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Cards will take Washington absence into account

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2015 – 3:19 pm

One of the many things the Cardinals must sort through this offseason is what to do with suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if and when he returns — and how to plan for the season with his status in limbo for the next few months. Washington’s suspension, which is for a year before he can request NFL reinstatement, lasts until late May. That’s after free agency, and it’s after the draft. Until this suspension ends, it seems unlikely the NFL will hand down whatever suspension Washington might get for his assault conviction from last year.

That’s a lot of uncertainty, and why team president Michael Bidwill said Thursday the Cardinals are going to go through the offseason ready to not have Washington available — and if he is around, the Cards will be that much better off.

“He’ll be facing the issue with the domestic violence and there has been no determination of what happens there,” Bidwill said. “He was only suspended for the drug issue, so we want to make sure we understand what that (other punishment) is. Last year, we learned about his suspension after free agency. This year we are going to plan to make sure we address all the issues not knowing whether Daryl will be back for part of next season or all of next season. ‘Next man up’ is real but we have to make sure we’ve gone into free agency and addressed that situation.”

— Bidwill reiterated once again he is optimistic the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald will come to an agreement on a new contract.

“Larry and I have met about it, just he and I talking about it, and I know he’s interested in getting something resolved,” Bidwill said. “After the playoff game, he got away, left the country. He’s back now, it’s a busy week this week and we’ll start working on this next week. I think we’ll get this all worked out.

“He’s such a great person and a great player, he’s got many years left and I want to see him retire as an Arizona Cardinal. I want to see us move past getting this contract resolved and move forward.”

— The other Cardinal facing legal issues, running back Jonathan Dwyer, had his case play out Thursday. The running back, who had been arrested in September, pled guilty to a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct. He was sentenced him to 18 months probation and community service. Dwyer is scheduled to become a free agent in March.

— Bidwill said again he plans on giving General Manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians contract extensions soon.

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“One of the young guys” will be defensive coordinator

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2015 – 1:56 pm

The announcement won’t come until after the Super Bowl, Bruce Arians said Monday, but he knows who his defensive coordinator is going to be — and it’ll be, as expected, a in-house hire.

“The defensive coordinator will come off our staff,” Arians said during an appearance on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” show. “It’ll be one of the young guys. And we’ll bring in some guys to help him.

“We’ll wait until the Super Bowl is over but we’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to go.”

Looking at the “young guys” on the Cardinals’ staff — and young can be a moving target on a staff that features the 62-year-old Arians and a couple of coaches well into their 70s — the possibility of outside linebackers coach James Bettcher seems to fit the bill. Bettcher has long been highly thought of among the coaches he has worked for. (Along the “young” lines, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner would also qualify, but I’d think Bettcher would be the candidate.)

As for bringing in “some guys to help,” that could be anyone now that Dick LeBeau has passed up the chance to come to the Cardinals. But again, that’s been the thought this whole time, that the Cards would have a younger DC and have a mentor with him. It now just sounds like it’ll be a waiting game until next week — Monday maybe? — to get official word.

— Arians reiterated he hopes Carson Palmer is the quarterback for the Cardinals “for about three more years,” and that he again really likes the future potential of Logan Thomas. Arians added that Palmer is about a month ahead of schedule coming back from his ACL injury.

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Pick B.A.’s hat color for “NFL Honors”

Posted by since1898 on January 25, 2015 – 10:16 am

Saturday night, Bruce Arians will attend the “NFL Honors” show, which will be televised on NBC. Among the awards to be handed out is the NFL’s Coach of the Year, for which Arians — whose charitable Arians Family Foundation info can be found here – remains a heavy favorite after leading the ripped-by-injuries Cards to an 11-5 record this season.

B.A. will look sharp — doesn’t he always — and will top with his trademark hat. But he wants your help in accessorizing. What color hat should B.A. wear on the red carpet and, if the voting breaks the right way, on stage when he could be accepting an award? Red, white or black? Vote below:

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The mystery of LeBeau’s availability

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2015 – 8:19 am

We take a break from all this talk about deflated footballs — and there is a lot of it — to mention that the Cardinals still do not have a defensive coordinator.

