Thursday, June 1 2023

The Arizona Cardinals hired a first-time general manager in Monti Ossenfort, who then hired a first-time head coach in Jonathan Gannon.

Ossenfort (Titans) and Gannon (Eagles) come from winning organizations but do not have an intimate knowledge of the NFC West. They’re now competing in a division that includes Super Bowl winners in Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams and Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks. And Kyle Shanahan has taken the San Francisco 49ers to back-to-back NFC Championship Games.

Since 2010, the Cardinals have had a winning record just four times, reaching the playoffs in three of those years with one playoff win in the past 13 seasons. 

Yes, whether Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell wants to acknowledge it publicly, Arizona is in full rebuilding mode, which will require patience for Ossenfort and Gannon to create a sustainable culture of winning in a competitive, experienced division. 


“Our goal here is to win,” Ossenfort said during his introductory press conference. “To build a team that can win the NFC West, to advance in the playoffs and ultimately for everyone in this organization to enjoy what it feels like to hold that Lombardi trophy.”

In his first interview among national media at the NFL Combine this week, Gannon got a not-so-warm welcome. Specifically, reporters from Philadelphia questioned the former Eagles defensive coordinator’s lack of adjustments in the second half of Philly’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. That second half featured two wide-open touchdown passes to Kansas City receivers in the red zone, where Eagle defenders were out of position.

Even Philadelphia defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson chimed in via a tweet, which he later deleted. 

However, Gannon showed composure in handling the situation, acknowledging his shortcomings in the big game without bristling (too much). 

“Yeah, I’ve answered two questions about that,” Gannon said after a third question about the Super Bowl. “I’m sorry I’m going to not talk about that one. But I’ve kind of moved on from that. As always, guys, when you’re the leader of a unit or the leader of a team, everything that goes on out on that field is my responsibility. Obviously, them scoring what they scored and how the second half went, I didn’t do a good enough job.”

That poise in handling a little bit of adversity should go a long way as the enthusiastic Gannon takes on the uphill climb in getting Arizona back to respectability. 

Three hot issues

1. When will Kyler Murray be ready?

The Oklahoma product had surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee in January and has been rehabbing at the team’s facility. 

Recovery from ACL knee surgery generally takes nine to 12 months to fully heal, which means Murray likely will not be available to start the regular season. Gannon said Murray is attacking his rehab, but also smartly wants to make sure Murray is fully healthy before he returns to play.

“I told Kyler I’m not going to rush him back,” Gannon said at the combine. “Because part of what makes Kyler elite are his legs. So when he’s ready to play, he’ll play. I don’t know exactly the timetable right now. Everyone heals a little differently, comes back from rehab a little differently in that aspect. But I like the plan for where he’s at. I like what he’s doing right now to get himself ready to go. … But if he’s not ready to go, we’ll have a plan in place to play and win games with who we have at quarterback with us.”

Gannon’s first meeting with Kyler Murray

Craig Carton reacts to footage of an “awkward” first meeting between new Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon and his quarterback, Kyler Murray.

Gannon also said that even though Murray is not on the field, he will be “stressed out” mentally in meeting rooms on learning Arizona’s new offensive scheme during the offseason. 

Finding a quarterback to lead the Cardinals while Murray recovers is a priority for the Cardinals. According to Bidwell, backup Colt McCoy won’t be ready to participate in offseason work in April as he continues to recover from injuries that cut short his 2022 season, including minor surgery on an unspecified injury.

The Cardinals could look to sign journeyman Jacoby Brissett as a placeholder until Murray is healthy. Brissett started 10 games for the Cleveland Browns last season while Deshaun Watson served his suspension. New offensive coordinator Drew Petzing was Cleveland’s quarterbacks coach last year. 

Once Murray is healthy, Petzing will be responsible for creating an offense that gets the most out of the Cardinals’ $230 million commitment to one of the best playmakers in the league. Gannon said that will include more plays under center to keep defenses honest. According to Next Gen Stats, the Cardinals ran a league-high 1,044 plays out of shotgun last year and just 100 under center. The Browns ran 670 plays out of shotgun in 2022 and 446 under center. 

“He’s a really talented player that was one of the appealing parts of this job or me, being able to work with a talented quarterback of his caliber,” Petzing said. “But it’s about the entire offense and ultimately the entire team. It’s not going to just be about him, and he knows that, and as an organization we will preach that.

“We need to build a great offense, a great defense and a great special teams unit to go out there and be successful.” 

2. Upgrade the offensive line 

Once Murray is healthy, the Cardinals need to figure out how to better protect him so he can stay healthy. Arizona allowed 46 sacks last season, tied for No. 24 in the league. 

Veteran center Rodney Hudson only played four games last season and is contemplating retirement. Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum and guards Justin Pugh and Will Hernandez will become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year in mid-March. 

Arizona played 10 different offensive line combinations last season. The projected offensive line of D.J. Humphries at left tackle, Hernandez at left guard, Hudson at center, Pugh at right guard and Beachum at right tackle played just three games together.

One bright spot is Humphries showed he can be effective at left tackle when healthy and Josh Jones also had some solid performances in a fill-in role at left tackle toward the end of the season. Other than that, the Cardinals need to use the draft and free agency to build a better offensive line up the middle to protect Murray. 

3. Establish a winning culture 

With one NFC West title and one playoff win over the past decade, the Cardinals are due for a change in culture.

Enter Gannon, who got an up-close look at how Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni quickly turned things around in two years with Philadelphia, taking the team to the Super Bowl in 2022. 

Gannon hopes for a similar quick turnaround with Arizona. 

