There were plenty of things to watch at Saturday’s Red-White practice, but in case you didn’t see it, Larry Fitzgerald made a catch heading out of bounds and before he came back inbounds, he took a slight detour to tackle former Cardinal and current game analyst Ron Wolfley before running back on the field. It was captured by various in-stadium cameras so it was preserved for all eternity.
Those that are around are well aware that Fitz likes to tackle innocent bystanders. Having covered this team for Fitz’s entire career, I’ve seen it many, many times. So I thought this might be an apropos time, in this day and age of power rankings, to throw in my own rankings of Fitz’s top five tackles. Unfortunately, one on James Harrison does not exist. Without further adieu:
5. Media members. Fitz isn’t shy of taking down a reporter. I’ve been on the receiving end of those a couple of times, although in recent years he prefers to toss the ball at me while I’m taking photos, so that’s a whole different balancing act.
4. Tackling Steelers OC Todd Haley during the game in Pittsburgh last year, only the latest example of Fitz dogging Haley in all the years they’ve known each other, dating back to Haley’s OC days in Arizona.
3. Fitz’s attempted tackle of OC Harold Goodwin, which instead turned into a Goodwin bear hug. Fitz didn’t read his keys at the Greenbrier that day.
2. Taking Wolf down (the fact we have multiple views of it on video just makes it better.)
1. Anytime Fitz takes down a kid with a big smile. I’ve seen it against the pee-wee football players that often play “games” at halftime of a Cardinals’ game, and I’ve seen it with the children of Cards’ people, like the sons of GM Steve Keim or VP of media relations Mark Dalton. Fitz is just a big kid in that regard.
You better pay attention when @LarryFitzgerald is around.
— #CardsCamp (@AZCardinals) August 7, 2016
Tags: Harold Goodwin, Larry Fitzgerald, Ron Wolfley, Todd Haley
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It was tough not to get the feeling that, after a half in which it looked like the Cardinals would take control of their game against the Steelers but never did, the Cards missed their chance. That’s how it played out of course, with the hamstring injury of Mike Vick turning out to be the best thing to happen to the Steelers. Landry Jones looked OK, but the fact he was able to give Pittsburgh a semblance of a passing game made all the difference.
What it means now is that the Cardinals will again draw skeptics that they have lost to the only two decent teams on the schedule so far. That feeling probably won’t change in the next two weeks, with a Monday night game against the Ravens at home and then a trip to the feisty Browns. There was, not surprisingly, confidence in the locker room this will get fixed over the next week. It was, like the game itself, a lot like what happened after the Rams loss.
The Seahawks lost, at home to the Panthers, so the two-game division lead remains intact. The Cardinals play like they are capable, they win Sunday. But the math is simple in the NFL – everything else considered, when you’re minus-3 in turnovers, you’re almost always going to lose. If the Cards finish that next-to-last drive and Carson Palmer doesn’t throw a pick, well, again, we were saying the same thing after the near-game-saving drive against the Rams – you’re talking about a win regardless of the warts.
— It was a little surprising the Cardinals didn’t run it more. They gained only 55 yards on 20 carries, and the Steelers were stout on the day. But Andre Ellington only got one carry for seven yards, early, and then didn’t carry it again.
— Dwight Freeney got his first playing time as a pass rusher. I didn’t watch him a ton, but it seemed like he had a couple of pressures. That’ll be something to watch on the replay.
— The penalties just killed the Cardinals Sunday. Whether it was Michael Floyd’s offensive pass interference to negate a TD or Kevin Minter’s post-play push or the chop block, they didn’t help. There were definitely some questionable calls – the Markus Golden helmet-to-helmet hit wasn’t, as replays proved. But officials are calling that in real time and will always err on the side of caution.
Bruce Arians was blunt about how to fix the mistakes and penalties.
“Stop doing it,” Arians said. “Drag your foot closer and make a touchdown. Don’t give up an 80-yard touchdown.”
— He was talking about the Floyd-TD-that-wasn’t – a huge turn, and Floyd was a toe away from being in, it looked like – and then the final TD catch-and-run by Martavis Bryant. That may have been just as painful as the Palmer pick. A three-and-out there, and the Cards get the ball with about 1:50 left and one timeout. Instead, the game was over.
— So in the Cards’ two losses, they are 2-for-9 in the red zone. In their four wins, they are 16 for 17. The latter is an unrealistic pace to keep up, but still, it makes all the sense in the world to Larry Fitzgerald.
