(Updated) Arizona Cardinals 2013 Outlook: Bruce Arians Facing A Tall Order In His First Season
By: Melissa Jacobs and Kim O'Hara | Posted: June 17, 2013
Welcome to TFG's 2013 Outlook series. We'll be taking a quick glance back at the 2012 season before focusing on what factors will impact each team's chances for success in 2013. Check back regularly to read about your favorite team. Up next: the Arizona Cardinals.
(First published: 2-15-2013. Updated: 6-17-2013)
2012 record: 5-11, tied for third-worst in the NFL; Arizona's posted just two winning seasons since going 9-7 in 1998
Key Losses: General manager Rod Graves and head coach Ken Whisenhunt were let go after Arizona's second 5-11 season in three years. Whisenhunt is due $5 million in salary this season, which the Cardinals elected to buy out instead of keeping him on board. Whisenhunt's staff was disbanded as well. The team released quarterback Kevin Kolb and running back Beanie Wells, both of whom had disappointing tenures. They are not the only 2012 starters not returning. As Kent Somers of USA Today points out, six players that started at least ten games last season were released or not re-signed. The six now former Cardinals are tackle D'Anthony Batiste, linebacker Paris Lenon, cornerback William Gay, safety Kerry Rhodes, safety Adrian Wilson and guard Adam Snyder.
Important Additions: Vice President for Player Personnel Steve Keim was promoted to general manager; he helped bring in Bruce Arians, who will be venturing into his first season as official head coach. Arians was a first-year offensive coordinator in Indianapolis last season, but was thrust into the interim head coaching position when Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. Arians didn't miss a beat, inspiring and guiding his team to an 11-5 finish. Arians plans to call offensive plays, so he brought in offensive-minded Tom Moore as his assistant head coach, who will help him oversee the team. Arians also selected former Philadelphia defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to fill the same role on the Arizona staff.
As mentioned there has been a lot of turnover in Arizona. Quarterback Carson Palmer and running back Rashard Mendenhall were the most marquee signings and will replace Kolb and Wells, respectively. Corners Jerraud Powers (from Indianapolis) and Antione Cason (from San Diego) were signed to replace Gay as the compliment to Patrick Peterson. If OTAs are any indication, Powers has the edge for the starting role. Arizona boosted their linebacking corps with the signing of Karlos Dansby, previously with Miami. The hole at guard was nicely filled through the draft with the selection of UNC’s Jonathan Cooper at no. 7 overall. And the Cardinals further upgraded their secondary by selecting LSU corner Tyrann Mathieu in the third-round and moving him to free safety.
Why Arizona has hope for 2013: New blood. The 2012 incarnation of the Cardinals started hot, winning four games straight (including a victory over New England at Foxborough), but the wheels came flying off shortly thereafter. Arizona won just one more game in the final three quarters of the season. Arians has proven he can turn around an impotent offense in Indianapolis, though Carson Palmer is not exactly Andrew Luck. Palmer is, however, a step up from any quarterback the Cardinals have trotted out since Kurt Warner. Defensive pieces are in place, with Peterson and Powers in the secondary supported by Calais Campbell and Dockett up front. Peterson, who is already elite is poised to be even better. Mathieu has impressed early through minicamps and OTAs. Arizona’s offseason has been both efficient and aggressive, and on paper this team looks much improved over the 2012 version. Hence ESPN.com’s Matt Williamson granting the Cardinals an offseason grade of “A.” And last I heard that Larry Fitzgerald guy was still on the roster.
Why Arizona may be doomed for 2013: It's impossible to predict how the NFL will look next season, but smart money says the NFC West will be the league’s most brutal division. San Francisco is the reigning NFC champion, and boasts arguably the best coach, defense, offensive line and punter in all of football. Seattle may have the most upside of any team in the NFL and St. Louis not only played well in divisional games, its defense was much-improved under head coach Jeff Fisher, who is approaching his second year with the team. Even if Arians works magic with Arizona's offense, the Cardinals are still likely destined for a back seat in the NFC West. The loss of Adrian Wilson’s leadership will likely be an underrated blow. And the team continues to lag behind most in the league by fsiling to field a legitimate offensive threat at tight end.
Circle These Games: St. Louis Rams (Week 1). The first step in gaining NFC West relevance is to get out of the basement. The Seahawks and 49ers look to be title contenders in 2013, so a good measure for Arizona's progress will be how it performs against the Rams. Indianapolis Colts (Week 12). Arians’ return to Indy where he is so beloved (and familiar with the Colts offensive playbook) should be a fun game.
Current odds to win Super Bowl XLVIII, according to Bovada: 126-1
TFG projected record: 7-9. There are several winnable games on the schedule, most notably Jacksonville, Tennessee and Carolina.