The bye week has arrived, as things get briefly quieter around here until prep for the Patriots begins next week. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Jason W:
Sorry let me put this in the form of a question: Welp?
Thank you for your time."
That about sums it up. I appreciate taking this tact. I've been known to use it myself.
From Lane Kidd:
"Having played collegiate football, I know that players treat their injuries differently. Some force themselves back onto the field, while others seem to want to nurse their situation. How is it in the NFL, when the players get paid tons of money either way?"
The NFL is no different than any place else. Some players need to be held back, others want to play it more safe. Yes, money matters at times. But this idea that just because a guy reaches pro football he turns into a clone of all the other guys playing pro football isn't the case.
From jpr cards:
"Darren. You have covered the NFL and this team for a long time. When we start hearing players stating that they do not believe that everybody on the team is giving it their all each week for the entire game doesn't that usually indicate that the head coach is losing the locker room?"
It is never a good sign when you are talking about effort, but as we found as the week went on after Mexico and the Budda postgame comments -- which I am sure is to what you were referring -- if he ultimately had the one play stuck in his head about Antonio Hamilton, we got a lot of explanation on that as well as Vance Joseph's perspective. I will say -- and I mean this genuinely -- I have not seen a big problem with effort this season. There are problems here, and that cannot be denied. But I don't think the locker room has been lost.
From Jem Boo:
"Hi Darren. One bright spot from recent weeks has been Josh Jones at left tackle. Why is nobody else singing his praises? All I hear is how banged up the OL is, and honestly It doesn't seem to matter. The backups are playing great, specifically Josh. Do you think we might have trouble keeping him this offseason?"
I don't think they will have a problem keeping Jones because he is under contract through 2023. And I agree, I think he's been solid in the place of D.J. Humphries. It will be interesting to see what happens next year; Kelvin Beachum is a free agent and maybe Jones is the starting right tackle instead.
From James Blaskowizc:
"Hi Darren. What's your position when it comes to trading away veterans to ring-chasing situations, to do right by them? Our season is over. We are going to limp into the offseason. But J.J. Watt is still playing pretty darn well and I as a Cardinals fan, with much appreciation and respect for Watts career and who he is as a person, would like to see him win a ring. All of this of course with the context he wanted to go. But let's say he did. Would you send him to a contender? Why or why not?"
No. Because the trading deadline was Nov. 1.
(But bigger picture ... "do right by them?" I mean, people used to say that about Fitz, but he was the one signing the contract here. J.J. was a free agent and he picked here -- in part, I am sure, to make the money he's making. If the trade makes sense for the team, sure, but just to "do right?" That doesn't make sense to me.)
From Seany Wasserman:
"Hi Darren. Could you explain the economics of coach/GM pay? Because it's not tied to the cap. I assume it doesn't literally "come out of the owner's pocket" (or does it)? So I assume the team has a bank account used to pay all staff (down to the accountants), including stadium workers and even non-personnel expenses such as new uniforms, and that's the pool used to pay the coaches and GM?"
No, the cap does not include coaching or GM salaries. As for where it comes from, yes, there is a franchise account if you will in which all the money is dealt with. But in the end, when you have an owner (or family ownership) of a franchise, yes, it's essentially coming out of his/their pocket. This isn't a public company selling shares. I would guess Michael Bidwill has an official salary and things like that, but in the end, it's all Bidwill family money.
From Mina P:
"What happened to Kyler's deep ball? He went from one of the league's best deep ball slingers to arguably one of the worst."
That is a great question. There have been fewer shots down the field this season for a few reasons, including teams putting a lot of two safeties deep. But that doesn't explain so few attempts by itself, and there is no question that when Murray launches one deep. His passer rating beyond 20 yards downfield remains near the bottom of the league and even Sunday, there was one pass down the field to Marquise Brown that never had a chance as it was well out of bounds. It's weird, because you are right -- he has been one of the best deep throwers in the league since he showed up.
From Sebas Quiros:
"I'm guessing you have a lot of rageful comments already so I'll save mine. I just know this organization needs some big changes and I hope they come soon. However, I'll make a question to ease my curiosity instead. What does 'limited' exactly mean when it comes to a player in practice? What kind of drills do they not get involved in?"
All limited means was that they couldn't do everything. There is a lot of leeway within that term I would think; if a guy just came out to stretch and then stopped I'd think he'd still be DNP. Mostly I'd think it meant individuals but no team? Even then, though I think it depends.
