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Thoughts on a schedule

Posted by Darren Urban on April 18, 2013 – 6:31 pm

So here are some quick thoughts on the Cardinals’ schedule, for what they are worth. No one knows exactly what will happen between now and when the games will be played and so much can change. Nevertheless, this is what we do, so we press on …

— What smacks me in the face first is the back-to-back games against the 49ers — in San Francisco — and the Seahawks just four days later for their NFL Network game. That’s in October (13 and 17). Those teams aren’t easy with which to deal, and to have them so close together is tough. I guess, with Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson with similar games (I know Wilson doesn’t run as much as Kaepernick), the defense will be in the right frame of mind. Todd Bowles, are you ready?

— Opening in St. Louis isn’t a bad place to start. The Cards have had a ton of success there, winning seven straight before last year. These aren’t the 2009 Rams, but they aren’t the Niners and Seahawks either.

— Offenses with which the Cards must deal without suspended linebacker Daryl Washington: Rams, Lions, Saints, Buccaneers. All in all, not the worst thing.

— A bye at exactly the midway point of the season.

— The Bruce Arians-faces-his-former-Colts-team game comes Nov. 24. Will be very interesting to see where the Cards are at that point — we will be long past the storybook of the Colts season last year — and, for that matter, where the Colts stand.

— I didn’t think weather would be a big deal, but it could be chilly in Philly (Dec. 1) and Tennessee (Dec. 15). And perhaps Seattle (Dec. 22) for that matter.

— It did catch my eye that the preseason Dallas game is at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. I prefer that rather than night preseason games.

— A trip to Raymond James Stadium Sept. 29. Let’s see, the last time the Cards were there

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Youth looks like it will be served

Posted by Darren Urban on March 4, 2013 – 3:49 pm

Until practices and the games play out, the differences between new coach Bruce Arians and former coach Ken Whisenhunt may be hard to decipher. But there is one major difference that is obvious given topics Arians has talked about — where Whisenhunt was often careful of how quickly he would play a rookie, and clearly skewed toward veteran play, Arians is the opposite. I expect the new staff to play young players early and often.

When Arians first took the job, he mentioned how many rookies and/or inexperienced players he and the Colts played last year in Indianapolis. Much of that was forced, because of injury and salary cap purges, but in the end, it worked out to an 11-win season. Arians praises the job those young players did for him. And in the shadow of the story that players can’t talk to the coaches about football until April comes the reality that, under the new rules, rookies benefit with the learning curve. Even Arians notes this.

“We found out we could play with young players,” Arians said of his time in Indianapolis. “In the past a rookie might get seven or eight reps in an OTA. Last year they got like 200 because they can go out seven days a week.  The veterans can’t work but the rookies can. They got reps even going to (training) camp, when we brought them in three days early.”

Obviously, the Cardinals aren’t going to have the rookies working seven days a week. But the Colts had a pair of rookies-only minicamps last year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that repeated here. Plus I could see Arians again wanting to bring them in early to training camp. That’s a lot of extra time with the coaches the veterans won’t get — especially if the coaches are looking to find rookies that can play right away.

You also have to wonder about the underbelly of the roster, the guys that Whisenhunt always liked to populate with veterans. Arians and general manager Steve Keim may be looking in a different direction.




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Arians’ former bosses speak about new Cards coach

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2013 – 11:41 am

The Indianapolis Colts released statements today from general manager Ryan Grigson — brother of Cardinals scout Dru Grigson — and head coach Chuck Pagano as their offensive coordinator Bruce Arians embarks on his new career as Cardinals head coach.

General Manager Ryan Grigson

“We congratulate Bruce on this great opportunity with the Arizona Cardinals. The exceptional job he did this past season in keeping this team focused, combined with his long record of accomplishment, made him a very attractive candidate for a head coaching position and we congratulate the Cardinals on their good judgment in selecting him. BA did a remarkable job last season, filling in for his friend and head coach in a time of need. Without BA’s selflessness, leadership, football acumen, and competitive spirit, we couldn’t have had the season we did. We surely will miss BA’s presence as a coach and a friend but we’re delighted for him and we wish Bruce, Chris, and their entire family nothing but the best as they embark on their new journey.”

Head Coach Chuck Pagano

“We are excited for Bruce, Chris, and his entire family. This is an opportunity of a life time and I know he will do a great job. Arizona hired a great coach but a better man. What he did in my absence was truly remarkable. I am forever in debt to Bruce. He is and always will be a great friend and I wish him nothing but the best as he begins this new chapter in his life.”


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Arians thinks Cards give him “heck of a feeling”

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2013 – 2:07 pm

Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is interviewing with the Cardinals today, and as has been custom to candidates who have come to Tempe, he met with the media this afternoon. He’s wanted to become a head coach for a long time and admitted he isn’t sure why he hasn’t garnered more interest before now, but he’s taking advantage of his visits. The Bears, during Marc Trestman’s press conference today, acknowledged Arians was the runner-up for that job. The Cards are the lone job left open, and Arians is the latest candidate — following Ray Horton, Jay Gruden, Todd Haley, and Darrell Bevell of the known guys left available.

