It's Thanksgiving week. And Rams week. And Kyler-needs-to-bounce-back week. It's always mailbag week. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. Don't forget to send a question for a future mailbag.
From Stephen Shannon:
"What the heck is wrong with Kyler's arm? Ball is coming out wobbly, fluttering, behind guys, coming up very short on deep passes; it's very concerning. I know in the post game he mentioned 'mechanics' which does not alleviate worries. Does he have the yips? Did he forget the basics of being a QB? I know everyone makes fun of Dak (and now CJ Stroud) for their bizarre pre-game calisthenics and movement exercises, but perhaps Kyler needs to stop worrying about looking cool, and become more concerned about being a finely tuned and prepared QB."
I do so love the cheap shots. Why don't you mention CoD while you're at it? I don't know how Kyler's "look" would have anything to do with anything, but whatever. I can tell you that this coaching staff is trying to overhaul the mechanics that Kyler has played with his entire life and is asking him to do something different, and that is going to have a learning curve. I do think Murray didn't play all that well Sunday. But if you were looking for a finished product two games after a year off, you were always going to be disappointed.
From John McGill:
"Hey Darren. I hope things are going well for you and yours. Do you think that Trey McBride has a shot at making the Pro Bowl if he keeps playing the way he has been playing?"
I think such talk would be premature at this point. But he has been impressive in his trend upward.
From Sebas Quiros:
"Hey Darren. A couple questions so I'll put them in a list.
- I think offense has been the weaker part of the team this season. Do you believe this is merely injury-based or something else? I even think they have looked maybe their worse with Kyler.
- We know Monti is very much inclined to work in the trenches. However, they won't dismiss cornerback, will they? Because in my opinion corner is maybe our weakest room.
- I have a question about tanking. I can never decide if I'm opposed. I get why players and teams don't want to do it, but at the same time, there's almost no chance we make playoffs this season, our schedule is very tough.
Thanks for your work in the mailbag."
Here are some answers.
- The offense has struggled for multiple reasons, not the least of which being the franchise QB was out for most of the season and is just getting into the swing of playing all the time. It does need personnel upgrades in places, too.
- I believe cornerback will be a top priority this offseason.
- I never would tell someone to feel one way or the other about wanting a better draft pick. All I can tell you is that it doesn't matter, because the players and coaches don't want to lose if they can help it, and draft picks really don't help them keep jobs.
From Charles Hunt:
"Hi Darren. Tough loss, tough week. Was really excited coming into Sunday's game. Why do you think the offense is primarily back to shotgun and do you think this will change? What are your thoughts on the K1-to-Hollywood connection or lack there of? Do think Greg Dortch gets the start at slot finally, all he does is make plays."
I have said for a while I don't know if Kyler is ever going to not be majority shotgun. It's up to the coaches to determine if that works in their plans long-term. It's odd so far that Hollywood hasn't had many catches in the two games Kyler has been back, but twice Brown was open for deep TDs and Murray just couldn't get him the ball -- one too far, one too short. And we will see on Dortch. He was out there because Michael WIlson was hurt. I think he will go back to reserve status when everyone is healthy.
From Vance Pascua:
"Aloha from Kauai Darren. So stoked we picked up a running back off of waivers, question, how does a team get awarded the rights to a player? I heard multiple teams wanted Michael Carter but we were the ones getting awarded to pick him up. Is it first team who put in a claim? Is it a team's record? Just curious on the process."
Yes, it is based on record. When a player is waived, every team has a 24 hour period in which to submit a claim. Once that time frame ends, the team with the poorest record/highest claim order that put in a claim gets the player. This time of year, ever player released goes through waivers; pre-trade deadline, veterans with at least four years of service time are free agents and can pick where they go.
