A three-game losing streak has been painful. The Cardinals have to find a way to win in MetLife Stadium for a second time this season, this time against the Giants, or their once-strong playoff chances will be in deep trouble. First, the week's mailbag. As always, go here to leave a question for a future mailbag.
From Basza D via azcardinals.com:
"Murray and Hopkins were at times very frustrated during the game against the Rams. I started to feel sorry for Kliff at one point when he sat next to Kyler and it looked like he was trying to apologize to the QB because of the 3-and-outs. Does Kingsbury have leadership problems? As much as I love those two playmakers, it's a bit frustrating that Hopkins and Kyler sometimes seem like they think they should decide the game plan."
So I don't know if I understand the question exactly. Not sure if you are asking if Kingsbury isn't a leader or the players. Regardless, it feels like you are making leaps of judgement. It's always dangerous to judge something straight off the TV without any verbal context, but I would doubt Kingsbury is apologizing in that scenario. As for Hopkins and Kyler, again, I'm not sure why you jump to the idea they think they should decide the game plan. They haven't said that and there certainly isn't any other evidence that would make you safely come to that conclusion. Is, for instance, Hopkins frustrated he doesn't get the ball more often? I'm sure. Name me a great receiver that hasn't been like that. Fitz has had his moments over his career. With the offense in a funk, there are going to be problems. That's human nature. The only way to fix that is to fix the production, and that's what they are going to try to do.
From JV via azcardinals.com:
"Not trying to take anything away from K1. I think the Cards can succeed with Kyler in the future, but let's play 'What If?' In 2017 the Cardinals had strong interest in Patrick Mahomes and probably would have drafted him if Kansas City didn't trade up to snag him. How would that have played out for the franchise? Do you think we would be a real contender right now? In addition, bold prediction: Eagles will start Jalen Hurts against the Cardinals in Week 15 and Cards will lose against another rookie QB this year."
I think the Cardinals will beat the Eagles regardless of who starts at QB. As for Mahomes, yes, the Cardinals would have taken him had he been available when they drafted. (I think they would've taken Watson too if he had been there.) Mahomes is a pretty good QB, I'd say. What happens from there? Who knows? Does B.A. still retire? If Mahomes is in place, do they have a different crop of coach candidates from which to choose in 2018, when they went with Steve Wilks (The Cards were drafting 15th that year with no QB, making it a much less desirable place to coach.) Who knows how it would've played out?
From Nick Etta via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. Kliff was hired because he was suppose to be a McVay-type offensive genius. Question, do you see genius in our play design? I don't. I see an offense that is conservative, predictable and simplistic. It doesn't confuse defenses in the least. So what's the solution? I know everybody is calling for Kliff's job. That's an option. Can't Kliff, Kyler, (OL coach Sean) Kugler and Hopkins sit down together and start from zero? New playbook."
So you are suggesting starting from zero and a new playbook. In Week 13 of a season. I would think that would make things much worse. Teams install the playbook starting in May and then reinstall in training camp. That's not something you do in three practices before a game. I would think, regardless of what you think about this offense right now, that the offense that had been successful for most of the year still has within it a way to continue success. It would take adjustments from whatever defenses are now doing. I would assume the coaching staff understands that. But to overhaul it all right now makes no sense. In the offseason, if these issues continue, yes, I'd think you'd have to give serious thoughts to major tweaks.
From Stevie Henderson via azcardinals.com:
"It just occurred to me with the 49ers staying at the Renaissance for a few weeks, do the Cards stay at the team hotel the night before a home game? And if so, is it the Renaissance? What about the visitors? Doesn't the visiting team usually stay at the Renaissance? That place must be getting pretty crowded. I guess I assumed with the COVID protocols, teams would be required to stay at a team hotel the night before every game, home games. Could you please clarify this? Thanks."
Yes, the team stays in a hotel before home games but it isn't the Renaissance. And visiting teams stay in an array of different hotels when they come to Arizona, not just there. So it won't be an issue with the 49ers in town.
