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As the coaching info turns

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2013 – 11:47 am

With Steve Keim in place as general manager, the Cardinals now need to find a head coach. That is ongoing, and there was some spark thrown into Wednesday morning with conflicting reports about the Cardinals and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Some reported there was an interview happening, others said no. (Or absolutely no.) What we know is that the Cards have talked to Ray Horton and Mike McCoy and are going to talk to Jay Gruden Thursday. President Michael Bidwill said all those things Tuesday. The team has been pretty transparent with all their interviews once they are lined up. Then again, Haley might want this kept quiet (which doesn’t necessarily prevent leaks, not when it is fellow coaches apparently saying what is going on.)

The Cards, in the Haley case, are not commenting.

(UPDATE: Steelers president Art Rooney said Haley is interviewing. Feels like a solid source.)

Regardless, nothing has changed with the hiring time frame, which was that there was no time frame. Bidwill reiterated that notion. “The timetable is the timetable that gets us the right coach and the right decision for the team to move us forward,” team president Michael Bidwill said during Steve Keim’s introductory press conference Tuesday.

One final interesting note, which comes via Geoff Mosher from CSN Philadelphia, via tweets that make me think he too has been hit with many questions from concerned fans about no head coach yet hired, in his case with the Eagles.

“KC was first NFL team last year to hire HC, on Jan. 9. Chiefs went 2-14, fired Crennel. Colts hired Chuck Pagano on Jan. 25. Made playoffs”

Mosher makes the point of various successful coaches over the years and their hire dates: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin Jan. 22 (’07); Baltimore’s John Harbaugh Jan. 19 (’08); Denver’s John Fox Jan. 13 (’11); Atlanta’s Mike Smith Jan. 24 (’08); and Seattle’s Pete Carroll Jan. 11 (’10). Again, I’m not trying to say every coach hired is the right one, or that waiting always is a benefit. But clearly, it’s not like taking time crushes chances for success. Of the seven teams that need new coaches, only two have hired new coaches, and that doesn’t include the possibility Jacksonville could change coaches now that they have a new GM.

— One final outlier here: After the Cowboys fired DC Rob Ryan Tuesday it became popular — driven by media speculation — that Horton could be a candidate to replace him. Horton was wooed by Jason Garrett to be on staff two years ago as Horton was coming to Arizona as DC. Here’s the problem: If the Cards don’t hire Horton has head coach, I’m pretty sure they want him to stay as defensive coordinator. Now, that can always change depending on who the head coach is, but with Horton still under contract for another season, he can’t go anywhere (except as a head coach) if the Cards don’t want him to. And I just don’t see the Cards allowing a lateral move, even if Horton did (of which I’m not sure either).

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Chiefs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2012 – 11:41 pm

It was a little play, certainly not the end-all-be-all of the game. But the Cards had opened with one quick first down and thought they’d have another facing a third-and-1 on their opening drive. Alfonso Smith instead got snowed under for a two-yard loss.

The play was blocked wrong, coach Ken Whisenhunt said. In technical terms, the offense should have treated a safety in the box as a linebacker. It wasn’t an exact play the Cards had had a chance to run before, but the scheme was sound and the play generally had been practiced. “You’d like to think we are sharp enough we could make the adjustment because we talked about it,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s part of preseason but when there are enough of those, it becomes frustrating. Because you feel like you are a better team than you showed.”

In a nutshell, the Cards feel like they are better than they showed against the Chiefs. It didn’t matter in the final score, however, and it didn’t make some of the rough spots look any better. Larry Fitzgerald probably put it best:  “It wasn’t pretty today by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t know what it is but we have to get it fixed and get it fixed pretty quickly.”

— It did look like John Skelton felt comfortable but in the end, there wasn’t much to show for his start. For a moment, it looked like the interception might be a completion to Fitz. There isn’t much difference between good and bad, however. Kevin Kolb also probably should have had better numbers, but the protection broke down once or twice. It doesn’t feel like either man has separated in this race.

— Ryan Lindley did a nice job on the last 30 seconds before the half and led a touchdown drive. I like the kid and he’s going in the right direction. But let’s not crown anyone yet. Lindley’s development isn’t going to go any faster even if fans think he’s better than the top two guys. We can argue about it being too early for the veterans as we go. For a rookie sixth-round quarterback, it’s way too early.

