The roster is churned, veterans are moved out and the program undergoes an overhaul. So, Bruce Arians, some think the Cardinals are rebui….
The word doesn’t even get all the way out.
“Never use that word. Never use that word,” Arians said Wednesday morning. “We are reloading not rebuilding. We refused to use that word last year in Indianapolis and it was 37 new players on the roster. (Veteran defensive end) Robert Mathis said, ‘I ain’t got time to rebuild.’ And we were in the playoffs. There is no rebuilding going on. We are just plugging in new faces and different faces. This team is not very far off.”
The won-loss record is going to determine that, of course. Certainly the Cardinals are headed toward underdog status at the very least, especially in a division with Seattle, San Francisco and a Rams team that — don’t forget — went 4-1-1 within the NFC West. Arians said the division reminds him of the AFC North, where he coached many years with both the Browns and Steelers.
“One year ago, I don’t think anyone had Seattle that high,” Arians said. “(Quarterback) Russell Wilson made all that happen. Pete (Carroll) did a great job with his defense. One guy can change your whole outlook.”
(Which is true — if a team finds the right QB to be the one guy.)
“I like our defense against anyone’s defense in the division,” Arians added. “We’ve got to make our offense up to speed so we can compete in the division. It starts with division dominance. We have beaten these teams in the last two years, so it’s not like they are dominating us. I’ve always said, win your home games and scratch out a few on the road, you’re in the playoffs.”
– During the meetings, the NFL officially set the date of Super Bowl XLIX (49) at University of Phoenix Stadium following the 2014 season. It will be Feb. 1, 2015. So plan your time accordingly.
– Restricted free agent quarterback Brian Hoyer officially signed his $2.02 million one-year tender offer Wednesday. He is now officially a Card for 2013 and can’t shop around. (Although, unlike a franchise tender offer, a restricted free agent contract is not guaranteed if he is released.)
Tags: Brian Hoyer, NFC West, Super Bowl
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The Ravens won the Super Bowl and the 49ers reached the Big Game. Both teams have long been known for their defenses, and at one point last week, I saw someone note that regardless of what big numbers guys like Brady and Manning and Brees put up, teams with strong defenses were left standing at the end. Defenses win championships.
Except it’s not true.
I’m not saying the defenses of Baltimore and San Francisco aren’t good. Of course they are, and the 49ers’ defense in particular spurred them to another great season. But you can’t have a Super Bowl end with a score of 34-31 and say defense wins championships. It’s about the teams that can be effective offensively enough these days that will win the title. The Ravens did lock down the Colts in the Wild Card round (nine points) and the Patriots in the AFC Championship (13 points), but in both cases the offense did plenty, and certainly, the Ravens’ wins against the Broncos and Niners were more about scoring points than not allowing them. The 49ers provide a greater example, allowing 31, 24 and then 35 points in three postseason games. San Fran did shut out the Falcons in the second half of the NFC Championship, but if it wasn’t for an offense that could pile up four touchdowns, that wouldn’t have mattered.
Is it any wonder, then, that teams were looking for offensive head coaches? As well as the Cardinals’ defense played this season, the offense just wasn’t enough (and yes, I realize that is the understatement of the year.) The Cardinals’ defense in the 2008 season was just OK statistically, but it had it’s moments — and it could rely on an offense that could score points with anyone. Bruce Arians is here because the offense needs a fix. The Seahawks and Niners will be favorites going into next season not because they have good defenses — which they do — but because their offenses suddenly look explosive behind young quarterbacks.
A team still needs a good defense. The Ravens still needed a crucial stop at the end of the game in New Orleans to clinch their title. A poor defense gets you nowhere near a Super Bowl no matter what your offense is like (right, Saints?) But the days when a team can ride a defense practically alone to a title are long gone, like the 2000 Ravens did. The rules don’t allow it, and at some point, points are needed. These days, you need a championship offense to win a championship.
