Arizona Cardinals must find inner-Lion in 2023

Sep 4, 2023, 8:35 AM | Updated: 12:47 pm

Brace yourself, Arizona Cardinals fans, the regular season is going to get bumpy.

Pegged by many across the NFL landscape as one of the worst teams in the NFL, expectations are low when it comes from a record standpoint.

Their franchise quarterback is and will remain on ice until Week 5 — if not longer — and their QB competition is down to a fifth-round rookie and a signal caller who took his first practice reps for the team this week.

Elsewhere on the roster, the depth at offensive line has already taken a hit and the cornerbacks room is largely unproven outside of Marco Wilson, who must now step up consistently as Arizona’s CB1.

Should I stop there?

There are plenty of reasons why projections are what they are and why the word “tank” has been brought up as many times as it has. In the grand scheme of things, 2024 really isn’t that far away.

The objective this season is more about accomplishing the little things and setting the foundation for what lies ahead than piling up a bunch of victories in 2023.

And above all else, finding their inner-Lion — the Motor City variety.

The Lions — yes, the same franchise that has an 0-16 mark on its resume — offer the perfect blueprint for the Cardinals’ new regime to follow as they work to fix the mistakes of prior management and get back into the conversation as a team to watch.

After Matt Patricia turned in an unappetizing 13-29-1 mark as Detroit’s head coach from 2018-20, the Lions opted for Dan Campbell.

A culture shock — much like we’re seeing and hearing about in Arizona — took place almost immediately upon his arrival and the coaching and personnel changes that followed.

“There’s no secret, you got to get good people around you who are all pulling in the same direction,” Campbell told reporters during his introductory press conference. “It’s team, it’s all about team. There’s no ego. … When it starts at the top and it’s right, it’ll trickle down to where it’s supposed to.”

Sound familiar?

The wins, however, did not immediately take place.

Year 1 under Campbell ended in a 3-13-1 finish. The Lions were dead last in their division but could still hang their hat on foundational growth that took place throughout the season.

They also added some serious foundation-setting weight along the line of scrimmage in offensive lineman Penei Sewell with the No. 7 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Again, sound familiar?

That, paired with Detroit’s continues effort to revamp the trenches with the addition of Aidan Hutchinson and others, was a solid springboard heading into 2022, where Detroit cashed in on its patience and newfound mentality in the form of a 9-8 record.

They narrowly missed the playoffs but were and continue to be among some of the biggest talking points entering the regular season.

That’s not to say there weren’t risks involved, either, with the Lions opting to end the Matthew Stafford era via trade and instead turning to Jared Goff at QB. The pairing has worked out for both sides, with Goff coming off 29 touchdowns after tossing 19 the year prior.

Not that long ago, the Lions were easily the laughingstock of the NFL. Fans with bags on their heads was a common occurrence at Detroit home games and outside of Thanksgiving, were far from garnering any kind of national relevance.

That’s all since changed in the span of just a couple seasons, with the Lions opening the NFL regular season with a Thursday Night matchup against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit viewed by many as a playoff contender that isn’t going away.

The biggest factor in all of it? The culture, which is now an integral part of the front office, coaching staff and locker room alike. They’re all in lockstep with one another, a true sign of a team on the ascent. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Campbell has the best odds to win NFL Coach of the Year based on the turnaround taking place.

For Arizona, that’s the kind of blueprint to follow, not the one filled with quick fixes, bad free-agent signings and a stagnant offense.

One where the wins might come few and far between, but growth is not only visible, it’s sustainable.

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