Can't say that the end of the season was not a disappointment. It was. Now the Cardinals head into the offseason -- one with questions, especially with how COVID will impact NFL finances when it comes to free agency -- trying to find a way to finally reach the playoffs in 2021. As usual, the mailbags will come weekly (unless you guys forget to send in questions), so feel free to send along your queries by going here.
From Landon Phillips via azcardinals.com:
"Welp, we're picking 16th. Where the mediocre reign supreme. What are you thinking in terms of targets? CB would seem to be the far and away top need, yes? FYI, there are two star CBs in this draft. Will either make it to 16? Receiver? It's a VERY good draft for WRs. Could very well get a star at 16. In my mind WR is a bit of a luxury, but who knows. What do you think? OL? What's funny is I feel good at OL. Pass rusher? With Gardeck's surge, I'd say we are set at pass rusher. DL? Absolutely maybe. RB? That's interesting. At 16 we could be in position to take the best RB in the draft. Najee Harris anyone?"
I don't see the Cardinals taking a running back in the first round at all. I do think cornerback makes sense, as does defensive line and yes, pass rusher. Haason Reddick, Markus Golden and Gardeck (albeit restricted) are all free agents. But it's way too early to be specific about the draft. Free agency will dictate the direction you go there.
From Frank Yeardley via azcardinals.com:
"Hiya Darren. A LOT of folks upset about Kliff saying he doesn't regret putting Streveler in over Hundley as the No. 2 QB. Which of course he will say. That's such a coaches answer, not to throw Streveler under the bus. But of course he regrets it. We all regret it. At the start of the season it was such a bizarre thing that none of us understood. I know Streveler is well liked, but Hundley is an NFL QB. Streveler is not. And it cost us our season. My question is actually about his usage. If you've ever watched Streveler's highlights from the CFL, he's a runner. He had more INTs than TDs as a passer. So why was Kliff using him so much passing?"
Going back to look at the gamebook, the times when he was throwing on first down (and mostly in the first half) was an attempt to get D-Hop the ball. In the second half, he was actually fairly effective throwing on early downs. And it doesn't make a ton of sense to run on third-and-7. But I get your overall point. It makes sense to run more with a running QB, and you're right, that's who Streveler is.
From Randy Doom via azcardinals.com:
"How is Streveler the backup and why wasn't Hundley active?"
Streveler has been the backup coming out of training camp. The decision surprised me, but I was thinking it would in large part be to allow Streveler to have a small package each game like Taysom Hill -- except that never really evolved. Hundley wasn't active because Sunday because for Kingsbury, Streveler had earned the backup role, Murray was healthy going into the game, and Hundley was the third-stringer who didn't dress just he had done the previous 15 games.
From Shane Erich via azcardinals.com:
"Why do you believe Mr. Bidwill is so hesitant to replace Mr. Keim? It seems that after 73 yrs without a ring and remaining fairly irrelevant to national-level media until Kyler and Hopkins that the ownership (who profit more when winning) may not have the best formula and may want to start looking at examples that have been successful enough to create legacies. What am I missing?"
Not sure when your timeline starts for being irrelevant -- I'd argue when Palmer/Fitz/Badger/P2 were doing so well in 2015, they had a higher national profile than now. And that run was actually put together by Steve Keim. When you ask why he would be "hesitant" that implies he wants to but can't pull the trigger. Michael Bidwill and Keim have a good working relationship, they have had success together, and once he made the decision to let Keim hire Kingsbury, he wasn't going to go anywhere.
From Jeremy Stevens via azcardinals.com:
"I understand from a business standpoint you want your fans happy, because happy fans give you money. But I'm sitting here watching these 'disappointing outcome, but great season' tweets roll in, and it makes me sick. Was that a good season? 8-8 full of ugly losses. Typically that would be a reset season. Fire everyone. But since I do not want to fire everyone (I like our position coaches), getting a new playcaller will suffice. What are the chances of that?"
Kliff Kingsbury was hired in part to call plays. I do not expect that to ever change. Also, I have to question how 8-8 is a "reset" season. I'm not saying it doesn't happen once in a while in the NFL, but 8-8 is the Cardinals' best record since 2017.
From Clementina Salinas via azcardinals.com:
"Why hasn't the team used their secret weapon? Eno Benjamin!"
Eno was never on track to play this season. Consider it a redshirt year, and we will see where he fits in 2021.
From Sonny AZ Cards via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, hope you had good Christmas. First question, what is your favorite X-mas movie? Second, in your opinion why have we performed so badly against the Rams offense? Jets and Seahawks managed to cover their receivers, why can't we? Next question, how is Jordan Phillips doing? OK, that's from me. Happy New Year to all of you!"