Tags: 49ers, Ravens, Seahawks, Super Bowl
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I have been fortunate enough to have covered a bunch of Super Bowls in the past, and plenty of media days — nine all told. On days like today, when the 49ers and Ravens are in the Superdome talking about Sunday’s game (and many, many other things), it naturally reminds me of those other times — like waiting for Cards-turned-Buccaneers defensive end Simeon Rice before he arrived some fashionably late by about 10 or 15 minutes, or bumping into Cardinals-turned-Seahawks running back Josh Scobey wandering around the sideline (the same Scobey now working here as a scouting assistant), or asking Bears linebacker Lance Briggs about Denny Green’s Monday night speech that had been made just a couple of months before.
Then there was the last one I attended, of course, in Tampa in January of 2009 with the Cardinals.
There is little question it’s a circus on media day, but in the end, it doesn’t really impact anything. It is so early in the week — and don’t forget, Tuesday is the day these players normally have off anyway — and before any practice that by the time the game rolls around, media day is a distant memory. (The players do have media sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, but those are held at the team hotels, they tend to be more low-key, and the newness factor of the week is long over.)
Maybe it’s because of the way the Super Bowl is covered/portrayed these days, but it always feels like media day is what truly kicks off Super Bowl week. So here we go.
Tags: media day, Super Bowl
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Tuesday the NFL will decide on where Super Bowl XLIX will be played after the 2014 season (so February of 2015) and Arizona — and the University of Phoenix Stadium — has a good chance of getting the nod.
The league changed up the process for awarding Super Bowls recently, so now only two areas reach the “finals” for a game. Arizona is up against the Tampa/Orlando area — where the Super Bowl was just held in 2009, when the Cards and Steelers played at Raymond James Stadium. Arizona, of course, last held a Super Bowl in 2008, when the Patriots couldn’t complete an unreal undefeated season because Eli Manning, David Tyree and Plaxico Burress wouldn’t stop completing passes down the stretch.
The next three Super Bowls are in Indianapolis after this season, New Orleans after the 2012 season and New York/New Jersey after the 2013 season.
The owners are meeting at the Intercontinental Hotel in Houston. A decision is expected to be made around noon Houston time (10 a.m. Arizona time) and it will be announced live on the NFL Network.
Tags: Michael Bidwill, Super Bowl, University of Phoenix stadium
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
The accomplishments certainly weren’t lost as the Cardinals went on their most exciting month-long journey ever back in the first few weeks of 2009, but I’m not totally sure what Larry Fitzgerald was doing in the playoffs that year could have been completely appreciated given the circumstances.
As the wins came and the Super Bowl got closer, talking just about one player didn’t make sense (let’s not get it twisted – Fitz still got plenty of attention over those five weeks of the postseason, and I just thumbed through his clip file if I hadn’t remembered). When you go back and think, however, it almost started innocently against the Falcons.
At that point, the Cards just wanted to win a playoff game, after the 2-5 slide on which they entered the postseason. Fitz had 101 yards on six receptions that day, including an acrobatic catch in double-coverage for a 42-yard touchdown. But that was early, and the moments burned more harsh in the brain were things like Anquan Boldin’s 71-yard catch-and-run TD on which he came up hurt, the Dockett/Rolle combo that created a fumble for a touchdown, and tight end Stephen Spach’s game-clinching catch.
Fitz had nice numbers, but that was supposed to happen.
The next game, though, that’s when the momentum began to build. And when Fitz truly exploded.
Boldin was injured. The Cards were on the road in Carolina. And yet Fitzgerald ran roughshod, finishing with 166 yards on eight catches, with 122 of those yards coming when there was still five minutes left in the first half and the Cards were in complete control. He caught another bomb in double-coverage. He did whatever he wanted against the Panthers (who shouldn’t have been surprised; he had seven receptions for 115 yards when the teams met earlier in the season in Carolina and instead they looked like they had no idea how to deal with him). When Fitz scored his TD – an amazing effort on a crossing route in which he dove for the pylon and scored – it was still the first half and yet it felt like an exclamation point had already been stamped on the game.
