Levi’s legacy

Posted by Darren Urban on October 2, 2013 – 5:53 pm

A lot happened over six years since Levi Brown first showed up, not the least of which being the Cardinals actually released Brown — which felt like the end of Brown’s time in Arizona — only to have the two sides decide to continue their marriage. That made some sense at the time, because then-offensive line coach Russ Grimm was a Levi fan and the Cards still needed a left tackle. But Grimm is gone now and a new staff, a new regime, finally decided to cut ties with Brown.

Yet it’s hard to escape the fact that Brown was always going to be linked to Adrian Peterson, the running back who is headed to the Hall of Fame and who was a consideration for the Cards. Brown was picked fifth, Peterson seventh. That part of the Brown narrative, while noteworthy, seems ancient and irrelevant to me at this point — the man was released once already, so I think the point was already made — but obviously, he will always be that guy for this fan base.

(Looking back at the newspaper/internet clips from that draft, Peterson was mentioned, but there was no outrage, locally or nationally, that the Cards picked Brown over Peterson. The Cards also had Edgerrin James at the time. In hindsight, the choice looks terrible. But in the moment, not so much.)

“When you look back at some of these high-round draft picks, they are under the microscope and the bulls-eye is on their chest from Day One,” Cards GM Steve Keim said. “When you don’t live up to expectations from Day One, that’s tough pill to carry. Not only Adrian Peterson, (but linebacker) Patrick Willis was No. 11 that year.”

Those are the examples Keim gives to young scouts these days, mistakes to learn from and grow from. But it was never going to help Brown, whose situation always felt like a more intense version of Calvin Pace. Pace was the pass rusher the Cards settled for instead of taking Terrell Suggs, and that too became an albatross for Pace. Brown tired early on with the Peterson talk, and that was understandable. Of bigger concern was his play, which was shoved further into the spotlight when he moved to the left side.

Brown struggled often. Brown’s play late in 2011 spurred reason for hope, enough so, apparently, that the Cards made sure to bring him back despite releasing him because of his exorbitant rookie contract salary due in 2012. Then he missed all of 2012 with his triceps injury, and the pressure was put back on him as soon as coach Bruce Arians called Brown “elite” at the owners’ meetings.

Arians was basing that on video he had watched. The coach addressed the “elite” comment Wednesday: “The player I saw on that tape was why I made the comment,” Arians said. “Once we started working together with all the offensive line coaches we had, it just wasn’t working out.” It’s hard not to feel that the three sacks Brown gave up in the season opener to the Rams’ Robert Quinn wasn’t ultimately the tipping point.

I have no doubt that had one of the top three tackles in the 2013 draft fallen to No. 7, instead of all being gobbled up by the fourth overall pick, the Cardinals would have taken one. Who knows? The Levi Brown era might have been over much sooner than now. Instead, Brown is traded and the Cards move Bradley Sowell to left tackle. He’ll get his chance, but if a left tackle is staring at the Cards in round one next May, I’m sure they will consider it. The hope is, if they take one, they won’t have a similar roller-coaster ride.




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43 Responses to “Levi’s legacy”

  1. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    I’m guessing Arians will be more careful before anointing anyone with the, “elite” label in the future. Glad Arians manned-up to admit the marriage just wasn’t going to work once they started working together. Lesson: It doesn’t matter how good of a teacher you claim to be, some players are just beyond repair. The camera doesn’t lie and that Arians would label Brown as, “elite” makes me think that either Arians didn’t watch Levi’s entire body of work, or that Arians is just a poor evaluator of game tape. I’m hoping it’s the former and not the latter.

  2. By Tanner on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    I don’t think they will Steve keim was quoted before the draft saying he wanted AD but the cardinals went with Levi instead. Keim is a very smart man who knows how to scout! I’m excited for our future!

  3. By Mike G on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    Hey Darren–Hope all is cool! Busy day at the Card’s facility today huh!!! I really don’t know how to take this Levi Brown trade today. I give the Card’s brass credit for making a bold move and certainly saving $$$$ over the next couple years but I don’t know if this improves the team for this year. Our record is at 2-2 and making the move to Sowell is definitely a gamble. Sowell has a brief history with Arians
    in Indy and that’s his guy– and Levi is not. I do think Levi has received the brunt of the blame when things don’t go well– given his draft status and his calm demeanor. He was a big factor in leading the Card’s to a Super Bowl appearance in 2008 and fans should not forget that. The Card’s have changed his position along the line 3 times and I think that has hurt him in settling in on a position— this is where I think his inconsistency is stemming from. Also I do believe the coaches and fans have unfairly criticized him in that Ram opener — not for not playing well- but for failing to realize that he missed all of last season with that torn tricep and to expect him to play at a high level on the road against Quinn on that carpet is asking way too much to me. Look at RG3 in the opener against Philly — he missed all training camp and all exhibition games recovering from injury and he played poorly in that opener as well. I blame the coaches somewhat for failing to recognize the game day speed of the game for certain players that are coming off injuries.. It takes some time to get back to form!! I hope Sowell and Brown play well with both the Card’s and Steelers!!!!—- I hope this works out–2 good defensive ends coming in this weekend– Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy!!!! Darren–Do you think Todd Haley lobbied to get Brown in Pitt given their O-Line troubles?????

