A lot of talk, but nothing concrete

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2012 – 5:12 pm

One of the things about the offseason, and instant social media, is that news can break quickly — and events can also seem to play out very, very slowly.

Take the Todd Haley-returning-to-the-Cardinals discussion, which reached the public late last week but is now in an apparent holding pattern. (I won’t lie; things around this building always seem like they are going slower when the coaching staff is out, which they will be this week.) Haley, according to multiple reports is exploring options. How quickly he could land anywhere would just be a guess.

Haley did do an interview with Yahoo Sports radio today (h/t to Sando) in which he talked about the Cards but not a job with the Cards.

“The Cardinals, I love,” Haley said. “The Bidwills, Michael Bidwill and Mr. Bidwill, have been nothing but great to me. Kenny Whisenhunt has been nothing but great to me and gave me a great opportunity that I was able to expand on. I love a bunch of the players that are still there and they mean a lot to me.”

Those comments were similar to those Haley said to me at the Combine last year, so they aren’t a surprise. How it would translate into work is something different. Nothing has been said about the Cards’ current staff, but it’s hard to think there won’t be at least some change when all is said and done. But it’s a process.

UPDATE: One change did come Monday evening when the Cardinals fired quarterbacks coach Chris Miller. As I already said, this doesn’t mean Haley’s arrival is imminent.

Same with the situation with the Cards’ director of player personnel Steve Keim and his potential interview with the Rams for their general manager job. The Rams started the process looking for a GM, and, judging by their long list of potential candidates, it’s difficult to tell if Keim will be a top choice. Certainly when it comes to the Rams’ coaching job, it’s easy to tell where Cards DC Ray Horton falls in comparison to Jeff Fisher.

So, in a quiet building, we wait to hear how this will shake out, thinking that — in a perfect world — the Cards are set by the time they go to Mobile, Ala., to scout the Senior Bowl practices in a couple weeks.

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A catch and a hurdle to end things

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2011 – 5:39 pm

The Cardinals wrapped up Flagstaff practice this afternoon under gloomy skies and a little rain (but not enough to drive them inside.) As usual, Larry Fitzgerald made a few nice catches, including one in the back of the end zone, just getting both feet in. But it was what happened next that provided the highlight.

Three people — turns out, it was the family of quarterbacks coach Chris Miller — were sitting in chairs about eight yards or so beyond the back of the end zone. Fitz’s catch created enough momentum that he couldn’t slow down, which was basically going to mean he was going to run over a women sitting there. But Fitz managed to hurdle her — those watching estimated he cleared three-and-a-half or four feet — saving everyone involved and making it an interesting anecdote instead of a freak accident.

“That was a good ball by Kevin (Kolb) giving me an opportunity,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t know if I could get around here so I thought I should just go over the top. I’m just glad she didn’t stand up.”

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Did Coach play?

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2011 – 11:37 am

It was a topic that was mentioned more than once when the Cardinals had hired Ray Horton – who played in the NFL for a decade – as their defensive coordinator. The idea that players might have a deeper respect for someone who had been them.

Horton summed it up pretty well, I think, with this line: “It gives you some credibility that you have sat in the same chairs they’re in,” he said. “It helps until they say, ‘Why’d you call that?!?’ ”

And ultimately, that seems to be the general feeling.

“I have seen some very good coaches that didn’t play,” said head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who of course played near a decade himself in the NFL. “So I don’t know if it has an impact if you can’t coach. Players are smart enough, if you’re not getting it done on the field as a coach, they’ll recognize it pretty quick. If you have been a player, obviously you get a little bit of respect, because they know you’ve been through some of the same battles they have.

“But if you’re not a very good coach, it doesn’t matter what you say or what your background is, guys are going to tune you out pretty quick. They are interested in winning and getting better. If you can help them do that, they’ll listen to you.”

Of the current staff, Whisenhunt, Horton, assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm, quarterbacks coach Chris Miller and assistant defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend played in the league. The majority did not.

“Once you get into (practices and meetings) you don’t think about it,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “But if they played your position, it’s better because they understand you and the thoughts you have.”