“Our issues on offense are pretty simple to me,” he said. “We are getting down there, we have a ton of offensive red zone snaps. We just have to execute them better. Point blank, that is where it stops. If we are scoring touchdowns and we put 30 points on the board we walk out of here with a win.”
This is true.
— Fitz did do one somewhat strange move late in the first half, during a timeout. He went over to the Steelers sideline to say hi to offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who used to be the Cardinals’ OC back in 2007 and 2008. He promptly dove at Haley’s legs and tackled him – relatively gently – to the ground. Fitz used to do it all the time to Haley at practice (he’s done it to many people over the years, including me), although I will admit to see it during a game was different.
— Safe to say Floyd is back in the mix. One touchdown, and he was targeted for three others, although in one way or another they weren’t completions.
— It’s been a long week. Time to get home.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Dwight Freeney, Keivn Minter, Landry Jones, Larry Fitzgerald, Markus Golden, Martavis Bryant, Michael Floyd, Panthers, Ravens, Seahawks, Steelers, Todd Haley
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When the game was over in Detroit last Sunday, cornerback Jerraud Powers had taken part in, officially, 104 plays against the Lions. Ten on special teams, and 94 of the 95 snaps the Cardinals’ defense was on the field. He didn’t know the exact number but “I felt it. I feel it.”
“I knew we played a lot,” Powers said. “But when I saw the stat they threw 70 times, and I was like, ‘OK, I’m supposed to feel this way.’ In the secondary, we only have a limited number of guys. We’re each other’s subs, so you can’t really take us all out. It’s one of those things we just accept it. We don’t have much room to complain.”
It made this week in West Virginia even more important in prep for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. Seven defenders played at least 72 snaps, four played at least 92.
“Coach did a good job of taking care of us earlier this week,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “We’re going to be fine.”
If there was a tangible reason for staying out at The Greenbrier instead of flying back to Arizona, the snap-happy secondary was it. No one could’ve predicted it when the plans were made, but that’s why you do this kind of thing – to have shorter flights (a little over an hour from Detroit to West Virginia, a little over a half-hour from here to Pittsburgh) so players don’t get dehydrated and swell, which happens on flights. Their bodies have been taken care of.
It doesn’t hurt the weather has been spectacular this week too, in complete contrast to the rainy swamps the Cards had to practice in in Florida in 2013.
It was still a tough week to rally from, but the Cardinals insist they are ready for the Steelers.
“Makes you want to go upstairs and be like, ‘Y’all should pay us more if we’re all going to play this much,’ ” Powers said with a grin. “But it’s something we all accept. We know what it is.”
— Mike Vick will be playing quarterback for the Steelers Sunday. Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Cardinals will put their defensive focus on running back Le’Veon Bell – arguably the best back in the league these days. Bell’s ability to wait for the right time to hit a hole – and then shoot through it – is unparalleled.
“You have Bell, who is the most patient runner we have seen as a defense,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “He creates holes himself by how patient he is and how he jumps out and jumps back in to get guys out of their gap.”
— Larry Fitzgerald is one of the few guys who has been on all three of the Cardinals’ week-long, practice-away-from-home excursions. His power rankings: 1. Greenbrier. (now). 2. Bradenton, Fla. (2013). 3. Tyson’s Corner, Virginia (2008). Of course, Fitz noted that the Cards were 0-2 on the ends of the Virginia trip, and 1-1 on the ends of the Florida trip.
“Hopefully we can get to 2-0 on this trip,” Fitz said. “That’d be nice.”
Of course, the 2008 season ended not too bad, with a trip to the Super Bowl. Not that this will end that way, but you never know.
— Bruce Arians ended the week the way he began – downplaying his return to play the Steelers for the first time in a game that counts since he was let go by the organization. “It’s all about the players on the field,” he said Friday.
Still, he hasn’t convinced his own players he doesn’t want to, in the words of Steelers wideout Antonio Brown, “put on a show.” That’s another piece of motivation for this team this week.
— Todd Haley is the former Cardinals offensive coordinator who is now the Steelers offensive coordinator. James Harrison is the long-time Steelers linebacker who nearly became a Cardinal last August (he visited Tempe even) before declining and going back to Pittsburgh.
So, if you can handle it … there is this.
— Arians, who loves golf, spent Thursday evening talking with golfing greats Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Gary Player. All were here to talk Friday about a new golf course being built at The Greenbrier. Trevino is The Greenbrier’s club pro.
