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.
Tags: Carson Palmer, draft, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, quarterback
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Once, I asked Carson Palmer about Tom Brady’s claim in 2015 that he wanted to play 10 more years. It was in the context of Palmer’s desire to play longer. “I would love to play 10 more years,” Palmer said at the time, with the caveat that he was taking things in a lot shorter bites than that. Year to year was the best-case scenario, and frankly, the fact Palmer mulled retiring this offseason likely means that possibility is much closer than not.
But there was Patriots owner Robert Kraft at the owners’ meetings at the Arizona Biltmore Monday, saying that his quarterback Tom Brady said he plans to play another six or seven years. Brady, mind you, is older than Palmer — Brady turns 40 in August, Palmer 37 in December — but Brady also has been playing at an incredible level. We’ll see if his body can hold up. Peyton Manning had no desire to retire when he did, but his body just gave out. Brady has shown zero signs of that, but things change quickly in your 40s (I can personally attest to that.)
With Palmer, it’s not just holding up physically. It’s holding up mentally, which in a lot of ways is what took Kurt Warner down when he retired — not that he couldn’t play anymore, but he lost the will to grind day-to-day mentally. That hill can get more and more steep as the years go by.
Everyone will wait to see if Brady playing another six or seven seasons, assuming Bill Belichick is still around. Palmer, I think it’s safe to say, is going to fall far short of his love-of-another decade. It just doesn’t work out that way. Unless you’re the Patriots.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Tom Brady
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Carson Palmer is back for the 2017 season, releasing a statement about it Thursday. Friday, Palmer called into the “Rich Eisen Show” to talk a little bit about his decision to return, with little surprise — he’s an older guy, and he needed to make sure his body would hold up. He feels it will.
“I love playing the game, love everything about it, but at some point, your body tells you when to stop and (when) the season ended, I just went into Steve Keim and Bruce Arians and asked them if I could take a month and make sure my body would get back to 100 percent,” said Palmer, who will turn 38 in December. “I took the month, my body has recovered well, feel great, feel ready to start getting ready in the offseason again. It was never about anything other than my body. My mind, my passion, all the things it takes to play this game, I still have. The desire to study, the desire to train, the desire to get ready for games.
“You start getting old like me, you start getting grey hair, your body starts telling you no. At some point it will, but I am excited I have responded, my body responded, and I get to keep playing.”
(There seems to be this perception Palmer is fragile, but he hasn’t been in Arizona. Yes, he missed 10 games in 2014, most of which because he tore his ACL. Otherwise, in Palmer’s other three Cardinals seasons, Palmer has played in 47 of 48 games, missing only one in 2016 because of a concussion.)
Palmer wasn’t talking about beyond 2017, one way or the other — “At this point in my career, it’s a one-year-at-a-time-type of deal,” he said, not closing the door on playing in 2018 but obviously waiting for his body’s input when we get to that point as well. He did note that, starting around age 34 or 35, it takes longer to recover each week.
“The older you get, the later on in the week you start feeling better,” Palmer said. “Sometimes it takes up until Thursday, Friday to recover from the previous Sunday be ready to play the next Sunday.”
It makes a lot of sense that Palmer stopped practicing on Wednesdays this past season. That certainly should continue this year (Larry Fitzgerald also figures to have Wednesday rest days again too.)
But Palmer returns. He joked about tendinitis in left hand from changing the diapers of his infant at home the past month — another reason to think about football again. “The offseason is pretty short but retirement is really long,” Palmer said.
Tags: Carson Palmer
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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. 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. 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. Neil Lomax: Oh, that hip.
- 4. Jake Plummer: Beloved local hero finally got the Cardinals to the playoffs. So fun to watch. Sometimes, frustrating to watch.
- 5. Kevin Kolb: He was usually solid — he could just never stay healthy. Beat the Patriots in New England.
- 6. Steve Beuerlein: Maybe things would’ve been a little different if Buddy Ryan hadn’t shown up.
- 7. Josh McCown: The man Denny Green believed in enough to justify drafting Fitz.
