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NFL

Never Trust The Cardinals

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 17: Michael Dogbe #91 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field after losing to the Los Angeles Rams 34-11 in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at SoFi Stadium on January 17, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This won’t take long, we promise. And speaking of not taking long, the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cards finished out the NFL’s wild card weekend by reminding us all that no matter what promises they offer, they remain steadfast in their Cardinalhood. They show up, they make you think they finally have it all figured out, and then they play a big game remind you that they are still the Cardinals, with their ridiculous white helmets that make every player look like their necks are too small to hold their wobbly heads up, and the uniforms that look like they stole them from a youth team.

In being dope-slapped by the Los Angeles Rams, the Cardinals have managed to tear down the momentum built by the acquisition and development of Kyler Murray and they now look like a team doomed to work the edges of relevance because of their acquisition and development of Kyler Murray. That’s how the what’s-the-last-thing-you’ve-done world of sporting analysis invented by the Brits and perfected by our own short attention spans works these days. You saw the Cardinals be non-competitive Monday night after dissolving down the stretch, and all this after getting everybody all hot and bothered by a 7-0 start. They Cardinal’d in true Cardinal fashion, which may in fact also be Kliff Kingsbury fashion.

Rehashing Monday’s 34-11 loss is a pointless exercise, as they were eliminated so early that even the fun of watching Steve Levy try to fit the name “CooperKupp,” with no space between the names, into every play was removed well before halftime. The three-yard pick-six by David Long on Murray’s preposterous attempt at channeling Patrick Mahomes was endemic of the standard Cardinal highlight package, but the game was effectively done and dusted before that. The moment was too big and the Cardinals too small, in some cases literally.

But this is the way of all things Cardinal, so the result should not have been that much of a surprise. Their momentum going into Monday was losses to the Colts, Lions, and Seahawks, and though the loss of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was surely damaging, they still lost by three touchdowns. In a long weekend of blowout football, it was the least interesting of the games played, and of several that weren’t.

More to the point, Arizona’s time as a charming team on the come seems to have receded. Murray’s flaws are now easily diagnosable by any decent defensive coordinator, the defense bends and then breaks, and they just end up looking like what they have been for much of their existence: schedule filler.

It is hard to see how they will enter the new season, but it surely won’t be as pundits’ darlings. It is far easier to go from bad to decent than it is from decent to sustainably good, and the Cardinals have never managed that. In all of their history, they have never reached the postseason three years’ running, and have only strung together three successive double-digit win seasons twice. They looked Monday night as though they have again lost their way, and the clamor for Kingsbury’s head which began softly after they lost to the Detroit Lions, for Christ’s sake, will regenerate itself now that their season has decomposed so swiftly. The Lions!

History is often a liar when applied to sport, but the Cardinals are among the gifts that keep ruining the carpet. They may reassemble what made them right in the coming season, but they have reiterated that they are not to be trusted, and they will have to start twice as good for twice as long next year to regain America’s prosciutto-thin trust. They are back to being the Cardinals until further notice, and remember this:

Only three teams have ever won a Super Bowl with white helmets. The state rests, Your Honor.