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Following the Cardinals season-ending disappointment, many fans, including myself, are feeling disillusioned and skeptical about the direction of their football team under the current GM, head coach and coaching staff.

While it’s often cathartic and therapeutic for fans to express their frustration and dismay, if there’s one thing we long-beleaguered Cardinals know a little something about, it’s how to think our way through the maze like a mouse following the scent of peanut butter.

Yesterday, Jim Shapiro, courtesy of BetOnLIne, offered Cardinals fans this reality check with regard to their odds of winning the NFC West in 2021:

NFC WEST

Los Angeles Rams 8/5

San Francisco 49ers 11/5

Seattle Seahawks 11/4

Arizona Cardinals 7/1

To extend the metaphor, there is a freshly made peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the end of this NFC West labyrinth and as of today, the Cardinals are the last of four mice to be dropped into the maze.

After considerable thought and having listened closely to my fellow Cardinals fans, here are 7 adjustments/suggestios that the Cardinals might want to consider, if they aren’t doing so already:

Re-define and re-prioritize the team’s practice habits.
When a team leads the NFL in penalties and when, during the second half of the year, it becomes apparent that the Cardinals coaches and players were not preparing themselves properly in their weekly game plans, especially in catering the plans to how to attack the opponents where they are weakest, what all of these shortcomings speak to are questionable practice habits,

Improvement areas:

advance scouting for games, especially for NFC West opponents before the season and then during the season. Coordinators should be watching tapes and developing game plans now, which they can modify when necessary.
more specific game-planning for the opponents and stronger updating game plans for the rematches with their NFC West opponents —- updated game plans like Pete Carroll, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay devised while sweeping the Cardinals in the second contests.
stronger attention to situational strategies, down and distance calls, the two-minute drill, the two-minute defense, red zone offense, red zone defense, special teams in every aspect of special teams play including having punt and kickoff returners who are eager and aggressive, rather than timid and shy, including pooch kickoffs and on-side kicks.
eliminating double standards for player participation in practice. Every player should be expected to participate in every practice. Why? Because it is their job and they owe it to the coaches, the team and the fans. In the event of injuries, the injured players should still be on the practice field engaged in the week’s prep and supporting their teammates.They can do their rehabs before or after practice.
getting DeAndre Hopkin (and every other veteran) to go all-in on practice by encouraging him to emerge as a team leader. Double standards set teams backward in preparation and team morale.
do not sign veteran players who expect days off from practice.
sign a baller like J.J. Watt who preaches the importance of practice.
the team’s pace on the whole is too slow —- make pace a focal point of all the practices.
2. Improve the team’s strength and conditioning program.

This past season was an anomaly because of the pandemic. In watching the drills during training camp, it looked very clear that some of the players came to camp under-prepared and out of shape. Football is a game of feet, leverage and wind. Those three areas need to be emphasized more regularly and efficiently.

3. Shuffle the deck with the regard to the focus of the front office by playing to the strengths of the GM, the director of player personnel and the director of pro scouting.

Improvement areas:

Have Steve Keim (GM) handle trades and waiver wire acquisitions which are his forte.
Have Quentin Harris (director of player personnel) handle the draft in coordination with the coaches and the team scouts. A fresh approach to this year’s draft is of paramount importance. A few years back the Cardinals had an excellent talent evaluator on their executive team in Jason Licht. There is nothing wrong with having the GM put his trust in his DOPP or anyone in the front office who is a highly talented talent evaluator.
For one thing, the Cardinals could do a better job of drafting from the Power Five college programs. Comparison of Power 5 Draft Picks of Steve Keim’s and Jason Licht’s: with regard to the current 56 man rosters:
Keim:

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Licht:

Tristan Wirfs, Antoine Winfield Jr. Jordan Whitehead, Devin White, Vita Bea, Anthony Nelson, Ronald Jones, Tyler Johnson, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Mike Edwards, Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Kendall Beckwith, O.J. Howard, Jack Cichy. Khalil Davis (18 players, 12 starters in 2020).

* Notice in particular how Jason Licht built the Bucs’ offensive skill positions (WR, RB, TE) and his entire secondary (CBs and Ss) through the draft. Impressive, isn’t it?