His numbers were incredible. The Eagles knew this. They insisted during the week they would not let Fitzgerald go off. A noble pursuit. Yet at that point, impossible to back up with actions. Fitzgerald had three touchdown catches in the first half (he finished with nine receptions for 152 yards). The Eagles slowed him down in the second half, but he had done enough damage. It had reached the expectation that Fitzgerald was certain to get 125 yards in a game, that every jump ball would be his, that he could do no wrong and would carry the team all the way to a title. I mean, Boldin was back for the Eagles, but at that moment, Fitz was alone in the receiving stratosphere, not only on his own team but the entire league. There was no question.
(Well, I guess there was some question. But what is the two weeks leading up the Super Bowl about if not hyperbole.)
In the Super Bowl, Fitz had just one catch in the first three quarters. He had finally been tamed by the famed Steel Curtain. Except he wasn’t, suddenly going off in the final 15 minutes during the Cards’ furious rally, coming up with six receptions and capping it all with that magical 64-yard catch-and-run that seemed destined to be the highlight to signify the Cards’ improbable championship. Then it wasn’t, instead a reminder of what could have been.
The loss didn’t take away from what Fitzgerald did, however. He had seven more catches for 127 yards in the game and he had played so well for so long some were even marveling about the plays he almost made. He set playoff records for catches (30), yards (546) and TDs (7). It was a performance for the ages. “A lot of those playoff catches, he had guys draped over him and he was just making plays,” fellow wideout Steve Breaston said at the time. “You did kind of wonder: When was anyone going to stop him?”
That postseason, the answer was never.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Eagles, Falcons, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers, Steelers, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston, Super Bowl
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After last hosting the Super Bowl back after the 2007 season, University of Phoenix Stadium and Arizona are one of two finalists for the game to be played in 2015 after the 2014 season — along with Tampa Bay. The last time Tampa hosted was after the 2008 season, when the Cardinals made it to the game against Pittsburgh. The decision will be made at the October owners meetings.
“We are delighted to receive the terrific news that Arizona is one of two finalists for the 2015 Super Bowl,” said Mike Kennedy, Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman. “As I have always said, we are in the Super Bowl business and believe we have the best facilities and most hospitable venue in the country.”
The next three Super Bowls are schedule to be in Indianapolis, New Orleans and New York.
Tags: Super Bowl, University of Phoenix stadium
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It doesn’t take much to change the outcome of a game. Ray Horton has seen that a couple of times, in a couple of instances when it couldn’t have been on a bigger stage.
In doing an interview with the Cards’ new defensive coordinator the other day, the subject of the little things – and Super Bowls – came up. Don’t forget, Horton was on the defensive staff of that Steelers’ team that beat the Cards a couple of years ago. We started talking about the interception return of linebacker James Harrison right before halftime (careful, don’t throw things at the computer screen).
Afterward, Horton said, he figured the coaching staff watched that play 50 times over and over. He can tell you exactly where everyone on both teams was and ended up. Despite claims by Kurt Warner to the contrary, Horton said the Cards lined up for that play just like they had all season. But Harrison, a linebacker, decided not to blitz as called and for some reason stayed home.
(This is the stomach-punch part of the post, so if you’re faint of heart, look away now).
“You can look at each guy and think, ‘If one guy does one thing different, he doesn’t score,’ ” Horton said of Harrison’s 100-yard touchdown. “It was a dramatic play and it turned the game around. It won or lost that Super Bowl.
“Really, if James Harrison would have done what he was supposed to do … the play (the Cards called) was a perfect play and they would have scored, walked in and probably won the game. But because one guy did something different … the ramifications …”
Horton knows of ramifications. Because if you ask him what play during his 10-year NFL career sticks out, it’s a play just like that – and for Horton, it had the same painful type of result.
He was playing for the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, the one where Montana hit John Taylor for a game-winning 10-yard touchdown with 30-some seconds to go – just barely past the outstretched fingers of a diving Horton.
