Yes, Matt Leinart is starting to find his groove. Yes, the offensive line is not as offensive as it as been throughout the season, and no, the special teams managed to not lose the game. Unfortunately this happened after the team started 1-8, and frankly, there is no reason to believe they won't do the same next season. Edge has had back to back 100 yard games, which is wonderful, except that we're paying him like a guy who should already be well over 1000 yards for the season. You can forgive Leinart, a rookie, for taking some time to develop and catch up to 'NFL speed' but Edge played in the fastest offense in the game, and was strutting around training camp talking about 'his guys' and 'his game' and 'changing attitudes.' The problem is that not only could we have believed that those pretty stat lines could have been reversed, it wouldn't surprise anyone if they were reversed in the next three games, when we actually play three teams with something to play for
Matt Leinart is starting to complete 60 percent of his passes, but a closer look shows that more often than not those passes are a little high, or a little behind, and its only because of the quality of receivers we have that they are catches at all. Fitz and Anquan Boldin are not burners, they are not typically going to create the separation that allows a poorly thrown ball to become a big play. Remember, the biggest pass play of the game came because the Seattle cornerback fell down on the first play of the game. If the Cardinals coaching staff drew that up ("Okay, so Bryant, go long, and just after Matt releases the ball, I want you to use your Jedi Mind Powers to cause Marcus Trufant to fall down.") then I'm certainly wrong and they are ready to dominate next season.
The bottom line with this defense is that the best you can say about them is they're opportunistic. They do rank in the bottom third of the league, and they haven't exactly been matching up against the Bradshaw led Steelers teams, or Peyton Manning's Colts offense week to week. We beat Detroit? Whoo Hoo! We confused Rex Grossman? Amazing! I'm going to let Arizona fans in on a little secret, confusing Rex Grossman is a little like winning 'Dancing With the Stars' when your opponent is Stephen Hawking.
Of course you take what you can get when you're 1-8. That's fantastic, but slipping that candy bar in your pocket at the 7-11 does not make you a master jewel thief, and saying the Cardinals are starting to build something has become a familiar refrain around these parts. They've been 'starting to build something' since they drafted Jake Plummer. Good football teams do not reside in Arizona, and until there is a listing in the yellow pages, I think we have to assume that like the many snowbirds who come to town in the Winter Months, perhaps a good football teams doesn't so much 'live' here as 'stops by' University of Phoenix stadium.
I'd like to be the first to propose that we stop calling it the 'Dennis Green Era' and start calling it the 'Dennis Green Error.' Do we really have a running back who can 'carry the load?' When has he carried the load before? Is anyone really talking about Edgerrin James 'carrying the load' in Indianapolis? Were the Colts better with him? Sure, are they suddenly struggling to score points now that he's gone? Not so I've noticed. The running game is a problem in Indy, but its against the run that the Colts are horrible. And what proof do we have that this offensive line is decent? The Lions front seven are made of paper mache, and while the game against the Seahawks was impressive, isn't it just a little possible that they were looking ahead, looking past the Cardinals, since they have, for all intents and purposes, already clinched the NFC West?
Star power on the defense does not a great defense make. This squad appears to be coming together, and I like to see that. But Antrel Rolle has to learn to tackle a running back without using his facemask as a handle, and Bert Berry, Darnell Docket and Karlos Dansby have to stop being 'the next big thing' and start being...well...something on a consistent basis. This 'more talented than they get credit for' thing is just bunk. Remember, this was the popular choice for 'sleeper' this season. This was a team that people thought might make some noise. The prognosticators certainly weren't making those claims based on past performance, they saw a lot of talented players and thought that maybe, just maybe, Dennis Green knew what he was doing.
And the idea that firing Dennis Green is a bad idea is just rediculous.
He has idenified the right players to play the right positions in the right schemes. Good for you Denny, it only took you 10 weeks! Oops, check that, 40 games! Is our desperation out here in the desert so pungent that we can no longer smell a coach who stinks? Green has had four years to figure this out. Are we looking for improvement to the tune of one more win this season than last? If we are, okay, but that means we're going to the playoffs in 2010.
And don't give me this 'new system' non-sense either. If you recall, after Denny took the playbook away from his offensive coordinator during the Bears game, and thus lost the game for us, he fired that offensive cooridinator. It took the Cardinals offense all of two weeks to pick up the new scheme. These are professional football players, not some Pee-Wee league team. Do we really think the Cards are going to bring Jerry Glanville's run-and-shoot back? Any coach who walked in the door is going to look at these players and go, "Well, I'm thinking we should run Edge a lot and throw the ball to Fitz and Boldin, maybe mix in a couple throws to the obscenely tall tight end too!" And as far as the defense goes, if its going to take professional football players three years to grasp anything then I don't want them on my team. High school players pick things up faster than that, and some of those high school players are bigger than our linebacking corps.
Please let me be the first to apologize. Apologize for my Associate Editor, Brad Keller, who is actually talking about a Dennis Green contract extention (I believe he fell of his motorcycle without a helmet on like his beloved Steelers' QB), apologize for Dennis Green, who has accepted virtually no responsibility for a team that clearly stopped paying attention to him about week six (even if they've resumed paying attention to him over the last three weeks), apologize for thinking that the Vikings problems last season had more to do with a lame duck coach and less to do with criminal charges involving a naked women and a boat. The Dennis Green error needs to be corrected. There is a lot of talent on the field at University of Phoenix stadium. There just isn't much on the sideline.
A two game win streak is not the stuff of legend, and for me, its not the stuff of optimism either.