Searching for promised land in Arizona

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The word offense in the game of football is supposed to take up the definition of the action of attacking: gaining yards and scoring touchdowns. Well the Arizona
Cardinals displayed the alternate definition of the word; causing annoyance and resentment amongst most of those who happened to watch one of the NFL’s worst
statistically performing offenses in 2012.

Last season the Cardinals totaled the least amount of yards by an offense (4,209), recorded the second least points per game (15.6), gave up the most sacks (58), threw the most interceptions (21), and rushed for the least amount of yards a game as an offensive unit.

And they started the season 4-0.

Despite the surprising start, the team would lose 11 of its last 12 games, with an Exodus-like wandering around the Arizona desert trying to seek out a win at home where they lost five straight to close out the year.

Owner Bill Bidwill and President Michael Bidwill decided not to wander around for 40 years and fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves.

Since then, 2012 AP Coach of the Year Bruce Arians was hired away from his interim head coaching job at Indianapolis as head coach of the Cardinals and vice president of player personnel Steve Keim was promoted to general manager.

After 18 years of NFL coaching experience, Arians will enter his first full season as head coach. But instead of claiming sole command of the locker room, Arians hired 74-year-old Tom Moore to be his assistant head coach/offensive consultant.

One would think that a coach with as much experience as Arians would leap at the opportunity to take complete reign of a team after years of patience and waiting. But Arians must have realized he needed some kind of guidance.

Before the hiring of Arians, there have been seven head coaches since the Cardinals made the move from St. Louis to Pheonix in 1989. None of those coaches hired an assistant head coach going into their first year. No coach has sustained a winning record with the franchise since Don Coryell transformed the losing program into his “Cardiac Cardinals” and captured two division championships from 1974-1977. So it may be a wise decision for Arians to hire some help.

Tom Moore, who began coaching in the NFL when Coryell resigned, will have provide plenty of guidance. Moore earned two Super Bowl rings as a wide receivers
coach for the Steelers in the 70s and earned a third as offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. Let’s just say he’s seen his share of football.

With all the changes the front office has made, the Cardinals are certainly headed in a new direction.

The new direction of the Cardinals has also been displayed through the release of former starting quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, running back Beanie
Wells, and wide receiver Early Doucet.

But Arizona made their biggest move yet in trading three draft picks to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for Carson Palmer.

Despite throwing for over 4,000 yards last season, Palmer’s time in Oakland has been a disappointment. Picked up mid-season in 2011 to keep playoff hopes alive, the 33-year-old veteran did not give Oakland the push they needed to make it into the playoffs. Palmer would go 8-17 as a starter.

Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, and Michael Floyd round out Palmer’s new receiving core, an upgrade from a season ago.

Though it will help to have a proven starting quarterback, the Cardinals still have a long way to go in improving the offense. With 58 sacks given up a season before, the offensive line still needs improvement. After the release of Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling is the returning lead rusher for the team with 357 yards and four touchdowns.

With the draft upcoming, it is likely that those positions will be addressed. Offensive tackles Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, and Lane Johnson are all top-10 prospects.
Although Joeckel most likely will be selected within the top three picks, Arizona holds the seventh and could take a shot at either Fisher or Johnson if they are
available. Running backs Montee Ball, Le’Veon Bell, or even Marcus Lattimore might be available for Arizona later in the draft to build up some talent in the backfield.

The promised land is still in the distance for the Arizona Cardinals. Though Palmer was a major acquisition in moving the franchise forward, there is still much more to be done.