Sit back, if you will, and re-think the 2015 Arizona Cardinals.
The team that won 13 games — setting a franchise record — and advanced to the NFC Championship Game where they were dismantled by the Carolina Panthers.
Now, rank the individuals responsible for that tremendous success. At the top of the list, you’d find names like Bruce Arians, Steve Keim, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and David Johnson.
A little further down you’d find Calais Campbell, Chris Johnson, John Brown, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Jared Veldheer, Dwight Freeney and Deone Bucannon.
As you made your way toward the bottom of the list, you’d find the names of special teams players, reserves, support staff and administrative types and certainly a mention of the fans at University of Phoenix Stadium.
You may not find the name LaMarr Woodley.
Signed to a one-year deal worth $950,000 last March, Woodley was brought in to bolster the Cardinals’ pass rush. That didn’t exactly happen. In ten games, the former Pro Bowler got to the quarterback once — a meaningless takedown of San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick early in the fourth quarter of a game the Cardinals led by 33 points at the time. And in reality, Kaepernick fell down himself, and Woodley got credit for falling on top of him.
Woodley suffered a torn pectoral muscle in late November, ending his season.
Fast forward to Friday. An unemployed Woodley, hosting his own podcast, deflected the blame of his fruitless ’15 campaign (and his performance in Oakland the year prior, for that matter) on his coach. In Arizona’s case, specifically first-year defensive coordinator James Bettcher.
“In Oakland we had a dumb defensive coordinator and in Arizona we had a dumb defensive coordinator,” he said. “It was just two dumb guys that felt like — they never played football but felt like they knew more about football.
“They thought that we were like we were like Madden players. So they would draw something and on paper it would look good, but the players still have to go out there and run it, and those guys didn’t really listen to their players.”
He went as far as blaming the loss to Carolina on Bettcher, all without referring to him by name, by the way.
“In Arizona, we had one of the best defenses — you look at that defense, stacked up, all the way around,” he said. “You look at the results that happened in the Carolina game; it wasn’t because we had bad players.
“No, our defensive coordinator, he doesn’t have the common sense to talk to his players to make the adjustments because he just wanted to do things his way. And when he did things his way, those are the results that we got.”
Certainly, nobody in Cardinal red had their best night at Bank of America Stadium that night, but blaming Bettcher for the loss is preposterous.
Ask yourself one question — who had a better year in 2015: Bettcher or Woodley? While you’re at it, ask another: which one of those two has a job with an NFL team this year?
Honestly, the only halfway good performance Woodley put forth last year was as a guest star in the HBO football drama “Ballers.”
I can only fathom what it’s like to play professional football. The violence, the glory, the lifestyle. I can also only fathom how hard it must be when all that comes to an end.
But you’ve got to handle it with some responsibility and grace, don’t you?
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