After one of the worst years in franchise history, the Arizona Cardinals will be starting next season from scratch. The team finished up the season 3-13. The worst record in the NFL and the team’s worst since 2000.
The Cardinals have fired their head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, after the season ended. Steve Wilks was brought in after Bruce Arians retired following the 2017 season. Wilks was in his first year with the team and unfortunately will not be given a second. Byron Leftwich was promoted to offensive coordinator after the team fired Mike McCoy during the season. Leftwich was the quarterbacks coach under Arians and stayed at that position with Wilks before he was promoted. Leftwich was OC for two of the teams three wins, but the offense never looked good. Al Holcomb was brought over from Carolina with Wilks to be the DC. After being the linebackers coach from 2013-2017 with the Panthers, Wilks promoted him to coordinator for the Cardinals. The defense was the only part that worked for the Cardinals, but their stats were still some of the worst in the league.
The Cardinals want to distance themselves from this season and start over from scratch. They are still one of the more appealing jobs in the league and have the players necessary to win games.
3) Fix The Offensive Line
The worst part about Arizona this season was their offensive line. The line had seven different players on injured reserve, and the offense suffered. The offense ranked last in yards per game, points, passing yards, rushing, first downs and were in the top 5 for sacks allowed. Needless to say, the line needs to be improved this offseason.
The season started with D.J Humphries, Mike Iupati, A.Q. Shipley, Justin Pugh and Andre Smith as the starters on the line. This is a pretty good offensive line that has veterans and players who have proven themselves in the league. They ended the season with rookie Korey Cunningham, rookie Colby Gossett, rookie Mason Cole, sophomore Will Holden and six-year vet Oday Aboushi. After looking at this it is obvious that the Cardinals need to make a change. Injuries are hard to avoid but the back ups failed to perform well.
The Cardinals will have over $65 million in cap space for next season and hopefully a bit goes to building a line. Josh Rosen was sacked too many times and if they want to protect their investment, the line has to be a priority. The team has the first overall pick in this year’s draft and will probably get a great defensive player, but with the other picks they should focus on fixing the offense.
2) Figure Out If Your Big Guys Are Staying
Larry Fitzgerald is a first ballot hall of famer and 2018 might have been his last season in the NFL. His retirement has been on the minds of Arizona fans for years. and after this terrible season, it looks like it could be coming soon.
Fitz has been the teams first receiving option for most of his career, and even into his later years that role has not changed. He is one of the best wide receivers in the game and the Cardinals desperately need him to stay. They are completely depleted at the wide receiver spot and other than Christian Kirk, they do not have any decent receivers. If Fitz stays then the team will not have to spend too much on a wide receiver in free agency, but if he leaves the team will probably shell out a lot of cash for a new number 1.
Patrick Peterson is also sort of a question mark for the Cardinals. Even though Peterson is locked in with the team for two more years, he seemed to be a bit disgruntled with the team this season. During the season he demanded a trade from the Cardinals. He let it go but it is still unsure if he still has those feelings.
If Peterson demands a trade or sits out, this would be devastating for a team that is already in rebuilding mode on both sides of the ball. Peterson is a star player and has made the Pro Bowl every season in his eight year career.
Making sure Fitzgerald and Peterson are happy will probably be a top priority for the Cardinals this offseason. These two are extremely important players to the team and community and if the they still do not win, these guys will be able to attract fans. The future for them probably all comes down to who the next coach is.
1) Hire a Head Coach
Should Steve Wilks have been fired? I do not know, but what I do know is that the Cardinals need a new head coach. Wilks was given a chance to make a difference, but as the GM and most fans believed, this team under performed a lot. The Cardinals had all the pieces to be at least a little competitive. Injuries and being unprepared hurt the Cardinals in many ways, but now that this season is over, and they will be looking for a fresh start.
The team has interviewed Adam Gase, Jim Caldwell, Zac Taylor and Dan Campbell for the coaching job. They are also going to be interviewing USC head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and the job seems to be up for grabs. The Cardinals are not the only team that is looking for a new head coach and if they want their man they need to act fast.
The perfect coach needs to be someone the players will respect and more importantly, be able to develop Josh Rosen. Rosen is the Cardinals quarterback of the future and under Wilks, he looked underutilized. The big selling point will probably be how well a coach can develop Rosen.
Another point will be finding a coach that can bring the defense back to its former glory. The Cardinals defense showed flashes of their old selves, but if they can find a coach that could tap into that potential or a DC that could, a lot of the pressure would be off the offense.
No matter who they choose, the Cardinals need to be willing to accept a possible rebuild. A year is not enough for a coach to make an impact. Whoever the Cardinals hire, I expect them to be given a chance and to be around for at least two years.