Tag Archives: Kurt Warner

Arizona Cardinals: Angst, and the Loneliness of the Long Snapper

long-smapper

The Arizona Cardinals announced the release of rookie long snapper Kameron Canaday this week. “Release”—what a pleasant term. It evokes images of doves at a wedding or dandelion seeds on a spring breeze. Other words seem more suitable for a promising team that has slogged to a 1-2 start, such as “fired,” or “axed.” Canaday botched the snap on the game winning field goal attempt in week one, and blew another in Buffalo last week that was returned 53 yards for a defensive touchdown. Cardinals fans may prefer his head, but they’ll have to settle for his dismissal.

Canaday played his college ball at Portland State and participated in football and basketball in high school. His father played college football at Western Oregon. This is more than you should ever know about a long snapper. He’s like your company’s custodian or computer guy–you don’t think much about them until something goes wrong.

In a season rife with expectations for the Arizona Cardinals, much has gone wrong.

The Cardinals went three-and-out on each of their first five possessions in their 33-18 loss to Buffalo last week, amassing a total of…wait for it…two yards. And QB Carson Palmer threw interceptions on Arizona’s final four drives—the same number you would throw if you were somehow called upon. This from an offense that lead the NFL last year with 408 passing yards and 30.6 points per game. Adding to frustrations, a defense stocked with difference-makers like Pro-bowlers Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Calais Campbell has generally underperformed.

In assessing last week’s effort, Arizona General Manager Steve Keim said, “When you lose it feels like the sky is falling, and when you win everything is great.” This mirrors the fans’ perspective, but the difference is that Keim has the power to work the phones and ship out players to ply their trade elsewhere. “The talent is there,” Keim said, “…but the number of ‘mental busts’ on both sides of the ball after three weeks is distressing.”

Distressing indeed.

Early season cobwebs, an out-of-sync offense, balls bouncing the wrong way—a Cardinals team that may appear to need some fine tuning instead likely needs a slap in the face. Coach Bruce Arians, the strategist and philosopher, reasoned to the media that the team may be trying too hard or is perhaps overconfident. Arians the red-ass used more colorful language in the locker room this week, and Cardinals practices were shot through with anger and urgency.

Arizona hosts the Rams Sunday, a team that has been a thorn in its side the last few years. Carson Palmer was left writhing in pain with a torn ACL in the Nov. 9, 2014 contest, and a Cardinals team that had been rolling at 7-1 skidded to a 3-4 finish and an early playoff exit. And on Oct. 4, 2015 the underdog Rams topped Arizona 24-22, delivering one of only three losses the Cards suffered all year.

The Rams franchise returns to Los Angeles this season after a twenty year hiatus in St. Louis. There were flares of greatness in those years, mostly in 1999, when The Greatest Show on Turf, highlighted by QB Kurt Warner and RB Marshall Faulk, finished 13-3 and took down the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. There were lean seasons too, when wins were as scarce as condor sightings and Donald Trump apologies. Between 2007 and 2009, the Rams’ record was an appalling 6-42.

LA fans may yearn for the glory days of Deacon Jones and Jack Youngblood, or Norm Van Brocklin and Elroy “crazylegs” Hirsh. For now, they have a great running back in Todd Gurley, a promising defense, and not much more. The 49ers spoiled LA’s season opener, throttling the Rams 28-0, but the Rams have since rebounded with two wins and share the NFC West lead with Seattle.

Arizona can pull into a three-way tie with a home victory over LA today and a Seattle loss to the NY Jets. But a loss would leave the Cardinals in the division cellar, and the cauldron of a packed University of Phoenix Stadium would surely boil over with exasperation.

LONDON, AGAIN

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is keen to grow the game internationally, yet every season he flings substandard teams across the Atlantic like Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Oakland—and now Sunday’s contestants, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts.

The British gave us Newton’s Laws, the programmable computer, the steam locomotive, and the theory of evolution. Oh, and the English language. What have we given them? The Jacksonville Jaguars, every year since 2013.

