TEMPE, Ariz. — We’re right of the middle of the holiday season, and the only gift Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his players want is a win, a victory, almost anything positive.
If the season so far has been disastrous, then the experience of the latest loss, a pathetic and inept offensive effort against the Jets this past Sunday, put the Cardinals' season truly in the tank.
As Rod Tidwell, played by the Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the film Jerry McGuire said, “show me the money, Jerry.”
All Whisenhunt says to his squad is, “show me a win.”
With four games left, and three against potential playoff-bound teams, the future remains dark and depressing. Only a home game with Detroit on Dec. 16 seems plausible, at this point, for a victory. Otherwise, the Cardinals have road games at Seattle and in San Francisco and entertain the Bears on Dec. 23.
To their credit, both Whisenhunt and players refuse to point fingers and place blame. Instead, the “party line” continues to be the common refrain of “we’re working hard and trying to get better.”
So much for a broken record.
“I can call out others and point out things we could be doing, but I’m not,” said WR Larry Fitzgerald, who caught only one pass on seven targets against the Jets last Sunday for 23 yards. “Everyone has to take their fair share of the blame.”
When Whisenhunt decided to pull starting QB John Skelton in the second quarter of the Atlanta game on Nov. 18, that move was considered a ray of hope and the start of a fresh beginning.
Enter Ryan Lindley, the Cardinals' second pick on the sixth round of the 2012 draft, and the prospect of energizing a dormant offense. In subsequent losses to the Rams and Jets, Lindley has shown that he is not the answer to the quarterback problem, or any offensive problem actually.
Against St. Louis at home on Nov. 25, Lindley completed 31-of-52 passes for 312 yards and a 44.7 passer rating. A week later against the Jets, that woeful production fell dramatically with a 10-for-31 afternoon, 72 yards and a pitiful 28.0 passer rating at MetLife Stadium.
Plus, Lindley and the Cardinals failed on all 15 third-down attempts against New York, managing just two field goals in a one-point loss to the equally feeble Jets.
Offensive production against the Jets was non-existent. The Cardinals totaled only 137 yards of offense, five first downs and a running game which gained but 81 yards on the day, 40 of which came on a fake punt.
To address the current offensive malaise, one drastic argument filtered through the Arizona media.
Following the Rams defeat at home during the recent Thanksgiving weekend, one newspaper columnist suggested the Cardinals start to rebuild by trading Fitzgerald for a series of high draft picks. Considering that Fitzgerald has caught only five passes in the past three games, this might appear to be reasonable proposition.
One argument centers around the notion that any wide receiver of NFL stature could duplicate or better Fitzgerald’s recent production. At the same time, the stockpile of draft picks, or a high profile trade, could work in the Cardinals' favor.
However, the Fitzgerald trade argument is flawed from the start.
At this point, the introduction of new personnel is not the issue. The question remains the ability of the coaching staff to construct a game plan to put players in a position to make plays. Equally important is the players’ physical ability to perform and execute and the coaches evaluation of talent.
Here at the close of a dreadful autumn in the desert, the Cardinals do not appear to have any component in place to maintain a viable offense. Over the course of the season, the coaching staff has been too far conservative, and not up to the standards of NFL offensive imagination to sustain any type of real production.
Relative to the quarterback situation, Whisenhunt has proven to be a poor judge of talent.
Since Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season, Whisenhunt has experimented with Derek Anderson, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb, Matt Leinart, Richard Bartel, Skelton, and Lindley. Save for Kolb, who has been injured more than his time under center, all failed miserably.
Whisenhunt has one year left on his current contract with Arizona, so sacking the core of the current roster for the sake of changes, does not appear to make sense.
Owner William V. Bidwell and his son Michael, who is the president of the club, should give Whisenhunt one simple directive: to drastically improve in 2013. And if Whisenhunt and his team don't do that, there will be consequences.