I remember one time talking to a player about relationships with coaches, and — being a younger guy, only in the league a couple of years — he was disappointed he couldn’t/didn’t have the same kind of relationship with his NFL coaches that he had in college. The trust level wasn’t the same, and that was realized with a lack of playing time and the reality of guys getting cut.
But that’s how it is. That’s pro sports, and that’s the NFL. The problem, of course, is that — regardless of both that reality and the fantasy football world many fans seem to view their teams — the sport is still inhabited by humans with human emotion.
That’s what I think of when watching how the whole Colts-Peyton Manning thing has developed, coming to a kind of head yesterday, a few days after Manning talked about how it was tough to get healthy in Indy because of the vibe of change and then owner Jim Irsay responded and then Manning responded again. They are now trying to say the right things and desperately not have this be another Packers-Favre melodrama, but is that even possible?
Clearly, Manning wants to play again. He probably wants nothing to do with a star-in-the-making replacement like Andrew Luck (I remember talking to Kurt Warner a couple weeks before the Leinart-Young-Cutler draft, when the Cards seemed sure to take a QB if one was there, and he calmly but firmly kept insisting the Cards didn’t need to take a quarterback.) Certainly it didn’t work well with Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Warner and Leinart was better, but then again, Warner is a different kind of guy.
All this reinforces the human element in this game. Feelings get hurt. Guys get angry, feel things are unfair. Winning always lessens the issues, but make no mistake, someone is always disgruntled. Nature of the beast. And the business.
Tags: Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning
Posted in Blog | 61 Comments »
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said quarterback Kevin Kolb did a little more in practice today following his concussion and the expectation is that he will do more again Friday. But there are reasons to think, barring a big jump in Kolb’s recovery, that John Skelton will start against Cleveland Sunday, and one of them is the path Whisenhunt went down with former quarterback Kurt Warner before a game at Tennessee in 2009.
Warner suffered a concussion in St. Louis the week before, but he passed his tests and came back to practice Wednesday that week. A couple of days later, Warner was “probably going to play.” That sounded good — until Sunday morning, when Warner has some blurry vision, and ultimately the decision came late he wouldn’t play.
Part of the problem wasn’t Warner’s absence Sunday, but that he took almost all of the practice reps during the week because he was supposed to start, leaving Matt Leinart hanging when his number was called. That happens — Skelton was stuck in basically the same situation last weekend against the Niners because Kolb was knocked out early — but Whisenhunt said he was prepared.
“John did OK last week with no reps,” Whisenhunt said, laughing. “Maybe that’s the key. Maybe if we give him no reps and tell him it’s the third quarter, we’re in good shape.”
Seriously, though, “the situation with Kurt was different because we thought he was going to play and the procedures are a lot different now,” Whisenhunt added. “You do want to make sure, if you have those concerns, you get the other guy reps. And we have gotten John more reps this week because of that.”
– Sunday’s game against the Browns has officially been declared a sellout — 62 in a row — and will be televised locally on CBS (Ch. 5). There has been no decision made yet on opening the roof and that will likely be a game-day choice because of the chance of rain.
– S Kerry Rhodes has returned to practice fully and should play Sunday, but he will be slowly worked back into the lineup given so much time away. Rhodes hasn’t played since Oct. 9 because of a broken foot and subsequent surgery.
Tags: concussions, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, sellout
Posted in Blog | 26 Comments »
Thanks to some obvious rhyming and a “can’t miss” quarterback prospect, the phrase “Suck for Luck” has become all the rage among the fan bases of poor teams this season in the NFL. It’s catchy to a point, although for all the reasons expected, it’s never true. Sure, there are going to be bad teams and someone indeed will be bad enough to end up with the No. 1 pick, but there are never players who are thinking about who their team might draft the following April. If you are on that bad of a team, sweeping changes usually come to the roster anyway — so there is no reason to do anything but play hard and try to win. If someone is seen dogging in on video, who’s going to want them going forward?