From David Strong via azcardinals.com:
"Is it too early to 'give up' on Kyler Murray as an NFL QB? Looks to me that size is going to limit the level of play that he capable of. I can't remember any team, other than Fran Tarkenton (Vikings) having a scrambling QB and being competitive in the league. Russell Wilson is a great QB, but Seattle is not going to beat the good teams."
Seattle, the team that won a Super Bowl and should've won a second with Wilson? Seattle, the team that has been in the playoffs almost every year Wilson has been QB? That Seattle? I gotta admit, these overreactions are painful sometimes. I missed everyone questioning Kyler's viability after he led the comeback against the Seahawks on Sunday night, or threw the Hail Murray. Look, he's in a bad stretch. The offense overall is in a bad stretch. They have to get better. It's one thing to be upset that they are taking too long to get better, but to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I mean ... you all probably thought the Bulls needed to move on from Michael Jordan in 1990 too. (Not that Kyler will be Michael Jordan. But c'mon, man.)
From Charles Oliver via azcardinals.com:
"Hello Darren, my question is about the kicking/punting position. The Cardinals had a young kicker I think name Meyers and a young punter that was one of the final cuts. Are they on any team now? I recall Meyer was on several teams. Also, what was the issues they didn't stick with the team."
The punter, Ryan Winslow, isn't with a team. I'm not sure about the kicker you are talking about. As for what were the "issues," there was only one issue -- both Andy Lee and Zane Gonzalez had good years in 2019 and they were always going to be the punter and kicker. They do have veteran kicker Mike Nugent on the practice squad for COVID reasons.
From Shan Zilla via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, I don't mean to be negative. But I don't understand what Kingsbury's value is. You remember how last year there was a big deal made about the Cardinals usage of five wide receivers? It wasn't terribly successful, but it was unique. That's totally gone. There is no uniqueness anymore. It's a fairly vanilla offense that's clearly not getting the job done. What happened to the magic and creativity?"
Shan, you say you don't mean to be negative but then you go there -- is that like when someone says, "No offense, but ..." and it's something you certainly would take offense to? Feels that way. But anyway, Kliff was never a guy that made a big deal about five wideouts. Maybe 10 personnel (4 WRs and 1 RB, no TE)? That was a thing, and yes, he went away from that when it made more sense to use more 12 and run the ball. Clearly, they have some things they must fix offensively. He's going to have the chance to do that.
From Sebastian Quiros via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, any rough date of when the next Flight Plan will be released? Absolutely love them."
I will be sure to pass that along to Tim DeLaney and company because it is a superb series. As for the next episode, however, I don't know. Given all the restrictions we are under because of COVID protocols -- and they have only gotten tighter as the season has progressed -- it's all we can do to continue to produce the normal content and I don't know if there is something that makes sense for a Flight Plan episode in the near future. But as soon as something is decided, I'm sure we will let everyone know.
From E.N. Rappenborn via azcardinals.com:
"Reports are flying that Bruce Arians and Tom Brady aren't getting along. Two strong personalities, maybe not surprising. In your time as a Cardinals insider, how would you describe B.A.'s relationship with Carson Palmer? There's a theory that B.A. does better with rookie QBs who he can lord over. But when it's a near-40 year old man like TB, CP or Big Ben, then there begins to be some friction when B.A. is B.A."
See you said it right there -- B.A. is B.A. Brady decided to sign with the Bucs, and everyone knows who Arians is and how he operates. In that regard, Brady made his choice. Will there be butting of the heads? Possibly. But Carson enjoyed his time with B.A. I'm sure there were times Palmer was frustrated, but again, that's what happens. It's "Coach 'em hard, hug 'em later.' That goes for rookies and older QBs. He's not for everyone, I'm sure. Somehow, I think Brady will manage just fine.
