Week 1 was a sign of the future for Larry Fitzgerald’s days with the Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald is arguably the greatest player to ever wear an Arizona Cardinals uniform. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and for a time held the title as the game’s best wide receiver.
But those days are long gone. From 2005-2011 Fitzgerald had six seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving and in four of those seasons he went over 1,400 yards. He was a 6-foot-3 matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators and cornerbacks.
But today Fitzgerald is a former star very likely on his way out of Arizona. He is clearly not in the Cardinals long-term plans. He is not their number one wide receiver anymore. That distinction goes to Michael Floyd. And judging by the first game he is not even one of their top three options.
In fact, Fitzgerald was not even targeted in the first three quarters of the Monday Night Football win over the San Diego Chargers. His final numbers on the game — 1 reception for 22 yards. And on the two biggest plays of the game, the 3rd and 9 completion to Floyd for 16 yards and the 13-yard touchdown to John Brown, #11 wasn’t even on the field. He was watching from the sidelines.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist — or in this case a saber metric geek — to say Fitzgerald is on his way to a third consecutive year of failing to reach 1,000 yards. And at 31-years-old and with a cap hit of $23.6 million for next season, he may never reach those numbers again.
Fitzgerald is still a star in fans’ eyes. They love him, and rightfully so. He has meant so much to this organization and they would love to see him retire a Cardinal. But chances of that happening are slim.
Fitzgerald wants to win but it has to be killing him to not be the focal point of the offense anymore. Rumors are, he is being phased out of the offense. But more than likely age is catching up to him. The hands are still great, but he is not, and never was, a speed guy.
In this offense if you can’t get separation you are not having the ball thrown to you. With Fitz playing more inside it limits his opportunities. It’s more of a mental game inside where you have to be ready to adjust your route depending on what the safety does. It’s more of a thinking mans position where you read the play. Never one to blow by guys, Fitzgerald excelled at positioning on the outside. He was big but not quick. When he was in his prime he was better once he got that big body moving down the field.
Things have changed for Fitzgerald. He still believes in his ability but no longer does everyone else. With all he has meant to this organization you can only hope things don’t end badly.
Fitz may have to be the good soldier here, keeping quiet about his touches, about his father’s Twitter account and just talking about winning. He can do that. He loves to win. And as bad as Week 1 was for him, Fitz isn’t going to end up with 30 catches. He is too good for that. He will have his games where he grabs 5 or 6 balls and puts up good numbers.
But in the end the final stats will be average. And average doesn’t allow you to cash in on $23.6 million.