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The reality is, on paper, that it is possible that the Arizona Cardinals can make the playoffs in 2010, but football isn't played on paper.
Normally I'd follow that particular idiom with "It's played on the field." But in this case, I feel that isn't really true either.
In the case of the 2010 Cardinals, more games have been lost in the heads of the players than on the gridiron.
You can see it in their eyes. They are beaten sometimes before they even take the field. They don't believe that they can win.
As soon as they go behind, their heads drop, they lose focus and the game is already over.
That problem goes all the way to the top.
Ken Whisenhunt still doesn't know what he wants out of this year. That much is clear by how often he swaps his starting quarterback. He can't decide if he wants to win a few games this year or if he wants to build towards the future, and until he decides, the players can't be expected to know either.
I believe the players need to be given permission to lose before they can hope to win.
It sounds counterintuitive, but stick with me.
If, and I know how difficult it will be when two wins can put you back at the top of the division, but if Ken Whisenhunt can do the brave thing and accept that 2010 must be a learning experience...
If he can allow one quarterback, any one quarterback, to make the team his own and not fear for his job if he makes a mistake...
If he can give his defensive players freedom to stick to their plan, even when it doesn't pan out...
If he does these things, then the Arizona Cardinals may just win this division yet.
If, on the other hand, players are continually in and out of jobs, worrying that one mistake will cost them their jobs, worrying that one blown assignment will completely change the defensive scheme for the remainder of the game, if receivers don't know who will be throwing them the next pass, then how can the team be expected to succeed?
By telling the team that 2010 is a learning year, that they will have a few more chances to prove themselves, that they can learn as much from their mistakes as they can their victories, then the weight is removed, players' heads lift and they are reinvigorated.
Say it in a press conference. Don't promise wins, but promise the kind of high-flying, exciting football Arizona fans have come to expect and that win or lose, you're in for a great game, and you may just get the fans back on side too.
All of a sudden, you are released to try big plays. You're freed to try difficult passes, to force fumbles and make interceptions. You're free to try onside kicks when the textbook says you should kick it deep, and free to go for it on 4th-and-3, and when they pay off, perhaps you get a win, perhaps a couple in a row. And then...
Well, let's take it one game at a time.
And our next game is against the Kansas City Chiefs.
See you on Sunday.