“It was on the bucket list for me to have a cocktail with Arnold Palmer,” Arians said, grinning about being able to talk about the sport with such luminaries.
Did he think about ordering an Arnold Palmer, he was asked? “Not without anything in it,” Arians said.
— The Cardinals are happy guard Mike Iupati will be healthy enough to play after his back tightened up Thursday. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin also said Iupati is getting better because he lost some weight. You figure Iupati was going to gain some because of his knee surgery and his limited work while he rehabbed. But also …
“Earlier in training camp I was harping on him,” Goodwin said. “He had Oreos hidden in his bag. We took his Oreos, whipped him into shape. Buddy (Morris, the strength coach) has done a good job with him. Lost a ton of weight.”
— Dwight Freeney will play Sunday. We’ll see what kind of impact he can make, but it was interesting to hear Arians when he was asked about Freeney and what the Cardinals got out of another veteran pass rusher, John Abraham.
“It’s very comparable,” Arians said.
If Freeney can come anywhere close to the 11½ sacks Abraham had that year – granted, Freeney already has missed five games – it’d be a big deal. If Freeney can be a five-sack man, I think it turns into a great pickup.
— Time to wrap this up from West Virginia. Almost time to fly to Pittsburgh. The Steelers await.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Dwight Freeney, Greenbrier, Jerraud Powers, Larry Fitzgerald, Le'Veon Bell, Mike Iupati, Mike Vick, Rashad Johnson, Steelers, Todd Haley
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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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Colts, Darell Bevell, Jay Gruden, Ray Horton, Todd Haley
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The shocking news Wednesday that Oregon coach Chip Kelly — who had long been thought of as the Eagles’ top choice for head coach but who seemingly made it clear he wasn’t leaving Oregon last week — was indeed going to be Philly’s new coach means there are two open head coaching spots left. Jacksonville and Arizona. (The Bears officially hired one-time Cardinals offensive coordinator Marc Trestman earlier in the morning.)
Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is interviewing with the Cards today. The Cards are reportedly trying to get permission/set up an interview with Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. The other known candidates are Ray Horton, Todd Haley and Jay Gruden, and that doesn’t preclude that there might have been unknown candidates at some point.
The Jaguars’ known list is Jay Gruden, Bevell, in-house defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, Seahawks DC Gus Bradley and Rams OC Brian Schottenheimer. They are also expected to wait for and talk to 49ers OC Greg Roman — untouchable until San Francisco’s season is over — who is close with new general manager Dave Caldwell.
In the meantime, we wait.
— Ken Whisenhunt missed out again. Just when it looked like he again was making a push to be a head coach — this time with the Eagles — the Kelly bombshell dropped. Whiz was apparently in the mix in Buffalo, Cleveland and Philly (he also talked with the Chargers) but instead, it seems likely that if he coaches this year, it will be as an assistant. The idea that he could end up in Denver as offensive coordinator with Peyton Manning seems to be gaining steam. He’s not going to be on Jacksonville’s HC list.
Tags: Bears, Brian Schottenheimer, Bruce Arians, Chip Kelly, Darrell Bevell, Eagles, Greg Roman, Gus Bradley, Jaguars, Jay Gruden, Ken Whisenhunt, Marc Trestman, Mel Tucker, Ray Horton, Todd Haley
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On a day when Mike McCoy chose to take the San Diego job, the Cardinals added a new name to their list of candidates. Multiple reports have the Cards hoping to interview Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Bevell not only worked with Russell Wilson this year but was a long-time coordinator/QB coach with Green Bay and Minnesota while Brett Favre was playing in those cities. He also happens to be a local product, having gone to Scottsdale Chaparral High School, playing QB there for his father and coach, Jim Bevell.
Bevell is a finalist for the Bears job and the Jaguars also want to include him on their search. Kent Somers reported the interview is scheduled for Wednesday. There hasn’t been any official word from the Cards yet.
Besides Bevell, Steelers OC Todd Haley, Bengals OC Jay Gruden and Cards DC Ray Horton are the known available candidates for the Cards.
UPDATE: And during the night, it came out that the Cards had requested permission to talk to Colts OC Bruce Arians too.
Tags: Bears, Bruce Arians, Darrell Bevell, Jaguars, Jay Gruden, Ray Horton, Russell Wilson, Todd Haley
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The Cardinals, it seemed, wanted to get a second chance to talk to Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy about their open head coaching job. It certainly doesn’t look like they will get it, not after the news early Tuesday that McCoy is finalizing a deal to become the Chargers head coach and has told the Broncos he is leaving. (In an interesting twist, former Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt reportedly would be a candidate to replace McCoy as Broncos offensive coordinator, which if it comes to pass would mean Whiz got to team up with Peyton Manning after all.)