Obviously, Die Hard. Against the Rams, that's a good question, although in the case of the Seahawks especially, Goff playing poorly/getting hurt probably aided in defending against the pass that day. The defense wasn't the problem for the Cardinals Sunday in L.A. As for Jordan Phillips, once he went on IR a second time, he was done for the season, so even if the Cards had made the playoffs, he would not have been able to return.
From JR JXA via azcardinals.com:
"Heya Darren. Looking at the 2021 list of opponents, I can't help but feel deflated. Before you say it, I understand there's no such thing as an easy game. But let's be reasonable, some games are more optimistic than others. I'm looking at schedule packed full of playoff teams, or near-playoff teams. WE are the weak team on most of their schedules. And now I'll go off the deep end because why not? By no fault of his own, Kyler Murray is probably doomed to have a bad 2021 as a result of this brutal schedule. That would make three straight years of non-winning seasons under Murray. So do we give that guy $40M (or whatever QBs are getting by then)? Do we keep Kliff? I GET IT, we have to play regardless. But no Cardinal fan can realistically look at that schedule and feel optimistic."
Goodness, JR, I thought optimism was a requirement in this country after the calendar flipped to 2021. You forgot to pick yours up at the store. I know everyone is angry right now, but guess what -- the Cardinals were also a near-playoff team. More importantly, how do you have any idea what any of these teams are going to look like in 2021? The Packers, Rams, Cowboys and Bears are all estimated to be over the cap even with losing potential free agents. Free agency itself is going to be different. And you are also assuming Murray/Kliff/the offense makes no advancement themselves. I don't know what's going to happen, but we are a long way from knowing what this schedule will really bring, or how teams might be impacted by the time the Cardinals play those games.
From Sam Bridges via azcardinals.com:
"I know you do your FA predictions thing in the summer, but could you give us a sneak peek regarding PP? I've not a clue what's gonna happen with PP. Is he a great CB anymore? No. But he's the best we have, and that's significant. So my gut feeling is we want to keep him at the right price. Probably cheaper than PP will be asking. And that brings us to the big X factor - will ANYONE offer PP the price he wants? Arguably probably not. Teams watch other teams. They see what we see. So what do you think? Do you think this will be a similar situation to CC where we're like 'go get a quote from someone else, and we'll let you know if we choose to match?' Or is PP too proud for that? If he gets a quote from someone else, he's gone without even calling us back?"
I think, Sam, you lay out a pretty accurate possibility all the way around. Do I think Patrick wants to stay? Yes. Do I think the Cards would like him to stay? Yes. Do I think what the Cards are willing to pay for that possibility and what Patrick wants is the same number? Probably not. So can they find middle ground (or even middle ground on length of contract too?) At this point, I'd think Peterson would want to see his market. That will determine things.
From Edson Sierra via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. Not sure if there's a question in here, but I just don't get the reaction everyone has to the Cardinals. From the media, opposing players, and even the fans themselves, it seems that the team is held to a standard no one else is. Calling for Kliff's removal after two years of growth? Sure, bet. Even the media, when we won games, would say it's not sustainable, a glitch if you will. But every game lost and the 'I told you so' would come pouring in. Heck, even if one if our star players would not have good stats fans would immediately ask for their trade. Even the worst NFL player is better than all couch coaches, and D.J. is right, we had the No. 1 pick just a couple of seasons ago, now we are 8-8. Let's build off that. Go Cards!"
I don't know if the Cardinals are held to a different standard. I'd be willing to bet if you comb through Vikings Twitter or Raiders Twitter or Cowboys Twitter or whatever, you're going to find frustrated and angry fans, some being pretty illogical. The passion bucket overflows at times. Don't get me wrong. Some of the criticism is fair. The Cardinals, some of Kliff Kingsbury's decisions, some of the play, it's far from perfect -- which is what an 8-8 record signifies. One team gets a pass, and it's the team that wins the Super Bowl. Everyone else, something went wrong.
From JR Sanchez via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. Have you noticed a step back from Jordan Hicks this season? He just looks a step slower. He's going to finish the season with approximately 35 fewer tackles than last season. One INT (3 last year). No sacks. I know stats aren't everything, but in this case the stats align with the eyeballs. Thoughts at all?"
I don't think Hicks played as well this season as he did in 2019, and there are times, especially in coverage, when perhaps he seemed a step slow. But I don't know if it was any huge dropoff (and I also think the Cardinals did a better job overall on defense this year, perhaps making it less necessary for Hicks to make tackles -- especially in how they defended the tight end.) Not having any sacks doesn't mean anything to me -- he wasn't rushing the passer.
