Lame Duck

Lame Duck

Every been in a situation where you think, "Can this get any worse?" Only right then, you realize you don't really want to find out. You perish the thought from your mind. Guess what Cardinals fans, we're about to find out.

INSIDE SLANT
There apparently will be no "bye-bye" during the bye.
The Cardinals still have a two-month skid going -- and they still have coach Dennis Green.
According to a statement released by Michael Bidwill, Cardinals vice president and general counsel, the team will have Green for the remainder of the season. The Big Red hit its bye as the losers of a league-long seven straight games after winning the opener.
The losing streak heightened speculation that Green, whose teams have won only 12 of his first 40 games in Arizona, could be gone during the break, which this season is at the exact midpoint in the Cardinals' schedule.
It would cost the team the remainder of this season plus $2.5 million for 2007 to part company now (The team holds an option for 2008). There isn't an assistant on the staff ready to assume the head coaching duty, there are no suitable experienced candidates out there cooling their heels awaiting an opportunity, and everyone else is under contract and working.
So if the team makes a change -- and unless there is a dramatic second-half turnaround -- it will come after the season.
It is one thing to blow a 20-point lead in the closing 16 minutes and lose to the league's strongest team, as the Cardinals did a couple of Monday nights back vs. Chicago. But it is another to come out and not be competitive vs. a winless team and a two-win team, as the Cardinals did the past two weeks in losses to Oakland and Green Bay, albeit both on the road.
"We have a good team, we are just underperforming, point blank," said Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin, who was limited to four catches in each of the past two games since Green changed offensive coordinators. "We have guys that are great athletes. Honestly, this is the most talented team that I've been on since I've been in the NFL and it is just ridiculous that we are 1-7.
"We just can't spot teams and get behind and then try to catch up in the end."
But they couldn't beat anybody when they scored early, either. The Cardinals led the league in first-quarter scoring through seven weeks and still were 1-6, unable to hold 14-point, first-quarter leads in back-to-back losses to the Chiefs and Bears, the first time in NFL history a team has lost consecutive games with that sort of early lead.
While Bidwill is correct that there isn't anyone he could slide into the job right now who might coax the squad to a stronger finish, the danger in allowing an apparent lame-duck coach to hang around another eight games is that he will lose the team.
Those thrashings by the Raiders and the Packers may be the first signs of that.
"I think the team is playing hard," Green said. "I think the Cardinals need to work on the Cardinals during the bye week that is what you do. You have a couple of days to work and then you get a couple of days of rest and then come back and play at home. We missed an opportunity to get a win going into the bye and we'll try to take advantage of an opportunity coming out of a bye."
Coming up, the Cardinals have a home date vs. resurging Dallas, and then over the remainder of November have Detroit at home followed by visits to Minnesota and St. Louis. They finish in December with home games vs. Seattle and Denver, followed by trips to San Francisco and San Diego.
So the chances of the Cardinals running the table to save a winning season, or even posting a 7-1 finish to go .500 and avert a losing record, appear remote.
"I think that everybody's disappointed," Green said. "There's not a fan in the stands that isn't disappointed. Nobody's more disappointed than the players are. And disappointment is something that is extremely difficult to deal with."
Bidwill's statement didn't sound so much like a vote of support as it did resignation that there just isn't much he can do about it right now.
"In talking today with some of our leaders in the locker room and the coaching staff, it is clear they share the same frustration and disappointment that we all do because we are not winning," Bidwill said. "But it is also clear they plan to keep fighting to win through the second half of the season and have no intention of giving up. This is our approach, as well.
"I do not believe a coaching change improves our chances of winning against the Cowboys or any game in the second half of the season. And winning is our Number One goal."