  4. By Darren Urban on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    Mike G —

    RE: Haley

    I’m sure they asked his opinion.

  5. By CreditCard on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    The ritual is always the same. Card’s GM grabs the lucky rocks then gently blows a puff of cool air into his hand. Shakes the rocks wildly in his squeezed hand then releases the ivory gems and shouts “Baby wants new shoes, Baby wants new shoes!”

    As always, the GM’s eyes are insanely staring wide open like two flying saucers that never blink. His pupils follow the dancing dice tumbling across the table. “Baby wants new shoes! Baby wants new shoes!”

  6. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    A couple of comments off of your article;

    I agree at the time you didn’t hear outrage. I think most thought we needed a Tackle, and even though he was a reach at 5, he filled a need. It really wasnt till he moved to LT before he was exposed and fans turned on him.

    To Keim;
    How do you leave off Revis at 14? Beast Mode at #12? and of course the great Brady Quinn.

    I think fans were outraged from day one about Suggs. I know I was.

    Funny, the 3 top tackles are playing RT and they have struggled. Who knows, maybe the fact that they didnt fall might be a blessing.

    Of course, I might be complaining in 5 years that we didnt trade down and take star safety Kenny Vacarro. I hope Cooper makes sure no one does that.

  7. By Darren Urban on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Suggs

    The Suggs/Pace thing was definitely an issue from jump. Not the same thing for sure. Everyone knew Suggs was the better choice. Or more importantly, that Pace was not Suggs.

  8. By infitzwetrust on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    If not too early, any updates on the compensation we will receive?

  9. By Darren Urban on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    infitz —

    RE: Compensation

    My guess is it is a late round pick either way. Might be a round earlier if Levi plays a lot.

  10. By Coach K on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    If Bradley Sowell can deliver a strong punch and move his feet, he will do fine at left tackle. He is longer and quicker that Levi, who was really a guard. I think this is good news for Palmer.

  11. By Coach K on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    We MUST be balanced on offense against this Carolina front seven.

  12. By georgiebird on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    Cards made a good move here with Levi. But the presser with Keim and BA was very unfair to Levi- Cards should have taken the high road.
    If the FO continues to replace under-performing guys then it will be a positive sea change.
    Make no mistake about it- Keim and BA are looking to position the Cards more for the future than the present. The Steelers wouldn’t have taken Levi and his contract if he was a garbage player. And Palmer being a statue did not help Levi’s performance.

  13. By gbrim on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    Keim’s first PR mistake–not simply letting his actions speak for themselves on this trade. Brown was a disappointment, but by all accounts he is a quality person and should be treated as such. Arians also needs to watch his comments—we don’t need another Buddy Ryan or Dennis Green in the coach’s office. Have some discretion, some humility, treat quality people with respect.

    The trade is fine, obviously Brown was done here. Thank him for his efforts over many years, wish him the best in Pittsburgh. End of comments on Brown. That should have been the Cards public pronouncement.

  14. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply


    Pace /Suggs;

    I totally agree with you on that. I think the cards thought they could fill two needs.
    But a hometown guy who can get to the passer passed over was unbelievable.

    But to be honest, I remember that draft. I thought the cards would take Suggs but I liked Kevin Williams and if not mistaken, McGinnes liked Johnathon Sullivan. Had the coach got his choice, that would have been a big bust. As for Williams, he has done alright I would say.

    But no one I know saw that second round pick coming. Especially after Johnson was taken in the first. You got to give them all credit for landing Boldin in round two.

  15. By Darren Urban on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: 2003 draft

    Obviously, Boldin changed the dynamic of how that draft was viewed.

    And you are right, Sullivan would have been considered, and he’s the guy who the Saints took. What the Cards wanted to was to get DE Jerome McDougle from Miami at 17. The Eagles grabbed him at 15 and the Cards had to scramble. Pace was not a first round grade but they felt like they had to get a DE.