The defensive backs may have the most interesting combo given the three latest hires. Horton played, but has been out of the game for 17 seasons. New defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi didn’t play (and in fact was on his first NFL coaching staff at age 19 as a Jets assistant). Meanwhile, Townsend not only played, but he was just playing as recently as November and will be learning the coaching ropes on the fly.

“I think the main thing a player wants is consistency,” Townsend said. “That’s what I wanted, to (have a coach) say one thing in July and to say the same thing in February. You don’t want a guy saying something and changing his mind. And be fair.

“You’re going to have to make decisions, but everyone in the room has to be accountable. I loved to have a coach who, when he made a mistake, he said it and when I made a mistake, he let me know. We have to grow that and teach them what we are looking for, but to be true professionals, those guys have to understand that’s the business of football.”

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The other possible coaching change – UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on February 9, 2011 – 10:16 am

UPDATE: Chris Miller said he will be remaining as quarterbacks coach of the Cardinals.

While everyone waits for the results of Ray Horton’s interview to be the new defensive coordinator, the Cardinals could quickly find out about another possible change on their coaching staff — now that Southern Oregon has been accepted into the Frontier Conference, their announcement of a new head football coach could come as soon as today. That could impact the Cards because quarterbacks coach Chris Miller is among the finalists for the head coaching job. He, along with the other finalists, already had interviews. It’s now down to a job offer.

Obviously, if Horton is hired, there could still be defensive staff changes too; ESPN already reported this morning that if Horton is named defensive coordinator he will be bringing longtime NFL cornerback Deshea Townsend — who played for the Steelers for 12 seasons before playing eight games for the Colts in 2010 — for a spot on the staff.

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QB coach Miller finalist for college job

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2011 – 9:23 am

Quarterbacks coach Chris Miller is a finalist to be the head coach for Southern Oregon University. Miller, who replaced Jeff Rutledge after the Super Bowl season of 2008, said he welcomed the challenge to run a program.

“I enjoy what I’m doing with the Cardinals and I’m very lucky and blessed to be working for a good man in (Cardinals head coach) Ken Whisenhunt, but the Southern Oregon job excited me just in the fact that I love a challenge,” Miller told the Ashland Daily Tidings. “Southern Oregon has struggled the last several years and I’d love the challenge and the opportunity to turn the program around, and I believe one of my callings in life is working with young men, helping to mold them into high character individuals.”

The job won’t be offered to anyone until after Feb. 8, when Southern Oregon will hear whether it is being accepted into a new conference. SOU is a Division II NAIA school.

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Friday before the Bucs

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2010 – 4:55 pm

At first, John Skelton thought I was joking. He came off the field Friday and I asked him if he had a minute, and he never thought the request was serious. But it was. He’s a popular guy these days with many fans and with the quarterback roller-coaster the Cards have been on.

Still, the fifth-round quarterback with the big arm and Fordham pedigree seems far removed from playing anytime soon, with fellow rookie Max Hall getting his chance and veteran Derek Anderson sitting in the No. 2 spot.

“Before the season started, (QB coach) Chris Miller and (passing game coordinator) Mike Miller each told me to prepare like I was going to be the starter,” Skelton said. “Pay attention like I was going to play, and that’s what I have been doing since the beginning.

“I really don’t listen to what the fans say or the media says. I am just trying to keep my head down and keep working.”

And what if he did have to play this season? I suppose it wouldn’t be a surprise if I said Skelton wouldn’t be worried if he did (and even though coaches have seen him as a long-term project and not 2010-ready).

“I think as far as mentally knowing everything, I think I’d be fine,” Skelton said. “But it’s the same thing Max faced when he first went in, your first go-round with no experience, so … we’ll see what happens if I ever do get that call.”

I don’t think he will. Not this season, barring disaster. No offense to John, but I’m kinda hoping that doesn’t happen.

— So Beanie is the starter. What will it mean? Well, if Beanie gets real hot early, he could be in the 30-carry range assuming the Cards have success. If there is a normal rhythm to the offense/game, Tim Hightower is still going to be a solid part of the game plan.

