It wasn't very long ago that the Arizona Cardinals were 4-0. Seven losses later and fans are wondering, where did the Cardinals go wrong? And more importantly, where do they go from here?
You don't have to look far to see where the team went awry but I took some time this weekend just to talk to some fans of the team and see what they thought.
The first reason blamed was the offensive line's horrendous play. I agree with that assessment, but let's look at the last few weeks. The line hasn't given up that many sacks. Ryan Lindley had plenty of time yesterday to throw the ball. In fact, Kevin Kolb had less time than Skelton and Lindley did in their stints as starting quarterbacks. Kevin Kolb was 4-0 at quarterback this year.
I'm not here saying Kolb is the answer at quarterback. If you go on just this year, you could jump to the conclusion that Kolb would have fared better than Skelton and Lindley. I agree with that conclusion. Arizona wouldn't be 11-0, but they wouldn't be 4-7 either.
Sure, Kolb probably isn't the answer but I don't think the fans are ready to scrap him yet with a 4-0 record. Yes, I know it's Kolb who has been inconsistent as they come, but would Kolb have fared better yesterday against the Rams at home than the rookie Ryan Lindley? I'm leaning toward yes.
Do you keep Kolb for next year? That answer is subject to debate. Since the Cardinals have nothing to play for now, I would probably let the rookie ride out the year. I don't think they have given up, but it would take a 9-7 finish with a sprinkle of fortune and a dash of divine intervention.
Oh and two of those five games the Cardinals would have to win are at Seattle and at San Francisco.
Other fans mentioned a lack of a run game as the culprit of the bad season. I think that's a product of bad offensive line play and lack of commitment to the run. I understand it's hard to commit to the run when you are often down and fighting your way back.
The running backs are serviceable. Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and William Powell can combine to form a good trio of backs and then throw Ryan Williams in the mix, next year could be a decent year for the Cardinals run game.
The one complaint that I do give some credence to is the complaint of coaching. Should the Cardinals fire Ken Whisenhunt and his staff and essentially start over? Yes and no.
I do think it's time for a new head coach. I like Ken Whisenhunt. I respect his coaching but at some point he has to take responsibility for the offensive production. The offensive coordinator has been atrocious. The offensive line coach is a joke. No team can not have three seasons of five-, six- and now seven-game losing streaks. That's unacceptable.
One scenario would involve firing Whisenhunt and promoting Ray Horton to head coach. Let's face it. Horton is probably gone next year anyway for a head coaching position. Why not let it be the Cardinals head coaching position? The man has talent and can scheme with the best of them.
Another scenario is a risky one but one I have to voice. I'm not big on college coaches coming to the ranks of the NFL but I do like what Greg Schiano has done in Tampa Bay, especially with what he had to work with.
So my recommendation is to explore Stanford head coach David Shaw as a potential coaching candidate. It could be for the head coach position or maybe for offensive coordinator. This is probably not what Arizona Cardinals fans want to hear but think about the affect Jim Harbaugh has had on the San Francisco 49ers. David Shaw could instill that same nasty attitude in the desert since he worked with Harbaugh at Stanford.
Sure, there are sexier college coaches that Arizona could look at like Chip Kelly from Oregon. You have to admire what Kelly has done with a team of relatively unknown players.
Does Arizona make a change at head coach? It's been close to four years since the Super Bowl appearance and that ride has come to its conclusion. The time has come for Arizona to be decisive about its future. They are wasting Larry Fitzgerald's talents in the prime of his career and would be silly to think that he's not frustrated with the events in the desert. The head coach can't survive this one.
We know where the Arizona Cardinals went wrong this year. We know the season is done, and I think 4-12 is a real possibility. We know changes have to be made whether with coaches or players or both. The question is will the owners make the needed changes or will they make the fans suffer through another season of missed opportunities.