From Josh Hartman via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. Do you see the Cardinals possibly hiring a full-time quarterbacks coach for Kyler next year? As it seems as though most teams have a full-time QB coach to work with/be a sounding board as opposed to the head coach who has multiple responsibilities."
So, aside from Kliff, the Cardinals have three other coaches who work with QBs within their responsibilities -- Tom Clements, Cam Turner and Jordan Hogan. I don't know if you need another person in that role.
From Joey Jupiter via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. This question is a throwback from a 2019 Kent Somers tweet talking about 'If Jackie smith isn't in the Cardinals Ring of Honor (given he's in the Hall of Fame), then the ROH doesn't mean much." I have to agree. Personally speaking, I'm a big advocate of Anquan Boldin in the ROH. In regards to Somers' comment, Michael Bidwill is the decision maker on these things. And I guess I'm wondering what is his decision process? Surely he's aware of the topic. But there was a discussion on Reddit that theorized that Mike wants to erase the past. It's a reason we never wear throwbacks. Mike just want to focus on the here, now and future. Not a bad thing, IMO. Mike is responsible for our big franchise turnaround. But there are those who are nostalgic and enjoy our history. What do you think about all that?"
I think people might be taking some leaps there. Jim Hart just went into the ROH a couple of years ago and he was done playing long before the Cardinals moved from St. Louis. I know there were some hard feelings from Smith when he left the Cardinals, so perhaps that is part of it. Obviously, Anquan Boldin's exit wasn't all that pretty. But I don't know exactly how Michael makes the ultimate ROH choice. As far as the throwbacks, I just don't know what uniforms the Cards wear is as important to the organization as it is to some fans. But I'll be honest, I've never asked about that possibility.
From Jace Crowford via azcardinals.com:
"I know you get a lot of questions about P2, but really the CB room as a whole is a large concern. Byron Murphy isn't going anywhere, but other than him, we don't have any sure things going into 2021. P2 may be gone. Kirkpatrick is likely gone. While I'm a big fan of Alford, he's a complete unknown. We might be going into 2021 needing two or three new main cornerbacks. Obviously theres the draft, but this is a bad predicament. Is this a likely scenario or am I worrying too much?"
If you are a regular reader of the mailbag, Jace, you'll know that I'll never judge on a fan's level of concern/worry. That's a deeply personal decision. However, you have read the position pretty well. It's a position that needs to be addressed, and needs some young blood aside from Murphy, even if Peterson stays. I'd also say it puts cornerback in play in the first round of the draft, but we will see what free agency brings (or takes.)
From Jules Nash via azcardinals.com:
"Larry is a big stats/legacy guy even if he pretends otherwise in interviews. He's also a big-money guy, as he should be in this violent/profitable sport. Real simply: would he return for cheaper at a shot at rings/records? Or would he never accept a pay cut?"
Let me say this about Fitz, as we wait to see what his decision is about 2021/his career. I don't think he comes back for records. Would he come back because he thought this team can get in the postseason? I do think that would be the motivation. But given the salary cap constraints all teams will be under this coming season, no, I do not see him playing for his $11 million-plus. I don't know what Fitz would do under those circumstances or how the team would approach it. I would hate to see his career end with no fans at his last home game and sitting out his final game period and hope he returns in 2021. But I can also see reasons why Fitz would decide now is the time.
From Billie Elson via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, I had an epiphany yesterday, maybe you can relate. Ever since I made the transition from being a casual fan to being a die-hard fan, studying draft picks and getting excited when the team drafts 'my guy,' I realized Patrick Peterson will be the first player I've seen drafted, play a long HOF-caliber career, and then retire (soon enough, probably) and I witness the whole thing start to finish. I feel so old. I can't imagine how you feel having seeing former players children get drafted. I do remember Michael Pittman from when I was super little. And now his son Michael Pittman Jr is in the league. That's so weird. Is that fun for you? Meeting ex-player's kids who are now players too?"
I haven't yet had a chance to actually meet one, but I don't know if fun is the right term, Billie. Along those lines, I'm closing in on a lifetime when I remember being a fan of and watching from draft-to-retirement of both Michael Jordan and LeBron James. I'm old enough that I am now covering players who are the same age as my oldest son (thanks, Eno Benjamin!) I mean, it's hard enough knowing that I'm going to be around for Fitz's start-to-finish, but when Devin Fitzgerald starts playing in the pro lacrosse league, I mean, game over.