The State of the State: Arizona

June 27, 2023

Are the Cardinals going to be as bad as everyone in the football world believes?

Jonathan Gannon has his work cut out for him during his first season in Arizona

Two years can make a big difference. There’s no better example than the Arizona Cardinals.

During the 2021 season, they were the darlings of the NFL. They started the year 7-0 and were 9-2 at the bye. Kyler Murray was an MVP candidate and Kliff Kingsbury was on his way to the Coach of the Year honors.

Then, the wheels came off. Arizona limped to the finish line, going 2-4 after the break to finish with an 11-6 mark.

That was good enough to earn a wild-card berth, however. But that was also a debacle. The Cardinals lost 34-11 to the Rams, a team that would go on to win the Super Bowl.

Since then, it’s been one mess after another. The franchise appears to be coming apart at the seams.

First, they rewarded Murray with a five-year, $230.5-million contract. This wasn’t without controversy, as the quarterback reportedly refused to go back into the playoff loss at Los Angeles once the game got away from the Cardinals.

Then, there was the revelation that the deal originally contained a clause requiring Murray to have better work habits. They were eventually removed, but the die had been cast. The QB suddenly became a lightning rod for controversy, receiving most of the blame any time things went poorly.

And they did often in 2022. The Cardinals finished 4-13, losing their last seven games and nine of their final 10. To make matters worse, Murray tore his ACL on December 12 and might not be ready for opening day.

As a result, the offseason was full of big changes. Kingsbury was shown the door, replaced by former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. And big names departed from both sides of the ball.

DeAndre Hopkins won’t return. The wide receiver wore out his welcome in Arizona and is still looking for a new home.

And J.J. Watt retired. The future Hall of Fame defensive lineman called it a career after 12 seasons, with his final two coming with the Cardinals.

Add it all up and it’s just too much change for the oddmakers. That creates some opportunity.

Arizona isn’t a playoff team, but they also aren’t going to be in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick. Murray is too talented to not be able to lead his team to a few wins, especially considering that the Cardinals have just the 22nd-toughest schedule in the NFL.

Steve Quinne’s pick: Arizona over 4.5 wins in 2023