The Jaguars’ 0-3 record this year squares with their recent history—they’ve notched only three winning seasons since 2000—and this time the good citizens of London will shuffle into Wembley Stadium to endure the Jags’ scrum against 1-2 Indianapolis. It’s a “home” game for Jacksonville, in the sense that it’s 4,259 miles from Florida. While trying to grow the fan base abroad, Mr. Goodell, might you be softening a U.S. base accustomed to watching games on home soil?

This series is not a glad-hearted tale of cultural exchange. It’s an all-too-familiar story of corporate greed.

WATCHING HILARIOUS CAT VIDEOS

The following players are unable to play this week, and may be otherwise engaged:

Frostee Rucker, defensive tackle: knee
Drew Butler, punter: calf
Kameron Canaday, long snapper: embarrassment

  • Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Arizona Cardinals v. Green Bay Packers: Burn the Boats

The wait is over. The Arizona Cardinals have enjoyed a well-earned playoff bye and two weeks’ rest. It’s time again to lace ‘em up, strap it on and start slapping butts in the locker room.

The Green Bay Packers are in town, and they don’t expect a cordial welcome from 63,400 strong in University of Phoenix Stadium. It will be the venue’s 104th straight sellout.

Arizona’s 38-8 home triumph over Green Bay twenty days ago is still fresh in mind for the “Red Wave.” The Cardinals faithful watched their team sack QB Aaron Rodgers eight times and hold him to 151 passing yards Dec. 27. A vengeful Packers team will take the field today, fresh off a comeback win over Washington in the wild card round last Sunday. The contest will hinge on whether Green Bay has the firepower to match that of Cardinals, and conventional wisdom says no. Arizona leads the NFL in total offense with 408 yards per game and is second in points scored with 30.6.

But Green Bay has more playoff experience than Arizona. And Rodgers is one of the best at his craft, leading the Packers to a Super Bowl win in 2010.

Quarterback Carson Palmer has no NFL playoff victories to his credit. He shares that distinction with you, my attorney and the I.T. guy at work, the one with excessive chest hair. To be fair, Palmer’s only had two cracks at it, both with the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincy lost to Pittsburgh in 2005 and the New York Jets in 2009.

2009 was a bewitching playoff season in the Valley of the Sun, thanks to the late-career wizardry of QB Kurt Warner, who led Arizona on an improbable run that died in a crushing last-minute loss to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. With his heroic status cemented, Warner hasn’t had to pay for a drink since. Never mind that he doesn’t drink. He’s in the pantheon of Cardinals greats, and Carson Palmer’s on a quest to join that lofty fraternity.

Is Palmer too old at 36 to find playoff success in today’s speedy and powerful NFL? Warner was 37 in 2009. Tom Brady’s still agile and accurate at 38. Palmer has his health, abounding offensive weapons and has led the Cardinals to 13 wins this season. He set franchise records with 4,671 passing yards and 35 TDs. This is his time.

Palmer and coach Bruce Arians are pleased with the 13 wins but they’ve cast their eyes forward and are hell bent on notching three more and gripping the ultimate prize. To inspire his troops, Arians would do well to remember the story of Alexander the Great, whose army arrived on Persian shores and found it was vastly outnumbered. Alexander did not slip into retreat or call in reinforcements. Instead he gave the order to burn boats.

Nothing readies a man for a fight more than the savage realization that there is simply no avenue of retreat. You win or you die.

Welcome to the NFL playoffs.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Arizona Cardinals v. SF 49ers: Farewell, Candlestick Park

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The Arizona Cardinals grappled with the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday night in a game featuring all that is great and good about the NFL—pinpoint passing, bone-crushing hits, lead swings, mood swings, valor and heartbreak. In the end, the Cardinals won out 34-31 when a 32-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal attempt proved true as time ran out. The Cat Man would have had to hit from 47 yards were it not for a rare strain of unsportsmanlike conduct on the part of Cincinnati’s defensive tackle Domata Peko, who was flagged 15 yards for yelling out offensive signals in an effort to confuse the Cardinals. Real schoolyard stuff.

