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Waiting for Palmer, ranking the Cardinals’ QBs

Posted by Darren Urban on February 7, 2017 – 2:15 pm

Fitz said he’s coming back and it seems like only a matter of time before Carson Palmer does the same. I get why some have trepidation that Palmer has yet to officially say anything, but knowing Palmer, he really didn’t want to even make coming back a “thing” if he could’ve helped it; if Bruce Arians hadn’t mentioned that Palmer was on the fence, I’m not sure anyone would even be thinking about it.

(As a side note, on Friday Palmer’s 2017 salary of $15.5 million becomes fully guaranteed. Fitz’s $11M salary also becomes guaranteed that day.)

It’s important to have Palmer, of course. I’ve heard from fans who think otherwise, who want to move on, but that makes no sense to me. Not that it matters — Palmer, if he wants to play, is the quarterback. But anytime that subject comes up, it makes me think of the lengthy list of QBs this franchise has had since moving to Arizona. So, as the 2016 season fades and we wait for the 2017 season to gain steam, I thought I’d do a power ranking of the QBs this team has had since 1988, the year they came to the desert. My one requirement: A QB had to have at least 10 starts (eliminating some half-season greats like Boomer Esiason, Derek Anderson and Jay Schroeder. Feel free to insert them into your own list if you choose.) There have been a few.

  1. 1. Kurt Warner: He’s a Hall of Famer and the lone guy to get the Cards to a Super Bowl. So, yeah. He’s the best.
  2. 2. Palmer: He has plenty of critics. But he’s been pretty good. He’s won a lot of games. And, save for 2014, he’s been durable.
  3. 3. Neil Lomax: Oh, that hip.
  4. 4. Jake Plummer: Beloved local hero finally got the Cardinals to the playoffs. So fun to watch. Sometimes, frustrating to watch.
  5. 5. Kevin Kolb: He was usually solid — he could just never stay healthy. Beat the Patriots in New England.
  6. 6. Steve Beuerlein: Maybe things would’ve been a little different if Buddy Ryan hadn’t shown up.
  7. 7. Josh McCown: The man Denny Green believed in enough to justify drafting Fitz.
  8. 8. Timm Rosenbach: Another guy you wonder about had he had health.
  9. 9. Matt Leinart: He did just fine his first two starts. But post-Monday Night Meltdown, and after Kurt, everything changed.
  10. 10. Dave Krieg: To be a QB on a Buddy Ryan team couldn’t have been easy.
  11. 11. Kent Graham: Had the misfortune of trying to be the placeholder for Jake the Snake.
  12. 12. Chris Chandler: One year as full-time starter got 15 TDs, 15 picks and 12 losses.
  13. 13. Jeff Blake: Once, I asked him about his career. “It’s not like I’ve played bad ball,” he said. “I’ve just been on bad teams.”
  14. 14. Gary Hogeboom: Those years after Lomax were tough.
  15. 15. John Skelton: Cards managed to go .500 with him taking over for Kolb in 2011. Fitz helped.
  16. 16. Tom Tupa: He was a punter first for a reason.

WARNER MCCOWN

 


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An anthem, the “itch” and Fitz’s return

Posted by Darren Urban on February 6, 2017 – 11:51 am

The moment, Fitz said, boiled up when Mike Phillips was playing the national anthem in Atlanta before the NFC Championship game between the Falcons and Packers. The Cardinals wide receiver said he was “just into it.”

“I was sitting there and the fire was burning,” Fitzgerald said. “I wanted to be out there.”

That’s what told Fitz he needed to play again in 2017, something he announced last week.

“I called (Bruce Arians), I said, ‘Coach, I’ve got that itch,’ ” Fitzgerald said the other night, after he was awarded the Walter Payton Man of the Year. “He was like, ‘Don’t rush, don’t make a hasty decision. Take your time.’ We talked again, I had dinner with Coach (Friday) night. I love that man, I love playing for him, he brings a great energy to our team and a toughness that is contagious.”

That’s what Arians had predicted, that the players would eventually have that itch. (Of course, when Arians said that, it was after the NFC Championship game and after Fitz said he was “pretty sure” he knew his decision, so B.A. was working with inside information.) Fitzgerald acknowledged all the things expected to have impacted his wavering about playing in the first place — feeling “pretty bad” after the season both physically and psychologically.

Spending time in Houston last week wasn’t ideal either.

“It sucks coming here (to the Super Bowl) and enjoying the pageantry of the event but not actually participating in the event,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s not the same. We all play for that. Hopefully we get off to a fast start and get it going this year.”

The Cardinals are waiting to hear from quarterback Carson Palmer about his status for 2017, but at this point it feels like a foregone conclusion Palmer will indeed play.

“We all hope that Carson comes back, not to put any pressure on him,” Fitzgerald said. “But we are a very, very good team when Carson is playing quarterback for us.”

