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QB for later or another player now?

Posted by Darren Urban on April 12, 2017 – 12:00 pm

When I was covering the Cardinals for the East Valley Tribune, the team held the 10th overall selection in the draft. There was much talk about whether the team might take a quarterback of the future. Kurt Warner was, after all, getting older and was only OK in 2005. The Cards had signed a big-name running back in Edgerrin James, however, and Kurt — understandably — wanted to see the Cards go in a different direction with an eye on maybe reaching a Super Bowl.

“What’s the best way to do that?” Warner said at the time. “Not to take a guy who’s going to take over my job. Go get somebody who can help us next year.”

(The Cardinals drafted Matt Leinart. Leinart was inserted for Warner early in 2006 at QB. Then Leinart struggled in 2007, Warner got his job back, and eventually, Warner got his Super Bowl trip regardless.)

It’s not always an easy decision. Heck, it’s hard for a team needing a QB right now sometimes to pull the trigger in the draft — see the Browns, who desperately need a quarterback yet are likely to take defensive lineman Myles Garrett with the first pick instead, because there isn’t an Andrew Luck available. That decision gets that much harder for a team like the Cardinals, who have Carson Palmer in place and will sit any quarterback they might draft in 2017. Meanwhile, if the Cards want to gear up for a potential run this season, with the clock ticking on Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald, finding an immediate impact guy (on defense) makes a lot of sense with the first-round pick.

Still, the glaring long-term need for a quarterback doesn’t go away.

The Cardinals are in a good spot with Palmer. He is willing to mentor a young quarterback. He’s made that clear recently, and said the same back in 2014, when he still knew he was going to play a few more years.

“I know I’m not going to play forever,” Palmer said at the time. “It’s hard for us players to admit that. The older you get the harder it is to admit it. You don’t see it happening. You still feel good, you still feel confident, you still feel healthy. But that’s the reality. That’s the business. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it, whether it irks you or you don’t care. That’s the game.”

The first round, and the 13th pick, await.


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Revisiting Fitz and the 2008 playoffs

Posted by Darren Urban on April 10, 2017 – 3:55 pm

In case you missed it, a project I have been working on since the end of the season came to fruition today with the posting of an oral history of Larry Fitzgerald’s huge 2008 playoff run. (Easy to find at azcardinals.com/fitzfantasticfour, so tell a friend). It was great to talk to a few guys that I hadn’t in a number of years, guys who I worked with a lot back when they were around. Steve Breaston, Jerheme Urban, Todd Haley, among others. It didn’t hurt that there are still some in the building that could help, like Freddie Kitchens, Adrian Wilson and Larry Foote.

(And I’d be remiss without pointing out that Sandy McAfee here in the cubicle next to me did a fantastic job taking my words and turning it into a aesthetically beautiful read.)

Mostly though, it was a chance to look back at those games. I’m fortunate enough to have that playoff run on DVD so I could go back for research and simply enjoy re-watching those games. (I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for watching old games. I wish NFL Network would do more from when I was first getting into the game, the late ’70s and early ’80s.) Anyone can understand that Fitzgerald had great stats from that postseason. But his impact looks greater than that when you are watching them in context.

“There were a lot of games where he had a lot of catches (that season),” quarterback Kurt Warner said. “It was the nature of the catches where he really solidified how great he was, how great that run was. His numbers would have been great stacked up against anyone regardless but I think you think back to just the big play after big play after big play.”

Hope you get a chance to read it.


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The Cardinals’ historic 2004 draft class

Posted by Darren Urban on April 7, 2017 – 3:44 pm

With my retrospective about Larry Fitzgerald’s memorable 2008 playoff run due to post Monday at azcardinals.com, it’s fitting to have Fitz and his Cardinals’ draft class come up in an ESPN article about each team’s best draft classes ever. It goes back to the first common draft of 1967. The ranking is based on a tool created by profootballreference.com called “approximate value,” which is based on games, starts, awards and some meaningful individual stats. Winning games factors in. Obviously, the longer a player stays with the team that drafted him matters, and so would volume.

That’s why it would matter that the draft shrunk to seven rounds in 1994. It was 17 rounds in 1967, and 12 from 1977-1993. More chances to find players in a class. The Cardinals’ draft class of 2004 made at No. 18. That’s no surprise. It was a fabulous class, with Fitzgerald in the first round, Karlos Dansby in the second round and Darnell Dockett in the third round. Defensive end Antonio Smith, who started for the 2008 Super Bowl team, was a fifth-round pick.

(The other three picks from that class — fourth-round center Alex Stepanovich, sixth-round guard/center Nick Leckey, seventh-round quarterback John Navarre.)

Only one team — the Ravens, with their 1996 class of Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis — has their draft class ranked higher than the Cardinals when their class in the seven-round era. The extra rounds (and no unrestricted free agency before 1992) helped many other teams have their best drafts long ago.

