Quarterback will be one of the central issues around the new coach and general manager of the Cardinals. That’s obvious. It was obvious to former coach Ken Whisenhunt, who mentioned over and over the need for more consistent quarterback play, and for team president Michael Bidwill, who noted during his press conference one of the requirements for his new decision-makers will be about “not just finding but also developing quarterbacks.”
Which takes us to the injured Kevin Kolb. In two seasons, Kolb has been hurt more than healthy. When he played this year, the Cardinals were finding ways to win. And Bidwill gave an important quote about the QB — who still figures to have to restructure his contract (he is due a total of $11 million in 2013) to return: “I’m not ready to give up on Kevin Kolb yet.”
Bidwill acknowledged the Cards “probably” haven’t gotten value yet on the Kolb trade, which included the hefty contract. “That’s one of the questions we will really focus on with the coaching staff candidates,” Bidwill said. “How do we see about Kevin and his performance and how we can turn him into the quarterback of the future here for the Cardinals and make that decision, if he is the right guy?”
Kolb has said he wants to return. He has been less specific about restructuring his deal, saying he hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Kolb did respond via text message about Monday’s coaching change.
“It’s obviously an emotional time for everyone right now,” Kolb said. “It’s never one man’s fault. We are all responsible for the underachievement this season.
“With that being said, I’m excited about the new opportunity with whomever is chose and have great confidence in the ones making that decision.”
Tags: Kevin Kolb, Michael Bidwill
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The news will move quickly now, on to potential candidates for both head coach and general manager, and the new offensive assistants that will take the places of the ones let go. On the NFL’s “Black Monday,” after weeks of speculation that changes were probably going to happen, the actual move has a relatively short shelf life.
The Cardinals needed to make some changes. That’s what happens after struggles and non-playoff years and extended losing streaks. But make no mistake, both Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves deserve to get credit for where this team was a few years ago, during division titles and a run to a Super Bowl. They had help from their players and coaches, yes, but they were part of the equation.
So many want to say that Kurt Warner was the reason this team scaled its heights, and Kurt for sure deserves that. But Warner was also in Arizona for two years before Whisenhunt arrived and never took the team anywhere close to where it went after Whiz’s arrival. Warner got benched by Denny Green, was booed off the field at UoP. Warner helped Whiz but Whiz helped Warner, got him to change the way he handled the pocket. It made a difference. Whiz, and Graves, collected a team that could make steps forward. Yes, Whiz inherited good players but he got those good players winning in a way they never had before.
And Graves was there helping collect those players even before Whisenhunt arrived.
There will be criticisms of both, and that’s fair. Whisenhunt said it yesterday after the Niners’ loss — “Bottom line, we didn’t win enough games.” There is plenty of blame to go around when you lose nine in a row, or six in a row last year, or seven in a row in 2010, but it’s never completely black and white. In a lot of ways, this comes down to the quarterback. There is little question the position could have — and probably should have — been handled differently after Warner retired. But without a top-notch quarterback, winning in the NFL is a difficult chore, regardless of anything else going on. Yes, the offensive line has been under-addressed, but I just don’t believe that it’s something consistent QB play couldn’t have overcome.
So the Cards move on. Both defensive coordinator Ray Horton and VP of player personnel Steve Keim are expected to be candidates for the coach and GM jobs, respectively. Adam Schefter reported the Cards have also put in for permission to talk to Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. We’ll see what president Michael Bidwill has to say later this afternoon. (The last time the Cards were searching for a head coach, Bidwill let everyone know who was on the list of candidates.)
Change can be good, but change isn’t what you want to have to happen. Stability works in the NFL. The Cards were put in a spot where change was necessary, but the process starts all over again now.
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Michael Bidwill, Mike McCoy, Ray Horton, Rod Graves, Steve Keim
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Vonnie Holliday sat back a bit in his locker in the cramped, outdated visiting locker room at Candlestick Park. He hadn’t yet pulled off his uniform pants or his undershirt, quietly taking in the scene after Sunday’s loss.
Change is coming for the Cardinals. Holliday is part of the inevitable part of that change, even if the Cardinals were 11-5 and not 5-11. At 37, he sounds like he is leaning toward retirement. It was he and not Calais Campbell who was in the starting lineup Sunday at the insistence of his defensive linemates. They knew it was probably Holliday’s last NFL game.