Arizona improved to 8-2 and enjoys a three game edge on rival Seattle.

The Cardinals have winged west for an afternoon tilt today with another division rival, the San Francisco 49ers. Arizona is a solid wagering favorite to defeat San Francisco, a team that is barely recognizable from a year ago. Coach Jim Harbaugh fled to Michigan, all-pro players retired or signed elsewhere and starters all over the field have fallen to injury this season. This dumpster fire landed in the lap of former 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, whose previous experience includes stints with the Division II Catawba College Indians and the Scottish Claymores and Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe. San Francisco sits at 3-7 this season, and the Super Bowl appearance in 2012 is a simply a distant fond remembrance for fans.

San Francisco 49ers fans once included irascible veterans of old Kezar Stadium and the early years of wind-battered Candlestick Park, men who looked to have scuttled out from under the wharves on Sundays like shore crabs, leathered faces pelted by driving December mists, one hand tucked into the pockets of faded metallic gold satin jackets and the other clutching plastic cups of $2.00 Budweiser, which helped numb the senses through back-to-back 2-14 seasons in the late ‘70s before Bill Walsh and Joe Montana flashed onto the scene and lifted the team to preternatural heights in the early ’80s. Those sorts of beer-soaked, relish-stained memories seep into the bones, cementing a fan base and spawning generations of devotees.

Cut to the present.

Pristine, tech-savvy Levi’s Stadium has risen 40 miles south of San Francisco in the cradle of Silicon Valley. Their hearts bruised, some of the old guard swore they’d never visit the foreign environs of Santa Clara and they’ve stayed true to the oath. Were they to make the trek, they’d inch along traffic-choked streets near the stadium, pay a minimum of $40 to park, tailgate only in designated areas and then shuffle to their seats in a stadium sterile enough in which to have one’s spleen removed without preparation or worry.

Those fans likely wouldn’t be lounging in one of the 165 luxury suites half-filled with startup mavens distractedly hatching schemes over Asian steamed buns and muffuletta paninis to convince potential VCs that their vaporware can somehow monetize by Q2. They may well end up squatting on the dreaded, sun-splashed eastern side of the stadium, squinting like an Iditarod musher against the glare and baking to a fine crisp like a sourdough loaf. No, the memories of Candlestick Park sufferings will do just fine, thank you.

Cardinals supporters don’t have to contend with such untidy business. The retractable domed roof of University of Phoenix Stadium helps keep things comfortable. And fans’ psychic wounds don’t run quite as deep. The honeymoon phase that began when the Cardinals moved to Arizona from St. Louis in 1988 helped subpar seasons go down a little easier. And fans’ hearts leapt in 2008, when grocery store bagger turned NFL MVP Kurt Warner nearly led Arizona to its first Super Bowl victory. That marked the beginning of a cultural shift in the mindset of players, coaches, fans and the front office. This team could win, and a championship was no longer out of reach.

Some NFL sages have called today’s Cardinals-49ers contest a trap game. Arizona has had to rally late to notch wins against powerful opponents Seattle and Cincinnati the last two weeks, and some key players are either out or questionable with injuries. San Francisco QB Blaine Gabbert has recently breathed life into the position, and the 49ers are playing at home with nothing to lose. Arizona is a 10 point favorite, but a letdown is plausible.

Arizona coach Bruce Arians will have none of it. Yes—he’s a good family man, he works tirelessly for abused children, and he’ll raise a pint with you and give you a shoulder-squeeze of support. But San Francisco fans should be reminded: with the Cardinals leading the 49ers 31-7 at halftime of their September 27th game, Arians told the team, “If you relax, I’ll be looking for new people. Put your foot on their throat.”

San Francisco fans can handle such things. They have endured worse.

– Eric Forgaard
11/29/15

This blog is not supported by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.