The pairing was supposed to be perfect, Hollywood Brown coming to play with his best friend Kyler Murray. It was necessary too, with the suspension of DeAndre Hopkins looming and then – when Hop got back – Brown would be an excellent complement on the other side, and Kyler would have two impressive outside targets.
Anyone paying attention knows that's not how it played out.
Brown got hurt as soon as Hopkins was coming back in 2022. Then Murray got hurt. Then Hop was let go. Brown was playing well most of 2023, even if the stats weren't showing it. He was open a lot, but Joshua Dobbs couldn't find him down the field. When Murray came back, he too couldn't quite find Brown – and then Brown's heel derailed it for good.
The news on Friday that Brown is going to IR isn't a shock. The Cardinals can use the roster spot and it was clear time had run out on Brown trying to get right. As coach Jonathan Gannon said, it wasn't for lack of effort from Brown to make it happen; in part because of who he is, in part knowing his roller-coaster season won't help his free-agent value.
I don't know what will happen with Brown. Gannon said, while the season has run out, Brown will be healthy soon. Will he get a big offer somewhere? Does he find a way to stay alongside his friend here in Arizona? Whether it is here or elsewhere, is he in a spot where he has to do the one-year, prove-it contract and try free agency again in 2025?
(GM Monti Ossenfort, on Arizona Sports on Friday, did not rule out a Brown return to the Cardinals.)
I'll just say this: I like Hollywood Brown. He is a good dude and I believe he is good for the locker room – and Kyler too. When he's right, he's a factor. Gannon just got through saying Friday that Brown was going to IR when he spoke on a different subject -- but the answer was how players can impact and influence the game even if the stats don't show it. "The ultimate team game," Gannon said.
I think Brown is a team player. Business is business so we will see how it washes out in the offseason. But it's unfortunate how Brown's two years in Arizona have played out.
-- Having Murray back at practice and ready to play in Philly is a huge development; Gannon said all week Murray would be ready to play but on the chance he could not, this is a game that would be daunting if you had to go with rookie Clayton Tune at QB. It's daunting anyway.
— If you weren't sure about Murray, his status feels pretty solid since the Browns have signed Cardinals practice-squad QB Jeff Driskel. I don't think the Cards let that happen if they were worried about Murray's situation.
-- Zaven Collins reflected on his season this week, after moving to outside linebacker after playing inside the first two years of his career. "You understand why it's so hard to rush in this league," Collins said, although he added the move has "worked out fine" and he enjoys his new role. On the season, Collins only has 3½ sacks, with five tackles for loss, six passes defensed and an interception. He noted the coaches have moved him all around the front seven, and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis recently said he likes how Collins has progressed.
"I feel like I have made production plays," Collins said, adding "I will play whatever they ask me to play."
-- The release of cornerback Marco Wilson this week wasn’t exactly a shock, after he had stopped playing defensive snaps for a month. The Patriots, in a desperate spot with cornerback, grabbed him on waivers. Wilson is athletic, but he never fit into what the Cardinals now do defensively, and struggled mightily this season. It'll be interesting to see Wilson's fit in New England.
-- Uniform update: The Cardinals will wear their white-over-white regular road look in Philadelphia.
-- There remains a chance the season finale at State Farm Stadium will be played on Saturday, Jan. 6, instead of Sunday, Jan. 7. The Saturday games will be chosen for that final weekend where at least one of the teams playing needs to win to get into the postseason. Even if the Seahawks are in that position, there figure to be a handful of other games around the league that could be Saturday picks instead. The league will announce New Year's Eve what games will be played on Saturday.
-- The 77-yard punt by Blake Gillikin last week in Chicago was the franchise's longest since Mike Wood had an 81-yarder in 1978 – a decade before the organization moved from St. Louis to Arizona.
-- The Cardinals have gone for it on fourth down 30 times this season, fourth in the NFL. They have tried 12 two-point conversions, most in the NFL. Yes, some/many of them come from game circumstance and falling behind on the scoreboard. Gannon is secure in the decisions to embark on such plays but the Cardinals need to be better when they run them; of the seven teams who have gone for it on fourth downs 30 times, only the Cardinals (11-for-30) are below a 45 percent conversion. The Cards only have made three of their two-point tries.
"It's how we decide to set up the game, those decisions that go into winning the game and what we think is best," Gannon said. "You can't look at the outcome. You've got to look at how you're coming into that decision and how does that impact the rest of the game, which I feel really good about our decision making there.
"Yes, we need to do a better job on 'Gotta Have It' plays, in my opinion, and on two-point plays. That'll never be good enough unless you've won across the league. I'm not going to make the incorrect decision because I don't think we're going to create a play. I want to make sure that we're going through our process and making the correct decision for the game."
-- For those still wondering/lamenting/criticizing the Cardinals' choice to go for two last week in Chicago after scoring a touchdown down 14 points, this ESPN article explains well why you would make such a choice.
-- The last word goes to rookie right tackle Paris Johnson Jr., who will see the tackle he tries to pattern himself after in Philadelphia with Eagles tackle Lane Johnson.
"I feel like whose game I watch the most is Lane Johnson's. Anytime I get a chance to watch him pass protect. Now again, the pass protection with Trent (Williams) is flawless. I guess my play style, I kind of want to have the finishing like Trent. I want film to reflect that. But I think just the patience and the discipline of the hands and the spot that Lane Johnson has, I think, is top tier."
See you Sunday, for the end of 2023.