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Hello! You Play To Win The Game

Posted Dec 14, 2010

Losing for draft status makes no sense to Cards

Linebackers O'Brien Schofield (50) and Reggie Walker (56) are happy after the Cards beat Denver Sunday to break a seven-game losing streak.


Steve Breaston chuckled. A couple of times.

The wide receiver isn’t naïve. He’s heard the thought process, those out there who say it makes more sense for the Cardinals to lose at this point and secure a higher draft status. Except it doesn’t really makes sense, not to him. It’s laughable, really – which is why he laughed.

“If you are a fan of the game, you see that,” Breaston said. “But as a player … it’s our job.

“If you lose out, with your performance, you may not even be here next year. I don’t think (fans) see it in that light, but it’s our job and we have to perform every week. We put out bad tape, we’re not going to be here.”

It’s the conundrum of any team suffering through a poor season. With the playoffs a pipe dream and holes to fill, each loss takes you closer to a better draft pick. If a quarterback is a serious consideration with that first choice – and it would seem to be for the Cardinals – the stakes are raised. The Carolina Panthers – sitting at 1-12 waiting to host the Cards this Sunday – are in the same predicament.

A victory -- in a cold, pragmatic way -- doesn’t mean as much as a loss.

It sounds nice in theory. But Herman Edwards would not agree.

Losing carries no real upside. Draft position can help, but players drafted can wash out just as easily as a top-five pick as a top-20. In the meantime, fans boil over every bad performance. Inside the team’s facility, life is always a little easier after a win than a loss – that’s not only in the locker rooms and meeting rooms but everywhere in the building (and yes, I speak from experience).

Besides, playing to lose goes against everything a coach and a player has even been taught.

“Even in the hardest times, you’re never looking at it, ‘Oh man, they’re going to get a (good) pick,’ ” Breaston said. “No. It’s not in your competitive nature to go out and just go through the motions. … Even if it did get to the point where you weren’t ready to play, you’re going to get popped in the mouth and then you’re going to be like, ‘All right, time to go play some football.’ ”

Maybe that will to win is too esoteric. There are more tangible reasons not to lie down, and it starts with the basic human need to hold employment.

“If anything I’d rather have them draft later because you know the draft picks are the guys coming in to take your job,” cornerback Michael Adams said. “I’d rather have us draft at the beginning of the second round.

“I think about if I am going to have a job next year, and where I’m going to be. The rest of that stuff is for the front office. I get paid to play football and worry about me.”

The Cardinals finish out the schedule against three teams in virtually the same position they are right now. Games against the Panthers and Cowboys will only affect draft order (although the season finale in San Francisco could, in theory still mean something for the 49ers).

That’s for outside discussion, though. Coach Ken Whisenhunt half-joked Monday about talking to Edwards about playing to win, but he is serious about the plan to win out. He doesn’t want it any other way.

And really, nothing else truly makes sense.

“Like Coach said, you play to win the game,” Adams said. “And what you want to do is play well so they don’t bring another guy in to take your position.”

SOME NUMBERS

The Cardinals are only the second team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to have two rookie quarterbacks win their first career start in the same season when John Skelton matched Max Hall’s debut outcome. The other team? The Denver Broncos, when John Elway and Gary Kubiak each won in 1983.

The Cards’ 211 yards rushing against the Broncos was the most for the team since they rushed for 211 in a home win over the Saints Oct. 3, 2004, when Emmitt Smith led Arizona with 127 yards on the ground.

Safety Kerry Rhodes has 174 yards on interception returns this season (on four picks), the highest total in the NFL.
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