Offensive coordinator Mike Miller (left) walks off the field with quarterback John Skelton after a Cardinals' victory this past season.
Time away is good.
That's really the only way to properly analyze what the Cardinals did on offense this past season, offensive coordinator Mike Miller believes. It's why the coaches (on both sides of the ball) don't fully dig into player and other breakdowns until a little vacation and some passage of time.
"You can feel good about some of the things you did and you will feel bad about some of the things you did," Miller said. "You have to let both the good and bad resolve and approach it objectively.
"There is only one team that's going to finish the season in a euphoric state."
Miller likes how physical the offense played in 2011. He liked the effort. He thought the Cards did a good job adjusting in games, crediting fellow offensive coaches Russ Grimm, John McNulty, Freddie Kitchens and Tommie Robinson. The execution was the area in which needed improvement, and like coach Ken Whisenhunt, Miller wants to see quicker starts and better conversion rates on third downs.
Like every coach, he is ready to have an offseason to work with and develop younger players and tweak the offense. That was lost last year as the Cards sped through training camp with new starters at quarterback, running back, fullback, wide receiver, tight end and two offensive line spots.
"We had a lot of condensing to do," Miller said.
No place did that impact more than at quarterback, where Kevin Kolb didn't get the time the Cards would have liked to have him assimilate his new team. Even John Skelton, Miller emphasizes, has never truly had full spring and summer of work, given his low depth-chart status as a rookie two years ago and last year's lockout.
General manager Rod Graves said the Cards will "maintain flexibility" when it comes to all positions when free agency arrives, and that includes quarterback. But right now, every sign points to Kolb and Skelton as the candidates for starter, leading to Miller's enthusiasm for finally getting back on the field.
"We can get back into all the details about how we want to execute and establish the expectations," Miller said. "It's just that time for these guys to be together and play together, it's so important.
"We believe we are on the right track. All three (quarterbacks, with Rich Bartel) approach it with the urgency we think you need to. … With the quarterbacks I really believe the sky is the limit."
Miller will have a new dynamic, with McNulty moving over from coaching receivers to quarterbacks in an effort to find the more consistent play that will, in theory, smooth over the bumps in the offense Miller would like to fix.
"Eventually, and this is the nature of the business, if you are not productive, you won't play," McNulty said. "We have talented guys that have shown they can play and win games. It's a matter of doing it more consistently."
Getting started this offseason will also give Miller a chance to build on what was his first year as offensive coordinator. He knows his work was scrutinized after the season and was a major topic for fans and media when the news came out the team considered Todd Haley for a vacant spot on the coaching staff.
But coach Ken Whisenhunt was always steadfast in his belief Miller was the right man as coordinator, and Miller shrugged off any outside talk about himself because it was just that – talk outside the organization.
"You preach it to the players and it's how you handle it yourself -- We know who we are, we know the areas we need to improve on," Miller said. "You show up, be professional and go to work. I personally don't pay attention to those things. It's not a part of what we do, not what we are responsible for. What we are responsible for is communicating as a staff, understanding what our players' potentials are, and getting the most out of those players to perform.
"But we all understand it. When you get into this business, you accept certain scenarios."
The scenario Miller is looking at right now is the immediate future. The time to reflect on 2011 so 2012 can be better on offense has arrived.
"Everyone needs to be pushed," Miller said. "That's how teams continue to evolve. That's how you grow. You have to add pieces. Guys have to feel urgency."