On championship Sunday, a little Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2012 – 10:29 pm

As the NFL sorted out its Super Bowl participants (I’ve found this weekend always much more interesting when the team you are covering is playing, but hey, that’s just me), the Cardinals once again peeked out and created a small stir thanks to a couple of reports on pre-game shows. The biggest, of course, was Adam Schefter’s note that the Cards would likely be interested in Peyton Manning if he became available, which, of course, is the same thing Charley Casserly was saying a couple weeks ago. Nothing has changed of course. I think, given the situation at quarterback, the idea the Cards would want to kick the tires on Manning seems fairly straightforward and perhaps obvious.

My thoughts haven’t changed. It doesn’t surprise me, nor is it something I didn’t already think. But there is a lot that must occur before anything could happen (stop me if you’ve heard this before). A released and healthy Manning? I just don’t see it, and no, I haven’t been talking to Rob Lowe. The hardest part is the health decision with the guy; there is a tiny window between the time Manning’s $28M roster bonus is due (March 8) and the $7M bonus due Kevin Kolb (March 17).

Meanwhile, I’m breaking every rule I set for myself by helping with this speculation. Again, let’s see Manning on the market first.

— On a secondary note, Casserly reported the Cards will be interviewing former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson for their vacant QB coach position. I know a couple interviews happened last week, and as I have said, some will take place this week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl.

— Top Tweet of the night, by far: Cards defensive end Calais Campbell, in the moments before the Giants booted their game-winning field goal: “I would block this kick.” Love the well-timed, simple Tweets. Simply awesome. And probably true.

— So, as raised by @RayBeingRay on Twitter tonight, the deja vu possibility: The Cards were 5-11 in 2006 and 2010. They were 8-8, along with a Giants-Patriots Super Bowl in 2007, and 8-8 with a Giants-Patriots Super Bowl this year. In 2008, the Cards went to the Super Bowl, and  ….

Ahh. We’ll see.

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Versus the final four

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2012 – 1:37 pm

It’s an inevitable comparison, especially when the NFL gets down to a Final Four and the team you cover (or root for, in the case of a fan) isn’t one of those four: How exactly did Team Whomever fare against those left? The Cardinals had four games against three of the teams, sporting a 1-3 record. They split with the 49ers, of course, playing poorly (especially on offense) in San Francisco and then dramatically holding off the division champs in Arizona (in the only one of the last five home games of the season that didn’t go to overtime).

The losses to the Ravens and Giants, of course, were the two most painful of the season. In both cases the Cardinals probably should have won given the circumstances, with a 24-3 lead in Baltimore late in the first half in the first case and a 10-point lead with less than five minutes left at home in the second.

Of course, “should have” is a dangerous concept in this league. There are eight opponents of the Cards this season that were undoubtedly thinking “should have” after the Cards knocked them off. Still, second-guessing isn’t limited to fans and media. Players and coaches all say they put it behind them by Tuesday — and in the context of the season, they usually do — but it lingers and gets rehashed.

Not that it has an impact this weekend.

Speaking of this weekend, I’d be curious, if I could take a poll (and it was answered honestly) what the results would be about the 49ers’ place in the NFC title game and what they want to happen. Is it a case of guys wanting the NFC West to succeed? Or has enough bile built up that they are hoping the Niners get knocked off?

— As a postscript apropos of nothing, guard Daryn Colledge (who has been here rehabbing his surgically repaired elbow) and his wife donated $150,000 to his alma mater, Boise State, today to improve the weight room for the athletics program. Colledge was a four-year starter at Boise from 2002-05.

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Waiting for the last coach

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2012 – 1:54 pm

I know everyone is waiting to hear about the Cardinals’ vacant coaching spot, but I don’t think anything is imminent. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has been talking to candidates and with everyone in the coaching world descending on Mobile next week for the Senior Bowl — it being a place where all kinds of coaching interviews often occur — it wouldn’t be a surprise to have an interview or two occur there for the Cards either.

A move to bring in Todd Haley seems unlikely when the logistics of the situation are taken into account — the most important of which is that Whisenhunt likes the progress of Mike Miller as offensive coordinator. Kent Somers does a spot-on job of breaking down the situation between Haley and the Cards. To sum it up in a cliche, the timing just isn’t right. There are still some head coaches to be hired that might want Haley for an offensive coordinator job.

