arizona Sports’ hosts, editors and reporters react to the Cardinals’ season ending loss and what should happen as the team enters a pivotal offseason:
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo:
The Cardinals need to start over and rebuild. They will have the No. 3 overall pick in the draft and they need to entertain every offer possible in regards to trading that pick for a windfall of picks to a team that is quarterback needy. They also need to look at every option to trade DeAndre Hopkins as draft capital for 2023 and beyond. That will be of the utmost importance for whoever the GM and coach of the Arizona Cardinals is. With all their picks they need to build from the inside out — concentrate on the lines on both sides of the ball, not skill position players!
As for the coach and GM, it appears very likely that changes are not only in order, but coming. Both Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim have four years remaining on their deals. I figure that the Cardinals are paying about $12.5 million per year in each of those years to the duo. So eating $50 million is what it will take to make massive changes. Michael Bidwill may not be happy about it but that is the cost of doing business. I like Vance Joseph but I think Arizona needs a reset and a new coach to guide the future of the organization. And besides, if the Cardinals went with Vance it could be looked at as the organization choosing a cost-efficient way out.
There is some thought that Kingsbury could hold onto the job if there were changes to the coaching staff — with all the injuries this season being a major factor there. But I just don’t think the fan base would accept that. And if Bidwill is going to hire a new GM, he will have to give that GM a chance to hire his own coach. As for the GM, both Adrian Wilson and Quentin Harris have been in the organization for a long time and are worthy of consideration if the Cardinals move on from Keim as expected. But again, if it is time for a complete reset, it will be hard to hire from within. Fans want something new and the Cardinals should want a new voice a new direction.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo:
A complete reset is in order for this organization. Coaching, roster building, right on down to the studs. My wife likes to watch the home renovation shows — I’ll cop to getting sucked into them every now and then — and sometimes a fresh coat of paint and some new furniture is all that’s needed.
Other times it’s a complete tear-down-job.
That’s what this feels like. Most of the reset needs to be on the draft. Maximizing the return on a potential trade of the third pick overall is a good place to start and trading DeAndre Hopkins would be another. An argument will be made for keeping the third pick, but I’d almost always rather they trade it and maximize the demand for it. Between Kyler Murray’s injury and the potential for significant dead cap money, this would be a good time for a salary cap reset year as well.
Now if Sean Payton is the guy, it seems unlikely he would undertake a massive reset like this. He’s the one guy I change the plan for. Anybody else, either in-house or outside the organization, I want to hear about stepping back before I hear about moving forward.
Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com Cardinals reporter and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast:
If you’re reading this, you officially endured one of the worst Cardinals seasons to date. I will not be surprised if I see shirts around the Valley that read, “I survived the season of 2022.”
Unfortunately, any kind of reprieve won’t come anytime soon with what lies ahead.
After a disappointing season, it’s time for an offseason filled with unknowns from top to bottom.
I get why most are clamoring for the firing of Kingsbury. His lack of offensive ingenuity with Hopkins knowingly on the shelf to start the season cannot be understated. Off-the-field issues within his coaching staff aren’t necessarily on him, but it’s not a good look whatsoever. Injuries didn’t help matters, either.
But at this point, who has this job as their No. 1 choice?
Sean Payton feels like a pipe dream that will only happen by trading away valuable assets that the team cannot afford to part with. Have you seen the depth Arizona has? It’s only going to get worse with 20-plus free agents hitting the open market.
The Cardinals have to leave every stone unturned, while also protecting future picks in the process.
Call me crazy, but I think Vance Joseph has a fast track to at least an interview. He is knowledgeable of the current situation and can be a stopgap HC of sorts if completely deconstructing the current coaching staff is not in the cards. As for if that will work? I’m not sure. And you can forget about appeasing upset Cardinals fans with an in-house hire.
Which leads me to the next conundrum: GM.
I don’t expect to see Steve Keim back after taking a sudden health-related leave of absence midseason. There are two in-house options in Q and A-Dub, but again, is sticking with who you already have in the building the right move after a disastrous season? I’m not saying I don’t think they could bring some life to the roles as co-GMs but if a complete overhaul is necessary, it’s time to look externally.
As for personnel changes, Arizona’s offseason must focus on bolstering the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.
OL depth is razor thin, with D.J. Humphries and Josh Jones the only returners with multiple starts under their belts in 2022. Michael Bidwill shelled out a hefty pay day to QB Kyler Murray. Might as well protect your asset.
Defensively, J.J. Watt is headed for retirement and Zach Allen is an impending free agent. Combined, the two registered 18 sacks on the season. There’s going to be a void left behind by Watt. Arizona can’t let that be the case for Allen. The DL is a top priority before turning to the draft.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com lead editor:
Whomever Michael Bidwill decides to lead the Cardinals, the final result of the season said it all. This roster is at a major talent deficit. It’s easy to point at draft failures in the past half-decade by GM Steve Keim and his staff– misses in the early rounds to risky whiffs in the late rounds — hurting the depth. Trading picks for vets will bite a team in the long-term, just look at the Los Angeles Rams this year. At least that team got a title.
The front office and coaching staff for next year must realize that the status quo can’t work. Injuries carried a big part of that, but if it’s believed Arizona’s situation was quantifiably worse off than anyone else in the NFL, then everything down to the nuts and bolts of the training staff have to be under scrutiny. Saying all that, it seems the best way for a cultural change is to start from the ground up. If not, then whoever returns needs a major shift in philosophy. It starts at the top, though.
Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor:
In the decision-making tree, it is time to move on from Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim. Understandably, because of their lengthy contract extensions (that were baffling at the time), this puts Arizona in a tough spot from a money perspective. I hope Arizona at least goes through a lengthy interview process, looking into the more affordable options. And if the money is there, sure, go after Sean Payton. All I ask is a reasonable contract this time around (it’s going to be Vance Joseph as head coach, isn’t it).
Offensively, be aggressive in the revamp of the offensive line. Making things easier on Kyler Murray should be the long-term vision and a good running game is the best way to do this. And, you know, protecting the guy. The skill positions are what they are. If this effort includes trading DeAndre Hopkins, so be it. This team isn’t going to be a contender next year so might as well maximize the value he can bring on the market as a fantastic 30-year-old football player and accept the complete turnaround from the top down this franchsie requires.
On defense, retain the younger parts of the core and draft the future star of the group. We saw positive steps forward for Zach Allen, Zaven Collins, Byron Murphy Jr. and Isaiah Simmons. Yes, it is not to the great expectations we had for the linerbackers, in particular. But being impacful contributors is a step in the right direction and all four of those players were to varying degrees. Outside of that, select who is left of Will Anderson Jr. or Jalen Carter, assuming one of them is still there. That’s the true difference-maker the front seven will be missing even more with J.J. Watt’s departure.