Back in 2004, when Denny Green first took over at coach, that was a memorable season.
I was still working for a newspaper, and the laundry list of stuff happening was nuts: Green telling me how great Josh McCown was as a prospect so that the Cards were unlikely to draft Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers (and taking Larry Fitzgerald); announcing a starting lineup on the final day of offseason workouts (sending a message to a couple of vets Green wasn't happy with); cutting starting center Pete Kendall on training camp report day; flipping back and forth through non-injured starting quarterbacks McCown, Shaun King and even John Navarre; dumping offensive line coach Bob Wylie midseason and replacing him with Everett Lindsey, who had been playing on the offensive line in training camp and had been cut.
There was more, but I never thought it could get more crazy in a season. Until this one. Kelvin Beachum, who has seen a few things in his career, chuckled when he was asked about it.
"It's been wild, man," the right tackle said. "It's been wild. You had everything that was going on with the contract situation with the quarterback, to start the year off, we had a death of one of our teammates, before training camp we had speed racers that were going on, we got to training camp and you had hold-ins that were happening in training camp, you got to the season … that was just the start of it."
Indeed, Beachum's rundown of Kyler Murray's offseason long contract drama, Jeff Gladney's tragic car accident, Hollywood Brown's speeding ticket and the contract situations of D.J. Humphries and Markus Golden didn't even touch on DeAndre Hopkins' suspension. Or Rodney Hudson's near-retirement, three assistant coaches leaving (or being asked to leave), Antonio Hamilton spilling hot oil on himself, J.J. Watt's heart scare, "Hard Knocks" cameras, Eno Benjamin's departure, Steve Keim's leave of absence, Kyler's ACL tear, or all of the other injuries that never ever seemed to stop. (Mascot Big Red even hurt his ankle late in the season.) That doesn't even include the results on the field, the last two of which have been frustrating losses on the final play of the game.
"It's been treacherous, to say the least.," Beachum said. "All in all, we've learned a lot about each other."
It's been … a lot.
But here we are at the end, with an offseason of change coming. How much change? That's TBD. But the Cardinals are going to be happy to put this one in the rear view.
-- David Blough started five games for the Lions in 2019 as a rookie when Matthew Stafford was hurt. He didn't start again – and wasn't sure if he would – until last week, and now he'll get back-to-back starts. His future here will be based on what he does Sunday but also who is making decisions going forward. I'll say this, though, you have to appreciate the story, and appreciate his desire to carve out something more in this league.
-- Every week, I try to guess who will be inactive with director of media relations Chris Melvin right before they are released on game day. This week will again be a test – but instead of wondering who else it would be aside from the two or three who will be out, it'll be who I leave out, since the Cardinals have listed eight players as out. They only have seven inactives. It's where we are in the season.
-- The Cardinals will be wearing white jerseys, red pants in Santa Clara.
-- With Zaven Collins missing the game, the Cardinals will have only two players start every game: right tackle Kelvin Beachum and safety Jalen Thompson.
-- The last word goes to Blough, about whether when he was stuck on the Vikings' practice squad all season whether he started thinking he'd ever again start an NFL game:
"That's a good question. I think yeah, you never know. Obviously, a lot of quarterbacks have played this season, but opportunities do sometimes feel like (they) are few and far between. You're out of rhythm, you're out of practice sometimes when you're sitting there as the third guy. You don't get all the reps, (you're) on a scout team, and the starter's healthy all year, which is the goal of everybody in the organization, so yeah sometimes you wonder, 'Man, am I going to get a chance to play?'
"I wouldn't say you forget what it feels like, but it's unfamiliar until you get your feet wet again. I guess you could say you wonder if you'll get a chance, but you just keep going. You go back to work every day (and) you let the chips fall where they may. We got a call from here, thankfully, and here we are a few weeks later. So it's funny how that works."
See you Sunday, one last time.