From Richard Wakefield:
"Will somebody tell Gannon he's in the NFL now! Last week he goes for 2 IN THE FIRST HALF! This week he goes for it in the third quarter and then later passes up a chip shot field goal! We could kick another field goal with less than a minute to go and win the game. There's a reason no other NFL coach does that! It's hard enough to win in the NFL without the coach giving games away. Are we still going for the first draft pick? Of course you won't print this."
I haven't seen that many exclamation points since my high school yearbook, Richard. Odd that you would complain that not another coach in the league would pass up the chip shot field goal when DeMeco Ryans did it himself earlier in the game. And I'm not sure the "tell Gannon he's in the NFL now" thing. You know he wasn't a college coach and that he's been in the NFL since 2007, right? You can argue he should've kicked the field goal. It's obvious now. But if you are questioning going for two earlier in the game and going for it on fourth downs when it's "unconventional," you aren't watching much NFL these days.
From Joy Brooks:
"The way we started against the Texans i thought it was going to be a great game, but unfortunately it didn't last. Defense had a great second half but their horrible play in the first gave up too many points. Still, I've seen Kyler overcome much worse. I'm wondering if when he made that tackle he hurt his shoulder and that affected his accuracy? Also it's kind of hard to pass when the O-line gives him no protection at all."
If you are asking when he made that tackle against the Falcons after the interception, he was never on the injury report and he looked fine on the bomb to Rondale Moore. If you mean *when* he got tackled on the two-point conversion or in that time frame, I don't think that was it. I think he just had a bad day against a better defense than the Falcons.
From Tee in 801:
"I know the Cardinals are not a good team right now, but how come they did not get slated for a prime time game this season? I have noticed that a few teams who are also not very good this season have had two or three primetime games already."
Before the season, the Cardinals were not expected to have much of a season. The Jets and Giants were, among others. Tough break for the networks.
From Johnny S:
"Hi, Darren. Thanks for doing this mailbag. The Texans declined an offensive PI on Hollywood Brown to make it fourth-and-5. The Cardinals decided to go for it and when they were about to snap the ball, the refs stopped the play because apparently the Texans changed their mind and decided to accept the penalty. I've never seen this before. Is it legal?"
I'd be stunned if it wasn't legal since it indeed happened. I went back to rewatch; it's not like the Cardinals were actually barking signals. In the end, it didn't matter; Tony Jones ran for 11 yards on third and 15 and -- ball don't lie -- the Cardinals were left to go on fourth-and-4. So they came out ahead.
From Greg W:
"Hey Darren, what did Kei'Trel Clark do? When the coaches say words like "performance," while simultaneously fielding arguably the worst cornerback group in Cardinals history, it's hard to take "performance" at face value. The fans aren't stupid, we have eyes, Clark is not that bad. Certainly not bad enough to bench, while Marco Wilson and Antonio Hamilton are the worst CB duo in the NFL (statistically). So what is it?"
Here's what Gannon said about Marco Wilson. As far as Clark, we've been told multiple times he'll be back in the mix. But to imply it is beyond football makes no sense. He's not on the roster otherwise. They watch him every week in practice. They watch him in the meeting rooms. They haven't made a change.
From Don Geisler:
"Hey Darren. Happy Thanksgiving! I'll preface this by saying I realize it's more of a rant, but will throw in a question to make it more legit. I have been there for the team through it ALL. Season ticket holder at Sun Devil Stadium and am to this day. Jake playoffs, Super Bowl in person, ups, downs, all of it. After all this time, energy, money, blood, sweat, and tears, this league has finally driven me out. The referees are blatantly cheating. 3 weeks in a row, in front of God and everybody, they cheated with never-before-seen obviousness, and NOBODY CARES.
- Dude moves the ball back a foot as the chain gang arrives. Saw it live from my Club Seats. Still can't believe it.
- The following week, an offensive pass interference on Hollywood Brown with no other players even on the TV screen at the time.
- Sunday's punt turnover. The ball hit the Texans gunner square in the back. Period.