“That’s the kind of guys we have in this room, on this team,” Holliday said. “Great character. Calais kind of joked about it on Saturday and then today, we came into the locker room and he said, ‘I want you to have it.’ It meant a lot to me.”
Holliday’s eyes welled up a bit as he told the story. He doesn’t know yet if he is retiring, but sure sounded like he might be leaning that way. “At some point, the sun sets on us all,” Holliday said. “It’s getting late in the evening for me.”
He mentioned to me last week he might actually want to coach – or more realistically, be a consultant. Already, he’s expecting some of the young defensive linemen to join him in Atlanta to train before the Cards’ offseason work begins.
“The season didn’t play out the way we wanted to play out, but it couldn’t be with a better group of guys,” Holliday said. “All the chances to point fingers or having a divide, guys never did that. It’s been a pleasure.”
Holliday is a class act. The Cards were better for him being in the locker room. Things must change to improve the team, but there was a universal feeling among the players that the character of the roster was impressive.
— As for the actual change that’s coming, I don’t know what will happen. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he expects to be back next season, which is what he should say. We will see how this sorts out and on what timeline upon which it happens. There is this assumption all kinds of things will happen Monday. I’m not saying they won’t, but I don’t know if it’s is a lock they do, either.
— The Cardinals will draft seventh. So there’s that.
— There are a lot of people wondering about the future of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Including, I would guess, Dockett.
“I’m not one of those guys who wants to play 15 or 16 years chasing a ring,” Dockett said. “Wherever God takes me, he’ll take me. If it’s here I’m going to give them everything I’ve got. I just want to be somewhere to win a championship and where I’m wanted. And I want to be somewhere where they are committed to winning, standards all the way around.”
But Dockett went on to talk like a guy who wasn’t trying to get out.
“At the end of the day my loyalty is with the Cardinals,” he said. “I have given this organization everything I’ve got. I love playing here. I love some of the talent we’ve got. At the end of the day, we have to find a way for us to compete for a championship.”
— Running back Beanie Wells wasn’t into analyzing why he didn’t play Sunday despite being active. His fumble last week didn’t help. Whiz said he wanted to ride William Powell’s hot hand, and Powell did start well (50 first-half yards on 12 carries). I’m not sure Wells’ thoughts that he’d be moving on from the Cards after the season helped the cause.
— There were a few times when left guard Daryn Colledge and left tackle D’Anthony Batise swapped places. “It was an opportunity to kind of keep him guessing on what was going on and keeping fresh legs on the guy,” Colledge said. “Just kind of change it up and see how they reacted to it.”
— A rough year for Larry Fitzgerald ended with a two-catch-for-13-yard game.
“Yeah, it wears your patience pretty thin,” Fitzgerald said of the season. “(But) acting out, being a jerk, causing a scene doesn’t make anything any better either so at this point it’s important to make sure you’re a part of the solution and not part of the problem, going out and working hard every day in practice and doing everything you can in your power to make this team better. I’m just trying to stay that course.”
— The team gets together for a final meeting Monday morning. We’ll see how the morning turns out. I’ll be on Twitter (@cardschatter) for immediate updates and azcardinals.com for all the news.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, D'Anthony Batiste, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Vonnie Holliday, William Powell
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Left tackle Nate Potter is inactive today because of his sprained ankle, putting D’Anthony Batiste back in the lineup for the first time since Potter replaced him during the Green Bay game prior to the bye week Nov. 4. That will make for an interesting matchup when he goes against 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks). Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) is also inactive, meaning tight end Jim Dray will fill in for the fullback duties.
Rookie guard Senio Kelemete is active for the first time this season, too.
Also inactive for the Cards today are:
— QB John Skelton
— WR LaRon Byrd (knee)
— G Mike Gibson (calf)
— WR Early Doucet (concussion)
— DE Ronald Talley (ankle)
Tags: Aldon Smith, Anthony Sherman, D'Anthony Batiste, Early Doucet, inactives, Jim Dray, John Skelton, LaRon Byrd, Mike Gibson, Nate Potter, Ronald Talley, Senio Kelemete
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Next week, Ray Horton figures to get at least one if not several inquiries to interview for vacant head coaching jobs. He already had one last year – with the Rams – and as a minority candidate whose unit has played very good football this season, Horton figures to attract interest.
