Things started so well in Arizona this season. They ended badly. Arizona set a precedent for the worst final record after a 4-0 start in league history. They managed just one win after those first four games to finish 5-11. Subsequently, Rod Graves, an Arizona employee for 16 years, and Ken Whisenhunt paid for the failure with thier jobs yesterday.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
Enough time has passed now to simply state the decision to get Kevin Kolb has not worked out. Kolb still only has 21 games started in his career. The problem with Kolb has been his health and it has been an ongoing theme for his career. Kolb's injury history forced the team to play John Skelton more than they wanted last season after four starts in 2010 made it obvious that Skelton needed time to develop. This season, though, this got so bad that Skelton would be benched for Ryan Lindley not long after getting one of many votes of confidence from his head coach. Lindley was a special form of not ready and bad. His interception rate (4.1) almost equaled his yards per attempt (4.4). Brian Hoyer was acquired and immediately forced into the starting lineup in weeks 16 and 17.
Kolb, when upright went 3-2 with 8 touchdowns and three interceptions. Unfortunately, he started getting hit repeatedly in the ribs right from the get-go. The Saints has at least three big hits on the Cardinals quarterback during the Hall of Fame Game. The offensive line has gotten worse in Arizona every single season since the famous Super Bowl run a few years ago. The line came into training camp in such disarray that the Cardinals were going to be forced to rely on the perennially terrible Levi Brown to lead the line.
Then injuries began to hit. Brown, center Lyle Sendlein, guard Rich Ohrnberger and guard-tackle Jeremy Bridges all ended the season on IR. The line turned into a revolving door of names that turned into a revolving door leading defensive players onto direct tracks towards the Arizona signal callers. It became bad news when the Cardinals lost a McQuistan to injury. It got that bad. Nate Potter and Bobby Massie, both later round rookies, ended the season as the turnstiles, uh, bookends of the line.
The result was an offense that could not pass to Larry Fitzgerald (20 catches in the final 7 games of the season, 8 of those against Chicago in week 16). and could not score points. The Cardinals offense scored 91 points during the first four games (22.75 per game) and only 159 in the final 12 (13.25 per game). Cardinals quarterbacks were sacked 58 times this season, seven worse than the Packers. Incredibly, Kolb suffered 27 of those sacks in his 5+ games played.
WHAT CAN BE DONE:
With the firings of the head coach and general manager, the Cardinals are serious about change. With the problems on the offensive line and at the quarterback position, it may seem like it would be easier to just get a defensive-minded coach to continue the cultivation of the talented defense.
I would go the opposite way. Let an offensive mind do what he can with a new quarterback he is comfortable with and try to get more answers at tight end and running back to form an offense that the new coach would be able to grow as his own. Potter and Massie have looked like rookies on the offensive line, but a bad line with young players can get better fast with an infusion of just one good veteran and further development of young players. There no evidence that the line can jump from Gigli bad to Godfather II good, but they could at least get to the level of tolerable with ease. Running back must be addressed in the off-season as well since the Cardinals mustered just four 100 yard rushing days all season.
I would go offensive because the defense is already top notch. Despite being put in tough positions all season, the defense finished 17th in points allowed and were second in the league with 22 interceptions. Teams only converted 33% of their third downs against the Cardinals defense led by Patrick Peterson, Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett. Opposing quarterbacks mustered a league-low 71.2 quarterback rating, or about 50% better than Ryan Lindley. A merely competent DC could keep developing the defense.
What are your suggestions?