Everyone is going to want to know potential names, but I don’t have any right now. The Cards do have a little wiggle room. For instance, wide receivers coach John McNulty also coached quarterbacks while he was at Rutgers; he could conceivably coach QBs if Whisenhunt picked out a receivers coach instead of a quarterbacks coach. As I have mentioned before, tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens played quarterback at the University of Alabama (although he has only coached tight ends and running backs in his coaching career.)

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Offensive Lining up options early on

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2012 – 4:51 pm

Sometimes, all signs point to a blog post. So you see a handful of assistant coaches re-signing — including offensive line coach Russ Grimm — and then Mel Kiper unveiling his first-of-the-season mock first round — with the Cards taking Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin — and then some Twitter talk about expected-free-agents-to-be like Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs — a pair of upper echelon guards — and two weeks gone apparently means it’s time to revisit for the first of many.

The news Grimm returned was not a surprise. I know it was floated nationally other teams might have an interest in hiring him away and that he has ties to other head coaches, but I personally never thought he was going to go anywhere. For those wanting to know why the Cardinals and Ken Whisenhunt didn’t make a change, well, signs never pointed that way. Whiz has, while noting a few times the offensive line needed more consistency, still made sure at every turn to stay positive about the unit. You never got the sense he wanted to make a change there, and ownership must have had been convinced because I don’t see them offering up a new contract otherwise.

The personnel Grimm is going to work with, however, certainly seems likely to change, and possibly change drastically. Is Martin the pick at No. 13? No way to know right now. You’d figure offensive line or defense would make the most sense with the first choice, but we are so, so early in the process. Stanford guard David DeCastro could be another possibility. You figure top tackles Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff will be gone by then. Kiper is high on Martin’s potential, but then again, many felt Levi Brown could develop into a high-end tackle too and that hasn’t played out.

(I do promise this: If Andrew Luck is there at 13, the Cards will take him.)

Of course, that takes us to questions about Nicks and Grubbs and the subject of free agency. I could see the Cards, if they decide they like a tackle in the draft better than what they see in free agency, considering a big-ticket guard. But they already did that last year with left guard Daryn Colledge (whose cap number will be $5.5M next season and $6.5M after that going forward) and I’m not sure you do that with a second guard — especially when there are so many unknowns at tackle.

I could see them bringing Brown back at a reduced rate, but as I have said many times, I expect Brown to want to get cut and test the market first if he is going to have to take a pay cut anyway. (By the way, the picture below is Brown shoving the heck out of Seattle’s Chris Clemons after Clemons got a little chippy with prone Cards QB John Skelton in the finale.) The desire to bring Brandon Keith back may hinge on what happens with Brown.

Free agency starts March 13, and we should have an idea where the Brown thing is headed — at least, whether a deal can be reached without a release — a little before then. Obviously, that’s almost two months away. Lots of time for more speculation (without any concrete answers).

— A couple of interesting links from Cardinals past. First, concerning one of the true good guys of that Super Bowl team, fullback Terrelle Smith has gotten into high school coaching in California. But for a great read, check out this feature about long-time (and long-time ago) Cardinals long snapper Trey Junkin, who had his stalled career briefly return in 1991 only to have it end on a bad snap the last time the Giants and 49ers met in the playoffs.

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Toler’s road back

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2012 – 10:12 am

Following the update on the rehab of running back Ryan Williams, I also had a chance to catch up to the Cards’ other key figure who lost the season because of injury: cornerback Greg Toler. Toler tore his ACL in the third preseason game against the Chargers, the first major injury he had ever suffered.

Toler has been at the facility daily, getting treatment and working on the bike or doing some jogging. Toler said head athletic trainer Tom Reed said his knee was around 75 to 80 percent right now and the lateral movement is now the focus. Toler said he will “definitely” be back for training camp.

“I’m trying tp push it before then but Tom said he didn’t want to put too much wear and tear on the ligament,” Toler said.

Toler was in line to start before going down with the injury (it would have been interesting to know how the secondary would have played out had Toler stayed healthy, because it was Patrick Peterson as the third corner and Richard Marshall as the fourth at that point, with A.J. Jefferson starting). He insists the process of coming back has made him a stronger person.

“I’ve always been athletic and never been slowed down (because of injury),” Toler said. “I’ve never been hurt to the point where you have to put in some work or you don’t come back from an injury like that. It makes you value every second you are out there.”

