Defensive backs Greg Toler (left) and Rashad Johnson bring down Broncos receiver Jabar Gaffney when the teams met earlier this month.
Coaches keep changing and the Cardinals have seen the before-and-after more than any other team in the league.
In fact, the Cards are the only team to have faced all four franchises that have changed head coaches in season this year: Minnesota, Dallas, Denver and San Francisco. Minnesota still had Brad Childress when the teams met – Childress was likely given a stay when his team rallied to win, only to be fired a couple weeks later. The Cowboys were well into interim coach Jason Garrett's tenure by the time they visited on Christmas. The Broncos made the change the Monday before, and the Cards spoiled the debut of Eric Studesville in a blowout.
Finally, the Cards will see both sides of the 49ers – losing to Mike Singletary on Nov. 29, and now facing them with Jim Tomsula as coach, since Singletary was fired Sunday night after the Niners had been eliminated from playoff contention.
"It's not the first time that's happened to us," quarterback John Skelton said.
"It definitely changes what they are doing on their end," guard Alan Faneca said. "But I think we have to approach it the way you'd approach any other week. The biggest thing is don't be fooled by that situation – don't let your guard down and just chalk up a 'W.' "
San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis acknowledged the season has been "difficult." While Tomsula is a candidate to remain on the new 49ers staff, he is not expected to get the permanent job.
"We just have to go one, have to go out and play ball," Davis said. "We just have to play for ourselves pretty much, put it like that."
Prepping for this game isn't a more difficult chore, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said, since the Cards have seen the 49ers once already. Tomsula did name Alex Smith his starting quarterback, a bit surprisingly since Troy Smith was the starter that beat the Cards back in November.
"We've played each other enough times to have an idea of how they're going to play us," Whisenhunt said. "It comes down to being able to execute."
SKELTON'S LAST STAND
The Dallas game wasn't outstanding for Skelton, especially in the second half. Three-and-outs were in abundance, and it allowed the Cowboys to rally. Then Skelton led the game-winning field goal drive, completing his last three passes.
"To have our backs against the wall and do everything we needed to do to win, it's a great momentum- builder," Skelton said.
Skelton reiterated what he said Monday, that he saw these starts as an audition.
"What I am auditioning for I can't really say," Skelton said. "It's really just the future."
LEACH MAN OF THE YEAR
Mike Leach stepped up in front of the media and surveyed the group.
"First press conference in 11 years," he deadpanned.
Leach is a long snapper, not exactly in high demand for interviews. But there he was Wednesday, accepting the trophy from team president Michael Bidwill for being the Cardinals' choice for Walter Payton "Man of the Year." All 32 teams choose one, and then the NFL's Man of the Year is chosen Super Bowl week.
Leach and his wife Julie have been mainstays at various community functions all season. "It's just giving a little back," Leach said. "We've been blessed to be in the league for 11 years, and lucky to do what we do. It's not even giving money, just talking to people, spending time with kids, people that are going through tough situations. It doesn't take a lot."
When Skelton got up for his own press conference after Leach, he was asked why he didn't win Man of the Year. "I'm still a boy, I guess," he quipped.
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