I get a sick feeling of nostalgia every time a broadcast of a 2010 Cardinals game shows highlights of Kurt Warner zipping passes between three defenders right into the chest of Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald. It’s just as discomforting, however, knowing what Warner is no longer bringing to the locker room; a steady hand, an example of a guy who’s been to the top of the mountain, a humble, hard worker.
The Cardinals also lost more than just production when Karlos Dansby and Anquan Boldin departed. Everyone knows that Boldin was an absolute beast that played with an inextinguishable fire. Dansby was Boldin’s counterpart on the defensive side of the ball. With both emotional leaders gone, the offensive and defensive units have no sense of unity or direction. With Warner gone, the entire team has no identity.
The Cardinals have done a poor job in filling those emotional vacancies left by Warner, Boldin, and Dansby. Yes, the Cards still have Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson on defense, but production must precede leadership, not the other way around. By Wilson’s own admission, he hasn’t been playing well since the opener against the Rams, particularly in pass coverage. Dockett, whether he’d admit it or not, has underperformed so far this season with just one sack through four games. As far as leaders on offense, Larry Fitzgerald can’t throw the ball to himself. It’s a vicious cycle. Leadership departs, no one steps up, production drops, no one leads, and the team tacitly accepts its fate.
Obviously, a huge part of the problem is that the Cardinals simply don’t have a legitimate NFL quarterback on their roster, which is not meant to slight rookie Max Hall because he’s just not there yet. In fact, Hall has progressed remarkably considering his short time in the NFL. Derek Anderson, as I’ve always felt, was never the answer. I was a proponent of keeping Matt Leinart, whatever his shortcomings may have been. At least Leinart could control the game and not throw it away with ridiculous interceptions. Anderson has been stripped of any confidence he may have been able to talk into himself and all that’s left behind him on the depth chart is two rookies, Max Hall and John Skelton. That’s just a mess of a situation.
The Cardinals’ season now stands on the edge of a knife. It’s not overly dramatic to say that the team is in utter turmoil, despite a .500 winning percentage. They have no quarterback, their defense (especially the run defense) is in complete shambles, their offense is woefully ineffective, and now even Beanie Wells is complaining about his role in the ineffective offense. Without a steadying leader, it seems the Cardinals are one ill timed locker room remark or comment to the media away from total chaos.
The Cardinals can still win this division, especially since the 49ers are apparently in worse shape than Arizona. Job number one, however, must be to fix the run defense, which is more important than the quarterback situation for one simple reason. The Cardinals aren’t going to get good quarterback play this year; it’s just a given. The best they can hope for is that either Hall or Anderson can manage the game instead of giving it away. Since that’s the case, the Cards must shore up their run defense because it’s atrocious and currently ranks 30th in the NFL allowing a whopping 154.3 yards/game. The Cards can’t win if that continues and it should be the number one focus going forward. If Arizona can play steady defense and run the ball, they have as good a chance as any team in the NFC West.