Larry Fitzgerald admitted he's had more fun this season than many recent years.
"The atmosphere, the positivity, I think it's a lot of different reasons, but it's been a great year," Fitz said after Sunday's season finale loss in Los Angeles to the Rams. "For a five-win season, I can't remember having as much joy in the process. Being around these coaches, my teammates how they work every day, how serious they take football. It would've been very easy for young guys who never experienced the NFL, when we weren't going to make the playoffs in early December, to pack it in, and that wasn't the case."
Of course, there is reason to read into this, whether the future Hall of Fame wide receiver starts the clock on his five-year Hall of Fame wait or postpones it again. But this is big picture too, as the Cardinals wrap up a 5-10-1 season with a lot of hope and good feeling despite the record. They have a quarterback – whom Fitz praised for being willing to play, in a meaningless game, at less than 100 percent – and a coach – whom Fitz praised for not being a know-it-all and willing to be straightforward and honest. They need pieces yes. More than a few, probably. But there is a vibe that was most certainly not around this team at this time last season.
One of those pieces may or may not be Fitz, who played in his 250th game Sunday and made a catch in his 243rd straight. He's going to take a little time to make his choice.
"I've got to talk to Michael (Bidwill) and make sure they want me back, make sure that's an option," Fitzgerald said. (NARRATOR: They do.)
"I've got to go through the checklist and process. But I love this organization with all my heart. I've given all I've had for 16 years. I just have to take a little time to figure it out."
I've said it before and I wasn't swayed otherwise Sunday – I think Fitz returns. We'll see.
-- Kyler Murray didn't need to play Sunday with his bad hamstring. He had his bad moments – his fault or not, he spent the season not turning the ball over and he was charged with four – but he played well at times too. Two things stuck out. One, he promised he liked to throw from the pocket, and he showed, because he couldn't run around, he can be pretty good as just that. Two, he also proved how much better the offense (and his own play) is when he has the ability to scramble and run. The Rams simply were unafraid of the Cards' run game because there was no Murray threat.
-- David Johnson didn't play. The Cardinals kept him healthy. Now what?
-- The Cardinals will be picking eighth in the draft.
-- If you missed it last week, here are the Cardinals’ opponents for 2020.
-- Dan Arnold and Maxx Williams made big catches, and it's amazing how big a part of the offense the tight ends became – blocking and catching – as the season moved on. Arnold could prove to be a real find.
-- I think WR Damiere Byrd has earned a spot going forward too.
-- The offensive line had a much better season, especially once it got a hang of the offense (and Kliff Kingsbury morphed it a bit too.) D.J. Humphries, A.Q. Shipley, J.R. Sweezy and Justin Pugh each started all 16 games. Now, what happens with free-agent-to-be Humphries?
-- Patrick Peterson played really well again – his bull-tackle one-on-one of Todd Gurley was something we haven't seen in a while. He did get beat on one Robert Woods play, but it looked like he got picked by tight end Tyler Higbee. He was playing with the swag he's always had, and I still believe the Cardinals need that Patrick Peterson in 2020 to make the team jump they want. We'll see how that plays out too.
-- Last year in L.A., the Cardinals didn't cross midfield until less than a minute was left in the game. This year, 393 yards and 22 first downs. With a gimpy quarterback.
-- Brett Hundley did a great job to finish off that TD drive when he was briefly forced into the game. He's another guy I'd think they'd want to re-sign as Murray's backup.
-- Murray will get charged with two lost fumbles – his first two of the year – but Kenyan Drake should've caught the pitch on the first and Murray simply wasn't looking for the A.Q. Shipley snap on the second.
-- There is a lot to figure out. There is also a lot of offseason to come. It'll be an interesting ride.
Time to fly home. Locker cleanout first thing in the morning.