In 2013, a new regime started in Arizona when President Michael Bidwell fired general manager Rod Graves and head coach Ken Whisenhunt (who is currently the head coach of the Tennessee Titans). If you were an Arizona Cardinals fan during this time, you know what pain is and should be rewarded for your faithfulness. Before our very eyes, however, a gem from the football gods was in the same building for 14 years. This gem my friends goes by the name of Steve Keim. Yes, he is the one who wanted to take Adrian Peterson over Levi Brown, who which of course was taken by Graves and which was probably the worst mistake in franchise history. Promoted on January 8th, Cardinals fans knew what they were getting: a new age general manager with a vision to build a team by evaluating talent. He came in quickly, setting the standards high and his motivation for making this team great goes back a few years, “One is obviously the day that I stood on the field in 2008 when we won the NFC championship and all that confetti was sticking to my sweaty head. That thought drives me,” he said. “The other thought that drives me is when I was sitting at our game against Seattle this year and we lost 58-0 and making a pact with myself that that will never happen again.”
Shortly after, Steve Keim did not hesitate to hire his man, or the 2012 Head Coach of the Year, Bruce Arians. They both meshed quickly and found chemistry between each other which is rare between a coach and general manager. That following offseason, Keim went to work and cleaned out the house and added some of his own players in free agency. The most notable are the release of Adrian Wilson and the trade for Carson Palmer.
The 2013 draft was nothing new to Keim, except this time, he called the shots. Jonathan Cooper, Kevin Minter, Tyrann Mathieu, Alex Okafor and Andre Ellington were all selected by Keim and will have a huge role in 2014.
As the offseason ended, the new regime was in full swing.
Entering the 2013 season, the Cardinals were just who everyone thought they were. A bad team with no place in the NFC West and inevitably an underdog every time they played another team. But that didn’t stop Bruce Arians from making his mark as the head coach here. The Cardinals started the season off with mediocrity especially with Carson Palmer under the center, Arians’ 5,000 play offense and going 4-4 to start the season. His 10-14 INT/TD ratio was absurd. But as they always say, the bye week could have not come at a better time.
The story here, however, is in the back half of the season for the Arizona Cardinals. Winning 6-2 of their last 8 games, the team was hot and things were starting to click on all cylinders. The offense was much improved with impressive wins against the Colts and the Rams, winning by more than 20 points each. Still, no one knew who the Cardinals were, apparently. That was until they played Seattle in Seattle. For the illiterate, the year before, the Seahawks beat the Cardinals 58-0. Yes, there is no typo there. All odds were against us. I even received some hate tweets from some Seahawk “fans” that day because I was saying that the Cardinals were going to win. It was a total gut feeling. To the worlds surprise? We won that game 17-10. The media didn’t give us a chance, except ESPN analyst Hoge, thanks man. From that point on, I knew what kind of team that we could be. I knew the type of coaches and front office we had and I was sold that Sunday. Talent was never an excuse and we were hot as we ended the year. The team started believing in each other and everything came into fruition.
However, those 2 losses did come from 2 playoff teams, the Eagles and the 49ers, losing by a field goal each. The Cardinals missed the playoffs at 10-6 and still would have if they went 11-5. It still leaves a bad taste in our mouths. But that’s in the past now, and it is only motivation for everyone in this organization to get back and take what we had in our hands. Nothing less than a Super Bowl victory is a failure to this team and they are up for it.
Here are my five reasons why Bruce Arians and the Cardinals are primed for a Super Bowl run.
1. Carson Palmer’s Comfortability with the Offense
If you followed the Cardinals last season, you witnessed a massive improvement in Carson Palmer’s game. More specifically a 14 to 8 TD/INT ratio. But it wasn’t just about his numbers, he was a more confidant man in the pocket. He knew what he was doing. Now that he has another offseason under his belt with the same system, he is ready to take this offense to another level.
2. Upgraded Secondary
When Antonio Cromartie was released by the Jets, everyone went nuts. One of the better corners in the game was a free agent. His visit to Arizona was lengthy, but who other than Steve Keim to get someone like Cromartie in here at a cheap price. The man is a wizard. Oh, I forgot to mention our 2014 first rounder, Deone Bucannon, a strong safety from Washington State. Also known as a “head hunter” according to Steve Keim. The man lives up to that name. He is an absolute beast and has what it takes to be Adrian Wilson’s successor. Arizona has arguably the best secondary in a pass happy league.
3. Andre Ellington
Who is Andre Ellington you ask? I don’t blame you. He was our sixth round pick in 2013. No one remembers 6th rounders unless their name is Tom Brady. But in my opinion, Ellington has what it takes to be remembered with late round picks like Tom Brady. Want to hear something even crazier? He WILL be a top 5 back in 2014. Mark my words. Bruce Arians noted that he will be the work horse tail back and that Arizona’s offense will focus on him. Steve Keim compared him to Jamaal Charles. I see the similarities. See for yourself.
4. Receiving Corps
Quietly, the Cardinals have one of the better if not the best receiving duo in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. The rest of the receivers are amazing. The free agency signing of John Carlson and the drafting of Troy Niklas solidify the tight end position with young talent. Steve Keim brought in Ted Ginn Jr. from Carolina which brings the speed Bruce Arians wants. But here comes another crazy prediction… third rounder John Brown will be a candidate for offensive rookie of the year. The kid is a flash, and the real deal in my opinion. How Steve Keim managed to find a diamond in the rough like this in the 3rd round is beyond me. Can’t wait for you all to see this Pitt. State product. Oh, and here’s Michael Floyd just being a beast.
Defense wins championships. It’s that simple. And the Arizona Cardinals can play defense. Finishing off the season 7th in total defense and 1st in rush defense, this unit played at an elite level every game. Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles put his guys in the best situations to be successful. His exotic blitz packages and creative ways of using the talent he has gives him an edge. He was so good he interviewed with a couple of teams for a head coaching gig. He and this unit will be elite once more and will be key into the Cardinals road to a Super Bowl.
It’s crazy to think that the Cardinals are primed for a Super Bowl run. But it’s even crazier to think that they aren’t. This team has a chip on their shoulder and they want to prove what kind of team they can be. This team has what it takes. Just ask Bruce Arians. There’s a good vibe going around the Cardinals fan base this year. We believe that this is the year of the Cardinals and this is our year to win a Lombardi Trophy. We have high expectations all around. Talent is not an excuse. This is the year of the Arizona Cardinals.