Horton didn’t want to necessarily go there today, his final day of meeting the media this season.
“I would say today I’m just trying to be the best D-coordinator in the league and I didn’t do it (this season),” Horton said. “We didn’t accomplish our goals. The rest of that stuff usually takes care of itself and usually teams that win more are rewarded that well.”
That said, when asked when he would know if he was ready for a head coaching job, Horton acknowledged, “A couple years ago – (although) you never know until you get there.”
Horton’s interview with the Rams reportedly went well and he had no reason to think he wouldn’t duplicate the feat. “I think if you are confident in what you do, every interview would be good,” he said. “I feel I’m prepared, smart, knowledgeable, humble and whatever goes with whatever that entails.”
None of that means Horton won’t be defensive coordinator in Arizona next year. A lot will happen across the league over the next few weeks. There is a lot of unknown about the Cards themselves. Horton said he isn’t thinking about that.
“All I know is I am going to San Francisco in the morning and I’m not going there to get any sourdough bread,” Horton said. “I’m going there to play a football game.”
— With left tackle Nate Potter upgraded to limited Friday and listed as questionable to play, we’ll see who gets the call at the spot – him or D’Anthony Batiste. You wonder how much the 49ers will work to get Aldon Smith the three sacks he needs to tie the NFL record in that stat, and you wonder if Brian Hoyer – who looks pretty aware in the pocket – can make a difference with his decision-making.
— It does help that the 49ers will be without DT Justin Smith, however.
— Horton said he thought the 49ers have changed their playcalling after installing Colin Kaepernick as starting quarterback in place of Alex Smith.
“You don’t see as many shifts, as many extra linemen in the game,” Horton said. “(Kaepernick) adds an element to run the ball. It will be an interesting experiment to see what they think after the season is over.”
— In case you missed it, here’s the list of 2013 opponents for the Cards, home and away.
— Heading into the league’s final weekend, the Cardinals currently have the ninth pick in the first round of the draft. Given the matchups in the final game – and given the Cards’ fairly strong strength of schedule – it’s going to be difficult to move much higher if the team loses to the 49ers (a win would drop them mid-first-round. About 15 or 16, I would guess). There might be a chance to move to No. 7, realistically.
— Veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday – who could be playing in his final NFL game Sunday as he contemplates retirement once again – has high hopes for a lot of the younger defenders on the Cardinals and what they can become.
One of those guys is nose tackle Dan Williams, about whom Holliday is bullish about his future.
“He can be one of the best nose guards in this league,” Holliday said. “Because of his athleticism, because of his size and strength. And now he’s become a student of the game.”
— For this week’s episode of “Season In Focus” (airing Saturday at 7 a.m. on ABC-15), there will be Adrian Wilson Wired, the best of Cardinals Chronicles for 2012, the best moments of the season at University of Phoenix Stadium, and a spotlight on record-breaking punter Dave Zastudil.
— I will admit I hope Daryl Washington can get his 10th sack.
— The Cardinals had all kinds of problems tackling the 49ers the last time they met, one of the reasons Smith’s 18-for-19 passing day turned so effective (232 yards, three touchdowns). Can’t have that happen again.
— The 49ers have a lot on the line. We’ll see if the Cardinals can mess with that at all.
Tags: 49ers, Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, D'Anthony Batiste, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, draft, Justin Smith, Nate Potter, Ray Horton, Vonnie Holliday
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Larry Fitzgerald has done en excellent job managing whatever frustrations he might have during this season with the Cardinals. Anyone who has been around him the last few years can’t be surprised.
“I keep everything in perspective,” Fitzgerald said. “At the end of the day, I’m living a dream. I have an NFL jersey on, an Arizona Cardinals jersey, only 1,500 men around the world that can say they are playing in this league. That’s an exclusive group. It doesn’t feel good to fall short of your goals but we still have one more game against a really good opponent. It’ll be a test of our resolve.”
As usual, Fitz was asked team-wide-type questions about change and, specifically, about whether he wanted to see quarterback Kevin Kolb return. Fitzgerald handled them with his usual grace.
“You’re asking me questions above my pay grade,” Fitzgerald said. “I saw (president) Michael Bidwill, I saw (VP of player personnel) Steve Keim, I saw (general manager) Rod Graves, those guys might have some answers for you. Those are the decision-makers. I’m just a number.”
