It's Christmas week, and I'm sure Cardinals fans want nothing more for the holidays than the Cards to beat the Colts Christmas night, finally clinching a playoff spot and getting the terrible taste of the Lions loss out of their collective mouths. I'm guessing the Cardinals want that too. First, we have the mailbag. Feel free to send in a question for a future, post-holidays mailbag here.
From Dan Liggi:
"Hi Darren. After the embarrassing loss to the Lions and three tough games left on the schedule, this has the same eerie feeling as last season's tremendous letdown. Here is my question: If the Cardinals end the season on a five-game losing streak and miss out on the playoffs, how can the fans avoid hearing the 'Cardinals had a winning record and it was overall a successful season' story?"
My first instinct is to tell you to slow down. I know many are feeling pessimistic at the moment but they haven't lost five straight and they still are likely to make the playoffs. I'm not sure why'd you'd want to rush to this conclusion, to be honest. Tell you what, you are free to revisit this after the season if it's still applicable
From Jake From State Farm Stadium:.
"Do you think Green will be back next year? I hope so. It's so weird to me when anyone tries to make him a scapegoat. He's had a handful of bad plays, but he's also had a bucket of game-winning plays. The balance isn't close, Green HELPS us win games. No question. But I can also see the franchise being lame and offering him up as a scapegoat. Keep him. I think he's been outstanding as a whole."
I don't know if he'll be back. I wouldn't rule it out, but it'll depend on the money, as always. I'm not sure why you think the team would make him a scapegoat (or why they would be "lame" -- although it's always interesting to me when people want to criticize but not be willing to use their name when they do it.)
From Bob W.:
"Is it time to give the offense to Colt McCoy? This desperation approach to nearly every play on offense doesn't work. Let's get back to a controlled, methodical approach that utilizes all of our weapons instead of just heaving it deep when we need one or two yards. Early in the season we had a power team on offense, Now we are back to the finesse, 'Let's try to trick everybody' mindset and it's working just like it did last year. We will see who this team really is against the Colts, but I'd almost be comfortable saying they won't win again this year."
Sorry, but I've got to be honest -- you lost me as soon as you suggested Kyler should be benched. I love McCoy as a backup and to fill in for injury. But the Cards are not better with him at QB. I hope that's just frustration talking. I think this team is running its offense the same as it did all season. They aren't executing it nearly as well (or teams are ready for some of it, maybe.) But if you are comparing Sunday to the rest of the season, you can't -- it was the first road game they faced a serious deficit.
From Cards Follower:
"Darren, if our defensive line is built to rush the passer more so than to stop the run why isn't our priority to get the lead? Why defer and give the other team the opportunity to score first?"
They have deferred much of the season and it's worked. In fact, one of the most disappointing things of Sunday was that the Cards sacked Jared Goff on the very first play and then allowed them to embark on a scoring drive. But I agree with deferring. (And I'm pretty sure if they had gotten the ball first Sunday, it wouldn't have mattered.)
From Richard Kemmler:
"First off I'm not panicking about the Lions game. I've watched football for 30 years and seen good teams lose to really bad teams or hit slumps at some point in the season after playing good and catch fire at the end again. Do you think it's fair to say that Kliff doesn't take advantage the running game he has at his disposal? Like I get he will use it when leading, but it just seems like a team scores and gets ahead by 7 or 10 points and all the sudden there are only 5 rushing attempts by halftime. I feel like it could settle the offense down some games."
I don't know. There is a fine line there to me. But generally, I think they run it plenty. I know people don't want to hear this, but if you can't pass well, you're not winning a lot of games in this league, usually. Sometimes, there are exceptions. I'd also like to see what games you're talking about where they have five rushing attempts after two quarters.They didn't have a lot after a quarter Sunday, but they only ran six plays total, so, yeah. As good as Conner has been, he's averaging less than four yards a carry. Murray is under four yards a carry. Edmonds has been great, but he's been hurt of late. In the end, I think the Cards run plenty in a league built for passing.
From Andrew Miller:
"Darren, just looked outside and the sky in not falling, but the odd thing about the Lions game to me, was the lack of interaction between the Cardinals players. I mean, as a bystander, it was noticeable that the players were barely looking at one another from start to finish -- both on the field and on the sidelines; with very little interaction. My question, is, do you have the sense something is amiss in the locker room? Ron Wolfley said after the game that there is too much veteran leadership to allow for such a poor effort and wondered what was happening in the locker room."
