Following two consecutive down seasons, Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald was ready to pass the torch to third-year wideout Michael Floyd. It sounded like a logical storyline as Fitzgerald entered his 11th NFL season while Floyd was being tabbed as a trendy breakout star entering his 3rd season. Countless experts bought into this idea as the downward trend of Fitzgerald and the upward trend of Floyd made it easy to.
Not so fast my friends.
Fitzgerald has shown a renewed enthusiasm over the past handful of weeks, including a breakout performance in Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Fitzgerald reeled in seven passes for 160 yards which included an electrifying 80-yard touchdown. More importantly, Fitzgerald displayed the play-making ability that made him arguably the best receiver in the NFL for a large portion of his decorated career.
In six of his first eight seasons, Fitzgerald topped the 1,000-yard mark and four of those seasons included 1,400 or more yards. Those stellar numbers, however, came to a halt in 2012. Fitzgerald managed only 798 yards, the lowest output since his rookie season in 2004. Things got a little better in 2013 as Fitzgerald totaled 954 yards but the most alarming drop off came in terms of yards per reception. 2012 yielded only 11.2 yards per catch and 11.6 yards per catch in 2013.
The once great Fitzgerald, who is still beloved in Arizona, was set to experience the same fate as countless great players before him. But then, something changed.
Fitzgerald is back to demonstrating abilities from his old bag of tricks. Fitzgerald is on pace to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since 2011 and the most impressive statistic might be his average of 14.8 yards per catch. Fitzgerald is once again being used as a downfield threat instead of primarily being utilized as an underneath check-down option.
There have been a handful of driving forces behind Fitzgerald’s resurgence but none can be greater than his own mantra: “faith, focus, finish.” For some time now that’s been a phrase tabbed by Fitzgerald that he uses both on and off the field.
Despite his downward trend that started in 2012, Fitzgerald never lost the faith – in both his own abilities and the abilities of his team.
The Cardinals played musical chairs at quarterback in 2012 and the name of players who started under center are almost too painful to mention. The likes of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer all started games in Arizona. This inauspicious play at quarterback certainly played a role in the thought to be demise of Fitzgerald, but his faith never wavered.
Next up on Fitzgerald’s list is focus.
It would have been easy for Fitzgerald to concede to Floyd and the Cardinals’ new wave of receivers, but he didn’t. He stayed focused, stayed sharp and now that QB Carson Palmer is making his own career resurgence in coach Bruce Arians’ offense, Fitzgerald is picking up right where he left off back in his heyday with Kurt Warner at the helm.
And finally, Fitzgerald is clearly finishing.
It’s no secret that Fitzgerald is in the final stretch of his NFL career. The days of being an All-Pro and being mentioned as a potential MVP candidate are likely over, but Fitzgerald is unquestionably finishing what he started. Fitzgerald came to Arizona as the No. 3 overall pick in the draft out of Pittsburgh with so much promise and potential.
It’s safe to say that Fitzgerald has surpassed the promise and potential that was apparent back in 2004 and he’s not done yet. Fitzgerald’s career revival is in full swing and his mantra of “faith, focus, finish” should serve him well until it’s all said and done.
Cardinals’ Fitzgerald not done yet
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