Some people are fans of the Arizona Cardinals. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Arizona Cardinals. This 2022 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Arizona Cardinals.
Your 2021 record: 11-6. The Cardinals started last season 7-0, and then HOO BOY did they shit the bed with a primal sense of urgency. Their first loss came at the hands of a hollowed-out Packers team summoning their trademark brand of Packers resourcefulness that makes me abhor Green Bay. They lost out on a chance to clinch a playoff berth against Detroit when they got crushed by their former quarterback. The Cards allowed something named Craig Reynolds rush for over 100 yards against them that fateful afternoon. A shorthanded Colts team defeated them using what the AP describes as “sheer grit,” which is the purest form of grit on the market presently. Sells for $50 a gram.
Their defense also decided to throw Cam Newton a retirement party. They got kick-sixed by Jacksonville. Their best wideout missed seven of the final nine games, almost like he was telegraphing future absences to them. They lost JJ Watt for the back half of the season, because hoping that JJ Watt plays a full season is like hoping that we’ll all be able to live on fucking Mars one day. They managed do-or-die situations with all the wisdom that a President Mickey Rourke would. And finally, they dropped three of their last four, including a loss at home to Seattle in Week 18 that cost them the division title. And brother, did that loss ever prove costly the following week.
That was the first Monday Night playoff game in NFL history. I pray it’s the last. Once LA had raced out to a 28-0 lead in the third quarter, I thanked the Rams for giving me tacit permission to go to bed, which I then immediately did. It would appear that Arizona beat me to the sandman on this particular night, because they amassed just 183 yards the entire game. They turned the ball over twice. They converted zero third downs. Budda Baker left the stadium on a stretcher. This team has one of the coolest young quarterbacks in football and no shortage of talent around him, and yet they get figured out by midseason every year. Why?
Your coach: Show ‘em the numbers.
It’s never fun to go .500. but it’s even less fun to do so when your coach loads up on wins at the beginning of the season and proceeds to vomit them all back up two months later. Kliff Kingsbury was a loser in college and, if you count the Wild Card loss last season, he’s a loser in the NFL as well. I don’t care how swank his stupid house is. He blows. But the Cardinals still extended both him and GM/angry beaver Steve Keim to contract extensions that run through 2027. Do you know how far away that is? There won’t even BE an NFL in 2027, man. Rollerball will be the dominant sport in America by then. Why on Earth did the Cards give these two fuckers tenure?
“The leadership of both Steve and Kliff have been key factors in the team’s turnaround over the last three seasons,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said in a statement released by the team.
What turnaround? Bruce Arians took this team to the NFC title game with a QB he plucked off of the scrap heap. You guys haven’t come within a dog’s dick of that since then. Only a goddamn Republican would mistake regression for progress this badly.
Speaking of regression …
Your quarterback: Kyler Murray, who got $160 million in guarantees this offseason, with a six-foot long string attached.
The Cardinals would go on to rescind this contract clause after everyone made a fuss about it, but it’s awfully strange for an organization to commit that much time and treasure to a quarterback that they openly dislike. The Cards flirted briefly with the idea of trading Murray this offseason, until they realized that you never trade a young franchise QB unless that QB turns out to be the Bill Cosby of quarterbacks. Trading Kyler would have set this team back at least a decade. Keeping him was clearly the only play for them to make, so they did. But if I may be so bold, allow me to state that both of the following things can be true.
1. The Cardinals are run by a bunch of clueless assholes.
2. Kyler Murray is a weirdo and a dick.
Maybe the latter is an OU thing. Regardless, here we have a marriage of convenience that is destined to fall apart at the exact wrong moment, which I’ll put right around Week 10 of every season until the Arizona offloads Murray to Carolina for a second rounder and pair of turf cleats. I genuinely love watching Kyler Murray play football and I wish he would grow into something better than what he is now. The latter will never happen, no matter how much tape that guy does or doesn’t watch. I find this irritating.
Your backup is burgeoning Guy legend Colt McCoy. FUN FACT: Colt McCoy has lasted longer in the NFL than Andrew Luck did. Not due to talent, I assure you.
What’s new that sucks: If the Cardinals are gonna amount to anything more than a bunch of players, coaches, and front office goons sticking together to spare themselves the embarrassment of all going their separate ways, they’re gonna have to do it without wideout DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games. Hop got suspended for PEDs before this season got underway. Let’s hear his side of the story:
“I’ve never taken any of that kind of stuff. If you know about what it is, it can be in shampoo, it can be in a lot of different things.”