He just went through an emotional season with the Colts, making the playoffs and serving as interim head coach as Chuck Pagano went through leukemia treatments. He admitted it wouldn’t be easy to leave Indianapolis. “I told my agent early, when he was setting up interviews, ‘I’m going to have to have a heck of a feeling about that organization, owner, general manager, team, to leave where I am right now,’ ” Arians said.

So someone asked the obvious: Does he have that feeling in Arizona?

“Yes I do,” he said.

— Arians said he couldn’t really comment on what would happen with defensive coordinator Ray Horton or any assistant still under contract if he got the job. “It’s too early in the process,” he said.

— He said he would hire an offensive coordinator if he were head coach. But he said he would call the plays himself until he found someone who could do it better. Not a surprise. That’s what Ken Whisenhunt did when he first arrived in Arizona. He said, doing it with the Colts, “it’s easy. There are plenty of hours in the day.”

— A team is always looking for a good quarterback. You try and find that. But until you do, Arians said you have to coach up the players in front of you and “make them better.”

— He’s had to learn how to delegate, when serving as interim HC for the Colts.

Being a head coach, “it’s not as hard as it’s supposed to be.”

We’ll see if that means he will get a chance in Arizona. I don’t know who is the favorite, so please don’t ask. Nor do I know when this is going to be resolved. Obviously, with Jacksonville hiring Gus Bradley Thursday morning, the Cards have the only remaining head coaching vacancy. I have a full Arians story on the homepage.


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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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The AFC at UoP with Whiz

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2012 – 10:21 am

Ken Whisenhunt coached in Pittsburgh for six seasons before coming to the Cardinals and knew what he’d be seeing when the AFC teams played his new team in Arizona. That’s worked out well.

The Cardinals have been a good home team since Whisenhunt’s arrival in 2007, and no place does that show up more than when AFC teams come to visit, like will happen Sunday when the Buffalo Bills will be the opponent. It’s the second and final AFC visitor of the season, and of the 11 previous AFC teams to come to town, the Cardinals have beaten nine of them and will be the favorite Sunday against the reeling Bills.

The only two home AFC losses in Whiz’s tenure came in 2009, when the powerful Colts beat up the Cards on “Sunday Night Football” and last year, when the Steelers caught the Cardinals at arguably their lowest point in the season in a 32-20 Pittsburgh win. Because of the way the schedule has worked out, the Cards have seen repeat AFC visitors in that time. The Cards have beaten Miami twice, Cleveland twice, along with a then-undefeated Buffalo (when Adrian Wilson knocked QB Trent Edwards out of the game, below), Houston (late goal-line stand), Oakland (Janikowski’s shocking missed field goal) and Denver (the Jay Feely score-a-thon.)

Next season, the AFC teams who will visit Arizona are the Texans and Colts again.

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Before 2012, a glance at 2013 opponents

Posted by Darren Urban on July 17, 2012 – 1:22 pm

Yes, yes, I know I am early. Way early. But as long as the info is out there — and while we still have a little bit before we get to training camp — here is a look at who the Cardinals’ opponents will be for the 2013 season.


— Indianapolis (Andrew Luck!)

— Carolina (Cam Newton!)

— Houston (Arian Foster.)

— Atlanta (Roddy White?)

— NFC North team that matches Cards’ spot in 2012 standings

— and of course, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco.


— New Orleans

— Tampa Bay

— Jacksonville

— Tennessee

— NFC East team that matches Cards’ spot in 2012 standings

— and, of course, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco.

I was going to do a little analysis, but then I realized how foolish that was this far out.

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So many unknowns with Manning

Posted by Darren Urban on March 7, 2012 – 4:49 pm

Let’s start here: Peyton Manning, at his press conference Wednesday to announce his release from the Colts, said “I haven’t thought a lot about where I’ll play.”

You can argue about whether that’s true or not, but only Peyton knows for sure. So that leaves everybody scrambling today to guesstimate what will happen with Manning. SI’s Jim Trotter said one team exec thought between nine and 11 teams would be chasing Manning. That number sounds about right, and the usual suspects — including the Cards — have been named many, many times across media platforms.

I’ve had a lot of questions of how “serious” the Cards would be about Manning. That I can’t answer. Not one time, on or off the record, has anyone in the building talked about Manning specifically. That wasn’t going to happen when he was still a Colt, and it probably won’t change even now. The best you can do is connect some dots, from the door general manager Rod Graves left ajar in Indy when he said the team will continue to look for ways to improve. Certainly, no one has dismissed the idea publicly, and there have been a lot of outlets (starting with Charley Casserly, remember?) that have connected Manning with the Cards or said the team will have interest — and I would agree. Fox’s Adam Schein even reported that the Cards not only will chase Manning but have a plan to bring in receiver Reggie Wayne too. (That would be a surprise to me, but ruling things out at this point would probably be a mistake.)