The play the Bengals had called was to double-team both Taylor and Jerry Rice (who had 11 catches for 215 yards that day), the right call for the formation. But then Rice went in motion – a change-up – and Horton thought, “We’re screwed.” He thought about calling time out but didn’t, which still sticks with him.
While we talked, Horton jumped up to scribble the play on a white board to explain what happened. Safety David Fulcher was supposed to come across for Taylor. Horton was supposed to stay with Rice, but he quickly realized Rice was the diversion. He tried to jump back and make the play. He just missed the ball, and was lying in the end zone as Taylor finished off the play.
“We are sitting on the bus on the way back and David said, ‘Ray, I could’ve picked that ball, I had nothing to do,’ ” Horton remembered. “I said, ‘I know. I know.’
“It still haunts me.”
Tags: 49ers, Bengals, David Fulcher, James Harrison, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, John Taylor, Kurt Warner, Ray Horton, Steelers, Super Bowl
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Even with all the scuttlebutt about who Ken Whisenhunt might hire for defensive coordinator, no news is coming anytime soon. Whisenhunt, who was back in Tempe today after returning from the Senior Bowl, said he wants to wait until after the Super Bowl because he is hoping to talk to candidates from both Super Bowl teams. Obviously, that means the idea that Dolphins assistant Todd Bowles was “expected” to be the choice — as was reported this morning out in Florida — is probably off-base, since there are other possibilities (I’m not saying Bowles doesn’t get it, but if there are interviews to come and Whisenhunt is waiting, a decision clearly hasn’t been made yet).
What is interesting will be who he might look at from Green Bay, since there has long been speculation on who he will target with the Steelers. The Packers run a 3-4. Does he try to talk to defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, who was a DC in Carolina for six seasons? Safeties coach Darren Perry, with whom Whisenhunt coached with in Pittsburgh? Assistant head coach Winston Moss? (These are just guesses, of course. We’ll see what happens after the Packers and Steelers actually play).
Tags: coaching staff, Packers, Steelers, Super Bowl
Posted in Blog | 70 Comments »
Yes, it’s for publicity and yes, sometimes Chad Ochocinco can be a little overbearing at times with his personality. But the Bengals’ Pro Bowl receiver has created this thing call “OCNN” — think CNN, but with Ochocinco … get it? — and is doing various video and social media reports from the Super Bowl. He’s also recruited three fellow NFLers who have made names for themselves in the social media realm, including Darnell Dockett.
We all know Darnell has exploded on Twitter and now he’s joining Redskins TE Chris Cooley and Ravens RB Ray Rice for a week in Miami apparently putting his spin on all things Super Bowl. It’ll be interesting to see how Dockett operates, especially in the video pieces. Is it hard covering a game you were playing in just a season ago? How often will his contract come up? These are the things we need to understand.
Tags: Chad Ochocinco, Chris Cooley, Darnell Dockett, Ray Rice, Super Bowl
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For the first time in a long time, I’m in the office this Monday.
I’ve been lucky enough in my job to have covered eight of the last nine Super Bowls, including the last seven in a row (missed the Rams-Patriots Tom Brady-coming-out-party because my second son was born). I didn’t think my streak was going to stay alive when I left newspapers to come work for the team, but that happened to be the year the game was held here in the Valley. Then, last year, a little magic got me a trip to Tampa. So finally, I am home and not in the center of the NFL universe.
The coaches are mostly off, although I saw Ken Whisenhunt in his office working on something. There really isn’t any offseason for the head guy.
– In the wake of the Kurt Warner retirement, our crack broadcast department is putting together a 30-minute special on the Cards’ former quarterback. It’ll premiere Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Arizona, the first of many, many showings.
– Antrel Rolle made his Pro Bowl debut Sunday night with five tackles, while Darnell Dockett had one tackle in the NFC’s 41-34 loss to the AFC (and as a quick aside, Antrel addressed his tax issues with ESPN.com’s Mike Sando).
Tags: Antrel Rolle, Darnell Dockett, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Pro Bowl, Super Bowl
Posted in Blog | 19 Comments »