Are you there? Are you filled with angst? Depressed? Don't understand why
your life is so difficult and why no one understands you? Do you wish your
parents would just leave you alone? If they'd just stop with the yelling,
they'd understand that you know everything and know what's best for you.
Dennis Green is not the only reason the Cardinals are 1-7. Neither is Neil Rackers. It's not even the offensive line's fault. And, you could blame
the Bidwells or some type of Valley of the Sun Curse, but that would be
short-sighted as well. It's about egos and money, pure and simple.
Well, this is mostly about egos. Green has a system that has been successful
in other precincts and has produced big numbers. He believes that, if he can
teach the system to a group of players (hopefully handpicked by him), play
enough defense to get by, and mold whatever quarterback he has at the time to
fit the system, he will win divisions and be in playoff contention every year.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, most of the necessary personnel was not in
place when he took the job. He now has his three receivers and a young
quarterback to mold. He even has a defense that can get him by and a
coordinator in Clancy Pendergast that is well respected in league circles. What
he does not have, however, is the confidence of his players and a competent
offensive line. He needed so much time and resources to build the other pieces
that he forgot about one of the most important aspects of every offense.
Green was so caught up in fitting together the essential cogs in his system
that he neglected the fact that people actually have to block effectively
to make it work. He already had a pretty solid offensive line in Minnesota.
One of the reasons the wheels started to fall off there was that he had lost the
confidence of his players and everyone was starting to get old. The machine he
had assembled to run his system was beginning to break down and he had no idea
(and, more importantly, not enough time) to fix it.
Now, Green believes that he has all the pieces in place to run his system the
way it should run. The only issue is that the players aren't making the plays.
In a high school or collegiate situation, he could motivate his players to
execute simply by screaming at them. With today's players, though, you end up
with a lot of 17 year olds, wondering why Mom and Dad won't shut up and let them
live their lives.
Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald know that they're talented players. Matt Leinart knows he's talented. Edgerrin James has a history of success running
the football in the NFL. While they may not admit to feeling that they're not
responsible for Arizona's 1-7 start, the fact of the matter is that players in
the NFL are people, just like all of us. Edge knows that he can gain a lot of
yards if he has holes to run through. Fitzgerald and Boldin know when they're
open and when they aren't (and, most receivers will tell you that they're
always open). Leinart knows that he'll hit the open man in stride if he
just has enough time to throw and enough space to step up in the pocket.
It can be preached again and again that football is a team sport and that
it's not about individuals. It's another thing entirely to believe it. At this
point, it seems, no one on the Arizona Cardinals believes that they're playing a
team sport. After a few key collapses, they seemed to fold up their tents and
call it a season. They're all professionals and still have a job to do, but
they seem to have lost their fight. They seem to forget that football is about
more than just them. Fans are involved. Teammates are involved.
Dennis Green's job security is involved. And he's starting to yell about
it. The tragic part of that is that the players are under no obligation to
I've taken my share of cheap shots at the Bidwells. I've given them fair
criticism. Occasionally, I've even praised them. But, the issue with Dennis
Green, as the Bidwells see it, is about money and egos. They hired him to do a
job and they'll be damned if they're going to quit now. They'd have to pay him
$3.75 million to not coach their team. They believed he was the best man
for the job when they hired him and they believe it now. Or so they say.
So, part of it is egos, but the big chunk of the reason Dennis Green is still
employed as a coach in the National Football League is money. They don't want
to eat any more of his contract than they have to. With the recent rise in
salaries for assistants, they'll have to buy out the assistants and hire new
ones. We're probably talking about an endeavor that will cost the Bidwells
around $10 million next year alone. They just shelled out $30 million
for Edge. They've been active (at least active by their standards) in free
agency the last three years.
They sold out their new stadium, but their ultimate return on their
investment is one win and seven losses for the 2006 season. And that is
Can't fire Green now. Too expensive, too dismal a thought to even consider,
no one to replace him on the current staff, too many egos and too much money.
After the season, though, the man's gotta go. The situation in Arizona has
gotten too out of hand and there are too many issues for the one person (and his
staff) that is most responsible for those issues to fix. Green can't fix what
he's broken. It's his system. His system is perfect, if the
players would just execute it properly. And, with the turnover in assistants,
he hasn't established, and will not establish, the kind of continuity and
stability that the organization needs.
The Cardinals need to hire someone like Marvin Lewis. When Lewis stepped
into the offices of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003, he started to change the
culture and the mindset of that organization. The Bengals had suffered through
a decade of futility. Players needed to sign contracts that stated they would
be fined and docked pay if they bad-mouthed the organization.
Lewis signed veteran players that he knew would fit his system and mentor his
young players. He signed Carson Palmer before the draft, so there wouldn't be
yet another hold-out. He got the Browns (who make the Bidwells seem like Mark
Cuban) to spend money. Most of all, he told the players that it wasn't going to
be "business as usual" in Cincinnati anymore. They were talented, they were
young, and they had a chance against any team in the NFL if they simply believed
in each other and went into every game expecting to win, as opposed to worrying
Most importantly, Lewis had never held a head coaching job before. He had no
hubris to overcome. When the Bidwells start their coaching search in the off
season, they need to look at up-and-coming assistants (Ron Rivera comes to
mind), as opposed to established coaches. They're a team that needs to prove
themselves, they need a coach with the same mentality.
Above and beyond a complete overhaul of their offensive line, the Cardinals
need to overhaul their culture. And they can't do that with Dennis Green
coaching the team next season.