Football season is more than halfway over, which means a few things. The first of which is that playoffs are almost in clear sight for top ranking teams and teams whose wildcard hopes are still alive.
The second being the complete shock of the enormous amount of success the Arizona Cardinals are having this year. Despite numerous injuries, player suspensions, devastating losses against the Seahawks and Broncos (both of which went to the Super Bowl last year), the Cardinals have remained optimistic and ready to tackle the next opponent.
After losing Carson Palmer to an ACL tear, which is going to put him out for the remainder of the season, Drew Stanton has stepped in and performed better than anyone would’ve suspected. Omitting the mistakes that are expected from backup quarterbacks, like the occasional missed snap or interception, Stanton has managed to steer a team that could have easily plummeted to a 2-game lead in their division.
Bruce Arians, the head coach and mastermind behind their success, told Peter King of Sports Illustrated that it is and always has been a team effort.
“Injuries happen to everybody. Free-agent losses happen to everybody. I preach and preach and preach, ‘The most valuable player on the team is not Larry Fitzgerald. It’s who’s gonna take his place after Larry Fitzgerald gets hurt,’” King told the mag. “It happened to me. I was the next man up. I was the assistant coach, and 20 hours after Chuck goes down I am running the team. You’re expected to raise your level of play, no matter what your job is.”
His bold style of coaching and drive to win is what has separated Arians from other coaches and landed him the head-coaching job with the Cardinals. He told SI, “Take chances. If the chances make sense, take ’em. I was a quarterback, and we ran the wishbone. On our one-yard line, if they pressed our wide receivers, even though we got 99 yards to go, and we need to get away from goal line, he wouldn’t care. He’d call the ‘go’ route. It’s always been my approach. We’ll build a play with first-down capabilities, but also touchdown/downtown capability too. My quarterback has to know: If you have the right matchup, take it.”
Their “Next Man Up” attitude has led to tremendous success with rookies such as John Brown, and continued growth from some of their leaders such as Tryann Mathieu and Larry Fitzgerald, who did not play due to an injury versus the Seahawks. Both the offense and defense have demonstrated why they are the best in their division and only the future will tell if they have what it takes to make it all the way to the Super Bowl. With tough matchups against the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks, it could be a rocky road.