Have Adrian Wilson (director of pro personnel) handle the free agent acquisitions in coordination with the coaches As a former All Pro, Cheap Adrian Wilson Jersey has a keen sense for knowing what kind of players bring an edge, work ethic, leadership and competitive fire to the roster. Again, let’s compare Keim’s UFA acquisitions to Licht’s:
Keim:

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Licht:

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Now, to be fair to Steve Keim, his trades have been superb: OLB Cheap Chandler Jones Jersey, RB Cheap Kenyan Drake Jersey, WR DeAndre Hopkin and Cheap Markus Golden Jersey.

Jason Licht has hit on a couple of very good trades as well: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, TE Rob Gronkowski.

Plus, where Steve Keim has shined is in his waiver wire pickups: Cheap Dan Arnold Jersey, Cheap Angelo Blackson Jersey, Pharaoh Cooper, Cheap Justin Murray Jersey, Cheap Charles Washington Jersey.

Steve Keim is a team guy, thus for him to take a more diversified approach to this off-season by delegating and giving more responsibility to Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson. the gesture could go a long way in galvanizing the leadership of the team from the top —- and thereby, potentially help Steve Keim’s longevity as GM.

4. In terms of player personnel this off-season make it a priority to add strength up front and speed at the skills positions on both sides of the ball.

By NFL standards the Cardinals need to become more physical and play faster.

Improvement areas:

Pare the current roster of its under-performing veterans.
Avoid signing veteran free agents who have injury/PED/violation histories or those who are past their primes or who have been declining in recent years. Adding a few veterans to fill holes during training camp when they can be added at the veteran minimum is the best route to take.
Make good, strong commitments to the team’ emerging young talents like Cheap Haason Reddick Jersey, Cheap Dennis Gardeck Jersey, Dan Arnold, Ezekiel Turner, Cheap Tanner Vallejo Jersey, Charles Washington and Cheap Chase Edmonds Jersey.
Create a buzz by adding two or three impressive free agents and by making a splash at the 2021 NFL Draft.
If a player is standing out in practice, play him in the games.
If a younger player is playing better than the veteran starter, play the younger player.
Play the top rookies and stop treating them with kid gloves.
5. Trust in the young talent and leadership on the team.

The Cardinals have a number of young players who aspire to practice hard and make the sacrifices it takes to win ballgames. The more that these young players assume the ownership of the team, the better the Cardinals chances are for winning, short-term and long-term. Build this team around them. Give those players a voice.

6. Project a more confident, poised, sportsmanlike and passionate image to the league and to the NFL officials.

This starts with being a much, much more disciplined football team. Kliff Kingsbury, like many young head coaches finding their way, needs to develop a stronger rapport with the officials, particularly because his rival coaches in the NFC West already have such a strong rapport with the officials. There are times when the Cardinals’ players act like privileged cry babies. This has to stop. The Cardinals lost their cool in two key NFC West rival games that the team lost in Seattle and Los Angeles. Again, this has to stop.

It’s time for Kingsbury to take a big step forward as a leader, by holding the players more accountable, working them into tip-top shape and by providing the energy on the sidelines that has been inconsistent.

7. Provide the team and the fans with the fresh, exciting look of new, upgraded uniforms.

Please, under no circumstances, Michael Bidwill, should you change the Cardinals’ helmets. The milk white helmets with the red, black and yellow Cardinals’ logo is the common link from those of us who have followed the Cardinals for generations and through the St. Louis years.

However, it would be great to see the Cardinals sport a new, shiny 21st century look in their red home and white away uniforms.

The Cardinals should do away with the black alternative uniforms. You don’t see the Rams, Chiefs, Patriots or Seahawks going black, do you? Because they stay true to who they are. We are Cardinals. We are not crows or vultures. Heck, if the new red and white uniforms do Cardinals justice, then the team shouldn’t need an alternative uniform. If anything. the Cardinals can just go retro for a game, back to these old fan favorites:

The days of Cheap Larry Wilson Jersey were days when Cardinals were not afraid to be cardinals. They wore the red and white with a special pride and purpose.

Man, if the Cardinals organization ever took on the persona and grit of Larry Wilson —- watch out NFL!

You know, with all of the mistakes the Cardinals made last season, particularly with leading the league in penalties and not getting strong enough performances from many of their key veterans, if they learn from these mistakes and correct them, imagine how good they could be this season and beyond.

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After two really good years as a starter since being the No. 1 overall selection in the 2019 Draft, Kyler Murray is without a doubt the franchise quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals now and for the long-term future.