Fitz is still going strong, and Dansby has returned for a third tour with the team (and will build that draft class value again). Dockett is retired, but Smith hasn’t shut it down yet, playing for the Texans last season.


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Cards, the Pro Bowl, and how it once was

Posted by Darren Urban on April 6, 2017 – 6:22 am

This is going to sound random — and, truthfully, it is — but there is a reason I am talking about the Cardinals and the 2009 Pro Bowl. I’ve been working on a piece about Larry Fitzgerald and his epic playoff run during the Cardinals’ Super Bowl season. That will be posted Monday. But one thing struck me as I looked back and researched things, especially when it comes to the Pro Bowl.

As everyone knows, the Pro Bowl is now held the week before the Super Bowl. Players chosen from the Super Bowl teams obviously don’t play, and at this point, many, many others find reasons not to play. Injuries, yes. And also, “injuries.” Back for the 2008 season, five Cardinals were picked to play in the Pro Bowl: Fitz, Kurt Warner, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin and Sean Morey. That made sense. They all were excellent that season.

That year, the Pro Bowl was still being played the week after the Super Bowl. Everyone could still make it, but guys would still drop out. If anyone would drop out for a non-injury reason, it could understandably be players from the losing Super Bowl team — especially if it was a heartbreaking loss. But what I had forgotten was that all five Cardinals still showed up in Hawaii a couple of days later and player. In fact, Fitzgerald capped his great regular season and legendary playoff performance with a 5-81-2 line in the Pro Bowl and won MVP. That’s not a surprise, really. What was was the fact the Cards were 5-for-5.


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Romo “retirement” and the dearth of QBs

Posted by Darren Urban on April 4, 2017 – 8:15 am

Tony Romo is leaving football to go into broadcasting. So were the reports Tuesday morning, as Romo remains Cowboys property long after it was thought he would have moved on. In a world where Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger at least consider retirement and there is constant discussion about teams looking for long-term QB solutions and the ability for older QBs to be effective, it’s strange to see a guy like Romo walk away.

But the Cowboys were holding out for a draft pick, unwilling to just release Romo, and teams (Texans, Broncos) didn’t want to pick up Romo’s giant contract. So Romo apparently has taken himself out of the mix to go into TV. Will he stay there? You’d think CBS want to have something concrete, so maybe this is the real deal. But it’d be understandable to have some skepticism in a league where there are probably a team or two who would likely want Romo to play. The Texans, in fact, might only be a (healthy) Romo away from being a Super Bowl contender. Could Romo’s playing status change again come September? (It’s been noted by Cowboys writers that Romo isn’t in shape and may have been leaning to retirement anyway.)

This also underscores where the league is with quarterbacks, when a 36-year-old, oft-injured (albeit talented) player is potentially a major loss for someone. Because the landscape said Romo would likely would have ended up in the AFC, there wasn’t really going to be a direct impact on the Cardinals (although the Cards do visit Houston this coming season). Still, it’s an interesting story that may not have an ending yet.


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On competition committee, Arians talks future

Posted by Darren Urban on April 3, 2017 – 3:53 pm

Bruce Arians admitted he wasn’t sure he wanted to be on the NFL’s competition committee when he was first asked, but he said he has had fun doing it. He chuckled when he was asked if he tried to stay in the background at first.

“I don’t think Mr. Goodell put me on there for that reason,” Arians said. “I don’t have any problem giving my opinion. Especially when it comes to rules and referees.”

Arians likes the change in replay challenges, with the officials looking at the play on a tablet on the field and not going “under the hood,” with officials in  New York helping decide the play. It’ll speed up those decisions and therefore, the game, Arians said. As for the idea — long discussed — about full-time officials, Arians said he believes it will happen at some point.

“Hopefully we will get 17 (full-time) referees,” Arians said. “There are a lot of negotiations in that process, between the union and the league.”

Arians said he thinks even having the one main referee full time will help with consistency, even if it isn’t every official. The Cardinals, for instance, have a meeting before each game just to discuss the officiating crew each week because the way the game is called by each crew differs enough that it needs to be discussed.

“Hopefully we will get more consistency in that area,” Arians said.


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“All Or Nothing” up for Emmy award

Posted by Darren Urban on March 30, 2017 – 4:29 pm

Perhaps you’ve heard of “All Or Nothing.” I might’ve written about it a couple of times last summer. The eight-episode series about the Cardinals, released on Amazon last July about the team’s 2015 season and the first streaming series by NFL Films, has been nominated for a Sports Emmy by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for Outstanding Serialized Sports Documentary.