So true. Sometimes I’ll lather up with Head & Shoulders and then suddenly I can lift a fucking steam trunk over my head. You just never know. Did I mention that Hop is an anti-vaxxer? What is it with people, man? They move to Arizona and instantly have their brains melt into the sand. But fear not, Cards Nation (more of a county, really): the Cardinals shored up their receiving corps this offseason when they traded their first-round pick away for Ravens wideout Marquise Brown. Let’s see what kind of value they got out of that deal.
Here’s where I note that the Ravens also kicked in a third-rounder to ease the sting, but still: you guys got played. Marquise Brown has had Lamar Jackson—Murray’s superior both on the ground and through the air—as his quarterback for the past three years. In that time, he’s cleared 1,000 yards receiving only once and dropped 15 passes. I have no data backing this next fact up, but all 15 of those drops came on balls where Brown was wide open 45 yards downfield. It’s as if he throws a flag on himself on every play. PFF has N’Keal Harry rated as a better wideout, which can’t be possible. And there’s no Christian Kirk around anymore to give Murray other options. He’s just gonna spend every passing down sprinting away from the pass rush, floating the ball to the sideline, and watching it nail Brown right in the face mask. Maybe Brown can borrow some of Hop’s Pantene to get a little edge.
Elsewhere, the Cardinals signed guard Will Hernandez away from the Giants, but their O-line remains a colander. In ranking the unit toward the bottom of the league, PFF noted that, “the average age of Arizona’s five starters come Week 1 will be over 30 years old.” Maybe Arizona re-signed Kyler so that they could deliberately have him killed. No reason to rule it out.
They signed disgraced former Vikings corner Jeff Gladney in the spring and then he died in a car wreck. They lost Chase Edmonds to Miami, leaving their depth at running back nonexistent. They lost three vital front-seven components in Chandler Jones, Jordan Hicks, and Corey Peters. In every way, this team is worse off than it was a season ago. But at least they’re gonna induct the late Bill Bidwill in their Ring of Honor. Because how can you NOT respect the man who moved this franchise out of St. Louis and then forced them to play, for the better part of two decades, in front of bored Cowboys fans in Arizona State’s home stadium? I’d rather the Cards build a new Confederate general statue, to be honest.
What has always sucked: Every Sunday, Cards fan sit in traffic for 45 minutes inside a souped-up Ram Super Duty, stroking an AR-15, waiting to get into the stadium so that they can get into a fistfight there with someone wearing a David Johnson jersey. Santonio Holmes’s big toe represents how close they’ll ever get to winning a Super Bowl. JJ Watt is proof that we all retire to Arizona.
Chris Paul is a choker. Doug Ducey molests small woodland creatures. Fuck Kyrsten Sinema with her own glasses.
Ratto says: ‘Zona gonna ‘zona, because that’s how it works. The Suns went from an NBA Finals and a 64-win season to grudge-signing its own center. The Diamondbacks are a pewter-gray irrelevance. The Coyotes are slowly entering a wormhole in which they will win a Stanley Cup the year before they are evicted from a shopping mall rink.
And then there are the Cardinals, where Mikey Bidwill was allegedly “very unhappy” with the team’s early playoff exit and with GM Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury in particular. This from a guy whose teams went 31-47 in the five previous years and whose family ownership history is one championship since the Hoover Administration. Getting one’s hopes up with this team seems like spitting up a rope: unrewarding at best, a face full of spit at worst.
What might not suck: One of my high school friends used to always pronounce Arizona in a Catalonian accent, just for fun. I now do this every time I say that state’s name. Ah-ree-THO-nah. Try it. You’ll never go back.
HEAR IT FROM CARDINALS FANS!
Arizona sports exists as celestial punishment.
The last time there was a collapse down the stretch as bad as last year, Eight Belles was euthanized after the Kentucky Derby.
You know what’s remarkable about the Cardinals? This is the best sports ownership in the state BY FAR. And this is the ceiling of what they can achieve: a season that left me numb and vaguely embarrassed.
When Kyler tossed that underhand pick-six in the playoff game, I knew he’d never have an unclenched asshole in a big moment.
I could go on about their total inability to finish a season, or how their biggest offseason move was alienating the only talented young QB this team has ever seen, or how their toaster oven of a stadium is in an asphalt wasteland. But what’s the point? They clearly don’t care, and we shouldn’t either. Quit this stupid sport while you still have the chance.
The Cardinals lost to Detroit the year before, too. Honestly mad at myself for not betting on that 2021 game. I would have cleaned up on those odds.
Drew (not me):
How about draft a fucking lineman before you draft a few beers and hit the road, Steve Keim?
How dull is Phoenix? It is so metronomically dull that the mere fact that one of our bigger streets isn’t entirely arrow-straight has made that area (Melrose Curve) our hippest, quirkiest neighborhood.