Since I never get to go in the locker room anymore I don't know. But other than going through a terrible game like that, I don't know if anything is out of sorts. You have to give these guys a chance to be upset about a bad performance. Yes, it can fester, but I don't think we're at a point like that.
From Mike Mason
"Hi Darren. I said it two weeks ago prior to the Rams game. You disagreed in the mailbag. Said it last week. Said it today: The Cardinals have an undersized/underathletic defensive line I'm not attacking these guys as men. I'm just saying in professional football, they are too small. It's not a technique issue. You can't 'practice' being bigger and stronger. There's nothing we can do about it. Can't bring guys in now. These are our horses. Without Watt, our DL is rudderless and almost helpless. DL is the reason our season has started to fall apart (technically Watt's injury was the true reason, but I digress)."
I kept waiting for a question and there never was one.
From Jake Jansen:
"So is Robert Alford's pec injury a three-week thing or is he done done?"
Kingsbury said it was "wait and see." Don't know if that means they know and he's not saying, or if it's a 10 percent chance to return or what. There is also a midpoint there too -- not every guy who goes on IR is either back after the minimum three games or out for the season.
From Chad Johnson:
"After the announcement of the new Cardinals plane and the number of seats and oversized business seats and first class pods, who sits where? Coaching staff in first class? Linemen in business? Media in the far back? Do they have beverage service offering Gatorade, ice packs, and vitamins?"
I don't know that yet, I have not had a chance to be on the new plane yet. I can assure you, however, that not only is there quality beverage service but also lots and lots of food options for the whole flight.
From Landon Allen:
"That's a good looking airplane! Is it going to have its own hangar at Sky Harbor or will it sit on the tarmac? I'd like to get a look at it if driving by."
To be honest, I don't know. If it doesn't have a hangar, it is going to get pretty hot much of the year.
From Grady Wells:
"What does Chandler Jones' sack celebration represent please? I've been asking for years, not having figured it out. Thank you Darren! Go Cards!"
We have asked Chandler about it before. It doesn't have any particular meaning, Jones just broke it out once and it felt right.
From JPR Cards:
"I think that the questions the national sports media have about whether the Cardinals are in the same class as the Buccaneers and Packers are valid. I am asking myself that same question. Do you think come playoff time that they are in the same class as those two teams?"
That's what the playoffs are for, correct? To sort that out? It's always fun to talk about during the season but ultimately meaningless. It also may not matter. I'm not sure the Cardinals were better than the New York Giants in 2008. But it was the Cardinals in the Super Bowl. So who cares if the Giants had a better team over a season? In the playoffs, you only have to knock off the team in front of you. I think the Cardinals are capable of doing that to anyone they might see.
From Terry Amabisca:
"Greetings Darren. I'm curious about our win/loss record when the roof is open in the stadium. Is that even tracked? Its my belief that we lose more often when the roof is open. Of course, I have nothing to back that up. I'll happily accept that I'm wrong. Happy New Year!"
Since moving into State Farm Stadium, the Cardinals are 21-23 all-time with the roof open. Not surprisingly, they often win when they field good teams, and have lost when they have had bad teams. This season has been an outlier (plus they have played arguably their two toughest teams on the schedule in those games.)
From Russell Peterson:
"Why hasn't Andy Isabella been given more opportunity? He seems like a talented and exciting player who hasn't been given much of a chance to show what he can do."
I'm not sure why you feel he hasn't been given opportunities. He not only has played in a handful of games, but more importantly we are almost three full years in -- three years of practices and training camps, every time being evaluated by coaches. And his head coach has been the same the whole time, a coach who very much wanted to draft Isabella. But if Rondale Moore is down, I'm guessing we will see some Isabella.
From Bob W:
"Darren, I'm wondering about how the offense is run with Murray versus McCoy? I realize it's two different types of players, but when McCoy was running the offense, it seemed there were many more players involved, the ball came out faster, etc. With Murray, there's so many times where it feels like it's just a mad scramble drill. I know Murray is very talented and causes a lot of problem for people, but do you feel we'd be a better, more methodical team with Murray running that set offense?"
I think Kyler has gotten much better at the "take what they give you" throws, which I don't think he did as much as his first two years. Of course McCoy is going to do it more often because he does not have the physical tools of Kyler. Perhaps it would help them in certain situations, but if you neuter Murray and take away his improvisational advantages, you take away what makes him special. Is it going to backfire sometimes? Yes. But overall, I think the Cardinals are better for it.
