Formula for Success
Even with the Clark Kent frames, no one’ll confuse the Cardinals Bruce Arians, or Joe Maddon (Cubs) for that matter, with “the man of steel.” But who needs muscles and wavy locks when the owner (Bidwill) is paying for the brawniest brain on the NFL block?
It’s been a long, methodical journey that has brought Mr. Arians (b.1952) to this pleasing point in his coaching career.
A “wishbone” quarterback at Virginia Tech (‘74) (a word I miss hearing), Bruce began as a grad-assistant (VT ‘75) and has held twelve various coaching posts since, heading it up at Temple (’83-88), interim in Indy in Pagano‘s absence (‘12 (9-3)) and now directs the Arizona desert Redbirds (‘13) (Wikipedia).
I’m beginning to think those guys who mold winners, craft champions, must all follow that famous line from one of the great molders in sportium, Branch Rickey (1881-1965), who left memorable marks in St. Louis, Brooklyn (Jackie) and Pittsburgh (Clemente).
Rickey’s great adage: “Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.“
When you’re trying build a winner, it’s best to start in-house, see what you’ve got, separate the wheat from the chaff as it were and add new ingredients as need be.
It’s true enough, holding onto a good player is sometimes just plain, dumb luck, having shopped their services and found no good buyer. But then some gridiron gurus just seem to have a knack, a keen ability at valuation of talent like that fine orchestra conductor who can pick out sweet and sours notes from wherever they emanate.
In short, the great ones (Belichick, Bochy, Pops, etc.) have a formula for success.
Arians first order of business upon arriving in the sunset State, the player variety, anyway, was finding the key-est of ingredients: a skillful quarterback to take over after Kev Kolb was concussed out of football. We hope Kevin is finding the best treatment.
Thirteen-year veteran Carson Palmer, formerly of Oakland (’11-12), was the component.
Though he’d played admirably on a less-than-great Raiders squad, not being of the run-class of quarterbacking, so favored by junior-media, and having instead well-honed pocket skills, Palmer was not a favorite of the football press. But the guru w/the glasses saw something in the former Bengals star that his trendy naysayers did not.
Cardinals have met and exceeded one pre-season prognostication as NFC “darkhorse,” compiling a 9-1 mark, even as wily vet Palmer, who was having a Renaissance season, went down & out with a major knee bang (ACL) in W10 to be lost for the duration.
Palmer’s exit was just one of many roster voids Arians and his staff have had to fill since training-camp kicked-off in Glendale last summer.
The defense took notable hits as stick-men Dansby yodeled his way to the Forest City (CLE) and Daryl Washington was suspended early (a/a), while budding young star Ty Mathieu missed early-action recovering from a 2013 knee injury.
The re-worked ‘bastion of bird’ has been fairly staunch (344 ypg (13) / 17.6 ppg (3)), as Johnson (58t-3i) and Jefferson (49t) are complimented by Bucannon (43t), Cromartie (3i), Powers (3i) and Mathieu to form a formidable stick & safety backfield.
It’s the pass rush that’s been pretty pedestrian, scoring only 18 sacks in 10 games.
Thirty year-old signal-caller Drew Stanton has seen limited duty but filled in capably (C% 53.6 / 5td-2i / 1-0 (6-3cr)) in closing out the win versus Rams when Carson went down. The former Spartan looks to have all the pocket tools in his kit-bag and then baptism-by-fire can sometimes prove divine.
Besides sound quarterback play, i.e., protect the ball, Cards will need more giddy-up in the run game to compensate for lesser pass-efficiency. That means Ellington (624y / 3.4 (41rec / 356y)) and the run men will be expected to pick it up, which can also be said for a receiver corps that will not be a full-force with star Larry Fitzgerald knee hobbled.
But it may take both a Superman’s strength and Clark Kent smarts to survive the gauntlet that awaits Arizona in what has to be the most hellacious remaining schedule in NFL14.
Home games include KC and Seattle with four roadies in Atlanta, St. Louis, who stifled mighty Denver, Seattle again and San Fran, respectively, to close it out.
Where’s that damn bye week when you need one, eh?
Ending last season in loss to intra-division rival San Fran (20-23), at home, no less, dashing any playoff hope, must still stick in Arians’ craw, as it should. Settling that score w/out your #1 QB will be a tall task for the Cards but if anyone can get his crew up for the challenge that lay ahead it’s the resourceful commander Bruce Arians & staff.
While the Cardinals, formerly of St. Louis and Chicago (b.1920), are experiencing revival of sorts, their distant cousins in the Windy City, the Bears (b.1920), are having another lackluster season and the natives, in the media, anyway, are getting restless.
Skilled, well-compensated but much maligned signal-caller Jay Cutler is taking most the heat, not so much from fans and players but scribes who need someone to scribble about when the idea ink-well runs dry. Being a quarterback, short a Super Bowl ring and master of a perpetual sullen expression that would’ve given Koko Taylor (1928-09) the blues, Jay has always made an easy target for the faux-fan and namby-pamby media.
But while Cutler’s been less than Brady-esque in 2014, his numbers don‘t prove out the weight of criticism.
He’s connecting well with his corps as evidenced by a tremendous comp-% (67) and posts a TD-ratio better-than-average (21-12). It’s the toothless Monsters of Midway on defense that aught bear most the blame for coach Trestman’s sour 2nd-year at the helm.
There are bright spots on both sides of the ball as 5th-year DE Willie Young is having his best season yet approaching double-digit sacks (8) and Matt Forte keeps churning out the yards on the ground (733 / 4.2) and in the air (575 / 67) (Pro-football-reference).
“When it’s not working, go back to basics (Dr. Becker).” Good advice for health matters, also good advice for football. And to keep that blood-pressure right, take your fish oil, Co-Q10, magnesium, polyphenolic anti-oxidants, exercise regularly, tune into your favorite melodies and tune out those critics.
NFL14 Cherry Picks Week 12: Going Long
Browns (6-4) @ Atlanta (4-6): 11-23 1:00 CBS: ATL wins
Bengals (6-3-1) @ Houston (5-5): 1:00 CBS: Cincy wins
Lions (7-3) @ New England (8-2): 1:00 Fox: Patriots win
Cards (9-1) @ Seattle (6-4): 4:05 Fox (GOTW): SEA wins
Dolphins (6-4) @ Denver (7-3): 4:25 CBS: Broncos win
Cowboys (7-3) @ New York (3-7): 8:30 NBC: Giants win
Ravens (6-4) @ Saints (4-6): 11-24 8:30 ESPN: NO wins
Record: 56 – 31 – 1
Photo credits: AZ-Cards, 8.29.13, wc.cca, J.Beall; J.Hawkins(Arias), Ben-Hur, wc.cca, 1959; Palmer, wc.cca, G.Buch, 9.8.14; Stanton, wc.cca, 8.29.12, J.Beall; J.Cutler, 11.1.09, Schadle, wc.cca; Cherries, 7.2.12, Hispalois, Spain, wc.cca.
Posted: 11-21-14 @ 6:55pm; edit @ 11:29 EST