After going 34-14 from 2013-15, the Arizona Cardinals finished 7-8-1 last season, with five of the eight losses coming by seven points or fewer.
“We lost five close games that, in years past, we had won,” Arizona head coach Bruce Arians said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Some of it was in the kicking game; some of it was just playing dumb football when we had been a pretty smart team. We tried to address that all spring and we’ll address it again in training camp. But in the NFL, you got to win close games.”
The Cardinals hope to return to the playoffs this season and play for a Super Bowl, especially since some of their key players aren’t getting any younger. Carson Palmer turns 38 in December, while Larry Fitzgerald turns 34 in August.
David Johnson, who had 2,100+ total yards and 20 touchdowns (16 rushing, four receiving) last season, said he feels pressure to get Palmer and Fitzgerald a ring.
Arians loves when players take ownership like that.
“I love it,” he said. “I think back to when Ben (Roethlisberger) told Jerome Bettis, ‘I’m going to get you to Detroit’ – and he did. Nothing would be bigger than to get Larry to Indianapolis.”
Fitzgerald had a league-high 107 receptions for 1,023 yards and six touchdowns last season. Palmer, meanwhile, completed 61.0 percent of his passes for 4,233 yards, 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Palmer, who does all of his damage from the pocket, is almost becoming a dying breed in the NFL, especially with the influx of spread quarterbacks in recent years.
There’s a big difference between the two.
“I think the biggest thing within the spread is half-field reads for the quarterback,” Arians said. “And they’re great athletes. If I was coaching college again, I’d be in the spread offense. We’d go as fast as we could, and we’d have a great athlete at quarterback. But in the NFL with full-field reads and all the things that go with it, then the biggest thing is the volume of learning. They have maybe two or three protections (in college), and we’ll have as many as 13 to 14. That volume of learning sets these guys back a little bit.”
Regardless of skill set, though, the great quarterbacks share a few things in common.
“I think they all have similar traits,” Arians said. “They’re all individuals and they all learn differently and they take coaching differently, but they all have, what I call, grit. The great ones refuse to lose. I don’t care what they’re playing. If it’s shooting pool in the locker room, playing ping pong, golfing, basketball – they refuse to lose, and they refuse for anyone around them to lose. So they have those mental fibers that make them lead.”