- 8. Timm Rosenbach: Another guy you wonder about had he had health.
- 9. Matt Leinart: He did just fine his first two starts. But post-Monday Night Meltdown, and after Kurt, everything changed.
- 10. Dave Krieg: To be a QB on a Buddy Ryan team couldn’t have been easy.
- 11. Kent Graham: Had the misfortune of trying to be the placeholder for Jake the Snake.
- 12. Chris Chandler: One year as full-time starter got 15 TDs, 15 picks and 12 losses.
- 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. Gary Hogeboom: Those years after Lomax were tough.
- 15. John Skelton: Cards managed to go .500 with him taking over for Kolb in 2011. Fitz helped.
- 16. Tom Tupa: He was a punter first for a reason.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Chris Chandler, Dave Krieg, Gary Hogeboom, Jake Plummer, Jeff Blake, John Skelton, Josh McCown, Kent Graham, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Neil Lomax, Steve Beuerlein, Timm Rosenbach, Tom Tupa
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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.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald
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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.
Tags: Carson Palmer, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer
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One year ago, Larry Fitzgerald did it again. The last hurrah of the 2015 season was today, January 16, as the Cardinals outlasted the Packers in overtime of the divisional round of the playoffs because Carson Palmer spun away from danger to find Fitz and then Fitz raced down the field in front of a University of Phoenix Stadium filled with screaming fans. Then came the shovel touchdown, the trip to the NFC Championship, and many, many smiles.
(The next week didn’t go so well.)
It’s good that last year’s Packers weren’t as smoking hot as this year’s version, after watching Aaron Rodgers on Sunday.
The Cardinals have had a couple of epic playoff matchups with Rodgers and the Packers. Can’t argue that. Last year’s game might not have been as fun to watch all the way through as the previous postseason tilt, but the end certainly was thrilling, to the Floyd tip-drill to the Hail Mary to all that overtime stuff. Now the league has posted the full game on youtube.com, so you can watch the whole thing again if you’d like.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Packers, playoffs
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It’s only fitting David Johnson was named AP all-pro this season, and while I understand why Ezekiel Elliott earned the running back nod on the team, I personally felt like Johnson earned it. It’s good they changed the rules to allow for a “flex” player (instead of a fullback) because it would have been wrong for Johnson not to be a first-team this year. But I can’t really argue with the other decisions. I’ve heard from a couple of people about Patrick Peterson, but the players that earned the first- and second-team slots — Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Janoris Jenkins, Casey Hayward, Malcom Butler — all had really good years. It was good to see Calais Campbell with a second-team nod. He was good all season but really came on in the second half of the year. It’s too bad the whole team couldn’t have that consistency in their playoff push.
It was interesting to me as I looked back over the years to see what Cardinals made first-team AP all-pro that Larry Fitzgerald earned that honor only once — fittingly, in 2008, when he not only was great in the regular season but had the best playoff run any receiver has ever (and while I know there are arguments to be made for a couple of other guys, having witnessed what Fitz did in those four games, you’ll never convince me otherwise that anyone ever did it better.)
— A quick thought on the ongoing Fitz-Carson Palmer retirement speculation. Nothing has changed for me. I have long believed and still believe Palmer will play in 2017. I think if, for whatever reason, Palmer did leave, that would seal Fitzgerald’s decision. But like I said, I believe Palmer is going to play. I still think Fitz hasn’t made up his mind. Won’t surprise me whatever decision he makes (so I guess I’m saying I think he’s 50-50.) I know he took the ball for his last catch/touchdown, but he has kept significant footballs before — and don’t forget, this one did net him an NFL receptions-title — and besides, it can’t hurt to take it just in case. If he comes back, fine. I don’t think the football gives any hints, other than he is considering retirement, which we knew already.
— Don’t forget to take a listen to our Cardinals Underground wrapup season podcast.
— In case you missed it (and maybe you might’ve, since this is the first year I didn’t put it in the blog), here was my annual roster breakdown, along with who is a free agent-to-be.
