Cardinals have no business being worse than Seahawks
Seaside Joe 1325: Despite early draft picks, Arizona is back at the bottom of the NFC West and the Seahawks need to avoid the same pratfall
At what point would the NFL oust a team’s ownership for reasons of being “far too sad for far too long”?
Originally called the Racine Normals (one hundred million percent a better name than “Commanders”), the Cardinals date back as an organization to 1898. Older than the oldest living person in the world today, the Cardinals joined the American Professional Football Organization in 1920, which became the NFL in 1922, and they won a championship with an 11-2-1 record in 1925.
It would be 22 years until they won more than six games again (including a 1-29 record from 1943 to 1945), at which point the Cards won their second championship, this time under Jimmy Conzelman. It was 20 years earlier that Conzelman coached the Providence Steam Roller to a championship, yet another better team name than some of the ones we have today.
(Yellow Jackets, Wolverines, Maroons, and Triangles were some of the others. Yes, Yes, Yes, and three-sided Yes.)
After losing the championship in 1948, the Cards went back to their basics, which is losing more than any other team. The Cardinals didn’t make any noise as a team between 1949 and 1973, relocated from Chicago to St. Louis in 1960, and not even hiring a coach literally named “Winner” could stop them from not-winning.
Finally Don Coryell came along in 1973 and then the Cardinals posted three straight 10-win seasons from ‘74 to ‘76. Then in true Cardinals fashion, Coryell was not retained in 1978, at which point the Seattle native went to the San Diego Chargers and turned Dan Fouts into a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Said Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill at the time, “We had to reach an agreement because we believe that the circumstances of the past two months would prevent Don from becoming an effective coach for us.”
Setting aside a wild card appearance during the shortened 1982 season (the Cardinals went 5-4 that year), success would again be hard to come by and the team relocated again, this time to Phoenix, in 1988. Between Coryell’s final season in 1977 and the hiring of Ken Whisenhunt in 2007, the Cardinals made one other playoff appearance when they went 9-7 in 1998. That team beat the Cowboys in the wild card, but lost 41-21 in the divisional round.
So between 1920 and 2007, a period of 88 seasons, the Cardinals had five 10-win seasons, 56 losing seasons, and I’m not kidding…41 head coaches, including interims. But maybe the most important numbers are also the smallest ones:
One Bidwill family.
At what point does the league save an organization from itself?
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The Seattle Seahawks beat the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6 and set an early-season tone that the worst team in the NFC West resides in the desert once again. It’s possible that a month from now, after the Seahawks and Cardinals meet again in Week 9, that the tone has a new tune. I won’t rule that out just yet.
But objectively the Cardinals are one of the worst teams in the NFL either way. They’ve lost pretty emphatically to the Rams and Seahawks, two teams that have not been consistently good to open the year, and they got blown out by the Chiefs in Week 1. Arizona has a miracle win against the one-win Raiders and they defeated a Carolina Panthers team that has its sights set on the number one pick in the draft already.
If you’re a Cards fan, can you imagine a worse offense to watch than one that has one of the most exciting playmakers in the league at quarterback… but ranks 32nd in net yards per pass attempt and is 22nd in scoring? Arizona seems to be a much better team with DeAndre Hopkins and he’s set to return tonight against the New Orleans Saints.
However, the Cardinals have had nothing but opportunities to get right enough to be able to survive a single player being suspended, let alone just one wide receiver. No team should be one wide receiver separated from finishing either 4-13 or 13-4.
Especially given all the chances that Arizona has had to be a great team.
Go back to the last time the Cardinals were good back in 2015. They went 13-3 under Bruce Arians and with Carson Palmer at quarterback, losing in the NFC Championship to the Panthers. Arians and Palmer were around for two more seasons, but Arizona went 15-16-1 and promptly hit the reset button again in 2018 with Steve Wilks and Josh Rosen.
And then hit the reset button again 12 months later with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.
It should not be left unsaid that the Cardinals have no excuse for being worse than the Seahawks in 2022, other than the most obvious one: Paul Allen was a good owner and Pete Carroll is a great football executive and head coach to have in your organization. It makes Seattle’s upcoming ownership search that much more intriguing and important to watch, the Seahawks got very lucky with Allen.