— By the way, for those complaining that Wells’ stats are skewed because of eight men in the box defensively when he goes in the game, he wasn’t using that as an excuse. “We’re running the ball successfully with the 8-man boxes, so I don’t see it as a big issue,” Beanie said.

— I find it interesting that, given the Cards’ offensive woes, they are tied with the Buccaneers – Sunday’s opponent – for 29th in the NFL with 16.3 points per game. And neither of these teams have a losing record.

— The Bucs don’t have a lot of sacks, so maybe that can bode well for Max Hall this week. Then again, the Bucs are so porous with the run defense, teams aren’t throwing against them much. Can Beanie ball make that work?

— It comes down to turnovers, in all likelihood. The Cards can’t give the ball away. That’s why they lost in Seattle, regardless of how poorly Hall played. Beanie needs to hold on to the ball. This is his moment to shine, I think.

— I have no idea why, especially since a) the passing game is struggling and b) there seems to be this probability the Cards work the run game. But I have this feeling Fitz has his first 100-yard game Sunday (and if it turns out to be Steve Breaston instead, I’m OK with that).

— Darnell Dockett was fined $15,000 for his fourth-quarter late hit in Seattle (the one that extended a late drive and basically nailed the Cards’ coffin). There were no fines levied on the the Seahawks who looked like they might have hit Hall with a helmet-to-helmet shot.

Well, the Cardinals haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2008. They have shifted the running back depth chart. Hall should be in a better place now that he’s at home. The defense is coming around (and playing an offense that isn’t exactly the Greatest Show on Turf, although they are the best team in the NFC). Plus, the Cards have got the black unis for Halloween. Just don’t let things get any more scary than they need to — right Beanie?

Until Sunday …

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Hall gets zinged

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2010 – 1:41 pm

Last night, coach Ken Whisenhunt preached caution with rookie quarterback Max Hall. It seems the coaches — with some help from the media relations staff — did their best to get that message with Hall. Hall was asked to do a TV interview during the game (after he was out) and was hesitant to do it. But he was assured it was OK, and he did one. Moments later, quarterbacks coach Chris Miller came over and told Hall he needed to call upstairs to passing game coordinator Mike Miller right away.

Miller told Hall he had played well, but then told him angrily and in no uncertain terms Hall shouldn’t have been doing an interview, as it was a selfish act and not about the team. It was going to cost Hall a $1,000 fine, Miller told him, and that Hall needed to go back and talk to Chris Miller and arrange exactly how that was going to happen. Hall freaked out — “I was like a deer in the headlights,” he said — until he went back to Chris Miller, who couldn’t keep himself from laughing.

Hall said he hoped next year, when he wasn’t a rookie anymore, he might be able to repay the prank. For now, it was a sack he had to endure.

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Final draft thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2010 – 3:26 pm

Well, I don’t think anything could have prepared anyone for today’s final day of the draft Cardinals-wise. Heck, when the O’Brien Schofield story came down — stud pass rusher who just ripped up his knee three months ago — I was just happy there was something interesting to write about. Then the Cardinals traded cornerback Bryant McFadden. Then they took a quarterback. Then we’re in the press room trying to find stats on CB Jorrick Calvin, not realizing at first he didn’t play in 2009. Even the last pick, Stanford tight end Jim Dray, had his own backstory — in 2007 covering a punt, he tore the ACL, MCL, LCL meniscus and hamstring in his left leg. Yikes.

Stories galore. But before I rush off to coach my son’s basketball game (yes, thank you NFL for hustling through this last day), some kibbles and bits I didn’t get to elsewhere:

— Calvin is intriguing. Coach Ken Whisenhunt even said the fact he didn’t play in 2009 probably helped the Cards wait until the sixth round to get him. You like the idea he took responsibility — “I had to live with the consequences,” Calvin said when he didn’t turn in an assignment and was flunked. “It was all my fault.” — and Whiz and Rod Graves sounded sure they knew what they were getting. It helped that Troy assistant coach Maurea Crain took part in training camp last year as part of the NFL’s minority coach intern program. They reached out to Crain and got all the info they needed on Calvin.