Tags: All-Pro, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson
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One of the friends and family of Frostee Rucker that will be at the game Sunday in Los Angeles will be his first football coach. Rucker was 6 at the time. He later ended up playing at USC, and so will be back at the Los Angeles Coliseum playing for the first time since college.
“It’s almost like full circle in a sense,” Rucker said.
The season will come to an end as well. Can’t say it’s full circle, since at the beginning expectations were so high and here we are, on the final day of practice and it’s not even January. That certainly wasn’t the plan back in August. The mood was good this week, I’m sure in part because of the win in Seattle. They’d like to finish off with the revenge win against the Rams. “You build your team to win in the division,” coach Bruce Arians said, and, despite all the ups and downs, if the Cardinals win Sunday, they will have gone 4-1-1 in the NFC West.
That’s a record that Arians admitted, had he known before the season, he’d have assumed they would have won the division.
— Here’s another stat (oh, those sometimes misleading stats) that also would’ve made you think they could’ve (would’ve?) won the division: There are only three teams in the NFL ranked in the top 10 in offense and defense. The Cardinals (eighth in offense, third in defense) are one of them. The others? Playoff-bound New England and Pittsburgh.
— The Cardinals have not lost an NFC West road game since 2014. They’ve won five straight heading into this one.
— It’s amazing to think the Cardinals will be starting their fifth different right guard Sunday. It’s gone Evan Mathis to Earl Watford to John Wetzel to Earl Watford to Taylor Boggs and now to Evan Boehm.
— For those wondering, I had a chance to ask Carson Palmer about the late slant pass to J.J. Nelson. It indeed was an audible.
— The crazy stat of the week: Running back David Johnson is averaging 10.7 yards per catch (77 receptions). Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is averaging 9.6 yards per catch (102 receptions). Yes, Fitz has more catches, but you’d never think a running back would be ahead of a receiver.
— Speaking of Fitzgerald, Arians said he would not lobby the veteran wide receiver to return in 2017. “It’s up to Larry,” Arians said of Fitzgerald playing another year. “I’ve got my fingers crossed. Hopefully he will come back but that’s strictly up to him.”
— Arians does have other business with Fitz, though. On Chandler Catanzaro’s game-winning field goal last week, Fitz celebrated with the coach a bit too hard. The jumping bear hug hurt Arians’ right shoulder, and he admitted Friday it still hurts. What did the MRI show? “Haven’t taken one yet,” Arians said with a chuckle. “I don’t even want to know.”
There could still be a price to pay, though.
“If I can’t play golf this year (in the offseason), I’ll be driving one of those real nice cars,” Arians added with a grin.
— The in-flux offensive line, whatever its shortcomings, has allowed only two sacks total the last two games.
“Proud of them,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “That’s what I told them Wednesday. Just proud of them.”
— Palmer doesn’t like sitting out Wednesday practice but he never really fought it either. The Cardinals put a lot of time and effort into the sports science of workload, hits and repetitions — led by assistant strength coach Anthony Piroli — to judge such things. Palmer’s Wednesday work is part of that science.
“There’s reason for it,” Palmer said. “There’s data behind it. It’s amazing the stuff that they keep track of and the information that you get back from that. It makes sense. I see why they do it, and like I said, they’re paid professionals. That’s their job and that’s their role, and you don’t have a choice but to listen.”
— Congrats to Johnson for being named MVP by the Arizona chapter of the PWFA. Same for Kevin Minter for taking the “Good Guy” award for his dealing with the media. Truth be told, there are a bunch of guys that could win the Good Guy award — Calais Campbell, Patrick Peterson, Tony Jefferson, D.J. Humphries, Tyrann Mathieu and A.Q. Shipley immediately come to mind, and that’s not a total list — but the truth is, we have a very good locker room when it comes to this part of the job.
— Another season (almost) done. That’s 17 in the books for me. Where does the time go?
Tags: Anthony Piroli, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Evan Boehm, Evan Mathis, Frostee Rucker, Harold Goodwin, John Wetzel, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, NFC West, Patriots, Rams, Steelers, Taylor Boggs
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