Our Naughty Nurse takes vital signs in Arizona
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Mar 14, 2011
(Click here to see our pre-draft reviews of each NFL team, conducted with a little help from our Russian mail-order Naughty Nurse.)
With the help of our crack staff of Russian mail-order naughty nurses, we measure the statistical vital signs of each NFL team in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Our goal is simple: determine where the needs lie for the season (chubby fingers crossed!) ahead. Essentially, this is our final look back at the 2010 season and our first tepid steps into the 2011 season.
The future of each club hinges on its ability to improve upon the statistical weaknesses of last year, through the draft, free agency and elsewhere. You can read all the other off-season reviews and previews you want. But nobody will give you a better idea of each team's needs than we will, thanks to the statistical miracle of our earth-shattering Quality Stats. And we got some new indicators here, too, for 2011!
We'll then chronicle those improvements over the summer with our annual "Fillability Index" – which measures how each team worked to fill its statistical holes from the year before.
But first, a final look at the health and welfare of each team after the 2010 season. We begin at the top of the alphabet, with Arizona, an organization that has ultimately disappointed its fans in all but one of its 91 seasons of NFL play.
The 2010 storyline: If you didn't believe Kurt Warner was a first-ballot Hall of Famer before the 2010 season, it should be obvious now ... even to a flat-lining simpleton such as you.
The Vital Signs
2010 record: 5-11 (18.1 PPG – 27.1 PPG)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 1-4 (19.0 – 34.2)
Last five seasons overall: 37-43 (.463)
Best Quality Stat in 2010: Scoreability (13th)
Worst Quality Stat in 2010: Real Quarterback Rating (32nd)
All Quality Stats
Passing YPA: 31th
Defensive Passing YPA: 26th (new Quality Stat for 2011)
Quarterback Rating: 32nd (new Quality Stat for 2011)
Defensive Quarterback Rating: 22nd (new Quality Stat for 2011)
Offensive Passer Rating: 31st (breaking it out as a stand-alone Quality Stat in 2011)
Defensive Passer Rating: 16th
Offensive Hog Index: 28th(t)
Defensive Hog Index: 14th
Relativity Index: 31st (once-proud Quality Stat being reintroduced for 2011)
Statistical curiosity of 2010: The Cardinals won just one game within the pathetic NFC West and four games outside the division. That lone division win came against St. Louis, way back in Week 1.
Best game of 2010: 30-20 win vs. New Orleans (Week 5). The Cardinals actually looked like a contender on Columbus Day weekend, knocking off the defending champs to move improve to 3-2 on the young season. And they did it with the immortal Max Hall at QB. Credit three Jay Feely field goals, a fumble recovery TD by offensive tackle Levi Brown and a pick-six late in the fourth quarter by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to seal the victory. But then came a bye in Week 6 and the wheels fell of the desert wagon: Arizona lost its next seven games after the break.
Worst game of 2010: 38-7 loss at San Francisco (Week 17). There were a lot of ugly games to choose from, but we're going with the no-show effort in San Fran to end the season.
Everything that was wrong with the Cardinals in 2010 was on display in the finale, namely a complete and utter inability to matriculate the ball down the field via the pass. Arizona boasted more first downs (19 to 16), way more offensive plays (81 to 56) and the game's leading receiver, Larry Fitzgerald (11 catches, 125 yards, 1 TD).
But as loyal Cold, Hard Football Facts readers (Hi Cousins Bo and Luke!), you know that few stats matter if you can't pass the ball well.
Arizona's QB tandem on this day of Richard Bartel and John Skelton combined to drop back to pass 59 times. They were sacked six times and netted a total of 201 yards for a dismal average of 3.41 Passing Yards Per Attempt. The game was a perfect microcosm of everything that was wrong with the team last year.
Strength: Defensive front. We're not going to say the Cardinals had a great group of Defensive Hogs in 2010. But it was steady across the board: 20th against the run, 15th at forcing Negative Pass Plays and 12th in third-down defense.
On a team full of statistical weaknesses, that was as good as it got for Arizona.
There are not a whole lot of game-changing studs in the unit. But they played good team defense, as evidenced by the 12 different players who recorded a sack in 2010. Linebacker Joey Porter was among the team leaders with 5.0 sacks in his first year with Arizona. The strong defensive end tandem of Calais Campbell and Darnell Docket combined for 11 of the team's 33 sacks.
Nobody will confuse the group with the 1976 Steelers. But the Defensive Hogs were good enough to do some damage if they had been paired with a stellar offense. Remember, the 2008 NFC champion Cardinals fielded the 17th-ranked group of Defensive Hogs.
Weakness: Quarterback. We talked a lot this year about our Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law (previously, the Shiny Hood Ornament Theory). It's the law of football physics which tells us that receivers have virtually zero impact on a team, unless all the other key pieces are in place first. Well, the 2010 Cardinals provided plenty more evidence of this Man Law.
They were gifted with one of the most prolific receivers of our time in Larry Fitzgerald. He even had a great season: 90 receptions, 1,137 yards, 6 TD.
But even with Fitzgerald, the passing game was an embarrassment, thanks to a rotating cast of second-rate or unknown quarterbacks who proved incapable of filling the very big void left by future first ballot Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. The quarterback's greatness was never truly appreciated – even as he lifted two different second-rate franchises to unprecedented heights – and his greatness has been most obvious in his absence.
The Rams, for example, have still never come close to filling the void he left in St. Louis nearly a decade ago. But at least there's hope there with Sam Bradford, finally.
Arizona, though, has few prospects to provide that kind of promise, and the impact of the Warner departure was truly stunning in its immediacy.
The Cardinals won 10 games in 2009 for the first time since 1976 and they were one of the most dangerous and effective passing teams in football with Warner at the helm from 2007 to 2009. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are easily the worst franchise in NFL history. They enjoyed just two postseason victories from the creation of the NFL in 1920 until 2007. Then they suddenly won four postseason games in two years with Warner.
But those capabilities in the passing game and in the win column simply disintegrated before our very eyes in 2010, in the wake of Warner's retirement.
The 2010 Cardinals finished 31st in Passing YPA, 31st in Offensive Passer Rating, 31st in Passer Rating Differential and 32nd in our new (debuts in 2011) Real Quarterback Rating, which measures how team's perform in all aspects of quarterbacking, not just passing.
They ranked 29th overall across the board in our Quality Stats in 2010. In fact, given those numbers, it's a miracle they won five games last year.
General off-season strategy/overview: Find a quarterback. The team is desperate, for sure. The name Kevin Kolb has been tossed around, as have others. But it's hard to picture the journeyman from Philly as the quarterback who will turn this team around.
And there's more bad news for a team looking for a franchise quarterback: there are not a lot of great players at the position coming out of college this year. Cam Newton is obviously the biggest name and a physical phenom, but he's widely seen as a risk, too, with a lot of potential downside. And college football's best pro prospect, Andrew Luck, is instead staying at Stanford for one more year.
It all adds up to the fact that Arizona will most likely search for a quarterback in free agency, a la Kolb, and wait for a franchise player in future drafts. Or they take a run at Newton. Hell, they don't have much to lose.
In that case, in the draft, they'd need to attack pass defense. The unit was pretty good in 2010 (16th in Defensive Passer Rating). And we all know by now the importance of pass defense, as measured by Defensive Passer Rating. So if they can turn it into a shutdown pass defense in 2011, it will make like a whole lot easier as the team struggles to regain its footing on offense.
Totally premature 2011 diagnosis: Best case scenario, it seems a six-win season is about as good as it will get in Arizona.
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