From Robert Malicki:
"All winning teams evolve as the season presses on. they adapt, adjust, to overcome, they have to. With pundits overreaching on the team's run defense being their Achilles Heel do you think Vance Joseph will revisit his game-plan for the Titans game? Remaining opponents with big backs to attack us present our DC with the challenge to prepare for the playoffs."
To think that the Cardinals don't understand some of the things they did against the Titans could work at other times seems odd to me. Of course they are looking at that stuff. But every opponent is a little different, in scheme, in offensive line quality, in their ability to throw the ball. Clearly the battles against Jonathan Taylor and Zeke Elliott the next couple of games will be crucial in those games. We'll see if they can hold up.
From Michael Allison:
"Why are all of the Cardinals games on Fox? It's more commercials than football. Please go to another network!"
Fox is the network for the NFC. So unless the Cardinals switch conferences, most games will be on Fox.
From Paul Court:
"Hi Darren, I have a comment then a question. It was nice to hear the ESPN commentators give Jalen Thompson some recognition for his play this year. Surprised he hasn't received a game ball yet. My question is about Malcolm Butler (Reserved/retired) and Larry Fitzgerald (unrestricted free agent). They are listed under the Cardinals roster. Does that mean they are still considered Cardinals ? When we win the Super Bowl would they be included? As always thanks for the mailbag."
They are listed on the roster because I can still list them on the roster. In Butler's case, it just made sense at the time in case he came back (he's not coming back.) In Fitzgerald's case, I wanted to leave him as a free agent 1) so he would still have a player page on the site and 2) I knew if I had taken him off altogether people would freak out. So I left him up. (If the Cards won a Super Bowl, I wouldn't be surprised if Fitz got a ring, like the Colts did for Edgerrin James.)
From Bob Hersh:
"What was Kliff thinking turning his football club into a country club after nine games? The loss to Green Bay was horrible and someone should have been held accountable. Instead, the whole team took what seemed like unnecessary weeks and games off. These guys play four months for some pretty good money, some of them millions. You would think they could play through the four months without a vacation. Man up Cards, you almost did something special."
I'm missing something, right? What are the Cardinals doing different now than before? I mean, I know they aren't winning as much, but I mean in terms of how it became a "country club." Please, enlighten us. I'm curious to know what you are talking about.
From Michael Harreschou:
"I'm fascinated, like the rest of football fandom, at the amazing athletic feats of Kyler Murray. That said, I was disappointed that the Cardinals drafted him because his style of play in college won't work for him in the pros. He'll take beatings during the course of a 16-game season that his body will not be able to endure the punishment big, fast, hard-hitting professional defensive teams routinely hand out. Compare the courageous Murray with a much bigger, but slower, quarterback like Tom Brady who continues to win game after game, year after year. That's the type and size of player we need to cultivate here in Arizona."
The Cardinals used to try and cultivate those type of quarterbacks, among them Josh Rosen, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and Matt Leinart. I'd prefer they get quarterbacks that are talented first. Carson Palmer fit your box and was very talented. Murray doesn't fit in that box. But damn, he is talented.
From Lyn Kedin:
"Blind Faith promised to be a 'super group' of talented individuals to make something special that would make the world go 'Wow!' Like that band, blind faith in our Cards needs a reality check. At championship level those in the trenches are the foundation of success rather than the acrobats on the perimeter. Even with the best of our current crop do you really think we can win in the trenches?"
First, Lee, props for using an analogy that is literally older than me, and I am not young. As for the trenches, we will see. I think they can play better then they have been.
From Matt C:
"Hi Darren. I see the terrible news that the Rams were the sole team awarded marketing rights in my home of Australia. The thought of seeing blue and yellow adorning the streets down here is enough to make me break out into cold sweats. How many signatures on a change.org petition do you think I would need to get the Cardinals added to the list? We even have a place down here colloquially known as the 'Red Centre.' It's a perfect match! Hyperbole aside, I'm glad the NFL is giving Australia some love, and hope to see more expansion in the future."
Unfortunately for you Down Under, the Cardinals are concentrating on Mexico at this point. But that doesn't mean Cards fans in other countries -- like yours -- aren't loved and appreciated.
From Jet Martin:
"Does it bother you at all when you interview the sons of ex-players who you also interviewed back in their playing days? Because it bothers me."
So ... you are bothered when you interview sons of ex-players because you're a writer? Or you are bothered by me doing it? Truth be told, I haven't been in a situation quite yet when I have actually interviewed the son of a player I interviewed. I suppose that could change if I had a reason to talk to Michael Pittman Jr. on Saturday,