From Roose Rosenberg via azcardinals.com:
"Throwback worry, but now it may be time to worry presently: Kyler getting frustrated with this inept football and going back to baseball. At what point does that become a concern?"
Again, I can't tell you when you should be concerned -- it's a personal decision. I'm not worried at all. One, I believe his current deal prevents it from happening. Two, I'm not sure Kyler is still getting $10 million to play baseball, nor is there -- at present -- a minor leagues for him to prep his game. Third, he's not leaving football. It kind of cracks me up, to be honest. He was being considered an MVP candidate through nine games. Definitely after the Seattle win, still after he was great despite a loss against the Dolphins, and still after the Hail Murray and that big game. He's had three down games in a row, like the team, and people talk about benching him, moving on from him, or having him quit football. Crazy.
From Devon Schmeling via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, I appreciate your work and I've been a lifelong Cardinals fanatic when a fella named Larry Fitzgerald put on the red and white and has made me proud every day since. Thank you for helping us fans feel closer to the team and players we love. I have two questions. Why is an elite talent by the name of Isaiah Simmons not starting opposite Budda Baker at free safety. They both have elite speed, elite power and tackling and can do anything and more a safety is required to play. Instead of having Isaiah fight De'Vondre Campbell (great signing) for playing time, why not put that young man on the field to learn and grow faster and expedite his learning curve.
"Also, a lot of frustration this year has come from not converting great drive after drive into a touchdown. I know I'm only a fan, but I get all sorts of creative playing Madden with the Cardinals and moving all of our playmakers around in our so fun to watch offense now. Why not try our spread 4-man split our offense with Drake or Edmonds running some reads or RPO runs with Kyler for him to run it in or pass it in?"
Simmons has gotten some reps at safety, but he's not going to be a permanent safety. Not happening. They like him as a linebacker for his base and then are going to move him around. I don't know if his learning curve would be flattened a lot more than his current playing time situation. As for the offense, clearly they need to get to a different place offensively. But this is not Madden.
From Pat Daniels via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, I wanna gush on A-Dub! He's still director of pro scouting? Meaning he's in charge of scouting NFL players? I know Steve Keim gets the 'Keim Time' props for finding these gems, but can't it be argued they are actually 'A-Dub Diamonds?' Just to name a few: De'Vondre, Beachum, Peko. It's been said before but goodness Blackson has been tremendous. Joseph and Banjo are both good pros we're happy to have. Isn't all this veteran success a result of A+ A-Dub scouting? I hope we don't lose him to another team."
I don't have any breakdown of how a certain player got on the Cardinals' radar, but anyone they sign ultimately is talked about within the personnel department and the coaches to make sure it makes sense. I think if you asked Adrian he'd be quick to make sure everyone knew it's a team effort. But yes, I think Dub has a bright future in NFL front offices. I am sure he'll appreciate me saying so too.
From Troy McClendon via azcardinals.com:
"DU. Love this Mailbag. Being a fan for about 45 years, I'm die hard with my Cards. My question is more of a concern. I saw some things against the Patriots. Either Kyler a little scared for the first time in his career, or Kliff being so overprotective that it hurt this offense dearly. We have our franchise QB but I think I'd rather see a 100% Chris Streveler than a 70% and nervous K1."
I don't think the problem in the Patriots' game was a nervous Murray. And with all due respect to Streveler, I don't know what would happen if he actually had to play a game. The Cards have a lot of issues on offense right now but I do not think it's about Murray being scared or Kingsbury being overprotective.
From Cardinal Fan Numero Uno via azcardinals.com:
"Do you think we bring Beachum back next year? He's played pretty good at RT. Gilbert is a non-thought. Maybe he can be a swing OT at vets minimum. But the right tackle spot is between Beachum and Jones, and I don't think anyone is comfortable with Jones starting yet. I also think Sweezy is out in FA, so would you expect Murray grabs that right guard spot? I thought he's done so well."