  16. By NYCardinals212 on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    “Arians also needs to watch his comments—we don’t need another Buddy Ryan or Dennis Green in the coach’s office. Have some discretion, some humility, treat quality people with respect.”

    Arians started his comments with “first, like I said, we’ll wish Levi all the best. He gave a long, good service here, and we wish him all the best in Pittsburgh. Excellent young man”.

    Oh, that’s so disrespectful. How dare he say that.

  17. By NYCardinals212 on Oct 2, 2013 | Reply

    Keim — “. . . didn’t live up to our expectations on the field. . . we wish him the best.”

    Oh good Lord, they’re crucifying Levi. Oh my, we have a another Denny Green. You’re right gbrim. That poor Levi doesn’t deserve that kind of talk.

    Get real, man.

  18. By Dave Chaney on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    Leonard Davis, Wendell Bryant, Bryant Johnson, Matt Leinart, Levi Brown, Chris Wells…and that’s just the first round picks wasted since 2001. Do you have any more questions about why this team never goes to the playoffs? Sorry for being so cynical, but having been a fan for over 50 years gives me that right. On another topic, will Bruce Arians leave a legacy where we will see his comments on ESPN or commercials years after he’s left (ala Mr. Ryan and Mr. Green).

  19. By George on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply


    My memory of 2007 is different than yours. While there might not have been outrage, as you put it, I recall the fan base not being happy with the pick. No one thought that Brown was an impact player. The Mel Kiper types, all the draft projections, the fans, no one thought he was a top 10 talent. Those of us who remember knows the Cardinals wanted Joe Thomas out of Wisconson. Unfortunately, he was picked #3 by Cleveland where he has been an outstanding player. Picking Brown was a desperation move by Graves and Whiz. They wanted to address the offensive line but reached for a player that was not worthy of a # 5 pick. I am sure Grimm and Whiz thought he could be coached up and they were wrong. Fair or unfair, us fans are going to be frustrated because he did not improve. He was mediocore at best and that’s being kind. What adds to the frustration is some of the players taken after Brown in that first round. Adrian Peterson #7, Patrick Willis #11, Marshawn Lynch #12, Darrelle Revis #14, Dwayne Bowe #23, Anthony Spencer #26, Joe Staley #28. Yes, hind sight is 20/20 and there is no certainty on how a player is going to work out. But, NO ONE thought he was a top 10 talent other than Graves and Whiz. Notice, they are gone and so is Brown. Time to move on. Go Cards!!!

  20. By Darren Urban on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    George —

    RE: Brown

    Again, I looked up the clips. Looked up the “draft grades” from that draft. No one — not one person — said Brown was not a top 10 pick. Most said Thomas was better, but no one blasted the Cards for it.

    Look it up.

    Were there fans who wanted Peterson? I am sure. But I was around too. I don’t remember a groundswell of anger at the time. That came later, hindsight being what it is.

  21. By SteveG on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    I see that telling the truth has now become “throwing someone under the bus”….Levi (a good teammate and person) did not live up to “expectations in the field”..

    PC much?

  22. By georgiebird on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    The offense BA runs does not allow him to help the LT in passing situations. Some teams salivate when they see the DE take a wide pass rush because it opens up a myriad of big gain possibilities- but not the Cardinals.
    A combination of relatively slow receivers and running backs as well as a stationary QB doomed Levi from the start.
    The LT that’s going to be able to function in this system will have to be named Anthony Munoz or Willie Roaf.

  23. By georgiebird on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    Calvin Pace was moving up on the draft board. He was a DE at Wake but the Cards thought they could convert him to a big time LB. Suggs had a lot of character issues that the Cards have steered cleared of forever (or at least until Tyrann).
    The Pace error could be excused if the Cards didn’t make the same mistake with EJ Junior some 25 years before.
    As I’ve said before when it comes to the Cardinals and LBs- (see Murphy’s Law).

  24. By Darren Urban on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    Georgie —

    RE: Pace

    The Cardinals were running a 4-3 when they drafted Pace in 2003. He was always a DE. They didn’t make him a linebacker until 2007 when Whisenhunt was hired.

  25. By 2liberal on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    re: outrage over Brown Pik

    there was plenty of noisy outrage at the time on the message boards. Maybe not so much in the newspapers and TV folks.

  26. By georgiebird on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    You are correct on Pace. My recollection on Pace’s early years with Cards was off base.

  27. By Scott H on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    Well…hard to say this is a big loss. Maybe getting him out of the way paves the way for something better. Hate to say it, but…that wouldn’t take much.