NOTES, QUOTES
--The Cardinals are 0-4 since Matt Leinart became the starting QB. Not only are they losing but Leinart is being hit hard.
"It's not easy, but nobody said it was going to be easy," Leinart said. "It's my job to keep this team up and keep going and keep playing. We can't get down and it all starts with me and goes through everyone else. We're just kind of down right now and we have to work our way up."
Leinart missed a day of practice before the Green Bay trip for the birth of his son, Cole, in California.
"It was a great experience and the best thing is a healthy boy was brought into this world, and now my other job is to be a great dad," Leinart said.
--A sign of the times: The team, loser of seven straight -- longest skid in the NFL, since pummeling San Francisco in the opener -- has accepted an ad on its official Web site that reads: "Buy single tickets from Cardinals season ticket holders."
It is unlikely the Cardinals will lose much, if any, of its season-ticket base in 2007 because it hosts the Super Bowl after the season. Season-ticket holders will be eligible for a Super Bowl ticket lottery.
But after next season, if there is no improvement, or if the Cardinals can't find some sort of scheme to snooker the public into re-upping, there is liable to be a colossal backslide reminiscent of the crowds of 28,000 who watched them on many brutal afternoons at Sun Devil Stadium.
Their new University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., is sold out for the season, including a far more robust season ticket base than the team has known since it moved to Arizona in 1988. Part of the excitement is the new building, with its theater-seats instead of benches, and a retractable roof to guard against harsh early-season desert heat.
BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- Touchdowns scored by the Cardinals during the first half of the season -- and one of those was by the defense -- a disappointment from what was envisioned to be an effective, high-scoring unit. Three of the 13 scored by the offense came in the first quarter of the season opener. That leaves only 10 touchdowns by the offense in 7 3/4 games since.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have too much talent to be 1-7. They say close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and we've been close, but we have to find a way to win and we haven't been there." -- Cardinals WR Troy Walters, on the team's seven-game skid since winning the opener.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The latest line isn't a betting tout for the Cardinals. Instead, it describes the players up front who are attempting to find holes for Edgerrin James and to keep Matt Leinart clean.
So the latest line for the Cardinals: LT Leonard Davis, LG Milford Brown, C Nick Leckey, RG rookie Deuce Lutui, and RT Reggie Wells.
"That might be our strongest group," Coach Dennis Green said. "I imagine Milford Brown (ankle) will be back in there starting. Hopefully that will give us a pretty good young group that should help us play better.
"I've tried to be very aggressive in changes, always have been. I haven't slowed down in that regard. I don't think I will. I try to be very aggressive in changes, and just hope something works."
At 1-7 and after trying a multitude of starting line combination, with half a season remaining to play the Cardinals are reduced to just hoping something works.

PLAYER NOTES
--QB Matt Leinart, a rookie chosen 10th overall in the first round, is 0-4 as the starter but is the only QB in NFL history to pass for two touchdowns in the first quarter in each of his first two starts. The Cardinals have not had a rookie QB get a win as the starter in nine years, since Jake Plummer in 1997.
--RB Edgerrin James has 49 career 100-yard rushing games in 104 games and can become the third-fastest in NFL history to 50 with another. However, Game 9 is the latest he ever has gone still searching for his first in a season. Pro Football Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson got to 50 in 83 games to lead, followed by Jim Brown in 102 games. James leads the NFL with 185 rushing attempts but is averaging a career-low 2.8 yards a carry.
--WR Anquan Boldin remains among the NFC leaders with his 48 catches and among conference leaders with his 608 receiving yards -- that after catching only four balls each at Oakland and at Green Bay in the past two games -- the first two under new offensive coordinator Mike Kruczek.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald, a Pro Bowler last year, should return to the lineup after this week's bye when the team resumes play vs. Dallas. He's missed three games because of a hamstring injury.
--WR Bryant Johnson filled in admirably for Larry Fitzgerald for three games, rising up among league leaders with his 21.3-yard average. He is expected to return to his role as the No. 3 receiver, and the Cardinals best speed threat deep, when the team comes out of this weekend's bye.
--SS Adrian Wilson, who set a league record among DBs last season with eight sacks on safety blitzes, hits the midpoint this year on pace to equal that with four. Wilson also has three pass interceptions.
--RG Deuce Lutui, the second-round pick, made his first pro start at Green Bay and coach Dennis Green said he expects Lutui to stay in the lineup in the reshuffled line.
--RT Reggie Wells, a fixture at LG the past couple of seasons, made his starting debut at RT at Green Bay and Coach Dennis Green said he expects Wells to stay there in the reshuffled line.
--C Nick Leckey seems to be establishing himself as the starter since replacing Alex Stepanovich three games ago as the team searches for answers up front.
--LG Milford Brown, who was the right-side starter before suffering an ankle injury three weeks ago, is expected to be ready vs. Dallas coming out of this week's bye. He will move into the left-side starting spot as coaches juggle the offensive line.
 

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