The Arizona Cardinals fell to 3-4 following a Thursday Night Football loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Sadly, for the players on the Cardinals defense, the loss was another reminder that they're being held back by an atrocious offense led by an out-of-his-element head coach and a mirage at the quarterback position.
Arizona may be one of the retirement capitals of the world, but there's little positive about an over-the-hill head coach and quarterback combination.
Overall, the Cardinals have an average football team, but that's because the playoff-caliber defense is being offset by a offense that is both low-octane and low on talent. The offense is so bad that it's almost as if they're consistently trying to make other team's defenses look as good as their own.
Oh, and they're succeeding.
Starting with the defense, don't think for a second that I'm overstating their case as a top unit. They entered the week as a top-five rushing defense and a top-20 passing defense. However, the statistical rankings can be a bit misleading as linebacker Daryl Washington just returned to the unit following suspension.
In terms of scoring, the Cardinals are 12th in the league, giving up just over 21 points per game. They are also among the tops in the NFC with 13 total takeaways—only Chicago and Seattle have more.
The only problem, of course, with giving up a small number of points and taking the ball away numerous times is that it can't make up for an offense that consistently fails to score an average number of points and gives the ball away like it's Christmas in October.
Only the New York Giants have given the ball away more than the Arizona Cardinals, who have 15 turnovers. That drops them from tied for third in the NFC for total takeaways to tied for 13th in turnover differential.
Is there a more fitting statistic to underscore the 2013 Cardinals' season?
Head coach Bruce Arians is the straw that stirs this murky drink. Remember, this is a guy who was retiring when the Indianapolis Colts convinced him to come mentor quarterback Andrew Luck. From there, a series of unfortunate events took hold, thrusting Arians into the spotlight of a team that he helped lead to the playoffs.
Yet, an interim coach—even a successful one—is a far cry from the totality of a head coach. Now, as the Colts sit as one of the AFC's top teams and the Cardinals as one of the NFC's worst, it's even clearer that Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson had far more to do with the Colts' (still ongoing) success than Arians.
His offense is simply out of place in today's NFL, which is built to maximize high-percentage passing, minimize the run game and spread defenses out. Arians, instead, looks to go vertical at almost all costs with high-risk/high-reward throws, which have far too often trended toward the risk half of that equation.
Of course, it doesn't help that the triggerman to the offense has also retired from the NFL before!
Let's just take a moment and think about that for a minute. The head coach and quarterback of the Cardinals are so invested in this game that both of them have walked away from it, only to return when the perfect opportunity (also money) presented itself.
How does one believe they'll respond as the Cardinals' proverbial train careens headlong into the abyss of fourth place in the NFC West?
Palmer's quitting mentality aside, he's never been the top-notch quarterback that the media at large has painted him to be. Overall, he had a few good years in Cincinnati and has been the albatross around various organizations' necks ever since.
Now, he's clearly an impediment to the Cardinals' success, and it's easy to see that maybe Drew Stanton or Ryan Lindley might deserve a shot at running this show.
Palmer has passed for a decent number of yards this season (1,483) but that's a testament to the vertical nature of the offense and the fact that he gets to throw to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. In terms of rating, he's 31st in the league. In yards per attempt, he's 23rd. He's throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and offers little in terms of mobility to make up for his sharply declining arm strength.
The overall tale of 2013 might be too far along to change for the Cardinals, but the future looks equally bleak. Even if they bring in a new quarterback, running back, offensive linemen and anything else they'll eventually need as they continue to build, will Arians be able to hold this team together as an unproven and less-than-successful head coach?
It might be time to recognize—sooner, rather than later—that the two positions that are supposed to drive a football team's success are the Cardinals' biggest hindrances.