    Granted, Cooper’s injury was tragic as he could have truly had an impact this year. But I sincerely hope that the approach of this organizations is different in FA going forward. Using this past season as a comparison, you can’t hope to build your team with a bunch of one year deals. Enough of the bargain shopping and quantity over quality philosophy. yeah, you had a lot of holes to fil, so…OK. But if you’re doing that every year during FA, it’s just an on-going indication that you’re really not getting anywhere. And, well, three consecutive non-winning seasons ( and that’s being polite just because I’m sure someone will point out that they were 8-8 one of those years ) tells me that you’re not getting anywhere.

    So, identify your needs ( and O-line remains an on-going problem ) and make an impact by getting the 2,3 players that are truly an up-grade. Quit slinging a handful of peas at the wall, hoping some of them stick.

    Oh, man, Darren…that reminder that we drafted Brown BEFORE AP was taken by the Vikings? OUCH!!!

  28. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    Scott H,

    I view what the cards did differently in FA.

    Sure they signed a lot of one year deals. But frankly, most of them were signed to play in front of young players and rookies.

    Abraham get a one year deal and they drafted Okafer at OLB (and now the signing of Moch)
    Winston gets a one year deal in front of 2nd year guy Massie
    Mendenhal gets a one year deal in front of two rookies
    Brinkley gets a deal and is in front of Minter
    Dansby got his deal with DWash out

    The guys they wanted to stay around, they did sign longer like Powers, who has a 3 year deal. Look at them to target more specific guys next year now that he has a good feel for the team and is bringing along a group of young players.

    With a new coach coming in, he wasnt going to throw a bunch of rookies out there. Instead, he is easing them in by signing vets in front of them.

    Next years team will look differently. More vets will go. I see Colledge gone, Dockett gone, and most of those 1 year deals gone. He has a vision and it is easy to see if you look close enough.

  29. By Dr. G on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    This whole LB/AP draft thing is a sort of a reverse Wally Pipp / Lou Gehrig story. A constant ringing in the ear, but, it makes for good tabloid…

  30. By Dr. G on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    At 6’7″ 315 lbs…. Sowell is taller and leaner and certainly has mobility for an LT…

    I look forward to a few DE’s landing on their posteriors.

    Go forth my man, this is your time !!! Your QB will buy all the steaks….

  31. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply


    Now you mention it, I remember the McDougle rumors. Technically speaking, getting “stuck” with Pace was better than getting who they wanted.

    Funny, the two guys they liked (McDougle and Sullivan) were absolute bust. What were they looking at? Well, I guess the Saints and Eagles got fooled too.

    I always like to be fair and Boldin in the second, Hayes in the 3rd, and Wells in the 6th were good picks. Kenny King in the 4th seemed like a good pick but he couldnt stay healthy.

    In fact, lets give Graves some real credit. In 2003 and 2004 drafts, all these players contributed in the superbowl.

    Boldin, Hayes, Wells, Fitz, Dansby, Dockett, A. Smith

    If only Graves did three things, he would be a hero in the valley.
    1) Suggs in 2003 might have been enough to help us win that superbowl on that last drive.
    2) Aaron Rodgers in 2005 instead of Rolle
    3) Peterson / Revis over Levi Brown

    3 mistakes fixed and everything else is forgiven. Suggs giving us that pressure on Big Ben, Revis on Santonio Homes, or Peterson’s running with the WRs we had. As Kurt takes the trophy in 2008 and rides off in the distance, Rodgers takes over leading us to more.
    3 mistakes changed the image of Graves and Whiz. 3 mistakes corrected, and cardinal football is looked at differently.

    Now, someone tell me that games are not won and lost on draft day.

  32. By Darren Urban on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Draft

    Alas, almost every single team in the league could play that same game, adjust three key draft picks in in five-year span, and suddenly become a juggernaut.

  33. By ored on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    we just need to figure out time travel 1st.but we still have patrick p.,calias c.,and d.washington to look forward to and who knows how the fitz and floyd combo works out,just keep adding to and developing them and we’ll be ok.

  34. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply


    I was more trying to show the fine line between a great GM and Coach vs one who gets fired.

    Take one pick. 2005, Rolle over Rodgers

    With Rodgers backing up Warner and then taking over in 2009, does Whiz get fired? Is he run out of town for his horrible moves at QB? With Rodgers throwing to Fitz, could you see him shattering records? ( I believe Warner would have been able to hold off a young Rodgers but after 2008, Warners contract was done and Rodgers takes over)

    One move. Graves is a hero.
    And Rolle was a good player for us once moved to safety. But he wasnt the best move for a team loaded with 2 first round WRs and a second rounder and no QB to speak of.

    If that one move was Peterson or Suggs, how is the franchise different?

    Heck look at pick 199 in 2000 draft, is Billichek a 3 time superbowl champ if that pick is missed?