(Although that apparently doesn’t rank as something to note by some.)

No DC in itself isn’t a shock. Bruce Arians is at the Senior Bowl. Reportedly, he hasn’t yet had a chance to talk fully with Dick LeBeau about joining the Cardinals’ staff. But Gerry Dulac, a long-time Steelers beat writer who knows LeBeau well, took to Twitter (and later did an interview on Arizona Sports 98.7) to throw some cold water on the report LeBeau would be with the Cardinals as a linebackers coach.

Dulac has gone beyond that, saying he doubts LeBeau will want to come this far away from family in Ohio. That’s been the vibe coming out of Pittsburgh from the day the LeBeau-to-Cardinals rumor surfaced. One thing I did not know — I had heard LeBeau had family in Ohio, but I didn’t know it was his wife that lives there. That’s a bigger deal to me than if it was, for instance, his children and grandchildren.

Where this goes is a good question. There has long been the thought (even before LeBeau and the Steelers parted ways) that if Todd Bowles left Arians would go internal for the new DC. Would getting LeBeau mean enough to Arians make him the DC? As I have mentioned, other than LeBeau — who apparently is also drawing interest from Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee (where the Titans already have Ray Horton as DC) — there has been a report the Cards also want to talk to Mike Nolan. The coaches’ offices in Tempe, meanwhile, remain quiet and dark. There’s a chance this whole situation could remain quiet until after the Super Bowl too.


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Waiting for a new defensive coordinator

Posted by Darren Urban on January 14, 2015 – 3:40 pm

The coaches’ offices are dark right now, not a surprise at this time in the offseason. But there is still work to do and moves to be made for Bruce Arians, now that Todd Bowles is headed to be the Jets’ head coach.

(Which, interestingly, still has yet to be officially announced at 3:40 p.m. Arizona time here on Wednesday. UPDATE: Twenty minutes later, it is.)

Bowles is expected to bring Cardinals’ inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell with him for his staff, and there is a chance he also brings along someone else, like defensive assistant Ryan Slowik. So there very well could be a couple of coaching staff openings Arians will have to fill when this all filters out. But for now, the focus is on the coordinator spot Bowles is vacating. All season, Bowles was trending toward getting a head coaching job somewhere, so when Arians said late in the season he had a plan in place to replace Bowles, that certainly wasn’t a surprise.

That was before Dick LeBeau left the Steelers. Arians has talked to LeBeau about a job, and when you connect the dots, it does make sense to have LeBeau in a Tom Moore-esque role and to hire a defensive coordinator, as reports suggest. It also rings true to me that Arians would look to his existing defensive staff to find his defensive coordinator, although who that would be remains a guess. There is also a question of whether LeBeau would want to move, at age 77, this far away from his Ohio-based family.

(LeBeau’s potential arrival does make for other interesting questions, even if he isn’t DC. Darnell Dockett, for instance, didn’t love the scheme of former DC Ray Horton, who was a LeBeau disciple.)

I know many want to know what this all means for the Cardinals in terms of scheme. If the Cardinals stay in-house, does the defense simply echo what Bowles had been doing all along? Is it tweaked and if so, how much? I’m sure Arians has already thought these things through already. With empty offices right now, we’ll see how quickly this all comes together.

Dick LeBeau, Mike Tomlin, Bruce Arians


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Panthers playoff aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on January 3, 2015 – 10:53 pm

The Cardinals didn’t have enough. They just didn’t, and while Bruce Arians said he doesn’t buy into that line of thinking – “We have to gameplan to win games” – it doesn’t make it any less true. For weeks even some of the players kept noting that eventually, Next Man Up would run out of bodies. It wasn’t just the quarterback situation, even though that was the most important position. Guys looked like they wore down in certain positions, and that’s what happens when you ask some guys to play at an ultra-high level for so many games and so many plays above what you originally intended.

It spoke to their effort that the Cards won 11 games, and to the coaching. That’s why Bruce Arians insisted there was no missed opportunity, because the Cardinals with what they had created the big season in the first place. I get the teeth gnashing and frustration over certain parts of both Saturday and the end of the season. But this was a good season, it was the most wins this franchise has had in Arizona, and it was another step forward under the Steve Keim/Arians regime.

