ESPN analyst: Arizona Cardinals will compete for a playoff spot
The Arizona Cardinals won just five games last season.
Their struggles led to the removal of both head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves from their positions. To replace them, the team went and promoted Steve Keim to GM and hired Bruce Arians as coach.
Then, the two of them went about remaking the roster.
Heading into their Week 1 matchup with the St. Louis Rams, the Cardinals will feature 26 players — nearly half the roster — who were not with the team last season.
The amount of turnover makes sense, as not only did the Cardinals need a talent upgrade, but it’s also a scenario Arians is familiar with.
“I love all the moves they made, I really do,” ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo Thursday. “I’m going to look back and say Bruce Arians went through this last year in Indianapolis.”
Last year, Arians was hired as the offensive coordinator for a team that won just two games the previous season. The Colts’ housecleaning included the release of future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning, among others, and not much was expected of the squad.
Then, head coach Chuck Pagano had to take a leave of absence from the team due to leukemia, Arians took over on an interim basis, and the Colts went on to win 11 games and reach the playoffs.
While that specific set of circumstances was rather unique, Jaworski noted that the idea of that much roster turnover leading to success is not something that can’t be replicated.
“From day one, Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano in Indianpolis, they didn’t care what the record was the year before,” he said. “They believed in the team they had put together; it wasn’t a rebuilding…much like Indianapolis did a year ago, went to the playoffs, I look at this Arizona team right now. A lot of change, but a lot of quality football players.
“This could be a playoff contender.”
Of course, Jaworski noted plenty would have to go right for the Cardinals to reach the postseason, but says they did enough to get themselves into the conversation.
“This is still a good football team that will compete for a playoff spot.”