Fitz mentioned that he has a personal relationship with all his teammates and he’d like to bring them all back. He clearly didn’t want to get into such a discussion.
“I don’t like to play the GM game,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s not my role.”
(I know there are thoughts out there that Fitzgerald has some kind of sway when it comes to some decisions, but that is overblown. The Cards aren’t making decisions based on Fitz’s desires. Nor should they.)
One thing Fitz does understand — as do most players — is that change comes every offseason, and when a team struggles as much as the Cardinals have, it usually leads to more change than usual.
“Unfortunately that’s the nature of our business,” Fitzgerald said. “(There is) 30 percent turnover every year across the league, from draft to trades to cuts to guys retiring. It’s part of our game. I look around the locker room and see Adrian (Wilson) and Darnell (Dockett) and that’s about it being around as long as I have been.”
There was a funny moment as someone tried to delve into Fitzgerald’s thoughts about a 5-10 record. After Fitz said his role wasn’t as GM, it was asked, “But you want to win?”
“I definitely want to win, no question,” Fitzgerald said, which drew the response of “But that hasn’t been happening.”
Fitzgerald looked up and couldn’t help but smile. It was like a grooved fastball for Fitzgerald to hammer out of the park. “That hasn’t been happening. You’re right. Did you have an epiphany today with that?”
Fitzgerald chuckled as he delivered the line, and so did everyone in the group.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Rod Graves, Steve Keim
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Linebacker Daryl Washington, snubbed for the Pro Bowl Wednesday, is still chasing his 10th sack of the season. Notching one more would not only tie the franchise mark for sacks by a linebacker, but also make him the first guy with 10 since Bertrand Berry had 14.5 in 2004 and the first Cardinal ever to have 100 tackles and 10 sacks. Of course, Washington as been stuck with nine sacks since getting one against the Rams Nov. 25. Chasing down mobile 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for one might not be easy. Washington did have two sacks the last time the Cards played the 49ers, but at that point, Alex Smith was still playing QB for San Francisco.
— Left tackle Nate Potter sat out Wednesday’s practice with a bad ankle. If Potter isn’t able to play Sunday, his backup is D’Anthony Batiste — who struggled so much when he was in there earlier in the season — and I’d think Batiste would likely get another start. That would definitely be something that bears watching.
— The Big Red Rage tonight at Majerle’s in Chandler will feature not only host Kerry Rhodes but also wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, so reserve your table quickly. The show starts at 6 p.m.
Tags: Bertrand Berry, Big Red Rage, Colin Kaepernick, D'Anthony Batiste, Daryl Washington, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald, Nate Potter
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Brian Hoyer will get his chance to start at quarterback for the Cardinals Sunday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt officially made that true Wednesday when he named Hoyer his starter in San Francisco, the fourth different guy to start at QB for the Cards this season. Whiz said Hoyer has earned the chance to play, but it doesn’t hurt to take a little bit of a longer look at someone who could be on the roster for the Cards going forward.
Hoyer’s contract will run out in March. I believe he will be a restricted free agent again — he was for the Patriots last offseason, but I don’t believe he will have earned an accrued season this year (three weeks each with Pittsburgh and Arizona but will have been active just four games) to reach unrestricted free agency. That would mean the Cards can tender him an offer to keep him around (and even if he would be unrestricted, the Cards could still try to re-sign him.) UPDATE: I was wrong. Hoyer will indeed be unrestricted.
Regardless, Hoyer wasn’t about to talk about that Wednesday. Not with his game against the 49ers on deck.
“I’m not really worried about that right now,” Hoyer said. “I’m worried about what play will be called on third-and 2-to-5. We’re not going to the playoffs and this is the last game and there will be plenty of time to worry about that after Sunday.”
— Whisenhunt said he didn’t know if running back Beanie Wells would start this week, noting it would be a “package-oriented” result. As for Wells’ comments that he was auditioning for other teams in the finale, Whisenhunt put it on the frustration of the season and nothing more than that. “When you’ve had individual players that have played certain ways, there’s going to be frustration,” Whisenhunt said. “Sometimes they’re going to make comments, so you don’t put a lot of stock in what they say.
