Re-Assessing the Cardinals

by: Chris Sullivan

How is it that we appear to have gotten it so wrong on the Cardinals this year? It seems pretty clear that they were a good team — though, I resist calling them great, as they still finished the season 6-8 in non-division matchups. Thinking back to the beginning of the year when we arrogantly wrote them off, I think these are the areas where they most surprised me.

  • Kurt Warner — no one could have expected this sort of year from Warner, though perhaps that is why we should have expected it. Warner has been written off since before he was even in the league and everytime he was counted out he bounced back and made success where there was none prior. He had an excellent year with three excellent targets, and should be commended for it.
  • Larry Fitzgerald — We knew he was good, but no one knew he would be so great. He turned it on once Boldin suffered his injury and, as went Fitzgerald, so went the Cardinals. While Warner was good, he didn’t always have to be with Fitzgerald receiving. Warner would heave the ball in his direction and time after time after time Fitzgerald pulled in a circus catch for a TD or first down.
  • Cardinals Defense — While they weren’t great, they were decent. That’s all they had to be to get through the NFC West, and upon reaching the playoffs they tightened up and played with a lot of heart.
  • Coaches — This is how the Cardinals won in the playoffs. They came into games as the underdog four weeks in a row and won three of the four games. They outcoached the Falcons, the Panthers and the Eagles (most incredibly the Panthers). Credit to the players who understood and implemented the game plans perfectly, and credit to Whisenhunt and his coordinators (especially on the defensive side of the ball) for coming up with the plans. Their half-time adjustments yesterday almost did the trick against a team that throughout the season looked vastly superior but were made to appear equal yesterday.

Where does this leave the Cardinals for 2009? No one knows. They will likely lose a few coaches and a number of players, but they will also gain some. Terrell Suggs has reportedly expressed interest, and I’m sure others will before Free Agency starts on the 27th. What do you guys think of the Cardinals’ chances this year in the NFC West? Will this be the year that there is finally real competition in the division again? I see the Seahawks, Cardinals and 49ers all being competitive this year, assuming things go alright in the offseason for each team.