— The starting defense didn’t do well. They know.” It can look a certain way right now,” safety Kerry Rhodes said, and that way is bad. But there didn’t seem to be a concern by anyone on that side of the ball. “There will be a difference when we gameplan,” Rhodes said. The first drive was tough, though. Better tackling, but the Chiefs just kept getting first downs. Got to get off the field.

— Here’s why you get gun-shy about making grand pronouncements. LaRon Byrd had a good game – even Whisenhunt said so – and his three catches for 33 yards, all at the end of the first half, got the Cards a field goal. Good stuff, right? Sort of. Whisenhunt said Byrd was supposed to run a diagonal and would have been open in the flat but ran the wrong route and “left our quarterback out to dry.”

“You see the big plays and you think he has a good game but one of the small things happens and the quarterback keeps the ball in his hand because he’s looking to throw and LeRon isn’t there,” Whisenhunt said.

— Along those same lines, Skelton admitted he called the wrong play in the huddle on his first drive. For an offense fighting to execute as it is, mental errors are killers.

— William Powell had his 29-carry game last year in the preseason, and 92 yards rushing (on nine carries) Friday night. He broke 100 all-purpose yards including his nine-yard reception. Even without a 67-yarder by Powell, the Cards still ran for 86 yards on 23 carries, which wasn’t bad.

— Rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming made a nice play to tackle a running back for a loss and also broke up a pass that ended up being intercepted by teammate Rashad Johnson. That’s a plus.

— Adrian Wilson absolutely lit up Chiefs receiver Terrance Copper on an incompletion early in the game. Wilson lowered the boom, but – correctly, I think – no flag was thrown because Wilson used his shoulder, went into Copper’s chest and didn’t leave his feet. He did, however, probably leave a mark. Hopefully the league sees it as clean too.

— Whiz didn’t want it to be an excuse, but it did seem like the Cards were like an NBA team at the end of a long road trip, out of gas. Don’t know if that was true or not, but the vibe was there.

— Finally, Ryan Williams did not play. Not a surprise. He and Beanie did dress for warmups though. They are getting closer.

This trip is over. Time to fly home tomorrow (later today?) and get back to some normalcy.

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Thursday before the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2012 – 3:25 pm

The last stage of the training camp week away from training camp is over.

(It reminds me of one of the great George Carlin’s comedy bits of being on vacation and then going to another place while gone. “Supply lines become longer and harder to maintain!”)

I’m thinking it’s being embraced by the roster, after a couple of days in Canton (staying an hour away from the Hall of Fame), a trip to St. Joseph, Mo., for more dorm life, and now this trip into Kansas City for Friday night’s game against the Chiefs. What’s it been like? “Honestly, it’s been hell,” guard Daryn Colledge said, in the way only he can.

Colledge saw the joint practice with the Chiefs kind of like a game, so “we’ll end up with another one so that’s three in five days. The bed (at the dorm) is made up of a pallet with sandpaper on it and my sheet is similar to a dryer sheet. Hey, it’s not been the greatest stop in my life. There is a part of me looking forward to get back to Flagstaff. But it’s been good. The school has excellent facilities to practice and play in, everyone was nice. It was a good stop overall.”

Never thought I’d hear a player happy to be going back to Flagstaff. First though, there is the game against the Chiefs.

— We’ll see if Kevin Kolb plays at quarterback, but this will be John Skelton’s first start and that’s a big deal. Skelton hasn’t had the greatest of first-quarter showings. He looked steady in his 94-yard touchdown drive last week. That’d be huge if he could do that again.

— Watching the defense try to bang with Chiefs running back Peyton Hillis, the man is a load when he hits into the line. Considering the Cards struggled with tackling last game, he will be a test.

— As I have mentioned before, and this is my guess only, I’d think Ryan Williams won’t play one more week. But I’ll admit I won’t be shocked if he does.

— On the road I didn’t get a chance to re-watch last week’s game. I’ve had a lot of fans do so and talk about the offensive line, about guard Adam Snyder and tackle Levi Brown and mistakes they might have made. I’m going to try and watch the unit more this game. It, like the entire offense, could benefit from a faster start.

— If you haven’t seen it, there’s a good story about the friendship between Williams and Chiefs GM Scott Pioli.