“(Beanie) has a job to do for us. He’s got to do a better job than what he did last week. He understands that and that’s what you focus on.”
— Tight end Rob Housler (shoulder) was put on injured reserve Wednesday, ending his season. Wide receiver Kerry Taylor was promoted from the practice squad to take his place on the roster.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Brian Hoyer, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Taylor, Rob Housler
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When Beanie Wells said on Christmas Eve he thought it was “inevitable” he would be moving on from the Cardinals, it spotlighted what will be one of the positions that will see scrutiny this offseason.
Beanie could be brought back — his rookie contract runs through next season — but will the Cards want that? Beanie acknowledged “it’s a performance-based business and I don’t know if I’ve done things up to our organization’s standards here.” He’s had flashes, like his dominance against the Giants and the Rams last season, but those games came few and far between. Up until this season, he actually missed fewer games than many thought, but the constant storyline of his various aliments were what stuck in many fans’ minds. (It didn’t help that both Beanie and the team remained incredibly vague about some injuries, particularly his knee issues.)
Back in 2009, the top three running backs drafted were Knowshon Moreno by the Broncos (12th), Donald Brown by the Colts (27th) and Wells (31st). None have really sparkled, although Moreno, given a chance to return from the scrap heap of late after Willis McGahee’s injury, has done well. Beanie certainly showed — especially as a rookie — he could be special. He just didn’t do it often enough, and the problems at quarterback have not helped.
Bigger picture, the Cardinals will need to reassess where they are at the spot. Ryan Williams told me today he feels the best he has in two years with the Cards. His rehab has gone well with his shoulder — he is due a final surgery this week as a follow-up, he said — and the knee wrecked in 2011 is in great shape. He said he will be full-go in the offseason for the first time this spring. But again, Williams has to stay healthy for him to make an impact, and he hasn’t been in two seasons.
LaRod Stephens-Howling, who will be an unrestricted free agent in March, has not gotten a contract extension offer yet from the team. The Cardinals do want to bring him back, but it’s looking more and more like the Hyphen (below) will be allowed to test the market first. From there, anything can happen.
Guys like William Powell and Alfonso Smith will probably be kept around this offseason, but their future I’d guess will tie directly into what direction the team goes with the rest of the running back unit.
It’ll start with the decision on Beanie, however. When everyone is healthy, Beanie is the starter. Or at least he has been. We’ll see if the vibe Wells has is accurate.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Ryan Williams, William Powell
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Coach Ken Whisenhunt usually isn’t real forthcoming with injuries on Monday mornings, but he did say today that the shoulder injury suffered by tight end Rob Housler Sunday against the Bears is serious enough that Housler won’t be playing against the 49ers this week in the finale. On that topic, Whiz sounded pretty sure of himself. On the quarterback topic, his decision on whom to start not as much.
Whisenhunt praised Brian Hoyer’s play, given the circumstances. Hoyer remains a logical guess to be starter against the 49ers.
“We haven’t even watched the tape with the team yet,” Whisenhunt said. “I’m hesitant until we go through some of those things. There are always situations that come up where you want to find out what was going through the player’s mind, what they were thinking, that all goes into the decision part of it.”
Whiz acknowledged it is “unfortunate” the Cards are again unsure of who to play. “At that position, you have to have stability, you have to have consistency of play, and we haven’t had that,” Whisenhunt said.
— Finally, running back Beanie Wells lost playing time because of his fumble. That, Whisenhunt said, was a simple cause and effect.
“If you have the ball, that’s your responsibility,” Whisenhunt said. “You can’t turn it over. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what position you play. In the NFL, if you turn the ball over, you’re not going to play. That’s the way it goes. And that’s through history. There are guys who are good players who can’t hold on to the football. Turnovers are something you can’t overcome.”
It didn’t help that the fumble came without Wells being hit, just him dropping the ball. But Whisenhunt was asked if he still has confidence in Beanie. “Sure,” he said. I still expect Beanie to have a role this week in San Francisco. UPDATE: Beanie just said in the locker room that he thinks it is “inevitable” that his days are numbered in Arizona and right now he is on an audition for 31 other teams. He admitted he hasn’t had conversations with anyone with the team saying that for sure, but he knows it is a production-based business and he hasn’t produced enough. Here’s the full story.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Brian Hoyer, Rob Housler
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