At this point, though, nothing is much different than when speculation began weeks ago. Teams must figure out if Manning has interest in playing for them (I am guessing there are not really nine-to-11 teams that Manning would play for, although he might not tell them that to keep his heavy leverage.) He’ll have to have a workout at some point for all the teams that want to see it. He’ll have to submit to physicals. His health remains a big deal.

“I’m throwing it pretty well,” Manning said at his presser today. “I’ve still got some work to do. I’ve got some progress to make, but I’ve come a long way. … I’m feeling closer and closer. I have to remind myself that it is March. I have a hard time doing that at times. It sure feels comfortable.”

His release allows teams — on-the-record and otherwise — finally feel comfortable letting people know of their interest. There have been reports today about the Seahawks, Redskins, Jets and Broncos seeking Manning, and the Dolphins have long been a no-brainer. As for the Cards, I agree it fits on a lot of levels, from the dome to Fitz to the fact Whiz worked well with Kurt Warner and has shown himself flexible enough to fit a talented QB into the offense. Logistics could be difficult, such as the roster bonus Kevin Kolb is due in 10 days. Trotter said he heard Manning will need time to collect himself after an emotional separation from Indy.

Manning, who has a home in Miami, was followed long enough by a media group after returning there today that he finally stopped to talk (that would get real old real quick). He told those reporters he didn’t know what teams were interested in him and “I don’t know if it’s like college recruiting where you take visits. It’s all new to me.”

It’s all new to everyone. Health issues aside, I don’t remember such a high-profile player being on the open market like this, an iconic player, who at least still has a chance to be playing at a high level.

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For Colts, nothing has changed with Peyton

Posted by Darren Urban on February 23, 2012 – 1:46 pm

New Colts general manager Ryan Grigson — brother of Cardinals’ scout Dru Grigson — was of course peppered with questions about the future of quarterback Peyton Manning. Not a surprise. Nor were his responses, which was basically non-responses.

“Right now there’s not much I can tell you different than before,” Grigson said of the Manning situation. We know, of course, a decision must be made by March 8 whether Manning will get a $28 million roster bonus.

Grigson said he has not seen Manning throw and when asked a couple of times directly if he would be seeing Manning throw, Grigson deflected the question. There certainly wasn’t going to be a time frame on when a decision would be made.

“This is not going to be a rash thing,” Grigson said. “Everyone wants to have it nailed down, but there are a lot of variables involved. We want to do it the right way.”

Grigson would say quarterback Andrew Luck is a very good player, but wouldn’t commit to Luck as the No. 1 overall pick, or even that a quarterback would be the No. 1 pick.

Manning’s situation is certainly going to be the one everyone is watching over the next couple of weeks, though. Said Cardinals general manager Rod Graves, “I’m just like every other fan, curious to what will happen.”

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Townsend’s sudden sunset

Posted by Darren Urban on February 21, 2011 – 8:59 am

Technically, Deshea Townsend still hasn’t retired. Still, don’t expect him to return to the playing field. That’s pretty much over.

Townsend now sits in a side office among the Cardinals’ coaches, the new assistant defensive backs coach hired just a little more than three months from his final NFL play, in a game when he  knocked down a pass against the Eagles Nov. 7 playing for the Colts. Released from the roster a couple of days later, Townsend had already begun to mull his athletic mortality before the season even started (he didn’t sign as a free agent with Indianapolis until the beginning of August).

“I haven’t even put my papers in for retirement,” Townsend said, taking a break from some paperwork grading out the players he now must oversee. “It’s pretty neat to have the option, even before you are done. I was at a point, even last year when I was a free agent, I thought, ‘If someone calls, good, if they don’t, they don’t. I’ll ride off into the sunset.’ It’s not hard for me to walk away … although I’m sure when we get started I’m going to want to get out there and be in the mix.”

Townsend still wasn’t 100 percent he was done playing (he had a 13-year career at defensive back), but felt the decision was made for him. As happens with many possible coaching changes, Townsend was on a short list and got a phone call from Horton asking if he was ready to coach if Horton ended up getting the job (Townsend would have likely also been brought on board had Keith Butler been hired as defensive coordinator).

Now he’s hoping to impart some wisdom on guys like DRC and Greg Toler, wisdom that allowed him to play more than a decade in the league — and, I suppose, could get longer, since, you know, he hasn’t retired yet (No sign yet that there will be any Brett Favre comparisons.

“At 35, it’s a good thing (to coach),” Townsend said. “It’s neat to have something to step into, but it keeps me in the game, a game I love. If I can help a young guy reach his goals, that’s my next challenge. That’s what you always want, is a challenge.”

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