Toler isn’t unaware of the strides the defense made during the season — “We looked good and I was happy to see that,” he said — but he knows he is far behind the learning curve for a scheme it took most guys half the season and a lot of playing time to understand. “I will try to learn as fast as I can,” Toler added.

He should get that chance. Toler’s contract is up, although he is a restricted free agent and he is expected to be tendered an offer by the Cards.

“I would love to be here,” he said. “I love all the coaches. I would like to stay a Cardinal. It’s all I know.”

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The case for Aeneas

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2012 – 9:58 am

In a few weeks (the day — Feb. 4 — before the Super Bowl), the Hall of Fame selectors will gather in a room in Indianapolis to cull the current list of 15 finalists down to a 2012 Hall of Fame class of between four and seven men. Former Cardinals star Aeneas Williams will be one of the candidates.

What are his chances? It’s so hard to handicap the NFL Hall of Fame. It’s based on a vote, but unlike baseball, for instance, where more than 500 voters simply list a ballot, the NFL version has 50 writers in a room debating the merits of each candidate first before a series of votes whittles down the prospective group. And football, unlike other sports, makes it much harder to compare positions because of the nature of the game, a cornerback versus a quarterback versus a tackle versus a linebacker is the ultimate apples-oranges problem.

But when you look at Williams’ numbers against the other defensive backs in the Hall of Fame, they seem to work. Williams’ 12 total defensive touchdowns are more than any DB in the Hall except for Rod Woodson. His 55 interceptions are right in the mix of most inductees (two more than Deion Sanders even).

As with any Hall class, however, it’s always about who else is possible. There are no Jerry Rices or Emmitt Smiths in the group, no absolute sure-fire no-brainers. The full list has receivers with huge stats (Tim Brown, Andre Reed, Cris Carter), Sack artists (Chris Doleman, Kevin Greene, Charles Haley), steady producers (Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis), long-term linemen (Dermontti Dawson, Cortez Kennedy, Willie Roaf, Will Shields) and some high-profile coaches and execs (Bill Parcells, Ron Wolf).

Williams is humble about reaching the final round for the first time, and being the first Cardinal since the team moved to Arizona to make it to the final group (You’d assume another former Card/Ram, Kurt Warner, will do so when he becomes eligible during the 2015 season for the 2016 class).

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Odds and ends on a Friday afternoon

Posted by Darren Urban on January 13, 2012 – 4:13 pm

A few tidbits as we head into a long weekend in which we see if Tebow-mania lives another week in this NFL season and where I don’t expect anything to happen in Cardinals World (so don’t hold your breath waiting for news on the coaching staff, Todd Haley or otherwise.)

— The Cardinals added a couple of players to the roster Friday, bringing back a couple of wide receivers that have been here before: Isaiah Williams and Jaymar Johnson (actually, Johnson was here basically all season, while Williams was cut after training camp).

— The news Jeff Fisher was hired as Rams coach wasn’t unexpected. It means, at least right now, that Ray Horton will be staying in Arizona (I am assuming he won’t come up as a candidate anywhere else). It also makes less likely that Cards’ director of player personnel will be the Rams’ GM, because the expectation is that Fisher’s arrival will mean Lake Dawson, with whom Fisher worked in Tennessee, will probably get the GM job. We will see. (On a side note, Mike Jurecki said on XTRA 910 today that former Cards coach Dave McGinnis could end up in St. Louis on Fisher’s staff. McGinnis has been with the Titans ever since Fisher hired him after McGinnis was fired from the Cards following the 2003 season.)

— If you missed my Twitter link, and if you want to start looking at names, here’s a good free agent tracker as we move toward the March 13 beginning of the new league year.

— I know I said we shouldn’t be talking about this right now, but Charley Casserly, who created a big dust-up on national TV last weekend suggesting Peyton Manning would be a good fit in Arizona if he were cut by Indy, said on XTRA 910 with Mike Jurecki and Dan Bickley his comments were “strictly my opinion.” Not that it’s a shock, but anyone suggesting it was based on fact and not just connect-the-dots can put that in their back pocket.

— Former Cardinals defensive end Michael Bankston is going to be running for a spot in the Arizona Legislature.

— If you didn’t see it, posted an update on the rehab of the chronically optimistic RB Ryan Williams. I don’t know how he will do when he starts playing, but it’s hard not to think he’ll do well when you talk to him. (And I also liked this story around Rex Hadnot and his late brother, if you missed it).