    This is why I love the draft. No single event is more important to a franchise than when that team runs that card up.

    In 2011, I argued to trade down with the Falcons for their 1, 2 and 1 next year (2012). Yes we would not of taken PP, who has won games for us. But , back then, I wanted to draft a QB. At the Falcons pick, Andy Dalton was there. With two number twos and 2 number ones in 2012, the Oline could have been fixed.
    Whiz isnt fired. Graves isnt fired. and just maybe we are a contender each year. No one wants to give up Peterson, but would it have made the cards better?

    Keim isnt just picking players. He is deciding if this team will be successful for years to come or wishing they took Peterson over Brown. (or Vaccaro over Cooper)

  35. By Dr. G on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Draft Guy – The detail and thought put into your analyses demonstrates artful thought. It somewhat compensates for a few others’ off the mark commentary and lack of research.

    It would follow that you would also agree that “past experience” can be an excellent teacher when it is considered as part of present decisions. Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda is a teacher as well if we pay heed… Sometimes a dice roll must make the best decision though… Darren’s 20/20 comment is well taken… I still like the historical rhetoric…. Be well….

  36. By Big Ken on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Come on guys! 20/20 hindsight.

  37. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Big Ken and Dr G,

    It is not about 20/20 hindsight.

    It is about the fine line between being a champion and firing your staff and coaches.

    The slightest mistake in the draft can change the fortunes of your team.

    The examples above are just that; examples. But they make my point. There is no single more important time than those 3 days called the draft to a teams future.

    Graves is considered a failure by most fans as they continue to blame him and Whiz for all our misfortunes. My point was just how fine the line of being a hero and goat is.

    Graves lands Rodgers, he is a hero. By taking Rolle, we draft our young QB in 2006 and Leinart is a bust. When Warner retires, we are scrambling to find that guy and Graves and Whiz are fired.

    Greatness and Failure is really that close

  38. By Darren Urban on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Draft

    And what is really scary, there is only so much you can do to be “good” at it. It truly is luck-based in many ways.

  39. By Gergely on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    People rarely quantify just how much hindsight helps when reassessing drafts. Sure, Staley was a better player and AP is one of the best backs ever. But even when we list out all the guys we could have gotten who were clearly better, there’s not so many and none had the positional/absolute value to be taken at 5:
    7. AP – we had just paid Edge 5-6M a year and AP was potentially injury-prone
    11. Willis – we had Dansby at MLB and were running a 4-3
    12. Lynch – had a total meltdown in Buffalo (and wasn’t that great), Seattle revived his career. And we had Edge.
    14. Revis – In the pre-rookie scale days, there’s no way a CB goes that high given the cost.
    28. Staley – He had high upside but wasn’t a sure thing. He turned out well for the 49ers, but was absolutely not in the conversation as the #5 pick.
    We desperately needed a left tackle that year, I think most people understood Brown was a reach, but our hand was forced. We could have gone with another player at 5 and landed Tony Ugoh in the 2nd. Yay?

    To recap, Megatron, Joe Thomas and AP would have all justified a #1 pick, and everyone else in the top 10 was a bust compared to being that high a pick. This shows a) that not all drafts are loaded with talent and b) how much uncertainty there is even with the best scouts and GMs working the draft.

  40. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply


    This guy had to work for the Patriots.

    Look at their drafts. They constantly trade down, acquire more picks, and then take a bunch of guys outside round one.
    The Patriots miss a lot. But they hit enough to remain one of the top teams. I will agree that Brady was lucky, but I know they had him on their radar but didnt need a QB. When he fell so far, they had to take him. One hip injury later, and Brady is a star.

    I guess I am a believer in the professors theories. You have seen me by now wanting to trade down every year. This year, down to take Vaccaro and have two number two picks, 2012 was to go up for Tannehill or down for Whitney and a two. 2011, I wanted to take the Falcons deal and go down.
    Each year, I want to trade down, get more picks and then score in rounds 2-4.

    I guess that is why I get frustrated with our drafts, even if they seem good. We could have traded down and got more players.

  41. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 5, 2013 | Reply


    I never mention Willis because I dont know if an ILB should be a top 5 pick. But I do have to say, Dansby was not the MLB. He played WLB. Gerald Hayes was our MLB.

    But your overall point is well taken and goes back to Darren’s article.

    Look at that draft in 2007. If we followed that model, we trade down towards the bottom of the first. There we could have taken Staley, While having two 2nds.

    Instead, we reached for Brown at 5 and traded up for Alan Branch , losing our forth round pick. Oh by the way, Jermon Bushrod was taken in the forth by the saints.

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