Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Collapse of a Division Leader

Today the Arizona Cardinals will be trotting out John Skelton to play sacrificial lamb under center. Skelton is known most for his works as a satirist poet and tutoring Prince Henry. Apparently he's not as well known for having been reborn as a football player hailing from Fordham...

Fordham. ESPN announced this morning that Skelton would start for the Cards, and they posted a graphic touting well known Fordham graduates. You know you're in a bad situation when ESPN is comparing your starting quarterback to other notables that graduated from their college, and Captain Kangaroo leads the list.

The Cardinals have been a spectacular failure this season. They've improved their win total each of the last three seasons, and in the previous two years they've won 19 regular season games, 4 post-season games and were a Ben Roethlisberger wink-and-a-prayer from winning the Superbowl.

Now, it's unfair to put all of their problems on the offense. Defensively, the Cards are 28th in yards allowed and have given up the most points in the league. But they've never been known as a defensive powerhouse. Last year, their best defensive season in five years, they were 14th in points allowed and 20th in yards allowed.

But it's the offensive collapse that's been simply spectacular. Part of it has to do with some of the positional turnover. The loss of Anquan Boldin being the second most major loss on offense this off-season for them. But it's without question the loss of Warner, and the franchise's inability to account for it, that has crushed the life out of them in a pathetically weak division.

During Warner's tenure as the primary starter, their offense averaged in the top ten and was one of the best in the NFL in '08. He completed over 65% of his passes for over 7.5 YPA, threw a TD every 21 att and a pick one out of 36 tosses. Compare this with the Cards passers this season, which are completing 51.5% for 6.1 YPA, throwing a TD every 51.5 passes and a pick in half as many attempts. The result has been a predictable plunge from the upper echelon of the offenses in the league into the bottom two in points scored and yards gained.

The real issue has to be that the Cards are showing the signs of being the same old whipping boy organization it's always been, making poor decisions and allowing good players to walk without replacing them with other good players. Obviously Warner wasn't able to be retained. But when your contingency plan includes hoping Matt Leinart - a career 71 rated passer after four seasons - turns into a good option, signing Derek Anderson - who's career includes 3 awesome games and a ton of terrible ones - to compete and picking up whoever off the street happens to be able to have a working arm to throw a ball, you have to expect what's actually happened.

It's got to be a disappointment in a division led by two teams that look like they'll both struggle to finish .500. I'm struggling to remember a time that the opportunity to win a division has been so easily out there for the taking, and the collapse at one position has allowed that opportunity to be squandered.

1 comment:

  1. Nice win for the kid, and if Breaston didn't drop a bomb his stats would have been very solid for first NFL start.



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