That said, there are a ton of difficult and major decisions coming in the offseason and a lot of important question marks. I’m not going to address them all here now, because that’s what the coming weeks are for and I’m sure I will post about them soon (and often, I’m guessing my Larry Fitzgerald post from Friday will be the first of a few between now and early March, when his roster bonus comes due.)

— I’d have to dig it out, and I’m not sure if I tweeted it or wrote it in a post or said it on a podcast or on the radio, but at some point I know I said something along the lines – in regards to Logan Thomas as being raw – “if you are down to your third-string quarterback, you’re in trouble anyway.” That’s what the Cardinals had at the end, even if the third-stringer eventually became Ryan Lindley because Thomas was so raw he dropped on the depth chart.

That’s the NFL. You lose your best quarterback – and that’s assuming you have someone who you think is good, and the Cardinals believe they have that in Carson Palmer – and the road will be difficult. Everyone knew that’s what would happen with Lindley, and that’s what did happen. The Cardinals got the turnovers Saturday night and were trying to make it work, but the margin for error was thin at best, and had been for the last month.

— The officials had a bad game, starting when Ed Hoculi tried to give the Panthers the win of the coin toss when the Cardinals, in fact, had just correctly called it. Arians was right, it wasn’t why the Cards lost. But a couple of the calls didn’t help, particularly the Michael Floyd non-pass interference.

— Top things, in my mind, the Cardinals need to upgrade in the offseason (assuming there isn’t a good quarterback there to be drafted and Palmer is the choice for 2015): Linebacker (both inside and outside), more speed on offense, more defensive line depth. These things can change if certain veterans aren’t back.

— Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will now organize his head coaching interviews. He reportedly has five teams that want to talk to him. I’ll be surprised if he interviews with all five.

— I’ll also be curious to see if Bowles leaving, if it happened, would be the only change on the coaching staff or if Arians makes any moves.

— I think, with the way Drew Butler finished up, Dave Zastudil has to be confident when he comes back this offseason.

— Arians, on the missed tackles in the game: “Missed tackling, that was way overblown for this game, that’s not even the story line.”

— That’s about it. Going to try and get a little rest on this flight back. The final locker room cleanout and wrap-up interviews are early tomorrow morning. And then we’re into the offseason.

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“Black Monday” and inevitable coaching change

Posted by Darren Urban on December 30, 2014 – 10:20 am

Bruce Arians was asked about his thoughts of “Black Monday,” the day after the NFL regular season when a handful of coaches and GMs inevitably lose their jobs.

“You feel bad for them, but there’s only two kinds of coaches — those that are fired and those who are going to get fired,” Arians said.

The Cardinals went through it recently when Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves were let go, and that opened the door for the arrivals of Arians and Steve Keim. But even for the teams that don’t make changes, “Black Monday” represents the possibility of staff upheaval. Especially for the good teams who have assistants who are attractive head coaching candidates. For the Cardinals, that means defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

Don’t forget, when Arians walked in the door and announced the hiring of both Bowles and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, he said at the time his whole goal was to get both of them head coaching jobs. So losing one (or both) at some point was at least portrayed as inevitable. Will Bowles go anywhere? We’ll see. He’s made it clear he won’t just take any job. Then again, there are only 32 NFL head coaching jobs and you only remain a “hot” candidate for so long. (Ask Russ Grimm.) He must also sort through the part of the equation where teams need to interview at least one minority candidate to satisfy the Rooney Rule; Bowles has to figure out what may be a legitimate chance at a job and what might not be.

Reports have the 49ers, Jets and Falcons all wanting to interview Bowles. He cannot be interviewed until next week. Those teams asking permission to do so, by the way? That’s just a formality. The Cardinals cannot refuse permission for an assistant to be interviewed/take a head coaching job. And given that Arians has long talked about Bowles as a head coach, it only makes sense the Cardinals have a plan in place if Bowles leaves.

(No, I don’t know what it would be at this point.)