— There weren’t any scuffles in the joint practice this week. But a couple years ago, when there were some between the Cards and Titans in their joint practice, that came after the two teams played. Maybe the reverse will be true this time.

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Arrival in Missouri

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2012 – 3:07 pm

OK, not everyone. I’m here with a few of my broadcast brethren at Missouri Western State in St. Joseph, Missouri, sitting in my new but barren dorm room. It’ll be a fun three nights, I’m sure. The team arrives this evening.

The schedule sets up like this: A walkthrough Tuesday morning and a joint practice against the Chiefs at 3:15 p.m. local time (and yes, it’s open to the public. Info here on kcchiefs.com.) The Cards will then have another walkthrough Wednesday morning and a practice indoors on their own Wednesday afternoon. Thursday is a travel day and then comes a preseason game against the Chiefs in Kansas City — about an hour away — Friday night.

We’ll have the coverage of the week on azcardinals.com. I’ll have a story on the homepage in a bit on Stewart Bradley.

(P.S. Watch the video from last night’s game to see the portion when Kevin Kolb came off the field and supposedly “dissed” John Skelton like so many claim. I see a guy who is hurt and not noticing anything, especially Skelton and Skelton’s hand off to the side. I’m sure John knows that. To suggest Kolb blew off Skelton on purpose is ludicrous.)

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Officially, Cards to spend practice week in K.C.

Posted by Darren Urban on June 28, 2012 – 2:31 pm

The speculation has come true: The Cardinals will indeed practice against the Kansas City Chiefs the week of Aug. 6, in between the Hall of Fame game against the Saints Aug. 5 and the preseason game in Kansas City Aug. 10. That was confirmed Thursday. The workouts will be at the Chiefs’ training camp home of Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo.

“There are many benefits to this arrangement and we appreciate Coach (Romeo) Crennel and the Chiefs working to make this happen,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.  “Logistically it makes a lot of sense since we play Sunday night in Canton and then Friday night at Kansas City but I’ve always found there’s also great value in getting work against another team in a setting like this. We’re looking forward to it.”

The actual dates and times of the combined practices are still to be determined.

“Training camp is about us continuing our development and evaluating our players,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. “We are very excited to be hosting another NFL team for competitive practices. This will give us another opportunity to further evaluate our team under a different set of circumstances before we get into our preseason schedule.”

The move just made sense. The Cards would have had to fly home in the dead of night after the Hall of Fame game and trek up to Flagstaff the next afternoon for what would have amounted to two days of work before driving back down to fly out for the Chiefs game. Going right to Kansas City made sense, much like the Cards’ trip to Nashville back in 2010.

“We could not be happier to host two NFL franchises this year at Missouri Western,” said Missouri Western State University athletics director Kurt McGuffin. “There is a buzz in the air about camp this summer, and with the addition of the Cardinals, the interest is elevated around St. Joseph and beyond. We would like to thank the Chiefs for bringing us this opportunity.”

The Cardinals’ full training camp schedule has yet to be released, but it is expected out very soon now that the details of the Kansas City week have been finalized.

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The Kansas City practice possibility

Posted by Darren Urban on June 5, 2012 – 1:17 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged Tuesday the possibility the Cards could practice against the Kansas City Chiefs during training camp, during the week between the Cards’ Hall of Fame game against the Saints in Ohio Aug. 5 and the Cards’ game in K.C. against the Chiefs Aug. 10.

“We’ve talked about it,” Whisenhunt said. “There’s nothing really firmed up yet. I’m not opposed to it. We’ve done it before with Tennessee a couple of years ago and I thought it was a great experience. It’s a good chance to evaluate your team against other players. You don’t get a chance to do that unless it’s in a game. When you get more reps and see them in certain situations, it’s a good tool. I hope it’s something we will be able to work out.”

Whisenhunt said there are “a lot of things” that go into the decision. One of which is the travel, because the Cards would be doing a lot of moving around in a short period if they did come back to Arizona in between games (since camp is up in Flagstaff.) “We are still in the process of figuring all that out,” Whisenhunt said. “Part of it is making sure we have facilities. We’ve talked about it and I don’t know if it will get anywhere, but it’s certainly not anything I am opposed to.”

