In the first installment of our 3 part series around the NFC West I’ll take look at the 1-5 Arizona Cardinals and try and figure out what’s gone wrong in the desert sun. A lot of what we do here on Ninernoise or any sports news outlet is play Monday morning QB, we judge and analyze the decisions made by professionals on something less than 1% of us could ever do in our lives. I love to sit back and say what’s wrong with the 49ers front office? Why won’t we try and trade for Kevin Kolb or Kyle Orton? Well both teams stink and since we’re here to discuss the Cardinals we’ll just stick to Kolb today. The Cards gave up a very good corner back in Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and a second round draft pick for Kolb. That’s not Carson Palmer territory but still a steep price for a QB with a losing record and a lifetime QB rating in the 70′s. Thus far the 49ers decision to pass on Kolb has looked brilliant as he and the entire Arizona Cardinals offense has struggled this season. I chose to begin my look at the Cardinals by keying in on Kolb because he is the biggest reason they are 1-5 right now he has been simply awful.
Since losing Kurt Warner to retirement the Cards have been searching for a franchise QB (sound familiar?). By investing so much in Kolb who signed a 6 year deal worth more than $60 million as part of the trade with the Eagles the Cardinals essentially put all their eggs in Kolb’s basket. Kolb so far this season has performed on par with the way he played in Philadelphia in 6 starts he’s sporting a 78.8 passer rating, 57.7 % accuracy, with as many interceptions as touchdown passes-7. The biggest problem for Arizona at this point will be figuring out what to do next. Where do they go from here? With this much invested in Kolb they can’t give up on him now as the financial ramifications of the decision to acquire him will be felt for many years. Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt recently came out and supported Kolb as his starting QB despite his poor start, a risk, but one he must take given that they are already knee deep and there is no turning back now.
PAGE 2: A LOOK AT THE REST OF THE CARDINALS
Before the season it looked like the Cards may be the team to beat in the NFC West. With a pretty good defense, an all world wide receiver and a new QB tons of optimism was in the air. But it’s not all Kevin Kolb’s fault, while Kolb looked great in the team’s week 1 victory outshining Cam Newton’s historic debut in a 28-21 final things were looking up for Arizona.
The team seemed to find ways to lost in the weeks following the opener losing to the Redskins 22-21 in week 2. Then came an embarrassing 13-10 loss to the Seahawks that saw the offense go absolutely no where, this game reminded me of the 49ers 2010 matchup in Seattle the Cardinals were not prepared for that Seattle crowd and when it mattered they simply weren’t ready to pull off the win in that environment yet. The next week the Cards got a huge lift from running back Beanie Wells who rushed for a season high 138 yards but still despite scoring 27 points Arizona found a way to lose to the Giants 31-27.
As if things weren’t bad enough that’s when the blowouts began. Week 5 saw the Cards embarrassed by the Minnesota Vikings of all teams in a 34-10 beating. The bye week seemed to come at a perfect time week 6, giving the Cardinals time to get healthy and refocused. Then week 7 rolled around and those Pittsburgh Steelers everybody was calling old and past their time early in the year steamrolled the Cardinals at home 32-20.
A look at the Cardinals team statistics outside of the QB position while not good in all areas isn’t as bad as you would expect from a 1-5 team. They do however rank among the worst teams in the NFL with a -5 turnover ratio and are 22nd in the league in scoring this season. I read a great article today by Kerry J. Byrne of SI.com where he does a great job of breaking down the 49ers success and great coaching. In short the article pin points several reasons why the coaching of Jim Harbaugh has put the 49ers in the position they are at 5-1 with smart decision making. In short the 49ers don’t move the ball among the elite but they capitalize on their opportunities, play smart football and its winning games for them. The Cardinals in contrast are ranked right in the middle of the pack in yardage and a little better in passing yardage yet they are 22nd in the league averaging a mere 19.3 points per game.
I think a lot of 49er fans and those who have watched the team the past couple seasons will agree coaching has been the biggest factor in the 49ers turnaround this year. In a close second the efficient play of QB Alex Smith (which may be coaching also) has been effective, efficient and produced results for the teams when they were needed the most. It’s been the exact opposite for the Arizona Cardinals this season. Their biggest problems lie in the 2 most important areas of the team head coach and quarterback.
The Cardinals defense has followed the offenses lead this year by looking ok-good in the early parts of the year and falling apart the last 3 weeks. Nobody is standing out on this team right now on the defensive side of the ball and first round pick Patrick Peterson considered by many has struggled at corner at times.
While this has been mostly a bad news article for Cardinals fans this is great news for 49ers fans. The Cardinals look beaten, disorganized, out matched and have obviously made some questionable personnel decisions. Expect their struggles to continue this season and for them to end the season as one of the NFLs worst. The team will be forced to make drastic changes as a result, this is only the beginng, and it’s going to get much worse in Arizona before it gets any better. One thing I’ll be very interested in seeing this season is whether the annual twitter fued will ignight between the players from both sides like it has the last couple years. Things have changed this year and the Cardinals shouldn’t have much if anything to say to the 49ers.
Predicted Finish: 4-12, 3rd in the West
Follow me on twitter @Matt_NinerNoise