But what I really found interesting in the whole Luck talk was what former QB Phil Simms said about the 0-7 Colts and whether Peyton Manning will try to come back this season from his neck injury: “There is no way if Peyton Manning is given a clean bill of health — I’m going to go on that assumption — that he is going to let them draft Andrew Luck.” If Manning does come back late this season, he’s going to find a way to win a couple games, you’d think.
Even though Manning is one of the best quarterbacks ever and just signed a new contract, Simms pointed out the pressure that would come in Indy with Luck lurking on the bench. “In this day and age, even with Peyton Manning, people would be crying, ‘We’ve got to see Andrew Luck.’ “
To which I say, that’s absolutely true.
Think Favre-Rodgers, and how messy that got in Green Bay. Heck, more than a few eyebrows were raised in New England in April when the Patriots drafted Ryan Mallett, and that was with an extra third-round pick and not the first choice overall. I am reminded of an interview I had with Kurt Warner a couple weeks before the 2006 draft, when it seemed very possible the Cardinals would take a quarterback. Warner clearly did not want the Cards to take a QB. He had just been through the Eli Manning thing in New York a couple of years before. He wanted to play a few more years and get back to the Super Bowl.
“What’s the best way to do that?” he said. “Not to take a guy who is going to take over my job. Go get somebody who can help us next year.”
The Cards did take a QB, obviously, Matt Leinart (and they would have taken Jay Cutler had Leinart been gone). Warner wasn’t thrilled, and his concern about the pressure to play the rookie came to bear when Warner was bad in the first 3 1/2 games (fumbling 10 times!) and then being replaced. That doesn’t mean Manning will have the same problem. But it illustrates — especially knowing what we know now of how Warner/Leinart/post-Warner played out — how finding that good quarterback to carry you can be complicated. Even if you already have one of the greatest ever, yet still have ended up sucking for Luck.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Phil Simms
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One of the more popular topics with the Cards has been getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, a subject that comes up time and again. But an offshoot of that is the Cardinals taking shots downfield period. While the progress of quarterback Kevin Kolb has also been constantly analyzed, the gentlemen at profootballfocus.com complied a “throwing deep” list this season, checking out accuracy and other stats for QBs throwing deep (by their definition, a pass 20 yards in the air or more).
Kolb has the fewest deep attempts in the NFL right now for starters. Kolb has tried only 11 deep passes this season, completing five. (And let’s be clear; throwing deep doesn’t exactly equate with win-loss record; the second-fewest attempts, 12, have come from the 49ers’ 5-1 starter Alex Smith, and he’s played in one more game than Kolb). Kolb has five completions for 205 yards, a touchdown (the bomb to Fitz in Washington) and three interceptions.
The list is fun to peruse. Carolina rookie Cam Newton has already tried 43 such passes this season.
As for the reasons Kolb hasn’t thrown deep more often, they are likely multiple, and all the ones we have gone over before. Protection not holding up, being uncomfortable in the pocket (it takes times for such routes to develop), and probably fewer playcalls to do so. There is all kinds of risk usually when you take shots downfield, whether it is a chance at a sack or getting picked off on a jump ball (like the Antrel Rolle interception in the Giants’ game). It’s a part of Kolb’s game — and the offense — that will be interesting to watch as the season moves forward.
UPDATE: The ProFootballFocus.com guys were kind enough to send along, for comparison, what Kurt Warner did deep his final two seasons in Arizona. That’s also very interesting. In 2008, Warner had the highest accuracy percentage throwing deep (58.7) but his 46 attempts (23 completions, 4 drops, 5 TD, 3 INT) were still tied for the fewest among the the full-time quarterbacks that season (JaMarcus Russell and Ben Roethlisberger were the only other two with fewer than 50 that season).
In 2009, Warner’s deep accuracy percentage dropped off the table to 32.4 percent (11-of-37, 1 drop, 3 TD, 5 INT) and again, his attempts were fewest in the league.
In both years, Warner threw deep only 7.7 percent and 7.2 percent of the time respectively (Kolb is at 6.4 percent of the time). By contrast, Derek Anderson threw deep 14.4 percent of the time last season when he was playing.
Tags: Alex Smith, Cam Newton, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
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Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, unprompted, took the chance Monday to defend coach Ken Whisenhunt within the current context of the team.