The relentless bombardment of cosmic rays leaches the color and vibrancy from buildings and the landscape, turns everything dry and brittle, and addles the brains and bodies of all living things, making them slow and confused. These awesome and terrible effects of the daystar ensures that nothing ever changes here, and nowhere is that more evident than in Arizona sports. AZ teams are fated to be also-rans at best, and their star players will never quite make it.
I was in grad school when the Warner Cards went to the Super Bowl. We watched the game in the TA’s office. I vividly remember imploring them to not get greedy and take the FG at the end of the first half. Instead, Warner forced the throw and James Harrison picked him off, beating the Cards like they were his own kids and rumbling 100 yards for the score. The room went tomb-silent and we all knew we were fucked. I hope the entire Bidwill family gets mangled by feral chihuahuas and that Kliff goes prematurely bald.
It’s always a great sign of what’s to come when your starting QB scrubs his social media of all things related to the team like his girlfriend took too long to text him back.
Jake Plummer did a podcast interview recently where he justified throwing a Hail Mary at the end of the first half in every game he could with the Cardinals. “If we get a touchdown goin’ into halftime, then come out and get another touchdown, we’re only down by 14.” I realized I’ve given myself that same pep talk during most of the Cardinals games I’ve watched in my life.
At least the Bidwells can sleep well at night knowing that they weren’t the worst example of a Phoenix owner screwing over a homegrown #1 pick in contract negotiations (as I put another needle in my Robert Sarver voodoo doll).
I’ve been cheering for this team for over 30 years. Holy fuck, that’s depressing. I’ve seen them blow a lead in the Super Bowl with less than two minutes to go. I’ve seen them go 13-3 only to get curb-stomped in the NFC championship game. I’ve seen the same coach from that game retire because he was tired of our shitty ownership, then come out of retirement and win a championship with another team. So I am used to the pain. I expect the pain. If the pain isn’t served up right away, I still know it’s coming.
That’s why, last year, I never believed. Not for one fucking moment. People I hadn’t spoken to in years messaged me after the 7-0 start to see how excited I was. I told them that the hot start was just a setup for an epic failure. And I was right.
I wanted us to miss the playoffs entirely so they’d have an excuse to clean house, but Bidwill gave both lifetime appointments like they were Supreme Court justices.
Kyler Murray hasn’t been healthy for a full season since joining the NFL, and his only playoff appearance was one of the most pathetic performances I’ve ever seen. Can’t wait to see him scramble around after his O-line breaks down, before running out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage for a loss on third down. Again.
They keep trying to make #BirdCity happen, which is so fucking stupid. Bird City sounds like a shitty emo pop band.
I’m much more emotionally attached to the podcast content put out by the team than I am the team itself.
I’ve been a Cardinals fan since the days of Neil Lomax, and they’ve taught me that suffering is an unavoidable part of life.
The team itself has very little, if any, connection to the community. There’s nothing that says, “We’re Arizona!” about the team other than the name. You could take this team, drop it into any other city that doesn’t have an NFL team, and it would work just as well. The hometown pride thing doesn’t happen here. Any home game against the Bears or the Cowboys may as well be an away game, or neutral site at best.
The stadium is a mostly-nondescript bubble in the far reaches of the Valley, as if it was placed there to cause maximum inconvenience. It’s surrounded by a soulless entertainment district made up of soon-to-fail chain restaurants and an outlet mall. Everything’s covered in advertisements, like some sort of wannabe Times Square without the legacy or atmosphere. It feels like a master plan community for a capitalist end of days.
The team does the best they can to restrict any kind of congregating around the stadium that doesn’t start and end with giving money to the team. Any opportunity to show team spirit is fervently redirected to team shops and souvenir stands. Tailgating is discouraged, and the lots don’t open with enough time to properly tailgate, which is further hampered by terrible traffic due to the traffic planning around the stadium. There is one main artery to the area, with one two-lane road going to the stadium from that artery. There is no public transportation to speak of. Auxiliary parking lots up to a mile away with shuttles that are frequently delayed. All of this, of course, in a heat island caused by desert conditions with multiple square miles of blacktop.
Our quarterback forgot how to play before acting like a petulant child in his latest demands for money. Our top WR got popped for steroids. The linchpin of our offensive line is perpetually one play away from a career-ending injury. Our starting running back has almost hit his expiration date, much like all Cardinals RBs that seem to be in a manifestation of Logan’s Run. Our defense can never hold onto good players for long; they always go elsewhere in free agency or get injured and never play the same again. Even now, we’re just waiting for Budda Baker to do the same.
My guess: 8-9, and our draft pick will be a WR from the SEC.
Phoenix will run out of water before the Cardinals see another NFC Championship game.
Santonio Holmes was out of bounds.
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