From Dave Drimbol:
"For anyone who didnt notice, Isaiah Simmons was the primary defender for three Chargers scores: The 33-yard pass, the sprint to the pylon TD and then the two-point conversion. Someone on the radio was asking about football IQ after the game and one of the hosts got all upset about it. I think 'IQ' is the wrong connotation. I would more accurately say Simmons has poor instincts. We use to rave about Tyrann Mathieu's instincts. You know how some guys are athletes first, who also play football? I think that's what Simmons is. Do you think there's still a likelihood he becomes a star, or should we just accept it is what it is?"
Let me start by saying the first TD and the two-pointer weren't good situations, but I think Simmons played the last TD well. He delivered a hit that on first glance looked like he stopped a guy from one-yard out while sprinting 25 or so yards to do so. Reminded me of the goalline stop of Trey Lance last season. As for SImmons overall, there are still plays I'd think he should make, sure. I do see him as a football player. I think it's fair to wonder if he should just play one spot on the field. And as for being a star, I don't know if it's likely or not, but I do think he has it in him.
From Bob Kitsos:
"I really enjoy the mailbag. Thanks for your dedication. Will we see Rodney Hudson on the field at some point before the end of this season and what is the likelihood of retaining him for next season? Also, with the decimation of the O-line this season, is that a focal point for the 2023 draft and free agency market?"
I am not optimistic about Hudson returning. I would guess that, given his deep thought into retiring before this season, Hudson figures to retire after this one, especially since his concern was his body holding up and his body has not held up. As for next year, I would've thought the offensive line would get attention anyway just because of all the scheduled free agents they have.
From Rob Laycock:
"With the way this season is going it feels inevitable that both Keim and Kingsbury will be let go before next season. Do you see it happening during the season and letting Vance be HC for the rest of the season after the bye. Also, how close do you think Adrian Wilson is to getting a GM job? Do you see the Cardinals losing Wilson to another team?"
I know many will be shocked, but I seem to be getting a few questions in this vein. I don't see anything major happening in-season, and I do think the season as a whole matters in the evaluation of everyone. As for Adrian Wilson, both he and Quentin Harris should be attractive candidates in my opinion. So there is always a chance an opportunity arises for one or both elsewhere.
From Peter Kacmar:
"Hello from Slovakia Darren. A Black Friday ad of the official Cardinals store jumped at me. I wished to have a look at some Larry Fitzgerald jerseys but could not find any. Was it just me not seeing it or is there any other reason why his jerseys are not available? There are several former players being sold so it just surprised me. Thank you and enjoy the rest of the season. As they say sometimes it's not the destination. It's the journey that matters."
There are some youth jerseys but that's all that is in right now. Don't know if there is any particular reason. You can always get a customized jersey and just build it as Fitz 11.
From Aaron Ellis:
"Hi Darren. Overall Keim has been very good at making trades, which often cushions the subpar draft record. We traded for three players this year: Trayvon Mullen, Robbie Anderson, Cody Ford. I know Ford was hurt, but I still can't help but notice the non-contribution from these acquisitions. We had to give up picks for these guys, and it sure looks like they are going to walk at the end of the year. Were these just swings and misses by the scouting department, or do you think we are likely to re-sign them all, given we traded for them?"
Anderson is already under contract for next season, but I don't see any way he returns under the current deal (he is due $12 million in 2023). But let's be clear on what was given up. Mullen cost a likely sixth (if he plays 10 games). Anderson cost a sixth- and seventh-rounder -- but the sixth is in 2024 and the seventh is in 2025. Ford did cost a fifth-round pick, but he had a chance to take hold of a starting spot but lost it to Rashaad Coward right now. Could I see them bringing one or two back? Possible. It's about price. As always.
From Kirk Spino:
"As a man who's seen many bad Cardinals teams in your day, you've witness this moment many times where the season has 'ended.' I ask, what now? Is it audition time going forward? Does anything noticeably change? I can conceivably imagine the pressure might actually go away now, since there's nothing left to play for. Guys will absolutely still fight and have passion for the game, but with nothing on the line, at this point it's mostly about showcasing yourself for all 32. What trends have you noticed over the years?"
It's always audition time. There is a reason the cliche "the eye in the sky don't lie" is real in the locker room. Guys are trying to prove they belong somewhere, and how they perform now is going to be scrutinized by any team that is interested. I know people are going to be surprised, but you usually don't see a big difference in the locker room week to week whether a team is out of the chase or going for the playoffs. It's not like everyone tries so much harder when things are going well. The one thing you watch: If a guy has an injury, he might try to be more careful in pushing it if your team is out of it.
From Juan de la Peña:
"Hi Darren. After that ugly showing in Mexico, one of the things that went most notoriously wrong was the O-Line. In your years covering the team, what do you think was the best OL the Cards have had? Thank you as always for this mailbag!"