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Cards reportedly talking Kansas City practice

Posted by Darren Urban on June 1, 2012 – 11:11 pm

There has been some “mention” of the Cardinals spending some time in Kansas City and practicing against the Chiefs early in training camp, according to Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel. The Cardinals play in the Hall of Fame game Aug. 5 — a Sunday night — and will play at Arrowhead Stadium the following Friday night. The Cards could go to Kansas City early. “I’m not opposed to it,” Crennel said. The athletic director of Missouri Western State University acknowledged Cards’ decision makers had visited the campus to evaluate the facilities. That story emphasized nothing yet had been decided and talks were only in the early stages.

It wouldn’t be unprecedented for the Cardinals to make such a choice in camp. In 2010, the Cardinals played in Nashville against the Titans and then stayed in the city to have a practice against the Titans before flying directly to Chicago for their next preseason game against the Bears.

At this point, the only portion of the training camp schedule the Cards have released is report day of July 24 and a practice on July 25. The full camp schedule usually is announced in late June.

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Chiefs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2010 – 10:10 pm

It felt a little like Chinese water torture Sunday. There were no dramatic shifts in the game, no real knockout punch. The Chiefs just kept drip-drip-dripping their way to a win, and it eventually felt there was no way the Cards could wiggle out from beneath the spigot.

Postgame was about as weary as I have seen coach Ken Whisenhunt. He’s still going to say the right things – that’s how he believes it should be done – but the losing obviously is eating at him. What now? Well, barring a shift in the division race, the Cards are in the week-to-week storyline mode. You don’t look big picture. You shrink it, meaning the much-anticipated-once-upon-a-time Monday night home game (with the black uniforms and I believe a better-than-average chance of an open roof) will have to be an event in itself.

You win – and once again, the Cards will be playing a team on the downslide, so at least it feels like even footing – and reevaluate later.

Since I’ll have basically an extra day to sift through this, I’m keeping this short tonight. (And I doubt I will be getting to the comments tonight, so bear with me. I will approve everything in the morning. I’m not censoring. I’m taking a bit of my life back. There’s not a lot new to say anyway).

— Whisenhunt said there wouldn’t be any personnel changes, but rookie tight end Jim Dray was in there extensively Sunday ahead of Ben Patrick. Dray struggled, but as we get deeper in the season, those are the kinds of developmental moves we may see going forward. (No, I don’t think John Skelton is playing next week).

— Derek Anderson has thrown high passes before but he seemed particularly skewing high Sunday. Maybe the wind was playing a major role, but it made for some harrowing catch attempts. And obviously one of them knocked Early Doucet out of the game.

— Wide receiver Steve Breaston was not a happy camper. “You’ve got to find what motivates you inside. You’ve got to push on. Don’t look for others to make plays. Do it yourself.” It’ll be interesting to see if his message gets across.

— Todd Haley wasn’t going to let Larry Fitzgerald beat him. On the Cards’ second field goal, on the third-down pass, the Chiefs not only double-teamed Fitz but did it with bump coverage with both. The pass ended up incomplete to Breaston.

“(The Chiefs) have done that a couple of times, they did it against (Chargers tight end) Antonio Gates, (Broncos receiver) Brandon Lloyd,” Fitzgerald said. “Anytime they are in the red zone they try to take away the guy who is the most targeted usually.”

— At some point, I would think Whisenhunt will consider heavily changing quarterbacks again, to give a rookie some experience. But it’s not going to be now, not when the NFC West is frightening still not out of reach and not against the 49ers on “Monday Night Football.”

— No, I don’t know if the Cardinals have interest in Vince Young if he becomes available.


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Friday before the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2010 – 3:38 pm

Fitz says it’s impossible to understand.

He can’t escape it. Football, that is. A four-game losing streak. “You go home and turn on the TV and ‘Cardinals have lost four in a row,’ ” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “Or I go to dinner and, ‘Hey Fitz, what’s wrong with you guys?’ You guys (in the media) go to dinner and no one ever bothers you. They don’t talk football with you. From that perspective, it’s difficult.”

Wait, I do too have people ask me about the Cards in public … OK, not as much as Fitz, but still …

Anyway, you can see where he is coming from. Fitzgerald is one of the few Cardinals still around from those terrible days pre-Whiz, when losing was practically ordained from training camp. Instead of making this four-game losing streak easier to deal with, it’s made it harder.