That’s all for now. We’ll have updates over the weekend if there is anything to update (but I’ll probably be crawling around Twitter @cardschatter if you’re looking for me).

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Going on a little longer about Cards and overtime

Posted by Darren Urban on January 13, 2012 – 12:11 pm

We already know the Cardinals did the unprecedented this season by winning four overtime games. But it’s dominance in overtime was deeper than just the victories (and, given the probabilities of such things, unlikely to happen again for the Cards anytime soon. Or even later. Or maybe ever.)

The Cards ended up with an NFL-record 18 points scored in overtime, breaking Pittsburgh’s record of 15 set in 1997.

(The Cards also played four overtime games in 1997. They went 1-3, beating Dallas at home and then losing to the Redskins and Eagles on the road before falling to those 1997 Steelers at home.)

This season, in wins over the Rams, Cowboys, Browns and Seahawks, the Cardinals got their 4-0 record despite losing three of the coin tosses. Only against the Cowboys did the Cards get the ball and keep it; in the other three games the defense had to come up with a stop first. It makes the incredibly one-sided stats even more impressive.

In the four games, the Cards gained 193 yards compared to 36 for the opponent, despite running just 20 plays compared to the opponents’ 13. The net passing yards disparity in overtime? A stunning 165 to 2. The Cards have also won six straight home overtime games, tying the Steelers, who had six from 1978 to 1997, for the longest such streak in NFL history. (Postseason is included, for instance, the Cards’ 51-45 wild-card win over the Packers a couple of years ago.)

Overall, the Cardinals are now 23-15-2 all-time in overtime games, a .600 winning percentage. The 40 overall OT games are the second-most in NFL history behind Denver (which got its 44th last weekend in the playoff win over the Steelers). The Cards’ 23 wins are tied with the Bears for second-most behind the Broncos’ 27.

The Cards’ OT win percentage of .600 is fifth all-time, if you are willing to include Jacksonville and their tiny sample size of 11 games:

  • .636, Denver (27-15-2)
  • .636, Jacksonville (7-4)
  • .613, Buffalo (19-12)
  • .608, Washington (22-14-1)
  • .600, Arizona (23-15-2)


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A-Dub does charity, autographs

Posted by Darren Urban on January 12, 2012 – 9:52 am

A week from tomorrow — January 20 — Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson will use his High Point Shoes store (and himself) to help raise money for medical care, supplies and a medical clinic for needy children in Haiti.

From 4 to 7 p.m. on that Friday, Wilson will autograph every pair of shoes purchased and autograph other items for a $20 donation (there will also be signed photos available for $10), with all the money benefiting Global Family Philanthropy and Youth Against Poverty with help from The Adrian Wilson Foundation. (Wilson also donated $70,000 worth of shoes to the cause). It is all tax deductible. Many shoes available will also be heavily discounted.

This will all take place at the Scottsdale Waterfront, 7135 E Camelback Rd., between Wilson’s High Point store and Sauce restaurant. The fund-raising will go on both this weekend and next in the same place to raise money. For more info, click here. Wilson’s website is right here.

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Haley visits Jets

Posted by Darren Urban on January 11, 2012 – 9:16 am

As expected, Todd Haley is exploring other potential assistant coaching options, with the rumored talk with the Jets happening today. About the same time Haley’s name popped up with the Cards was a concept in which he and former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano — with whom Haley coached with the Cowboys, with both developing as coaches under Bill Parcells — would be co-offensive coordinators. Haley would handle the passing game, Sparano the running game. suggests Haley could also be named assistant head coach (although that combo, with Rex Ryan as head coach, seems like a lot of, ahem, personality at the top of the flow chart).

It’s odd, though, that another ESPN reporter (Chris Mortensen) said yesterday Sparano would be named offensive coordinator. Haley will have some choices, it sounds like. Whether they are the choices he was hoping for, that could be another matter entirely.

In separate yet also-involving-the-Cards news, a Miami report says Jeff Fisher will make a decision today to coach the Rams or Dolphins, and while it may not be finalized, if it is the Rams, everyone wondering what happens with Cards DC Ray Horton will be able to rest easier. Also, new Colts general manager Ryan Grigson was hired today, so the Rams have one less GM choice, keeping Cards’ director of player personnel Steve Keim in play (Plus, Grigson’s younger brother, Dru, is a scout for the Cards. I wonder if at some point, Ryan tries to bring his brother to Indy.)

It could turn out to be an interesting day.

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