All of these lies have excuses behind them, (Need irrefutable evidence because of the call on the field. Hollywood ran an illegal pick, replay assist.) All very well-placed, well timed, nuanced calls that affect the game. (I know the worst one, yesterday's punt turnover, was negated by quick interception). I am saddened by all of this. It s no longer legitimate sport, it is quasi-scripted entertainment. The Cardinals have been such a big part of my life for so long that they are a part of my identity. My kids were born and bred into Arizona Cardinals fandom. However, I'm still wise enough to recognize a toxic relationship. Is it the gambling? I'm not just a Fanboy or myopic fanatic. I know what I have seen with my own two eyes. Except for taking my hard-earned dollars and going home, what can a fan do to impact this problem?"
I let you rant a little longer that others, Don, because your resume earned it. In your three examples, I can't argue the punt turnover or the OPI in Cleveland -- those were two wretched calls. The moving the ball one could've been more transparent for those in the stands or even TV I suppose, but I knew exactly what was going on because of the ability to call down (and on replay, the ball indeed should've been spotted where they moved it.)
Big picture, there isn't anything a fan can do. There are humans officiating. Mistakes are going to be made. What is disappointing with, for instance, the punt turnover, is that the replay sure seemed to show what really happened and they didn't change it even then. I'll end with this: Fans of teams in any sport are always going to have times when they are pissed off at the officials. That's a given. Happy Thanksgiving tho!
From Jeff S:
"Were there any comments from JG concerning the two calls that went against the Cardinals on Sunday? I thought and still think that was a catch by Elijah Higgins. I've seen similar plays ruled completions. Also, on the punt that was ruled a turnover, I didn't see conclusive evidence that the ball hit the Cardinals' player? Finally, am I correct that the Washington game was the only game that the Cardinals have kicked off to start the game? So, have they lost every other coin toss or have they chosen to receive other times?"
I believe the Higgins catch should've stood, but it is what it is. As I mentioned earlier I thought the punt play was a terrible call, but you said you didn't see conclusive evidence -- the problem was that the call on the field was Texans ball, so the replay had to show conclusive evidence that it hit a Texans player. They didn't have to prove it hit a Cardinals' player. (Now, it sure looked like they had that Texans evidence, but...). As far as the coin toss, the Cardinals have lost every toss since Week 1.
From Robert Malicki:
"Hello, Darren, I refer to coach Gannon's preseason statements on having his QB under center most of the time. As a longtime NFL fan it's my preferred offense but I do understand the league migrating to the shotgun approach. Kyler was not under center too much as I understand. Do you think that ratio in the OC's playcalling will even out more going forward? I know the shotgun allows the QB to better scan the defense pre-snap and there's the protection factor for Kyler, too, but I think Connor would be more potent running from the set."
I could see Murray eventually playing under center more, but I don't know if we will ever see him playing majority under center. Definitely not this season, as he tries to learn a new way to play quarterback under this coaching staff.
From Jerry Brown:
"I watched the Texans game, and I can't remember seeing Zaven Collins on a single play. Is he playing well? Is there any chance the Cards will pick up his fifth-year option? What's the story?"
They are happy what he has been doing, although he didn't make any splash plays in Houston. They make the point that he too is learning a new position. Whether they pick up his fifth-year option is a decision for May, so there are still six games to see and use in that judgement.
From Rob Ert:
"Do you think someone can teach Kyler to carry the ball like a football player rather than a kid running for the school bus? He's lost a few and I'm sure he'll lose a few more as we go. New coach, same loaf of bread carrier."
I'm watching Patrick Mahomes do the exact same thing here on Monday night. He looks like a football player. Also, no one carries bread that way. You'd squish it.