“I think coach Whisenhunt has taken too much of a bad rap for things that have happened,” Fitzgerald said. “At the end of the day he’s not catching any passes, he’s not making any blocks, he’s not tackling anybody. The onus has to fall on the players, and right now the players are not getting it done.”
This echoes what former quarterback and NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 620, that “I’ve watched every play of every game and there are plays out there to be made that are not being made. Flat out, there are guys wide open.” Warner said it seems like the players are just waiting for someone to make a play. “Coaches can only go so far,” Warner said. “Then players have to take over.”
The Cardinals came back to practice Monday, working about 15 minutes longer than scheduled with a “good up-tempo practice,” Whisenhunt said. “After four days off,” the coach added, “they should have some energy.”
The players have regrouped and are looking forward the best they can while trying to understand how they got to 1-4 (story coming later this afternoon). There was a team meeting last week and another introspective talk again today, but as Fitzgerald said, improvement ultimately can only come on the field.
– Whisenhunt said the Cards are generally in good health. One player in particular, tight end Todd Heap (hamstring), is still up in the air. “We’ll see where Todd is on Wednesday,” Whisenhunt said.
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Todd Heap
Posted in Blog | 74 Comments »
One thing you notice about Kevin Kolb: He understands all parts of his job, which includes critical analysis and fans getting upset with his play. Maybe he spent too much time in Philadelphia, long known for the collective critical eye it casts on its local athletes. All I know is there are plenty of players who say they get it when it sure doesn’t seem like they do, and Kolb isn’t one of them.
(Heck, on Monday, when it seemed like every question was about what was going wrong, one question halfway talked about taking something good from the close wins, and Kolb said he appreciated at everyone trying to be positive. And he was genuine.)
So today, when he was asked about fans criticizing his play, he was matter-of-fact. “I’ve been around long enough to know everybody has doubts,” Kolb said. “It’s the same thing if we were going the other way. If we were 4-0, (the talk would be) we’d be going to the Super Bowl, which isn’t the truth either.”
P.S. For those who want to watch a “sneak peek” of tomorrow night’s “A Football Life” about Kurt Warner, click here now (the link will be good until 7 p.m. Thursday night, when the episode of Warner will be airing on the NFL Network).
Tags: Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner
Posted in Blog | 40 Comments »
Let’s start with this disclaimer: The Cardinals need to play better defense. Everyone knows that, acknowledged that. “We let them get some first downs, move the ball on us,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Cam Newton played a great game. He’s a lot better quarterback than a lot of people thought, I’m sure. But we found a way to get it done at the end.”
But — and there is always a but, right? — a bit of perspective on Cam Newton’s 422 yards passing, best pointed out by Campbell again. “We still got the ‘W’ and that’s what it is about,” he said.
On my drive home last night I started mulling the 400-yard passing games I have seen over the years. It’s a fantastic number. And frankly, it usually means a loss. Ask Drew Brees, who was great last Thursday night and piled up 419 yards passing with no interceptions and still lost to Green Bay. The rookie record for passing yards in a game, prior to Matthew Stafford’s 422 in 2009 (tied yesterday by Newton) was the Cardinals’ own Matt Leinart, who threw for 405 in Minnesota in 2006. The Cards lost that game, 31-26 (Stafford did win his game, however, 38-37 over Cleveland, with five TD passes).
Kurt Warner had a pair of monster passing yardage days as a Card. He threw for 484 yards at home against the 49ers in 2007, and for 472 in New York against the Jets in 2007. The Cards lost the former in overtime, 37-31, and the latter was also a loss, 56-35. In fact, while Boomer Esiason’s team record 522-yard passing day in Washington in 1996 was an overtime win, the next five top passing games in franchise history (Warner’s two games, Neil Lomax at 468 yards, Jake Plummer at 465 yards and Lomax again at 457) were all losses.
Steve Beuerlein, who threw for 431 yards in Seattle in 1993, did win in overtime.
