OP/ED: The most interesting team in football
September 5, 2019
Football is officially back ladies and gentlemen! After going into its summer hibernation, the helmets and pads are back on, the position battles are heating up, and the questions are increasing by the day.
Will Patrick Mahomes repeat as MVP? Will Tom Brady keep defying the laws of age? Will the Tennessee Titans go 9-7 for a fourth straight season? (That last one is a trick question because it’s a fact of life that the Titans are a 9-7 football team. Consistency people!)
Every team has questions that they are eager to answer in a little over a month. But it’s hard to argue that there has been a team with more question marks than Kliff Kingsbury’s Arizona Cardinals.
What the public knows about the 2019 edition of the Arizona Cardinals so far is basic surface level information. There is a shiny rookie head coach in the form of ex-Texas Tech head honcho Kliff Kingsbury and a shiny rookie quarterback, the dual-threat, dual-sport wonderkind, Kyler Murray, out of Oklahoma.
The team brings flash with those two major additions, along with other smaller ones such as adding veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and the Cards have solid returning pieces like star running back David Johnson and legendary wideout Larry Fitzgerald.
With all of these weapons, the expectation is to revamp an offense that, to put it mildly, was a dumpster fire of epic proportions. The Cardinals offense, under first year head coach Steve Wilks, ranked 32nd out of 32 teams in every meaningful offensive category as a result of more and more trash being thrown into the already burning dumpster.
The quarterbacks were a “pick your poison” of mediocrity, as hotshot rookie Josh Rosen and the injury-prone Sam Bradford each took turns at trying to see who was the worst quarterback in the NFL. The halfway decent offensive line could not stay healthy and only one lineman, rookie center Mason Cole, partook in every Cardinals offensive snap.
The non-threatening quarterbacks and porous offensive line did not bode well for David Johnson, who put together an uninspiring season in which he only recorded one game with over 100 rushing yards and failed to crack the 1,000 yard mark despite competing in all 16 contests.
The 2018 Cardinals hit rock bottom on offense and they fired Wilks after his first and only season as their head coach.
But as the saying goes, when you hit rock bottom, the only place to go is up.
The 2019 offseason was spent trying to extinguish a large amount of the inferno, with Murray being selected as the number one overall pick to hopefully end the quarterback woes, offensive line reinforcements being brought in through trading or free agency, and a solid draft class after Murray that included standout University of Washington cornerback Byron Murphy along with a pair of talented wide receivers in Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler.
I haven’t even mentioned the offense that these players will be operating in, which has been kept under lock and key by Kingsbury. It has been rumored that the offense will resemble an Air Raid system that Kingsbury used as head coach at TTU, but nothing has been revealed to anybody outside of the Cardinals organization.
All of this potential is why the 2019 Cardinals will be the most interesting bunch to watch come September. No opponent can accurately plot out a game plan for the Birds for the first couple of weeks since they have very limited knowledge of the Cards’ system.
Does this mean that they are contenders for a playoff spot, however? Absolutely not. Kliff Kingsbury and Company have a couple years and many more pieces away from competing in a division as competitive as the NFC West. But we could get small glimpses of what might be a strong team down the road.
To draw an NBA comparison to this year’s Cardinals team, it reminds me of the Oklahoma City Thunder when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were just getting their feet wet in the league. Their first year in OKC was a rough year without a doubt, but there was a lot of promise from those two young stars that eventually broke through to become a regular contender.
Will the Arizona Cardinals become the NFL’s version of the Oklahoma City Thunder? It is tough to tell at this point. The Cardinals will most likely finish last in their division once again and receive a top-10 pick for their troubles.
But this Cardinals team has found two fresh faces to lead the rebuilding process and I have confidence that this year’s team will show the talent that is necessary to compete in a couple of years.
Three years down the road, when the Tennessee Titans’ seventh consecutive 9-7 campaign is coming to a close, the Arizona Cardinals will be playoff bound once again.
And their road to the playoffs start this season.