Expectations are everything.
Being able to go to a restaurant but wear a mask and have the server in gloves and a mask? Its either a deleted scene from ET or the best day of the summer, depending on your expectations.
Make the playoffs but lose your first game? Its either the end of a great season or the end of a disappointing season, defined by expectations.
Expectations are important to shaping the narrative around every story in sports.
So what are the reasonable expectations for the 2020 Arizona Cardinals after what was an undeniably productive offseason?
Absolute best case scenario? Every major decision Steve Keim made in free agency and the draft pans out perfectly, injuries are just a minor nuisance, Kyler Murray takes a huge leap, DeAndre Hopkins dominates, the offensive line's performance exceeds its talent level, the defense all comes together anchored by Pat Peterson and Chandler Jones while Isaiah Simmons flourishes and the Cardinals feast on a last place schedule to win double digit games and make a fun run in the playoffs.
The worst case? Keim's free agents largely bust, Isaiah Simmons can't find a position, DeAndre Hopkins sulks through the season after not getting the new deal he wants, Pat Peterson plays like a guy close to 30 who tested positive for PED's 18 months earlier, Kyler Murray is left running for his life by a leaky offensive line and the league tees off on Kliff Kingsbury's offense after an offseason devoted to humbling the 2nd year coach who spent quarantine in an orgy palace (not literally, of course, just a bachelor pad on steroids) in Scottsdale while they were cooped up in a house with their overwhelmed wife and kids who they are used to seeing like twice a week.
So where should the actual expectations be? Like everything, almost certainly in the middle.
Let's look at 8th overall pick, Clemson defender Isaiah Simmons, for the answer.
Some Cardinals fans are willing to break shelter at home orders right now to induct him into the Cardinals Ring of Honor. They expect a positionally revolutionary defender that can immediately and simultaneously master the speed, power and complexities of the NFL while notching double digit sacks, effectively contain the most dynamic QB's in the league as a spy, lock up game changing TE's like George Kittle, cover slot WR's when needed and roam centerfield in the secondary. That ain't happening. At least not in Year 1 with a truncated offseason for rookies.
I like Simmons quite a bit as a prospect. Who can't get excited about his speed, size, athleticism combo for a team that has desperately tried an failed to find this exact kind of defender? My issue with the drafting of Simmons was about a fundamental difference between myself and the Cardinals (and the entire fan base it seems) on the best way to build a team around Kyler Murray. I believe the offensive line was the Cardinals biggest need heading into the offseason not the defense.
That was from December.
Now, landing Simmons and Josh Jones in the 3rd was probably the best case scenario for the Cardinals to find a solution for both in the draft and I certainly acknowledge that.
But it doesn't mean Simmons is going to be a star immediately. Nor does he need to be.
The expectations for Simmons, from me, are to be a guy who stays on the field. If Simmons can avoid being exploited by offensive coordinators in a league absolutely obsessed with finding and exploiting weakness, and can make some splash players throughout the year while staying on the field, its a good first year for him.
Thats it. No awards. No leading the team in sacks. No leading the team in picks. And definitely no leading the team in sacks and picks as far as expectations.
We aren't expecting any other player drafted this year to redefine his position, so why is it fair to expect that from Isaiah Simmons in his rookie year?
If he can be a bona fide NFL starting defensive player, he'll be a very good first round pick as a rookie. Lets save the revolutionizing for Year 2 for Simmons.
I don't need Simmons to save the defense, I just need him to compliment it.
The same is true for the Cardinals entire season.
I don't need the Cardinals to leapfrog everyone in the NFC West and win double digit games en route to a surprising run to the NFC Championship game.
I just need them to get better.
Eight wins next year would be a great start.
It might not be the most exciting projection but it is the right one for this team.