— That said, I wonder like everyone about cornerback depth. I do think Greg Toler was going to end up as the starter, so that part doesn’t concern me when it comes to the McFadden trade. And knowing McFadden was supposed to make almost $5 M catches your eye. Will they sign a vet? I think they will consider it. And this may end up being a situation where they nab a guy when final cuts come at the end of training camp too, a la Jeremy Bridges last year.

— The Cards sent both Mike Miller and Chris Miller from the coaching staff to work out QB John Skelton about 10 days ago. I was hearing his name connected with this team since the combine. I think they’ve liked him for a while. And he them. “In the back of my mind I always thought I would be a Cardinal.”

— I can’t see Brian St. Pierre signing now, though. I think the Cards get an undrafted rookie arm, but between Skelton and the work needed for both Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson, I don’t know how many reps a fourth QB would even get. And I don’t see anyone beating out the two vets and a draft pick for a roster spot either.

— Dray, on his injuries: “I knew coming back from a big knee injury like that, my way to get back on the field wasn’t going to be running double move routes or deep routes because my knee wasn’t up to that level. I knew I would have to come in right away and try to get back on the field blocking.”

— After listening to Schofield this morning, it’s tough not to feel good about the pick and what he’ll do to return to his pass-rushing ways. You look at the numbers — 12 sacks, 24 tackles for loss — and you can understand why the Cards took a chance. And coming back from ACLs isn’t the same as it used to be. I remember covering Kyle Vanden Bosch back in 2001-2003 when he blew out his knee twice and look how he turned out after he left. It takes so much less time to recover too. Whisenhunt pointed out that when he played in the 1980s, you put a guy in a cast for six weeks after tearing an ACL, and then going from there. Schofield was walking around the combine without a limp about a month after his injury.

OK, that’s all for now. I’ve gotta go. I’m sure there will be much more to talk about soon. I’ll monitor the comments on the blog, but otherwise, I’m off until Monday.

Unless the Cards make another trade … or news of their undrafted guys leak … who am I kidding. I’ll probably write again tomorrow.

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More Ravens than Cards in Tempe

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2010 – 2:25 pm

Anquan Boldin’s farewell appearance at the Cardinals’ facility was today (going on now, in fact) at Kurt Warner’s annual charity flag football tournament. There is a bit of irony in the fact that, after Friday’s trade, there are actually more active Ravens playing in the tourney (Boldin, tight end Todd Heap and quarterback Joe Flacco, pictured below) than Cardinals (Larry Fitzgerald and Sean Morey, although the recently retired Warner and quarterbacks coach Chris Miller are also out there).

Boldin talked for a while about leaving Arizona. He said it was “bittersweet.” He said he had mixed emotions. And he said change was good.

“Change is necessary for everybody in life,” Boldin said. “In order for you to grow, there has to be change even when sometimes it’s not wanted.”

He chuckled the Anquan chuckle — that one he always gave you that meant he wasn’t going to say what he really wanted to say — when I asked him if he and the team had a good enough relationship that perhaps some day, if the team happened to invite him into their Ring of Honor, he would accept. “Ring of Honor?” Boldin asked with a smile, before turning serious again. “At this point, I’m not even thinking about (that far in the future). The only thing I am considering is that I have to make a move to back East.”

I suppose, sometimes, change is necessary.

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Warner comes back

Posted by Darren Urban on March 3, 2010 – 1:50 pm

I mean, back to the Cards’ Tempe facility to play his annual charity flag football tournament. … No, not back with the Cardinals after choosing to reverse his retirement decision. I apologize if the headline was misconstrued.

Anyway, it is time for Warner’s annual tourney, which will be held Saturday on the Cards’ practice fields. He’s got a star-studded list (although it’s not always a lock every guy actually makes it): Besides Warner, the “QBs” for the tournament are Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Todd Heap, Michael Strahan, Marshall Faulk and then the Cardinals’ contingent — former Falcons QB and current Cards’ quarterback coach Chris Miller, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Sean Morey.

Before you ask, sorry, the event isn’t open to the public. The teams/corporations involved pay Warner’s First Things First foundation big bucks for exclusivity. And I’d expect Warner’s team to be in the title game once again. Warner always wants to win anyway, and now, this is his lone football outlet.

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