From Ryan Sherman:
"I just read last week's mailbag and a comment about Trey McBride struck me as quite negative. Is he better than Ertz? We don't know because the frustrating missed catches Ertz had previous to injury were uncharacteristic of his play over his whole career. I get it Trey is the new shiny object that is flourishing in the desert but don't count Ertz out. He is a career-long Pro Bowler that just seems to keep playing at a high level. I also want to remind people that when we drafted Kyler with the No. 1 overall pick the 49ers had lost their QB for the season and essentially tanked leading to Nick Bosa on a stacked team and that team is attempting to buy their Super Bowl. We could very well be a lot closer than we think to being a very good football team with a couple hits on draft picks next year. Thank you Darren for all the mailbag questions being answered and keeping a fairly level head while doing it. Some of these people need to calm down a little."
I don't have a problem with people looking to see more McBride. McBride does have more of a future than Ertz, but you are correct; having Ertz back with McBride and Kyler Murray could make for help for both tight ends.
From Josh Wright:
"Hi Darren. I've been following the Cardinals from the UK since about 2014 and I'm really enjoying the positivity and togetherness of this team. The coaching team are obviously making a big impact, which is great to see. I've been really pleased at how well the rookies have been ingrained already with our older, more experienced players. As you see the team up close on a day-to-day basis, are there any rookies you've been particularly impressed with? Anything they bring to the locker room or the field that you've been pleasantly surprised about? Do any have any unique gameday rituals (think Mahomes' boxer shorts)?"
If you are asking about on a playing level, Garrett Williams has impressed me early, but I think most of the rookies have a chance to be contributors at the least. Stills, Wilson, Ojulari, Clark, Johnson. But off the field I like interacting with all these guys and you can see why the Cardinals liked their character. (No, I don't know of any rituals.)
From John Zatarski:
"Darren, once again there were too many opposing fans at a home game, this time the Falcons game. The Cardinal fans who were there were certainly vocal and made lots of noise. Wish so many Cardinal season ticket holders would not sell their ducats. With the Rams coming this Thanksgiving weekend, will we have home-field advantage?"
The Cardinals will have home-field advantage because they are at home. Re-visiting the tickets-being-sold thing isn't something that I'm interested in. I get wishing people wouldn't, but in the end, they can do what they wish with what they paid for.
From Sidney Sexson:
"In past years I have enjoyed and gotten a lot of good information out of the interviews with the defensive and offensive coordinators, which were posted on the website regularly. This year I have only seen them posted once since the season started. Is there a reason for this?"
The videos of the coordinator press conferences have been posted on the site every Tuesday all season.
From Scott Allen:
"Thanks for the mailbag, Darren! I'm a longtime Cardinals Season Ticket Holder that moved up to Portland on the Black Monday that Wiz and Graves were let go. I've been a fan through many regimes and I have to say, despite being 2-9, I'm impressed with the MoJo (Monti & Jonathan). Monti has had some very minor missteps (Gannon tampering) but he's been great; building the team the right way. Gannon has been everything I want in a HC. He's high energy and enthusiastic with his players and staff but he is protective of his team, holds himself accountable, and almost Belichickian during his press conferences. How would you rank the GM/HC regimes you've covered? I know it's early for this regime but maybe project what you believe the future holds for this question. Do you think there is any risk of a Wilks-type firing if the team goes under .500 with the remaining K1 games?"
It's definitely too early for this duo. And I can only go by results on the field. It felt like Keim and Arians meshed the best, and that was three-plus years of pretty good (and then a 2016 of underachieving.) But Graves and Whisenhunt, however improbably, got to a Super Bowl and nearly won it. That's a big deal. Graves also was the one to acquire Kurt Warner. I think this duo is off to a good start. But success comes down to wins and postseason showings. Way too early to judge.
From Lorna Green:
"You may not be able to answer this question but I don't know who else to ask. For many years, a gentleman posted a clever sign at the north end of the stadium for every game. It usually referenced the team we were playing that week. There haven't been any signs this year. I miss them. Do you know why they are gone?"
The gentleman was "Mad Jack," and he decided not to renew his tickets, and by obvious extension, there are no signs.