After losing to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday 31-17, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves at 4-5 and heading in the wrong direction going into their bye week. The rest of the teams in the NFC West are getting better while the Cardinals are getting worse.
Looking at the remainder of this season, it time to question where the Cardinals are heading this season and next.
Do the Cardinals have the right people in coaching and management making the right decision? Does Arizona have the right players in uniform?
First, after starting 4-0, the Arizona Cardinals will not make the playoffs. That will be a tough, bitter pill to swallow this entire winter while they watch the other NFC teams play for the Lombardi trophy.
As far as the head coach, Ken Whisenhunt isn't going anywhere. You can find fault with his decision making and the team's collapse this season, but the Cardinals have gone from a league laughingstock to simply a decent team that is inconsistent. Believe it or not, that's progress.
The rest of the coaching staff? With the exception of Ray Horton, the rest of the staff should be on notice. With the expectation that as many as 10 or 11 NFL teams might fire their head coaches at the end of the season, the Cardinals need to be ready to act immediately.
Also, there is a chance that Horton could be offered a NFL head coaching position given his profound impact on Arizona's defense.
Who should the Cardinals replace?
You could see well over 100 assistant coaches on the market come mid-January with all of the expected turnover. Mike Miller and Russ Grimm are simply not getting the job done. Poach a good offensive coordinator and steal a good line coach. Bring in someone who can work with the receivers and running backs.
Rod Graves? Different story. This story that I wrote two weeks ago states my case why the Cards need to make a change at general manager. The Cards have two candidates in-house, Steve Heim or Jason Licht, that they could promote to general manager if needed right now.
Since I posted that article a couple of weeks ago, the Cardinals have yet to address bringing in another quarterback and another running back, leaving them painfully thin at both positions.
The Cardinals are one play away from having rookie Ryan Lindley taking snaps at quarterback and the Cardinals still haven't brought in a third quarterback to protect themselves. All of this is occurring with the fact that the Cardinals have a poor offensive line and an immobile starting quarterback in John Skelton.
With Kevin Kolb expected to be out potentially another month, I don't understand the Cardinals playing with fire like this. If the answer is Richard Bartel, then I am asking the wrong question. Kolb has done a decent job this season, but it is hard to see the Cardinals committing to him for next season given his inability to stay on the field.
Running back is another position that the Cardinals seem to be reluctant to support and strengthen at this point. The Cardinals should have added multiple backs to their practice squad as soon as Beanie Wells was hurt and when Ryan Williams was hurt, that should have been the mindset.
Who should be the Cardinals' QB next season?
William Powell, Alfonso Smith and LaRod Stephens-Howling. That is the current running back group. The Cards can't do better than that?
The Cardinals haven't even added a quarterback or running back to their practice squad.
Looking at next season, the Cardinals are going to facing a crossroads of sorts.
They will likely have a top seven pick in the 2013 draft and looking at the remaining schedule of the teams in front of them, it could go as high as a top five pick. Given the success of rookie quarterbacks coming into the league, I believe the Cardinals will have no choice but to take a quarterback in the first round. That evaluation needs to have started before this past season.
Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Tyler Bray or Tyler Wilson. One of those four quarterbacks will likely be the Cardinals' starter next season.
Their draft next season will need to look like this: QB, OT, RB, OT, OG, DE, CB. The Cardinals will need to address the offensive line through the draft and free agency.
Ken Whisenhunt will be given the rope to fix this mess this offseason, but as the Cardinals continue to get further removed from their surprising Super Bowl run from the 2008-2009 season, that rope will continue to get shorter and shorter.