Murray made major strides in his second year in the NFL compared to his rookie season:

2019: 349-542 (64.4%) completions, 3,722 passing yards, 20 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, 544 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns

2020: 375-558 (67.2%) completions, 3,971 passing yards, 26 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, 819 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns

Despite coming one win short of a playoff berth, there is still a lot to be proud of especially with the evident progression of Kyler Murray. He took what was one of the worst offensive units in NFL history in 2018 and turned it into one of the most dangerous offenses in football this past season.

Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The way he returned to the football field in Week 17 against the Rams despite being in serious pain with his nagging leg injury is a testament to the type of person and football player that he is. Murray is selfless, resilient, and willing to sacrifice his own health to help this team win football games.

If that does not say much about his leadership and his passion for football, I do not know what will. It is concerning to see Murray get injured towards the end of the season for a second year in a row but he is doing a better job at protecting himself by sliding and running out of bounds to avoid unnecessary hits.

When healthy, he is easily a top-10 quarterback in my book as he is able to hurt teams with his arms and his legs. Murray is one of the most difficult quarterbacks to tackle in the NFL with his game-changing speed.

A greater season could be in store for him in 2021.

After Murray, the Cardinals backup quarterback job remains up in the air.

The fact that Kliff Kingsbury made Cheap Chris Streveler Jersey the primary backup to Murray over veteran Cheap Brett Hundley Jersey shows how highly he thinks of him.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Streveler struggled in place of the injured Murray in the regular season finale but put up an ok stat line as a backup against one of the best NFL defenses in the Rams. He completed 11-of-16 passes for 105 yards along with a touchdown and an interception.

It is difficult to evaluate Streveler considering the tough competition that he faced. He remains the No. 2 quarterback for now as he is under contract for another two years for only $1.675 million.

The Cardinals did add some quarterback competition by signing Cole McDonald to a futures contract with Brett Hundley scheduled to be a free agent.

SoFi Hawai’i Bowl – Hawaii v BYU
Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images
The 6-foot-3 215-pound quarterback was the Titans seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft but was released in August.

In three seasons at Hawaii, McDonald accumulated 8,032 yards, 70 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. His deep ball accuracy still needs a lot more work but statistically, he had an impressive college career as he reunites with former Hawaii teammate Cheap JoJo Ward Jersey, who was on the Cardinals practice squad the entire 2020 season.

It would not surprise me at all to see the Cardinals pursue a veteran backup quarterback in free agency but with their limited cap space, it would not surprise me in the slightest if they stick with Streveler and McDonald.

The Cardinals have speed at the quarterback position necessary to run an offense built on RPOs (Run-Pass Option) but what their backups lack is NFL experience.

The hope is for Cheap Kyler Murray Jersey to be healthy for the entire regular season and into the playoffs if they make it such that the backups will not need to play. But, if Murray gets banged up to the point where it significantly hurts his effectiveness, it might be wise for the Cardinals to explore signing a veteran to back him up.

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Jim Hanifan, the last Cardinals coach to lead a playoff team when the franchise was in St. Louis, died earlier this week at the age of 87.

Hanifan served as the Cardinals’ offensive line coach from 1973-1978, when the team had its outstanding unit led by Cheap Dan Dierdorf Jersey, Bob Young, Tom Banks and Conrad Dobler. After spending a year in San Diego with the Chargers, Hanifan came back to be head coach of the Cards from 1980-1985, with a playoff appearance during the strike season of 1982.

“Jim Hanifan was larger than life,” said former Cardinals fullback and current radio analyst Cheap Ron Wolfley Jersey, who played for Hanifan. “He was Paul Bunyan without the ox. Tall, tough, profane and determined, with a raspy voice and love for players that I will not soon forget. He once told me he ‘loved the F’in F out of me.’ I never responded so I’ll do that now — love you, too, Hanny.”

After leaving the Cards, Hanifan went on to coach the offensive lines of the Falcons, Washington and the Rams, winning a Super Bowl in 1999 in St. Louis.

Hanifan went 39-49-1 in his tenure with the Cardinals.

“Jim Hanifan was a great football coach but an even better man and mentor to many men and women around the game of football,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said in a statement. “On the field, he was known as one of the greatest teachers of offensive line play the game has ever seen. He’ll also be remembered as one of its all-time best story tellers.

“He was a friend to so many and meant so much to our family. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and all of those fortunate enough to cross paths with Jim, a true original who will never be forgotten.”