The best offensive line the Cardinals have had was in the mid-1970s. In 1975, the line of (from left tackle to right tackle) Roger Finnie, Bob Young, Tom Banks, Conrad Dobler and Dan Dierdorf only allowed eight sacks in a 14-game season, and they had the less-than-mobile Jim Hart at QB. Now, teams passed less then too, so that's something. In my Cardinals time -- starting in 2000 -- I guess I'm going to have to go with the 2015 line of Jared Veldeer, Mike Iupati, Lyle Sendlein, Jonathan Cooper and Bobby Massie, because that offense was so prolific.
From Drew Park:
"Hi Darren. Two questions from your snap counts reports.
- Why on earth are Golden and Gardeck getting significantly snaps than Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas? Did we not spend third-round picks on these guys? I don't understand.
- Trey McBride. He gets lots of snaps, which was good, but hardly any targets. Let me reiterate: he is a PASS CATCHING TIGHT END. That's his specialty, yet we use him as a blocker. Any UDFA TE can be a blocker, why spend a second-round pick on one?"
- Gardeck isn't getting more snaps. Golden is, but again, it's about the trust the coaches have in the player and Sanders hasn't earned that trust yet. Sanders did play 29 snaps against the Chargers (and Golden was PFF's highest-graded player in that game.) Just because a guy is a pick in whatever round doesn't mean they are ready to play.
- And this is a great example. You're mad that Sanders, for instance, doesn't play more, but then with the other rookie who is playing more and struggling, people want to know why he plays so much. The Cardinals need blocking from their main tight end. If you have a tight end who only does one thing, opposing defenses tend to figure out what could be coming. McBride is struggling when he's thrown the ball too right now. There are going to be growing pains and he is being force-fed.
From Stevie Henderson:
"The Cardinals are supposed to have one of the best strength and conditioning staffs in the NFL yet they seem to have many more and more long-lasting injuries than most other teams and at all positions this year. Has anyone questioned this?"
These guys play the most violent game around. Getting hurt is a question of when, not if, and it's about luck as well. I don't think it's about the strength and conditioning plan when both an offensive lineman and a cornerback have back issues. Or Zach Ertz has a knee landed upon. Or even with Rodney Hudson, whose body was breaking down already before deciding to try and play again this season. One of the biggest factors every year by the end of the season is what teams have the most injury luck.
From Chad J:
"How does revenue sharing work with a home game played internationally? It seems like a significant disadvantage to the 'home' team. And as I ask this before Mexico kickoff, the majority of fans are 49er fans and the Cards were booed on their way in? Also, can you explain the rules of journalism around sources and reporting information? 'Sources say…' is used a lot to report, but what qualifies someone as a source? What information is eligible to be reported versus 'off the record?' With the plethora of information out there, any suggestions on recognizing credible reports compared to rumor-mill reporting? Obviously, I love the Cards site and it is always my go-to for trustworthy news."
I'll save the journalism for second because that's my wheelhouse. But as for international games, the home team gets a set amount of money from the league to offset the missing home game, and the rest of the economics flow through the NFL. That doesn't account for the home-field advantage or the fans though -- as everyone saw, the crowd in Mexico was heavily pro-49ers (as opposed to the 2005 game, in which the crowd went with the flow of the game and most cheered for the Cardinals by the end.)
As for your "sources" question: As taught in journalism school, you aren't supposed to use anonymous sources if you can help it. And every story is supposed to have at least two sources to confirm anything. But both long ago have been punted in sports journalism -- pun intended -- in part because, frankly, it's a game. The sources that you see from Schefter or Rapoport or whomever most of the time is an agent, although it could be a team source. There are reasons people want info out there. Off-the-record is literally meant to be information that doesn't see the light of day -- it's supposed to be deep background that might send a reporter in the right direction, but not used directly. Too many times, off-the-record is interpreted as anonymous, and can be used without a name, and that's not correct.
From Simon from China:
"I am completely blown away by Dave Pasch's conversation with Wolf on his latest podcast. This is not just some of the best content on the Cardinals -- this might be my favorite podcast episode all time. I always loved Wolf as an analyst, but now -- especially after learning about what he had been through in his life -- I really appreciate and respect him as a person. The outtakes from the broadcast booth had me in tears, hope there will be a sequel to that! One request: I know you have been posting Dave's 'Call of the day' on YouTube, absolutely love it! Could you please expand this format and show more scenes, maybe including Wolf too? Thanks!"
I'm sure Wolf and Pasch will be happy to hear this. I'll pass on the suggestion.