6th Annual NFL Honors


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Super Bowl doesn’t include Floyd

Posted by Darren Urban on February 5, 2017 – 4:24 pm

When the Cardinals released Michael Floyd in December, he was quickly claimed by the Patriots off waivers. It was noted by more than a few Floyd could end up benefiting greatly by making it too the Super Bowl. The Patriots, of course, are playing in the Super Bowl today. Floyd is in uniform — but only for warmups. Floyd is inactive for the game — Bill Belichick allowed all players to dress for warmups, even those inactive, just to allow them that experience.

Floyd didn’t play in the AFC Championship game either after being named inactive. He struggled in the lone playoff game he was in. Top Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss said it was a numbers game that kept Floyd from playing in the Super Bowl. He also said Floyd would like to re-sign with New England and that the Patriots have interest. We will see if that comes to pass — and also what market develops for Floyd after his rocky 2016 season.

UPDATE: But because Tom Brady is Tom Brady, Floyd did get a Super Bowl ring.

Michael Floyd


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Reassessing receivers after Fitz news

Posted by Darren Urban on February 2, 2017 – 9:50 am

So Larry Fitzgerald is coming back, a boon to the Cardinals — at least for 2017. After moving on from Michael Floyd (which was probable as 2016 moved on and Floyd heading into free agency, regardless of his off-field issues), the Cards needed a Fitz anchor at wide receiver. But for the long-term, does it change a lot? The Cardinals still need to consider a big receiver in the draft, I’d think, a guy who can help fill the Fitz void when that comes sooner rather than later (and the way this all has gone, it feels like Fitzgerald is going to want to hang it up after 2017.)

Again, the biggest question after Fitzgerald when it comes to wide receiver is the ability for Smokey Brown to return to form. If Brown is able to play next season like he did for most of 2015 (Brown did battle hamstring issues that year and it might have been the sickle cell issue), the Cardinals should be fine. J.J. Nelson was emerging the last part of the season. Again, there probably needs to be a long-term “big” receiver plan post-Fitz, but it’s not crucial. The return of Fitz does ease the pressure — and eliminates a potential hole — that could have forced something different at the 13th overall pick. Then again, if Clemson’s Mike Williams is still on the board …

(Besides, good passing games come down to the quarterback often. If Carson Palmer retires along with Fitz, the Cards’ QB situation will be priority 1, 2 and 3. And probably 4 and 5.)

No, you don’t forget running back David Johnson either. He’ll play a huge role in the passing game again, I am sure. But again, if Brown and Jaron Brown (torn ACL) can come back healthy, along with Fitz and Nelson, the Cardinals’ receiving corps should be fine for this season.

a7r-03692


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QB, if Palmer were to retire

Posted by Darren Urban on February 1, 2017 – 10:03 am

Let me start this post by saying I have all along believed Carson Palmer would play in 2017, regardless of what Larry Fitzgerald ultimately chose. (Wednesday, Palmer cleared up the idea his house in Arizona was for sale — it isn’t.) I will admit I am a little surprised that Palmer’s situation remains up in the air as it apparently is, but I still think he will play. But … if he doesn’t:

It would kind of feel a little bit like the offseason of 2013, right when Steve Keim and Bruce Arians were hired into their current spots. The Cards were going to move on from Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. They signed Drew Stanton, who was ostensibly going to be the starter (and then the Cards would draft a QB), until Palmer came along in the big trade with the Raiders.

If Palmer were to retire now, Stanton again would ostensibly be the starter. The Cardinals likely would go into the draft looking to pick a QB. But there would be a good chance Keim would look into the trade/free-agent market hard. (Mike Glennon, maybe?) In some ways, perhaps the situation would parallel even more that 2010 season right after Kurt Warner retired. You’d have the remaining veteran — Stanton playing the role of Matt Leinart — and the possibility of adding another veteran (in 2010, it was Derek Anderson). Zac Dysert is still around, but there’d likely be a rookie. In 2010, that was Skelton and Max Hall, both of whom ended up with roster spots ahead of Leinart (who by then had worn out his welcome with then-coach Ken Whisenhunt.)

Again, I think Palmer will play and the Cardinals will remain stable for another season. But as Bruce Arians said, the team is prepared for either contingency.

— Quick note for all those wondering where Stump Mitchell was going. He has reunited with Todd Bowles after taking the Jets’ vacant running backs coach job Tuesday.

bacarson


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Niners GM pick not McDonough

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2017 – 7:05 pm

Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough made it to the end of the 49ers’ search for a General Manager, but Sunday night, it came out that the 49ers made their pick and it wasn’t McDonough. It wasn’t the Vikings’ George Paton either. It turned out to be a previously unknown candidate — FOX analyst and former Buccaneers and Broncos safety John Lynch.

It’s an interesting choice for the NFC West rival Niners, who will hire Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as coach. In the meantime, McDonough will remain in the Cardinals’ front office as the Cardinals head into roster-building season with free agency and the draft.

 


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Where there’s Smoke, there’s defiance

Posted by Darren Urban on January 27, 2017 – 12:09 pm

It was not a great season for John “Smokey” Brown.

