Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Only One Pig: Arizona Cardinals

It's midnight on a Friday night, and I can't sleep.

Sounds like a perfect time to spend a little time reflecting on my favorite team to reflect about.

Remember last year?

I do.

Last year this was a list of "experts" who predicted a postseason berth for the Arizona Cardinals.

Len Pasquerelli (no surprise)
John Clayton (big surprise)
Michael Smith (thought he was smart)
Joe Theismann (hahahaha)
Merrill "Steelers Lover" Hoge
Jeremy Green (son loves his daddy)
Ron Jaworski (watch more EA video, buddy)
Sean Salisbury (not worth a comment)
Bill Simmons (not his fault, not from Boston)
Petey Prisco (big fricking surprise)

Well, predictions aren't out yet, but people such as my personal lovebirds Petey King and Petey Prisco are again sucking on Dennis Green's proverbial teet, gasping out various ballads of love and appreciation for the upcoming 2006 season in Phoenix.

Why, one might ask?

Excellent question, my young padowan.

The big addition last year was one Kurt Warner, ordained by God and by Wal-Mart to bring the Holy Grail (er.... a Super Bowl) to the desert. Kurt was coming off a tremendous season for the NY Giants that had seen him benched in favor of Eli Manning, who was half as young and half as prone to fumbling said football. Kurt was going to be THE MAN!!

Until he got injured in Week 3 at Seattle, as anyone with a brain would have predicted operating behind that sieve of an offensive line.

Fortunately Josh McCown didn't suck eggs (hint: Detroit), and the passing game of the Cards didn't miss a beat, led by superstud Larry Fitzgerald and alsostud Anquan Boldin. The Cards actually finished the season with the top-rated passing attack and a top-10 offense to go along with a top-10 defense, a defense that was bereft by injuries to Bertrand Berry and Karlos Dansby.

Their overall win-loss record? 5-11.

But it was a GOOD, IMPRESSIVE 5-11, one that showed a lot of GROWTH, and POTENTIAL, and hints of frigging GENUIS from Dennis Green (ohhhh, that sweet teet).

This year the optimism in Phoenix is even higher, for three obvious reasons.

1. A brand-new stadium, with sold-out home games
Home-field advantage is HUGE in the NFL. HUGE. Ask the NY Giants offensive line about how much fun their last trip was to Qwest Field. Ask the Broncos why they are consistently fighting for a playoff berth. Ask Tampa Bay how much their new stadium helped their renewal. This matters, folks. Obviously there is no statistic to throw out here, except to say that the Arizona Cardinals had the lamest home field advantage of any team in the NFL (outside of New Orleans last year). It was a college stadium, it was 250 degrees at gametime, there was no real energy, and the fans simply stayed away. Gavin and I went to the last two Seahawks games there. No energy whatsoever (though I salute the amount of beer that Cards fans around us were still able to consume). This is worth at least 1-2 wins this season.

2. The second most prominent free agent signing in Edge James
Writers keep turning out crap about how James was the MOST prominent free agent signing of the offseason, forgetting that there was another free agent, signed by Seattle, who had just won the MVP of the fricking league the previous season. I'll be playing a video game with him on the cover come Tuesday. Shaun Alexander, people. THE #1 free agent.

James, though, is worthy of his #2 slot. He runs well, he catches the ball extremely well, and he is even a decent blocker. However, there are a few unknowns when it comes to his performence. First, how much of his stats can be attributed to his place in the Colts magnificent offense? People simply couldn't key on him because of the multitude of weapons, led by Peyton Manning. Second, how good is he when he isn't running with an excellent offensive line in front of him? First game of the preseason, he ran two times for -2 yards. Preseason, obviously, but if he's still popping those kind of numbers the next few weeks, I'd start to worry if I was a Cards fan. However, bottom line: Elite caliber running back is now a part of the Cards offense.

3. Matthew Leinart is drafted by the Arizona Cardinals with the #10 selection.
I couldn't believe that they lucked into this one, and then couldn't believe how many people FAWNED over Green for making the BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS DECISION to draft Leinart. Teams that were ultra-stupid and passed on Leinart include the 49ers, the Bills, the Raiders, and the Lions, all teams that need a quality signal-caller. Leinart gives the Cards that, and he also gives them what I call "zazz".

News stories run mentioning both the Arizona Cardinals and Paris Hilton, or the Arizona Cardinals and sexy Scottsdale clubs, or the Arizona Cardinals and respectability. ESPN suddenly cares about the football team in Phoenix. Ditto Sports Illustrated, and FOX. There is a real, honest to goodness superstar in Phoenix, and he is signed for the next six years (which is ridonkulous).

The Arizona Cardinals suddenly can dream of an offense where Matt Leinart is under center, handing the ball to Edge, or throwing it to Fitz, Boldin, Pope, or the other three quality wide receivers in camp. That is an embarrassment of riches right there, and should lead to one heck of a team.

Next year.

IF THE CARDS ARE SMART (not giving Green a lot of credit here).

The best the Arizona Cardinals can hope for this season is a wildcard berth and an early exit. That's the facts. They are simply not as good of a team as the Seahawks. However, if they do the correct move and start Matt Leinart at least halfway through the season, they will be an actual contender come 2007 (I just got bile in my throat writing that). They would have another offseason to go get some O-Line help (I can't read that puff-piece on Leonard Davis and Reggie Wells by Petey King without a big helping of Ruffles: KC Masterpiece chips), and the chance to see Leinart get with his truly amazing receiving corps; indeed, the entire offense the chance to become a well-oiled machine.

Even to make the postseason this year, the Cards will have to hope that teams from the East and the South beat up on each other enough that they all finish 9-7 (I do believe that the Cards have a better chance at a wildcard then any team from the North).

FOR THIS SEASON, the Arizona Cardinals are a longshot to make the postseason. Now, last year I thought there was no chance in hell that they would make the postseason, and I was correct. THIS season I wouldn't be shocked at a wildcard berth, but if I were a Cards fan, I would be hoping that the berth didn't depend on sticking with Kurt Warner at QB for the entire season.

The defense, by the way (feel I should add something here), has some talent, but is woefully thin at several positions, including the secondary and the linebacking corps. Again, this is a team that is planning to use Orlando Huff as a gamebreaker, and believes that Chike Okeafor is an above-average defensive end. Here's what they do have. Without all the hype, Adrian Wilson is THE best safety in the NFL. Better then Reed. Better then Taylor. WAY better then Roy Williams. He's amazing about both the run and the pass. Amazing. I love watching the guy play. Karlos Dansby seemed to be on the road to stardom, but he's appearing a tad brittle these past few years. Bertrand Berry is a bonafide pass rusher. Darnell Dockett is a quality tackle, if a bit undersized. Antrel Rolle should be past the learning curve and well on his way to becoming a nice shutdown corner. The main problem here is depth. James Darling? Anton Palepoi? David Macklin? Robert Griffith? Compare this problem to Seattle, where the SINGLE problem depth-wise is at cornerback. That's it. Injuries are inevitable in the NFL. Fact o' life. Going to happen. You need capable people ready to step in without missing a beat. Not here.

I really am excited about the potential for a real NFL football team to emerge down here in Phoenix. There is a wonderful assemblege of talent on the offensive side, and Clancy Pendergraft is a wiz of a defensive coordinator. I'm not even as upset about people giving them love, because at least this year there are real reasons to believe that this is a team on the rise.

Just keep the love grounded in reality this year, ok, pundits? You do that, and I promise not to do several posts going ape-sh*t on you.

Colin.... out!

posted by colin_hesse @ 12:02 AM  0 comments

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