Newton’s certainly didn’t pile up numbers chasing a big deficit, which is impressive. But the Cards didn’t allow the Panthers to run well — 74 yards, a 2.7-yard average — which is the flip side of the big passing day. The point, again, is that gaudy numbers are always nice. But they are hollow without the right outcome. And in the Cards’ case, they don’t sting nearly as much with the right outcome.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Jake Plummer, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Neil Lomax, Panthers, Steve Beuerlein
Posted in Blog | 45 Comments »
The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
What I remember most is that it seemed to come out of nowhere.
Before the tirade that let everyone remember Denny Green was who we thought he was, we had already gone through five or six minutes of his postgame press conference on that fateful Monday night. It had been an ugly ending, but Denny – who usually was grumpy with an edge after losses – seemed calm, almost shell shocked as the questions came.
Then came the query that set him off, a question that should have led Denny to a good place – one about what the Cards saw in the Bears’ offense that allowed the defense to dominate and forced QB Rex Grossman into six turnovers. Like a boulder rolling downhill, Green started slow and as the anger built, the response grew into its epic ending, when Green bellowed how the Cards “let ‘em off the hook!”
Quick side story – Denny had a similar moment in training camp that year. The day rookie holdout Matt Leinart finally signed, two weeks into camp, tension was building on when he would do so. I was told Green was going to go off on Leinart in his lunchtime presser, and lo and behold, that’s what happened. Denny was asked about how linebacker Karlos Dansby’s injury was doing. A five-minute monologue later, Green was talking about what a shame it was that Leinart wouldn’t play in New England that weekend for the preseason game, when Kurt Warner would and when Tom Brady would, and Green clearly was irritated Leinart wasn’t there. Wonder if Denny knew Leinart was about to sign? Regardless, I don’t see the Bears’ rant as that calculated.
But back to the crowning moment in Denny’s Arizona tenure. The roots of the speech came back in August – a week after that New England trip – when the Cards beat the Bears in the third preseason game in Chicago and both Warner and Leinart played well. Grossman was terrible against the Cards, so much so that the Chicago fans booed him relentlessly. That was what was rattling around Green’s mind less than two months later.
The Cards were already ornery because of how things were going. After winning the first regular-season game at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cards had lost four straight. Warner had been benched for Leinart. The Bears were coming to town with a 5-0 record. The big story during the week was actually Darnell Dockett signing a contract extension (although Leinart’s first start the previous week against the Chiefs caught everyone’s attention.)
Bears coach Lovie Smith was asked about Leinart’s good game in the preseason and talked about that game meaning nothing, as a “glorified practice.” Green, hearing this, clearly didn’t agree and said as much, although it wasn’t exactly “who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s bull.” At least, not yet.
Then came the game. The Cards dominated, and they lost. Green calmly answered most of the questions and then the one hit him the wrong way, especially with the leftover irritation with Smith’s comments percolating all week and the frustration of the season building (for instance, kicker Neil Rackers missing what should have been a game-winning field goal that night).
While the world watched – over and over – Denny’s rant and it was repeated everywhere, the fallout was quick. Offensive coordinator Keith Rowen was demoted the next day. The Cards’ season ran off the rails, and by the time the Bears made it to the Super Bowl, Green was out and Ken Whisenhunt was the coach. Super week, Denny’s words continued to echo, as everyone kept saying, in some way shape or form, the Bears were who we thought they were.
Tags: Bears, Darnell Dockett, Dennis Green, Karlos Dansby, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Lovie Smith, Matt Leinart, Neil Rackers, Revisionist history, Rex Grossman, Tom Brady
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »
I know many people were wondering, but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald finally landed on the NFL Network’s Top 100 current players at No. 14. I think that speaks to how well Fitz is respected around the league, especially since the Cards had a down year last season. Not shockingly, the presenter for Fitz’s video segment was Chiefs head coach and former Cards offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who developed a special bond with Fitz during Haley’s two seasons in Arizona.
“One of the hurdles we had to get over with Kurt (Warner) was to get him to throw the ball up to Larry even when he’s not open and he’ll make the play,” Haley said. “Those ball skills, along with the great hands, allow him to come down with the ball when others don’t.”
