The Kurt Warner Effect: Build A Running Game?
Ken Whisenhunt, Rod Graves And The Rest Of The Team’s Front Office Tab ‘Play Makers’ In Draft With Hints That They Have A Secret About The Future
The vacuum caused by Kurt Warner's departure just might have forced the Arizona Cardinals to tack to a different offensive direction.
By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine .com
May 3, 2011 — When the Arizona Cardinals selected Patrick Peterson of Louisiana State University with the fifth pick in the NFL Draft, it didn’t come as a complete surprise since most pre-draft predictions for the team — Von Miller of Texas A&M — went number two to the Denver Broncos.
What was surprising was what the team did next.
Instead of going for perceived ‘need,’ they instead opted to go for the best player available. That player, according to the Arizona Cardinals draft board, was running back Ryan Williams of Virgina Tech. When they selected Peterson over perceived need Blaine Gabbert, common wisdom was that the Cardinals would grab a quarterback in the second round or at least at some point in the NFL Draft.
But by the end of the seventh round, they had selected no quarterbacks. Hmmm. They know something they are not telling us.
It was obvious last season that the only thing keeping the Cardinals from respectability was a decent NFL quarterback. What the Cardinals had was one Derrick Anderson (cough, headcase, cough) and some rookies. Yes, Whisenhunt and the Cardinals should have held on to Matt Leinart for at least one year, but that is another story all together.
What is important is that the Arizona Cardinals could ill afford to go into training camp with the likes of John Skelton, Max Hall and Richard Bartel as the only options at signal caller while running an offense that is based on getting Larry Fitzgerald the ball through the air. They did not see the answer in the draft and some might argue that Ken Whisenhunt simply does not think a rookie quarterback is the answer unless there is no other question.
On the surface, the obvious answer for what they are planning is that the Arizona Cardinals know that they will be able to acquire a veteran quarterback through trade/free agency. ESPN.com and others have already reported that the team has an unofficial agreement with Marc Bulger.
That might be so. No one will know the answer to that question until some sort of a framework for ground rules between players and the league is agreed upon.
But maybe what the Cardinals are thinking has little to do with the quarterback position. Maybe, just maybe, the selection of Patrick Peterson and Ryan Williams is designed to help bring about an Arizona Cardinals team that is a lot like the Baltimore Ravens. Basically, a team where a serviceable quarterback is all you need when you can run the ball and defend.
Call it the Kurt Warner Effect, or, the cold hard fact of life after Kurt Warner, if you rather. What 2010 made clear is that the offense needed to change as much as the Warner replacement because there is no replacement for Mr. Warner. He is a Hall of Famer and those don't come around very often.
Besides, teams that can run the ball and defend can reach the playoffs with a mediocre quarterback. A high caliber quarterback combined with a running game and a stout defense can bring a possible championship.
The talking heads spout off about how the Arizona Cardinals need to get a quality quarterback to keep Larry Fitzgerald happy. The truth is that a chance at a championship is what will keep Fitz here and a running game is necessary for that. Some think Williams can be a star, and if paired with Wells, it gives the Cardinals a combo backfield of a big back and an elusive back. The type usually seen on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Just listen to what Matt Waldman, author of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio wrote about Ryan Williams in the New York Times when ranking him the No. 2 running back in the draft.
“Williams is a precocious talent with explosiveness and balance in tight spaces similar to Mark Ingram’s. Only a sophomore, Williams lacks Ingram’s consistent maturity with his decisions behind the line of scrimmage, but Williams is still wiser at this stage of his development than Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy were when they entered the NFL,” Waldman wrote. “Like Ingram, Williams has great balance and quick feet. He’s as good as any back in this class at making something out of nothing. He’s also a very physical runner when it’s time to finish the play. I do have concerns that his hard-cutting, intense style will be harder on his body and that he could suffer a fate similar to Cadillac Williams’. But no one can predict injury. He has the upside to develop into a star.”
If Wells, Hightower and Williams can handle the ego issues, that might make for a formidable trio.
Sure, the Cardinals still ‘supposedly’ need upgrades on the offensive line and a pass rusher. But, the Cardinals have two guys — O’Brien Schofield and Daryl Washington — that have shown promise to be the long-term solutions at linebacker.
Inside backer Washington was called, “maybe the most impressive rookie in the (NFC West)," behind only Sam Bradford by ESPN's Mike Sando.
Schofield was considered the top pass rushing outside linebacker/defensive end in the 2010 draft before blowing out his knee at the Senior Bowl. All reports are he will be a force in 2011. He didn’t get into a game until week eight last year and got his first two sacks in the last two games against Dallas and San Francisco.
But in the end, for all of this to be true, these young guys have to elevate their games. As much as people like to complain about poor draft picks, finding real players is sometimes more about luck than scouting and evaluation. Injury and mental issues can easily derail the surest-surefire pick.
Maybe the Arizona Cardinals are intending to become a running team of the highest level. Maybe, maybe not.
After all, finding out what happens is the fun part.
New FictionEpisode 1, “New Monday” — Meet Detective Scott Smith. He is walking into a homicide investigation unaware that supernatural forces are at work. Mature Audiences Only.
Path To Pottersville New information reveals that the working title for the Path To Prosperity was The Path To Pottersville, the nightmarish world from It’s a Wonderful Life.