He got a concussion in training camp, basically wiping out his preseason. He never quite looked like himself once the season started, but it wasn’t about the concussion but issues related to his having the sickle cell trait, which caused leg problems and robbed him of his quickness and speed. He ended up having his worst year as a pro (39 catches, 517 yards, two scores) as coach Bruce Arians said going into the offseason Brown and the team would continue to look for ways to manage Brown’s status and get him back to where he was in 2015 when he was a 1,000-yard receiver.

Clearly, Smoke feels he can get back there. He posted on Instagram “They counted me out after 1 down season,” which certainly is a message of irritation if not anger. These are the kinds of things a player says and does when he is motivated to prove others wrong. The Cardinals need Brown. They needed him this past season, but they definitely need him next year, with no Michael Floyd (and, at this point, with Larry Fitzgerald’s status TBD.) It certainly sounds like he feels like he can maneuver his way through his sickle cell issues and be the player he has already proven he can be on an NFL level. Which would be great for everyone involved.

smokebloguse


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David Johnson as “best receiver” in the NFL

Posted by Darren Urban on January 25, 2017 – 10:11 am

Award season was built for discussion and “controversy.” (You need the quote marks because, really, debating who should be MVP or all-pro doesn’t rank among the big questions our world faces today.) So Pro Football Focus came out with their year-end awards, and Cardinals running back David Johnson was honored — as the best receiver in the NFL.

There isn’t a whole lot of detail. It notes that Johnson had more catches for more yards than any other running back. That’s fine, although there are obviously a ton of wide receivers that eclipsed his numbers. PFF notes that on their scale (there are no specifics listed on their grading system), Johnson’s receiving grade of 92.6 is higher than any player in the NFL. Coming in behind Johnson was Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans.

What’s interesting about the grades is that Johnson, multiple times this season, pointed out how he had screwed up routes he had run. At the end of the year, in fact, Johnson said that had he not messed up so often (especially earlier in the year) he would have easily reached the 1,000-yard mark in receiving and gotten into the coveted 1,000-1,000 club.

The Cardinals and PFF have been down this road before. Last season, PFF called Tyrann Mathieu — technically listed as a safety — the best cornerback in the NFL after all his slot work. PFF did have Mathieu playing the majority of his snaps in the slot last season and not safety. In Johnson’s case, he was a running back all the way through, save for a limited amount of times he might have split out wide as a true wideout. To be fair, PFF gave the award to the best receiver, not the best wide receiver. A tight end, in theory, could have been the pick. And there is no question Johnson was fantastic as a pass catcher (he averaged more yards per catch than Larry Fitzgerald, actually.) But this will certainly be a debated concept.

UPDATE: PFF just posted a full article on their reasoning. They make the point Johnson is doing things as a receiver at a much higher level than other running backs. They point out that sometimes, he’s doing things like a receiver or tight end would. Here is a crucial passage: “The point isn’t to compare Johnson to Mike Evans and Julio Jones route-for-route or claim that he is doing the things they are doing better, but rather to compare receiving within their respective roles.”

I get where that would make Johnson a great receiver out of the backfield, the best in the league. And incredibly effective. I don’t know how that makes him the best receiver in the NFL.

djpff


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McDonough gets second 49ers interview

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2017 – 3:00 pm

The 49ers still don’t have a head coach, although it would seem to take an act of God at this point for Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan not to get the gig once his season is over. The 49ers also don’t have a general manager, but that all along has been something that multiple reports said need to go hand-in-hand with the head coach, and in this case, if Shanahan is the guy, then he will have a say in the GM.

That brings us to Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough, who recently had an interview for San Francisco’s GM job and now is going to get a second interview. There were once many candidates for the GM job, but a host of possibilities have withdrawn from the process. It’s now (believed to be) down to two: McDonough and Vikings assistant GM George Paton. This round of interviews will be in Atlanta with Shanahan involved, as he also preps for next week’s Super Bowl.

What kind of time line this leaves is unknown. It seems likely (if Shanahan is the guy) that the 49ers just wait and make a package announcement after the Super Bowl. News seems likely to leak out before then, but either way, the Cardinals should know soon whether McDonough will be sticking around or instead become a second branch of the Steve Keim tree (after Jason Licht) to move on to a GM job out of the Cardinals’ front office.

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Fitzgerald won’t play in Pro Bowl

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2017 – 2:49 pm

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald pulled out of the Pro Bowl Monday due to injury, and is being replaced by Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, according to Seahawks.com. Fitz was banged up by the end of the season — which he noted with the bumps and bruises he said he wanted to recover from before making a decision in terms of playing in 2017. It was the 10th time Fitzgerald was named to the Pro Bowl.

Fitzgerald was one of three Cardinals’ Pro Bowlers. The team is now down to one — cornerback Patrick Peterson. Running back David Johnson’s chance to play was derailed when he sprained his MCL in the season finale against the Rams.

Fitzgerald was just named a finalist for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award. No Pro Bowl means the next time he could face the media — and questions about his future — would be at the NFL Honors show on Super Bowl eve, if he happens to win the Payton award.

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