“I’m grateful for Nick, bringing me in and looping me in on a lot of those things,” Gannon said. “He really taught me how to be prepared to be a head coach. And I’m using a lot of things that we talked about over the last couple years and applying those to our team now.”

Top free agents hitting the open market

The Cardinals have 28 players scheduled to become free agents once the new year begins on March 15. According to Over the Cap, Arizona is No. 14 in the NFL with about $13.8 million in cap space, so they can bring in a few free agents but can’t keep everyone slated for free agency on their roster. 

The Cardinals must replace their best pass-rusher, with J.J. Watt retiring at the end of the year. Pending unrestricted free agent Zach Allen had a breakout season last year and is worth bringing back if the price is right. 

Cornerback Byron Murphy is talented but finished the year on the injured reserve with a back issue. Bringing back kicker Matt Prater, punter Andy Lee, receiver Greg Dortch and Beachum make sense. 

“We just got to be right on the people we bring in to help our team win,” Gannon said. 

Ossenfort also said at the combine that the Cardinals have not decided whether to pick up linebacker Isaiah Simmons‘ fifth-year option. Arizona has until May 1 to do that. 

“We’ll make that decision when appropriate,” Ossenfort said about Simmons. “We’ve still got some time. Isaiah is an extremely talented player. He’s big. He’s long. He’s fast. I think we’ll be able to find a good way to use him this year.”

The Cardinals also must figure out what to do with the team’s best offensive player in DeAndre Hopkins. The 30-year-old Clemson product remains one of the most dynamic pass-catchers in the game, but he might want to go to a team that has a better chance at competing for a Super Bowl at this point of his career.

Hopkins has two years and about $34 million in guaranteed money remaining on his current deal with the Cardinals, which also contains a no-trade clause, giving the big-play receiver the ability to control where he lands in a potential trade.

The draft assets the Cardinals receive in return for moving Hopkins could be valuable as Arizona attempts to add young talent to a rebuilding roster. 

“I’ve had a conversation with DeAndre and DeAndre’s representative,” Ossenfort said at the combine. “Those have been very productive conversations. I’ve watched from afar for the last 10 years or whatever it’s been for DeAndre and have been on teams that have had to compete against him. I’ve seen the player he is and what he can do on the field, and I know that he is tough to defend. I’m glad he’s on the team.

“So I think with him, and that goes with any player, those are situations that we will address as they come up. But I’m glad DeAndre is on the team right now.” 

Other possible targets for the Cardinals in free agency:

C Conner McGovern: The Missouri product played an average of 1,000 snaps for five straight seasons and would provide some stability for Arizona and Murray in the middle of the offensive line. 

OG Isaac Seumalo: He did a nice job protecting Jalen Hurts and could help Gannon create a winning culture from their time in Philadelphia. 

RB Kareem Hunt: The Toledo product is good catching the ball out of the backfield and could pair nicely with bruising runner James Conner

Cardinals and the draft

Arizona has the No. 3 overall selection in this year’s draft and eight picks overall, including four in the top 100. 

According to Tankathon, the Cardinals are No. 5 overall in the NFL in terms of draft capital. Offensive line, edge rusher, corner and defensive tackle are among Arizona’s top needs.

Ossenfort said he’s ready to pick at No. 3, or listen to offers to trade down and gather more picks. 

“It presents an opportunity that there’s going to be a good player to take at No. 3,” Ossenfort said. “We’ll be prepared to take a player at No. 3, and also our phones will be open. I’m open to hearing any conversation from somebody who’s willing to come up.” 

Possible targets for Arizona heading into the draft: 

Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr.: The Cardinals need pass rush help and Anderson was productive for the Crimson Tide, totaling 62 tackles for loss, including 34.5 sacks. 

Texas A&M RB Devon Achane: The speedster ran a 10.14 in the 100-meter dash. Achane also recorded 1,102 yards and eight touchdowns for the Aggies in 2022 and would give the Cardinals much-needed speed in the backfield. He should have one of the fastest 40-yard times at the combine this week.

Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr.: With big-play receivers like DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel and Cooper Kupp in the NFC West, the Cardinals need a big-body cover man who can match up. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Porter, the son of former NFL pass-rusher Joey Porter, is a physical defender who can reroute receivers and also is a willing tackler in the run game.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

Top stories from FOX Sports:

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience

National Football League

Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray

Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more

in this topic

Source: FOX Sports


Spurs’ Keldon Johnson (left foot sprain) out against Pacers


Andre Iguodala still hears the sound of LeBron James' epic NBA Finals block | CLUB SHAY SHAY

Check Also

Pro Sports Media

Trending Now

Tyreek Hill: Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins offense ‘going to go crazy’ in 2023

Henry McKenna AFC East Reporter Coach Mike McDaniel and the Miami Dolphins made it clear in 2022 that the team’s identity is built around its offense. And during the 2023 offseason, McDaniel and GM Chris Grier have made it clear that the offense is built around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins remain bullish about their offensive prospects, […]

Read More

Hoerner homers, bullpen shines as Cubs beat McClanahan, Rays 2-1

Hoerner homers, bullpen shines as Cubs beat McClanahan, Rays 2-1 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago CHICAGO (AP) — Nico Hoerner homered and the Chicago Cubs made the most of a rare gaffe by Tampa Bay, handing Shane McClanahan his first loss of the season with a 2-1 victory over the Rays on Tuesday night. […]

Read More

The Denver Nuggets are facing a ‘historically easy’ path to an NBA Title according to league reports

The Denver Nuggets last played on 5/22 and will have had nearly two weeks off before the start of the Finals. That is because they beat the Lakers in four games during the Western Conference Finals. Their opponent is the Miami Heat, the second-ever #8 seed to make the Finals. League reports are saying the […]

Read More