In the meantime, the Cardinals have a playoff game against Carolina. Arians, Bowles and crew are prepping for that, so there is no black cloud hovering around the Cards’ complex this week.

“Thank God it ain’t me this time,” Arians said, grinning. “It will be someday.”

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Niners aftermath/Panthers prologue

Posted by Darren Urban on December 28, 2014 – 8:32 pm

It was a weird day Sunday.

It was weird because of what was swirling around the 49ers as Jim Harbaugh coached what everyone knew was going to be his last game as a 49ers boss but pretended nothing was going on yet (including the very awkward hug between Harbaugh and 49ers owner Jed York on the field pre-game). It was weird because Ryan Lindley threw three interceptions, but it was hard not to feel the Cardinals may indeed be able to tread water at quarterback if Drew Stanton can’t come back this week. It was weird because the game for a while felt like it would mean a heck of a lot, with the Seahawks trailing and the Packers losing Aaron Rodgers – and then the Seahawks pulled away and the Packers pulled away and the outcome meant just nothing.

Maybe that’s why the Cardinals falling short didn’t feel like that so much, that Lindley’s last interception was simply moot. It didn’t cost the Cardinals anything.

I’m not going to sit here and say Lindley was the second coming of Rodgers, or even Carson Palmer Sunday. The first half, he was pretty good, with 260 yards and his two touchdowns and yes, a very bad interception, but he had the Cardinals ahead. By all accounts – including his own and by my own eyes – it’s the best he’s played in the NFL. I thought he looked better than he had even in the practices I have seen. The second half, he and the offense dropped off, but the Cards stuck with the run more too.  You can’t turn the ball over. That’s obvious. But there’s a way to make this work, at least against a 7-8-1 Carolina team.

The Cardinals’ playoff game will kick off at 2:35 p.m. Arizona time Saturday and will be televised on ESPN.

Speaking of turnovers, the Cardinals suddenly aren’t getting any. The Cardinals forced two turnovers against St. Louis on that Thursday night win – although one came on the last play of the game – and haven’t forced one since. Those turnovers were a big reason the Cards were winning earlier in the season. They have to create something in Carolina.

— Arians said there was no new news on Stanton. We’ll see if he can go. My gut says the Cards will have to go with Lindley.

— Cam Newton doesn’t quite run as much as he used to (and he’s still dealing those back issues after his car accident.) But the way that both Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have sliced up the Cardinals running the football the past two games, the Cards have to be concerned.

— Safety Tyrann Mathieu, on the trouble stopping the run: “We have to play with more of an attitude. We have to play with that chip on our shoulder. We come into the game at 11-4 and in the playoffs and we’re not necessarily playing with a chip on our shoulder. Hopefully we can gain that edge again.”

— Tight end Darren Fells is still raw. But it looks like the Cardinals might have found something there. With him and Troy Niklas, it’s a nice young tight end foundation going forward.

— In case you missed it, click here to see the Cardinals’ opponents for 2015. The schedule comes out in April.

— I don’t think Bruce Arians will forget about Kerwynn Williams again. Williams wasn’t great but he’s a guy who needs to have carries for the Cardinals.

— The Cardinals did have a pretty good day the last time they played a postseason game in Carolina.

— That was the Michael Floyd the Cardinals have to have.

— This was the first season in franchise history four different quarterbacks have thrown a touchdown pass in one season. Not that you’d be striving for such a thing, but …

— Random quote, this one from Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, said during the NFL Network’s pregame show Sunday morning: “I would not pass up the opportunity to play for Bruce Arians. Bruce finds ways to win games without his best players. … The fact that he’s found a way to win 11 games after going 10-6 and missing the playoffs. You win 11 games this year and you’re missing probably four or five of your best players on your team. How do you do that? That means there is great coaching going on.”

— Short week. The players get their day off Monday, and all the practice days are moved up one with the Saturday game. The Stanton watch is on. Otherwise, more Lindley.