The Cardinals have been owned by the Bidwill family for over 100 years.
Since 2016, the Cardinals have had three top-10 picks, six first round picks, and eight picks in the top-40. The returns on that are Murray, Isaiah Simmons, Rosen, Haason Reddick, Zaven Collins, and Robert Nkemdiche.
Rosen, Reddick, and Nkemdiche are no longer around, though Reddick is having NFL success. (He helped the Eagles beat the Cardinals two weeks ago.) Murray, Simmons, and Collins seem to be talented “works in progress.”
In that same period of time, the Seahawks have had one top-10 pick (Charles Cross) and five first round picks, but Cross is the only one drafted earlier than 27th: Rashaad Penny, Jordyn Brooks, L.J. Collier, and Germain Ifedi. Remarkably, they’re all still around, except Ifedi.
Murray, Simmons, Rosen, Reddick, and Collins were all drafted in the top-16.
Seattle has had three more top-40 picks in Malik McDowell, Boye Mafe, and Ken Walker III. McDowell was a disappointment, but Mafe and Walker are contributing early in their careers. Arizona has hit on two of their top-40 picks in the second round, Byron Murphy and Budda Baker, with Baker being the clear standout.
But the Cardinals struggles continue into the second round. After Christian Kirk (who is now on the Jaguars), the Cards have also picked Rondale Moore, a limited weapon so far, and in 2019, they selected Andy Isabella over DK Metcalf and Terry McLaurin, among others.
If the Cardinals find a talented player, like say Tyrann Mathieu, Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson, Reddick, Kirk, David Johnson, what have you, it seems like their time there doesn’t have the impact that it should. The sum doesn’t seem to match up with the parts. Any close contact with a head coach who could have success (Arians was there for five seasons and his worst record was 7-8-1, meaning he’s the first Cardinals coach since Coryell to not have at least one 10-loss season) seems to end because of the Bidwill’s decision to end it.
Coryell changed how teams play offense when he went to the Chargers and reached two AFC title games.
Arians won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers.
The Cardinals have had early draft picks year after year. They’ve had money to spend. They’ve had talented players. They’ve even have talented coaches. There is only one throughline that matches up with all of their losing decades and everything that has earned the Cardinals a reputation as one of the saddest franchises in professional sports.
And the fact that teams like the Cardinals, Lions, and Browns can happen because of bad ownership… should terrify Seahawks fans until we know who the next ownership group is going to be.
First, thank you Ken for the content to distract from an ugly smokey grey day here in the Great Grey North.
I never really understood the thinking behind going "all in" on Kyler Murray, to the point of hiring Kliff Kingsbury as well, and then EXTENDING THEM before they really had to with no demonstrated success. You know that clip you post about Grayson McCall with a chip on his shoulder? ("I know there will be other QBs selected ahead of me...) He has the kind of mental approach to himself and the game that just doesn't seem to be there with Kyler.
But yeah, the Seahawks are lucky to have had Allen as an owner. We don't know how that is going to evolve over the next 24 months but the indications are that Jody wants a piece of the ownership and if successful she will likely keep the "hands off operations/hire good people to run things" approach that has worked, at least since PC/JS have been on board.
So much does indeed come down to ownership. I remember when the Cards left Saint Lewis for Phoenix. At the time, Phoenix was on the short list for an expansion team. I thought at the time they'd have been better off waiting for a new team under local ownership.
When Robert Irsay packed up the Colts in the middle of the night and moved them from Baltimore to Indianopolis, Baltimore was ultimately the beneficiary when Art Modell moved the Browns. Then a new expansion Browns came along to replace the former Browns, now Ravens. The Ravens have been run far better than the Colts (or Browns).
Seattle had terrible ownership before Allen. Paul was a guy who cared deeply about Seattle. We were lucky to have him. We're lucky to have Jody now. I'm hopeful our next owners will be similar but we'll see. Ken Behring wasn't that much better than Bill Bidwill or Bob Irsay.
There are other shitty owners around the league. Jets fans are finally having a good season. Their owner, Woody Johnson, is not the sharpest knife in the drawer (and a poster boy for the mediocrity that so often goes with inherited wealth). Hess, before him, wasn't much better. I guess Woody's out now and his son, Chris, has taken over. Perhaps that has something to do with their recent upturn.