I'm not sure how the offseason is going to go. The inevitable drop in salary cap is going to make roster building for 2021 and free agency overall fascinating to watch and difficult for most teams. Jones is the future at RT, so you're going to probably try and keep Gilbert or Beachum but not both. The other question becomes at guard, do you think about using Cole or Gaillard to get both on the field? But Murray is under contract, so he'll be around.
From Maria Villasana via azcardinals.com:
"Why don't I ever see Kyler reviewing plays on the tablet while on sideline? Is he not getting the support or does he feel he doesn't need any help?"
I'll be honest, I'm at all the games and I don't watch Kyler on the sideline all the time so I can't say if he looks at the plays there or not, and I would guess you haven't either. I am sure there are times when Murray is looking at the plays, or talking to Cam Turner or Kliff.
From John Turilli via azcardinals.com:
"Proud season ticket holder here. Do we have a running back that can run over any lineman like Derrick Henry? Can we claim a large young back from some other teams practice squad? This year we would be 8-3 with a back like Henry or a fast fullback. Kyler will have a short career if he keeps running into or around defensive linemen. Short-yardage is a key for our offense to gain and succeed. This year is still much better to watch than the last 2 seasons and hope Keim Time pops his head up again. Go Cards and thank you very much for this forum."
Well, Derrick Henry is kind of in a class by himself. But can the Cardinals go get a large power back? They could. Here's the issue -- if he isn't part of your offense beyond the handful of times he might get a short-yardage carry in a game, can you afford to make him part of the game day roster? He'd have to be pretty good on special teams too. Now, none of that is unrealistic, but it's not how they are set up. All that said, yes, the Cards have to find a way to do better in short yardage. What is funny is that, watching around the league right now, it seems the Cards aren't the only one to have struggles in short yardage. It feels like teams are getting better at defending such plays.
From Fanny Valentine via azcardinals.com:
"I was listening to Kylers press conference (after the Rams game) and something he said really bothers me. A reporter asked about how we are 1-4 in our last 5, and Kyler seemed unaware of that fact. 'Yeah, ya know, we're what 1 and what, 3, 4? in our last 5?' I get Kyler is a week-to-week guy, which is good when you're winning. But there is something to be said when you're losing, like we are, and you forget last week so quickly. And it ties in a little bit with people complaining about Kyler's 'immaturity' after losses. You've interviewed thousands of athletes, so you'd know best. Is it immaturity? Or is it being flip? I don't think Kyler is immature, I think he's annoyed that he has to answer questions about (in his mind) inane things that don't matter. Which is supported by the fact he doesn't seem to know what the team record is."
Fanny, I appreciate you note how old I am through my thousands of interviews. But I digress. When Patrick Peterson was talking he too took a moment to figure out the Cardinals' losing streak. I don't think it's a sign of anything, to be honest. That particular detail isn't that important in my opinion, not in the context around which you are talking. As you mentioned, I've been around a lot of athletes. I've heard guys who are annoyed or mad during interviews. Heck, we saw one earlier this year with Kyler -- which is one reason it's probably been taking him so long to talk after games (it was more than an hour after the game ended Sunday before Murray finally got on the Zoom.) It's partly so he can compose himself before speaking with us. The players know the record of late hasn't been good.
From Sidney Sexson via azcardinals.com:
"Kyler and Kliff have that same diplomatic personality when it comes to the interviews, which is fine, but hopefully when they both say Kyler doesn't have to run for us to win, they are actually figuring out how to get that aspect of Kyler's game back into the upcoming games. When you analyze our wins and losses it is obvious that when Kyler makes the defense pay for either overplaying the running back or leaving a lane wide open on a passing play, that it opens up the game plan and gives us a good chance to win."
I honestly believe when Kyler says he doesn't have to run for the Cardinals to win, he believes it. I think there is part of him that feels that people bringing up the running part of the game means they think he can't be a good quarterback otherwise. But whatever either of them say, the results will be what tells. If the Cardinals can get the offense going without Kyler doing damage on the ground, they will have made their point. If the Cards cannot, the questions will persist, regardless of their answers.
