1st: The Cardinals may have a Kliff Kingsbury problem.
- The second year head coach continues to pile up questionable decisions in critical situations. Generally, Kingsbury has been a net positive since being hired; he's modernized the offense, helped acclimate Kyler Murray to the league, worked well with his assistants and won more games than was likely expected. But, Kingsbury is facing the grim reality that most NFL coaches are just dating their fan base, not marrying them. We're at the point in year 2 where Kingsbury moved in and some of his previously adorable quirks are now driving us mad. Sloppy timeout usage, undisciplined on field play, questionable confidence in close games and sketchy play calling are all feeling more like features of the Kingsbury experience than a bug. A few weeks ago, the Cardinals felt like at the beginning of something big and now it feels like the team may be hitting its head on a ceiling. That change is mostly reflected in the limitations of the team's head coach. He's not on the hot seat, he won't be nor should he be fired anytime soon but Kingsbury should start bracing himself for the same speech he's likely delivered more than a few times in his personal life: its just not working out.
1.As time goes by, Kingsbury increasingly feels like the just-happy-to-be-here Head Coach. He's likable, smart and professionally savvy. But he, along with every member of the team and fan base, knows his hiring was winning coaching Powerball. He can't demand more from his team because they also have access to Kingsbury's Wikipedia page. He can't speak to the team from a position of experience building a winner because its just not true. So he's limited in the authority he can wield, hamstrung by his own resume and lacks the authentic experiential confidence that can't be covered up by trendy clothes and haircuts. Kingsbury is learning on the job and head coach in the NFL is a place where any chance of survival is based on knowledge you already possess.
2.The Cardinals got the full Bill Belichick experience. He took away what they do best and forced the Cardinals offense to try and beat them left handed. The problem is Kyler Murray at times appeared to be throwing the ball with his actual left hand. Eventually, every great running QB is forced to beat teams with their arms. Most can't do it and eventually wash out of the league. The ones that can become legends. Kyler has the skills to be in the latter group and one of the best but until he proves he can do it consistently, expect more Ned Flanders approved fights on the field.
3.Dean Blandino joined me on the show this morning and said he did not think the 15 yard penalty on Isaiah Simmons was a penalty. He might be right but overall, the Cardinals won more officiating coin tosses on Sunday than they lost and that shouldn't be an excuse for how they lost to the Patriots.
4.Bill Belichick may force teams to beat you left handed but Cam Newton is playing with a leg for an arm. Its the only explanation for how remarkably bad Newton is at throwing the ball. Perhaps during one of his many shoulder surgeries, they just decided to replace his shoulder with a knee and see what happens. 9 completed passes and maybe 4 or 5 of them were of any consequence and it was still enough to beat the Cardinals.
5.The playoff path is getting a little uncomfortable for Arizona. Minnesota, Chicago and San Francisco are all lurking just a game behind the Cardinals for the NFC's 7th seed. It feels like a race for nine wins for the last playoff spot. The path for the Cardinals begins with beating both remaining teams from the NFC East on their schedule in the Giants and Eagles. Then, they'll need to win one of three remaining games vs. the Rams and 49ers. I think the rankings for the final spot are: 1) Arizona 2) Minnesota 3)San Francisco 4) Chicago.
6.Chris Streveler is not he answer for any questions facing the Cardinals. The Cardinals cannot insert Streveler into the highest leverage situations simply because he's taller than Kyler. So you're saying that inserting Streveler into the 4th and goal from the 1 of a playoff game is the path you are choosing? Good luck.
7.Kingsbury has admitted they do not have an under center QB sneak in the playbook. Thats insane. Its a simple play with an important role. Its like not having a flashlight somewhere in the house. Or not having a land line just in case. I've had a land line for the last five years. I don't know the number and don't have any phones plugged in but I know in case of an emergency where a real phone is to make a call.
8.There's been a noticeable drop off in the Cardinals pass rush the last few weeks. Markus Golden and Haason Reddick have not been able to generate much pressure on the QB forcing Vance Joseph to increasingly rely on blitzes. In his most recent mock draft, Dane Brugler of The Athletic has the Cardinals take a pass rusher in the late first and that feels like a sure thing right now.
9.Under the Radar Stars: Any part of the country that didn't have to watch this game and the Bills and Dolphins who are now ensured that Cam Newton will remain at QB after the Patriots have won 3 of their last 4.
10.Whats' Next? Home against a pissed off Aaron Donald and the Rams. Good luck.