“This is way worse than before,” Fitzgerald said. “I had never won on this level before. I have tasted the caviar now, and eating out of the garbage is not where I want to be.”

Not sure you can find caviar in Kansas City. Barbeque, yes. But the Cards want their caviar, and want it fast.

— Fitzgerald, talking about his chemistry with Derek Anderson, said he just hasn’t had the same amount of time with D.A. as hookups like Palmer-Ochocinco or Schaub-Johnson or Manning-Wayne. But he insisted it is getting better (and Fitz’s stats of late bear that out; 20 catches for 270 yards the last three games).

“That’s life in the league,” Fitz said of dealing with a new QB. “I’m going to roll with the punches. Early on in my career I played with a number of different quarterbacks. It’s part of the deal. I am going to play hard and give it everything I have for my teammates and the fans here and that’s my passion.”

So I asked if it was tough to continue to answer such questions. “I don’t understand because I give the same answers every time,” he said. “That’s not going to change.” In other words, if he was ticked (and I don’t think he is, frustrated, but not irrationally so) he isn’t going to pop off anyway.

— More proof that the offense isn’t as ragged as its been? Nine pass plays of 30 or more yards the last three games (five to Steve Breaston) after having only one in the first six games.

— I’m not saying the offense/passing offense is good. Everyone settle down. We all know it is struggling. But there are moments.

— Barring something shocking, Beanie Wells will play this weekend. I don’t think he starts. Until he shows a little something on the field, I’d think Tim Hightower will remain the starter and Beanie getting a chunk of work – you know, like it was the entire back half of 2009. Will Beanie be made the starter again at some point? Perhaps. But I don’t think it’d be a guarantee.

— If LaRod Stephens-Howling can’t go, that’s a major blow to special teams all the way around. There is a reason he’s been considered by many the MVP in the first half of the year, and it’s not just because of his kickoff returns.

— I don’t know if Greg Toler is going to be able to play with his bad foot, but Fitz sure put a shot across his teammate’s bow, good-naturedly, of course. Fitz picked up a Celtics Paul Pierce jersey and hung it on Toler’s locker. Is Toler a Pierce fan? Fitz? No and no. Turns out Fitz was jabbing Toler for his injury this week by comparing it to Pierce’s “miraculous” game in the 2009 NBA Finals (watch the video; it explains it all). I would love for that to mean Toler would be fine for Sunday. We’ll see.

— The Cards could use all hands on deck for this secondary. The Chiefs feature wide receiver Dwayne Bowe a big target (think a more-polished Mike Williams, the Seattle version) who already has nine TD catches.

— The Cards have to find a way to slow the running back tandem of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones first.

— Both Ken Whisenhunt and Todd Haley have tried to downplay it this week. But make no mistake — I think both are burning to be able to beat the other Sunday. It’s not one-on-one basketball. It’s much, much bigger.

— Whisenhunt was asked about the offensive line and its play. The first part of his answer? “It’s hard for me to sit here at 3-6 and say we’re doing anything good.”

That may be a good walk-off quote. If you want to look at the glass half-full (three-quarters full?), you figure that while it was easy to, beforehand, count the Seattle home game as a win, the Kansas City game looked like a loss a couple weeks ago, so if the Cards go in and find that long-lost win, then they are right where they were expected to be and….

Ah, never mind. Talk to you in K.C.

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Lots of questionable

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2010 – 12:55 pm

Eight Cardinals are questionable for Sunday, so I suppose the good news is that no one is doubtful or out — although LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring) did not practice yet again Friday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Hyphen will be checked again tomorrow, and for instance, if he can only return kickoffs, the Cards will consider that.

Seven others (the rest of the questionable list) were officially limited: DT Darnell Dockett (shoulder), LB Clark Haggans (groin), S Kerry Rhodes (hand/back), CB Greg Toler (foot), LB Reggie Walker (just added Friday with a hamstring), RB Beanie Wells (knee) and RB Jason Wright (concussion). Whisenhunt said Wells “looked like his old self” and sounded somewhat optimistic in his tone when talking about Dockett, although Dockett has to be cleared with a strength test on game day to allow him to go.

For the full injury report, look here.

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