From Victor Sanchez via azcardinals.com:
"What name does Kyler Murray have on the back of his helmet? I haven't seen a good shot of the name. Thanks! Go Cards!"
Kyler doesn't have a specific name on his helmet. It says "End Racism."
From Jake The Snake via azcardinals.com:
"The broadcast made a big deal about Sean McVay publicly calling out Jared Goff to play better. And apparently, Goff responded well. In your view, how do you determine that fine line between addressing a problem, and not throwing a guy under the bus? I've been watching Kliff's soulless post games interview, and it's the same thing every week. 'We've just gotta find a way to get better.' You know what I want? Accountability. If Kyler is playing badly, let's hear it. Tell the world that Kyler is reading the field poorly. If Kliff is calling bad plays, I want to hear Kyler say so. I want to see some finger pointing. Somebody is at fault. Who?"
I get the frustration (although it does make me chuckle when someone says he wants others to call people out in public when that person isn't even willing to put his real name with the question. It's not so easy when you have to put your name on it, right?) Yes, McVay went out of character to say what he did about Goff. And yes, it seemed to have had the proper effect. But that is absolutely not Kliff's style, and if he is holding Kyler accountable internally, isn't that the ultimate goal? As a writer, I love having the Bruce Arians-type public callouts. People want to click and read on that stuff. But does it help? B.A. called out Brady, and not only are the Bucs still having bumpy moments on the field and losing games, but now the B.A.-Brady thing is another (probably unwanted) storyline. Also, let's say Kliff says Kyler is playing poorly. It's not going to stop people from criticizing Kliff, right? You know your players as a coach. If the message isn't received well, you better find a way to deliver the message that will be received well.
From Joe Cardea via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, 2020 was never about the Super Bowl. I'm not sure it was about the playoffs. Where do you see team needs next year? Cornerback? Running back? Interior offensive line? I don't see Kenyan Drake making big bucks, Pat P either. I'd like them both back but at market value, maybe less since the market is whacko. Can we keep paying Fitz $10+ million? Anyway I think the defense is okay for next year. I'd like to keep Markus Golden and Haason Reddick."
As I mentioned earlier, the cap is going to make things difficult. It's going to drop more than $20 million (and probably would have been worse if an artificial floor hadn't been agreed upon. Drake, Peterson, Fitz, those are only a few of a ton of guys who will be without contracts. I can see cornerback being a focus even if Peterson does come back. Running back maybe. But again, it's going to depend on who you want to keep, who you can keep, and what the musical chairs of this weird offseason are going to look like.
From @TheCaptainLou via Twitter:
"On a long drive, the wife and I were debating what sort of 'consideration' the NFL and Cards agreed to for sharing the stadium with the Niners. Prime SNF/MNF home game and 'never being asked to do Hard Knocks' were at the top of the list. Yours?"
Believe it or not, I don't think there is any quid pro quo here. I think this is all about Michael Bidwill wanting to help the league to make sure this season gets completed in this difficult COVID year. Although the Hard Knocks thing was funny. The prime game, I mean, with Kyler Murray, they are going to get one of those anyway.
From Lee Stranders via azcardinals.com:
"In the last year of Bruce Arians tenure we beat Seattle at their place and finished the season .500. I felt quite satisfied with our effort given the team at the time. At the start of this year I thought .500 would be steady progress towards a date with destiny in 2021/22. I feel our early success beating lesser teams with us having a fully fit squad had got us out over our skis. These things always even out over 16 games although coach keeps falling off the learning curve. I think we need to settle down enjoy the ride and plan our strategy for next year. 'Tis the season to be jolly."
I don't know how jolly the Cardinals are right now, because they feel like they should be better than .500 right now. But you make a logical argument.