If I Were GM: Arizona Cardinals Part 1

State of the Franchise 

I decided to go in alphabetical order and I’m already regretting this because the Arizona Cardinals might be my longest post.

Oh boy, where to begin with this team. There are usually one or two key factors or decisions that need to be made which determine which direction a franchise is heading. There’s at least five or six that I can think of off the top of my head.

Coaching Changes:

First I guess is new coach Steve Wilks who was defensive coordinator for one year with the Panthers. He replaced Sean McDermott who left to be Buffalo’s head coach. Overall, I think this is a positive hire. Teams are becoming less hesitant to hire inexperienced coaches which is a change for the better in the NFL. His one year a DC saw an improvement to the Panther’s D. They improved from twenty-sixth in scoring d to eleventh, and twenty-first in yards allowed to seventh. Reports also say he is an excellent interviewer and has impressed many front offices.

The problem is that, when you hire a defensive guy the offensive coordinator has to be a solid hire. I don’t think Mike McCoy is the answer. On one hand he made Tim Tebow look like a NFL QB, but this past year was pretty disastrous. With a team that is going to have to maybe go with a rookie QB I don’t trust McCoy or newly hired QB Coach Byron Leftwich to be able to develop him.

If I were GM, I would have more than likely tried to hire Pat Shurmur just because I think he has a better grasp of developing a system to fit a QB’s plus he’s gone on record that he would be interested in bringing in Case Keenum to wherever he went. Don’t get me wrong Steve Wilks is a good hire; he fits the strength of the team. I just wish they hired a different OC, such as John Defilippo, who i I think is the next rising star and will be a head coach in the near future.

QB:

Well transitioning a franchise with a new coach is one thing but transitioning a franchise with a new coach and no QB on the roster is hard mode.  Carson Palmer retired and Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton are free agents. The latter two are, well…. uh…., not very good so this team is going to be looking at a new signal caller. This has been frustrating I can imagine for Cardinal fans since they have been kicking the can down the road. This is pretty much a make or break year for the state of the franchise based on how they decide to manage the QB position.

I’ll go into details later, but what I believe is best for this franchise is to tow a fine line between keeping the status quo, by trying to field a competitive team, and building for the future. A bridge QB and a future signal caller is in my opinion the best way no handle the roster, not Kirk Cousins (because of lack of cap space) and not Nick Foles (too many question marks and not worth the draft capital that would need to be traded).

Other Issues:

Injuries: David Johnson, basically the whole offensive line missed major time. Hopefully Johnson can come back, the o-line really struggled this year. Significant changes may need to happen and for most teams it would be a number one priority but given all of the problems its like number 3 or 4.

Larry Fitzgerald: Panic may ensue if Larry Fitzgerald retires. It has been reported that he will make his decision in a week or two. He wants a good QB not some rookie throwing him the ball. All the more reason to bring a bridge on to keep him happy to play one more season. He can be a bridge for a young WR that the team can take in the draft. If he retires there are only two receivers on the roster. Chad Williams (2017 3rd round pick), who had 3 catches in his rookie year and J.J. Nelson.

Aging Defense and Free Agents: The defense is getting older and older and the team has many potential free agents on the defensive side of the ball. In order for this defense to remain strong they are going to have to retain some of these guys.

Summary:

Overall its safe to say things do not look good for the Cardinals. The front office and coaching staff have an uphill battle, but there are things that can be done to get this team back in the playoffs. If there something positive to take away its this:

Carson Palmer went down in week 7 in London. The team got shutout by the Rams then went on the bye. Between using Stanton and Gabbert, this team managed to go 5-4 the rest of the way. This is their combined stats on the season:

Compeltions Attempts Comp % Passing Yards TD INT
174 330 52.7% 1980 12 11

If you project that over 16 games this is what you get:

Completions Attempts Comp % Passing Yards TD INT
278 528 52.7% 3168 19.2 17.6

That completion percentage was lower than DeShone Kizer and CJ Beathard for reference. 53.6% and 54.9% respectively. I tried to find some players seasons to compare to but it is proving difficult. For reference though the top numbers are 2016 Brock Osweiler and below those are 2013 Geno Smith, his rookie year:

Compeltions Attempts Comp % Passing Yards TD INT
301 510 59.0% 2957 15 16
247 443 55.8% 3046 12 21

Basically what I am trying to say is that 5-4 with bad QB play leaves a team with some hope. This is not an endorsement for Kirk Cousins. I still think he is not the solution to the franchise. Ill go into more depth into the next part, which leads me to…

UP NEXT:

Part Two: Team Needs and Free Agency, Rebuilding the Roster

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