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A tale of four quarterbacks

Posted by Darren Urban on December 25, 2014 – 9:19 pm

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The former was 2009, with Kurt Warner, or 2013 when Carson Palmer took every snap at quarterback for the Cardinals. The Cards had quarterback stability because they stayed (pretty) healthy and because Warner and Palmer were good. It’s what you need in the NFL to win. The worst of times, well, the Cardinals have done that too. When you are on a merry-go-round of quarterbacks in a season, it turns painful. The Cards did that in 2010, when Derek Anderson was backed up by rookies Max Hall and John Skelton (with a sprinkling of Rich Bartel at the end of the season). They did it in 2012, when Skelton and Kevin Kolb traded starts and injuries and then ineffectiveness leading to then-rookie Ryan Lindley (and a sprinkling of Brian Hoyer at the end of the season.)

Those years were totally different than this one, of course. The Cardinals struggled in those years. They weren’t battling for a division title going into the final regular-season game and they certainly weren’t playoff bound regardless. The Cards have only played four quarterbacks this season because of injury, not because of choice. That’s good, but it’s bad too. As offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said Christmas afternoon, “Week-to-week different quarterback, do you like it? No.” It certainly isn’t a present you want to find under your tree.

Monday Bruce Arians said he was leaning toward starting Logan Thomas unless he saw something in practice that made him change his mind, and then Thursday came the Kent Somers report that the Cards would instead start Lindley again. Either way, the Cardinals are trying to find the best option — especially if Drew Stanton can’t come back from his knee injury for the first playoff game.

UPDATE: Ian Rapoport is reporting Stanton had to have arthroscopic surgery because of an infection and could be done for the season.

“All our quarterbacks looked good, even the kid (Jeff Mathews) we have on practice squad now,” Goodwin said after practice (which is closed to the media) Thursday. “We’ll be OK no matter what.”

The Cardinals don’t really have a choice at looking at it any other way. Lindley or Thomas, Nos. 3 and 4, are the options — perhaps even as the Cards play in the playoffs.

“If they both go out this week and throw for 300 (yards), that’d be great,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.

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Pro Bowl, Rashad Johnson and some Friday notes

Posted by Darren Urban on December 12, 2014 – 3:26 pm

Do the Cardinals have a Pro Bowl player?

I’m not saying the Cardinals don’t have any players talented enough to make it. But usually, in seasons where your team is 11-3, there are at least a couple of locks. You would be hard-pressed to come up with any locks for the Cardinals. Offensively, the production hasn’t been consistent enough to see anyone getting a major push. Defensively, there are possibilities, but it’ll be interesting to see how many can find a way in, at least before guys start dropping out.

In the latest Pro Bowl voting numbers this week, it was interesting to see that safety Rashad Johnson — who I do agree has had a very good season for this team — has found his way into the top 10 among safeties. Johnson is eighth, and judging by those who keep tweeting that they want him to get even more votes, maybe Johnson can climb the ladder.

In fact, it’s only the secondary that is represented for the Cardinals right now, at least among the top 10 vote-getters at their positions. Patrick Peterson is eighth and Antonio Cromartie 10th among cornerbacks, while cornerback Justin Bethel is ninth among special teamers.

If you want to vote for the Pro Bowl, click here.

Now for some housekeeping items as the week comes to a close and the Cards get a mini-bye:

— Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali was fined $16,357 for hitting Cardinals QB Drew Stanton low in last week’s game. You remember the play, the one where it looked then for a split-second Stanton was lost for a long time. There have been a couple of those. Cardinals defensive tackle Tommy Kelly was fined the same amount for roughing Chiefs QB Alex Smith.

Chiefs safety Kurt Coleman, who decked wide receiver Smokey Brown by what looked like it might have been a possible helmet-to-helmet, was not fined. He wasn’t flagged for that play either.

— Bruce Arians wasn’t backing down from his comment after Thursday’s game, when he said “I love it when nobody says you’re going to have a chance to win. There’s an 11-3 team and a team that is always 8-8. You figure it out.” Many took it as a shot to the Rams — and obviously, it wasn’t a compliment — but I took it more as a jab against the media picking against the Cardinals in the game rather than the Rams themselves.

Not that it really matters. Asked why he made such a comment, Arians responded simply, “I just tried to state the facts.”

Cory Harkey, Rashad Johnson


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