“All Or Nothing: A Season With The Arizona Cardinals” is one of five choices in its category. The others are “Run Mama Run” from ESPN and espnW; “Friday Night Tykes: Steel Country” from the Esquire Network;  “Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The Los Angeles Rams” from NFL Films and HBO; and “Undrafted” from the NFL Network and Mandalay Sports.

The award winners will be announced May 9.


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Mahomes and Bidwill’s role at draft workouts

Posted by Darren Urban on March 30, 2017 – 8:01 am

Recently the Cardinals went to work out Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a session that included team president Michael Bidwill. There was much speculation about what it might mean to have the man at the top of the food chain there when it comes to the Cards’ interest. Bidwill (who is a pilot who sometimes flies football people to these workouts, it should be noted) said it doesn’t necessarily mean much.

“It’s funny, because each year I go to the Scouting combine and I let the personnel people do their thing,” Bidwill said Thursday on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Steve (Keim) and his team, with the input of Bruce (Arians) and his coaching staff. They do a great job. But I attend all of those scouting activities. I (also) attend private workouts. I attend them every year. Some of them, people report on, some of them people never report on them. We really don’t announce which ones I go to and which ones I don’t. I go to them as my schedule allows because I love it, I love being around and learning from our scouts and coaches.

“Patrick Mahomes is one we weren’t able to schedule at the combine, and that was an important one because again, all of the top prospects I meet. Whether it is at the combine, at our training facility or, on occasion, a private workout. I’m going to be attending many more private workouts, I’m not sure all of them will be leaked out to the media, but don’t read anything into that.”

Bidwill added that the Cardinals haven’t even organized their draft board yet (I can attest to the meetings not yet having started, since the parade of coaches and scouts has yet to start in the draft room a few feet from my desk). This doesn’t mean Mahomes wouldn’t be someone that could intrigue the Cardinals. But as I have told some who have asked about it already, Bidwill’s presence alone doesn’t mean the Cards are honing in on a target.


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No East Coast trip for Cards before London

Posted by Darren Urban on March 29, 2017 – 12:58 pm

The Cardinals still are making plans with how they are going to handle their travel to London to play the Rams — the date remains TBD — but Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings, Bruce Arians knocked down one possibility: The Cardinals will likely not take one of their East Coast road games (Washington, Philly) and fly from there to London. Instead, the Cardinals will likely play a home game and then leave from Sky Harbor the next day.

“Our plan is to leave from here,” Arians said. “We don’t know. We haven’t gotten it all finalized. But Michael (Bidwill) has made that trip so many times that we feel right now we would probably leave Monday night. When we went to Berlin (with the Chiefs in 1990) quite a few years back, we got off the plane and went right to practice and broke a sweat.

“We’ll get off and do a glorified walkthrough practice, break-a-sweat deal, and then get acclimated to that time, and then go into a normal week.”

The Cardinals, as do most teams returning from a London game, are expected to have a bye the week following the London game.

“The jet lag is a bitch when you get back,” Arians said. “I can’t imagine, even on the East Coast even though it’s a five-hour flight. It’s probably not as bad as going from Miami to Seattle and playing the next week. It’s kind of like that. That’s really hard on your guys. You have to be aware of how tired they are.”

Alas, there is still no date for the London game, which will be either Oct. 22 or Oct. 29. At this point, it is not expected to be announced until the full NFL schedule is released sometime in mid-April.


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No B.A. regrets for Bethel comment

Posted by Darren Urban on March 29, 2017 – 9:59 am

It’s been a battle for Justin Bethel for the last 18 months, fighting a broken foot at the end of the 2015 season, thinking it was healed, re-injuring it in the offseason before OTAs to sideline him all summer, fighting it all 2016 and then absorbing a paycut recently.

Coach Bruce Arians has been complimentary of Bethel the last few times he has been asked about him, and Bethel did close the season better — returning an interception for a touchdown in the finale — and Arians was asked Wednesday whether he regretted calling Bethel a “failure-in-progress” in early December.

“No … no, because only one line of that was used,” Arians said. “Because I said it was not his fault because of his broken foot. That part never got to the article. It was just I said he was a failure in progress because of not being able to practice.”

Arians said Bethel’s father actually attended the Saturday practice following Arians’ Monday “failure” comment.

“(He) grabbed me and said, ‘You trying to motivate my son?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ ” Arians said. “He said, ‘I think it’s working.’ ”

Arians again reiterated Wednesday that the draft is loaded with cornerbacks, that Brandon Williams will be a lot better in Year Two, and that Bethel too will be “a hell of a lot better if he can finally practice.” (Bethel believes he should be the starter.)

“He hasn’t practiced for two years on that broken foot,” Arians said. “He can now have a chance to really compete as a corner and get better rather than just throwing him out there when we had to have him. That’s not fair to him. But I think he’s going to really, really take off with it this spring.”

 


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