Since the NFL regular season ended, we've seen the league's trademark dizzying amount of leadership change across a number of franchises.
Some of those changes were more obvious than others but a few recent moves in particular stood out.
First, the Philadelphia Eagles fired Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pederson.
Then, the next day the Seattle Seahawks fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Meanwhile, Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury are sleeping well.
Think about the juxtapositions of those three facts. The Eagles won a Super Bowl less than three years ago, made the playoffs the last two years including a division championship last year and then were ravaged by injuries to their skill positions and offensive line this year. At the end of it, they decided that one terrible year was enough to justify firing a head coach who was 11-5 with backup QB's in the last four seasons. There were obviously other power dynamics in play but the Eagles decided the drop off in quarterback play and scheme was alarming enough to start over.
The Seattle Seahawks set a franchise record in 2020 for most points scored in a season. They won the NFC West, made the playoffs for the third time in four years and saw Russell Wilson set a career high for touchdown passes (40) at age 32. And yet, Seattle decided it was the right time to move on from offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. The reason given was an offensive drop off that occurred over the back half of the season that culminated in Seattle scoring just 20 points in a Wild Card round loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals led by Kliff Kingsbury, who earlier this season acknowledged in a podcast interview with Scott Van Pelt that play calling and quarterback coaching are his strengths and game management isn't, watched as the Cardinals offense fell apart when Kyler Murray could no longer run the ball with impunity, and have done very little. The Cardinals offense scored just 19 points in two must win games in the final weeks of the season and after failing to punch their ticket to the playoffs, have decided that fundamental change isn't necessary.
To me, this stark contrast reveals a fundamental difference in internal standards. Winning teams accept winning only. Other teams make excuses or pat themselves on the back for superficial progress.
There's no denying the Cardinals overall standards have improved dramatically over the last 15 years. For their first two decades plus in Arizona, a Cardinals team simply playing .500 football would have been called a ravaging success. Now, with both internal and external improvement, the Cardinals are a team with a much better foundation for success than earlier versions of themselves.
But it's still not where it needs to be.
Right now, my biggest fear isn't that the Cardinals are going to plummet back to the bottom of the NFL. There are still many positives moving forward for the Cardinals organization. Kyler Murray, Budda Baker, DeAndre Hopkins, Chandler Jones, DJ Humphries, Chase Edmonds and Byron Murphy give the Cardinals a core group of talented players to build something bigger and stronger upon.
It's not hopelessness I'm worried about with the Cardinals current path, it's underachievement.
Like anyone who has ever had to deal with a child, employee or someone else who you KNOW is capable of more but they can't quite bring themselves to realizing their full potential, you understand why underachieving is worse than not being capable in the first place.
I don't want the Cardinals to be good enough with Kyler Murray on a rookie contract, I want them to be great.
By accepting results that are below what the franchise is capable of, the Cardinals are reinforcing the exact opposite message that is required for the highest level of success in the NFL.
I look around the NFL and I watch as other more successful organizations consistently reinforce how winning at the highest level is what matters most.
And then I watch as the Cardinals rationalize to themselves why their minimal success was good enough to keep going.
These lower standards are to blame for the Cardinals decades long search for success, for once its not Kliff Kingbury's fault.