UPDATE: McCoy to Chargers is done.
With McCoy going elsewhere, that leaves defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. (I know I don’t have Todd Haley in here. Maybe I should but I just don’t see it. Could be totally wrong.) I am going on gut here only, but I’d think Horton would have a strong chance at this point. I have no idea who his assistants would be on the offensive side of the ball — I’m not sure anyone does, outside of Cards’ ownership and the front office — but I don’t think anyone would be hired without confidence in those choices. Again, president Michael Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim know how poorly the offense played and how it must be fixed. Bidwill insisted he wouldn’t make a choice based on offense/defense, but Gruden is an offensive guy.
Does this mean a decision will be made today? We will see. Anymore, it’s tough to forecast anything in a world of coaching searches that seem to change every few hours.
Tags: Broncos, Chargers, Jay Gruden, Ken Whisenhunt, Michael Bidwill, Mike McCoy, Peyton Manning, Ray Horton, Steve Keim, Todd Haley
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With the Broncos losing (an admittedly amazing entertaining playoff game) Saturday night to Baltimore, it means their season is over and it means offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is now available to negotiate for a head coaching deal. It also would seem like the Cardinals would be in position to figure out their head coaching situation sometime this coming week.
Now, I’m not saying the Cards want McCoy for sure. But none of their candidates — at least, the ones we know of — are impeded from talking contract now. Cards defensive coordinator Ray Horton, McCoy and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden (and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley?) are all fully available. There’s been a lot of talk the Cards want McCoy, but that’s assumption rather than anything based on fact. Last week was filled with interviews anyway, so nothing was coming down last week regardless of McCoy’s situation.
We’ll see how it plays out. McCoy has interviewed with the Eagles and Bears already as well as the Cards. All of them were in Denver, so I’d expect a second interview with anybody to come in that city. Gruden has upcoming interviews with the Eagles and Jaguars. There is a report the Jags would like to talk to McCoy. Horton also interviewed with the Bills and Browns, although both spots have already been filled.
Will the Cards have a coach this week? Perhaps. President Michael Bidwill has maintained the whole process he had no set timeline in place and I don’t think there is a rush to get this done. But again, if all the candidates can be hired, it makes sense this moves forward in the coming days.
Tags: Bears, Broncos, Eagles, Jaguars, Jay Gruden, Mike McCoy, Ray Horton, Todd Haley
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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).
Tags: Art Rooney, Chiefs, Chuck Pagano, Colts, Cowboys, Eagles, John Fox, John Harbaugh, Michael Bidwill, Mike Smith, Mike Tomlin, Pete Carroll, Ray Horton, Steve Keim, Todd Haley
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The Cardinals interviewed Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy over the weekend, while Denver was on a bye before starting in the playoffs. As of now, he’s the only candidate the Cards have interviewed that remains in the playoffs. As pointed out by Les Bowen in Philly today, the NFL has a rule where a team can’t execute an agreement with or announce a head coach if that coach is still working in the playoffs.
So, using McCoy as an example, that means until the Broncos are out of the playoffs, McCoy can’t be hired. Since the Broncos seem to have a reasonable chance to make the Super Bowl — No. 1 seed and all that — a team waiting on McCoy could be waiting a while.
It gets dicey. It happens, of course. Back in February of 2009, I remember seeing Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley on the charter flight back from Tampa in pretty good spirits even though the Cards had just lost that heartbreaker. By then, it was pretty widespread that the Chiefs — who still didn’t have a coach — had been waiting to hire Haley. Usually, though, it’s uncomfortable to wait that long. Potential assistant coaches find other jobs. The organization is usually set back. The Senior Bowl in late January has no coaches attending (although that can be handled by the front office and scouts.)
If a team really believes in whomever the candidate might be, waiting makes sense. You’d sacrifice a few weeks to make sure you get the right guy for the next few years. But, while it’s supposed to keep away the distractions for working assistants, it probably amps up the angst for any coach who is hoping to get a rare chance at a head job.
— Nothing new on the Cardinals’ front as of Monday. No new names to report to be interviewed either at head coach or GM, no jobs filled yet. Maybe Tuesday will be different.
Tags: Mike McCoy, Todd Haley
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