The eerie ending: Haley talks about how sure he would have been that, had Warner been able to get off that last Hail Mary pass in the Super Bowl — Warner was sacked and fumbled — Fitz would have come down with the jump ball and provided a miracle finish for the Cards. I don’t know if that would have been the case, but gosh, it would have been nice to see how it developed.
Tags: Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Todd Haley
Posted in Blog | 23 Comments »
So I was looking over this ESPN.com article by Football Outsiders about the top 10 most disappointing NFL free agents of the past 25 years and it got me thinking about the Cardinals (although no, there are no Cards on the list). My first full free-agent offseason came in 2001, when the Cards — up against the salary cap — chose to sign Seattle guard Pete Kendall as their one big purchase, to team with center Mike Gruttadauria from the year before and first-rounder Leonard Davis to build the “Big Red Line.” Kendall, as always, was blunt; when he came in for his press conference and was asked, why the Cardinals, he said, “Because they paid me the most money.”
That’s usually how it goes.
The bottom line is that, occasionally, help comes via free agency. More often than not, you acquire the best players through the draft because, aside from a player here or there, there is a reason a team lets a player go. Usually it’s because they don’t see him being worth the money he commands on the open market. (Karlos Dansby? Maybe he was. Antrel Rolle? Probably not.) I would argue that, if you charted all the “bigger-name” free-agent signings in the NFL over the years, there would be more that underperformed to expectations rather than met them.
Anyway, you look back through the years and think about the “key” free agents the Cards signed. How many provided the impact that people thought they would provide the day they signed?
- 2002 – CB Duane Starks, TE Freddie Jones
- 2003 – QB Jeff Blake, RB Emmitt Smith, S Dexter Jackson
- 2004 – DE Bertrand Berry (now this one was a real winner, even with Bertrand’s later injuries)
- 2005 – DE Chike Okeafor, QB Kurt Warner (OK, that one turned out pretty well)
- 2006 – RB Edgerrin James (Edge was actually pretty effective, but certainly not the star his contract said he should be)
- 2007 – T Mike Gandy, C Al Johnson, CB Rod Hood (The Cards decide not to get FA “stars” under Whiz, just pieces to the puzzle).
- 2008 – DE Travis LaBoy, NT Bryan Robinson
- 2009 – CB Bryant McFadden
- 2010 – QB Derek Anderson, LB Joey Porter, LB Paris Lenon, K Jay Feely
Certainly a mixed bag over the years. The biggest disappointment? No, I’m not going with Anderson — remember, he was signed to be Matt Leinart’s backup, so how much disappointment can there be? (Careful now …) I think I’d probably go with Duane Starks, who parlayed his spot in that great Ravens defense into the idea he could be a shutdown corner, which he wasn’t, especially on a team that sometimes used Fred Wakefield as the right defensive end (Fred was a great guy but didn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of quarterbacks). Realistically, Emmitt probably provided what everyone expected and so did Edgerrin, especially since he never seemed to fit Whisenhunt’s style (and was clearly at the end, which was proven out after the Cards let him go).
Berry, by far, was the best signing, based on his 2004 season alone. I would have loved to see what sack numbers he would have had if he hadn’t gotten hurt every year after that. UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Some of you want to know how I could ever pick Berry over Warner. The simple fact is that Berry, as a free-agent signee, impacted imemdiately. Warner’s time in Arizona didn’t come across that well until after a change in coaches. That was Warner’s third season as a Card by then. Am I splitting hairs? Maybe. But in the context of this discussion, it’s difficult to argue that, as a free agent coming in, Berry didn’t produce better than Warner.
Tags: Al Johnson, Bertrand Berry, Bryan Robinson, Bryant McFadden, Chike Okeafor, Derek Anderson, Dexter Jackson, Duane Starks, Edgerrin James, Emmitt Smith, Fred Wakefield, Freddie Jones, free agency, Jay Feely, Jeff Blake, Joey Porter, Kurt Warner, Leonard Davis, Matt Leinart, Mike Gandy, Mike Gruttadauria, Paris Lenon, Pete Kendall, Rod Hood, Travis LaBoy
Posted in Blog | 43 Comments »