An open window is critical for NFL teams.
Whether the window is cracked all the way and ushering in the sunshine like it has been for the New England Patriots in recent years, or the window is allowing a sliver of cool air through, having an opening is all a team can ask for.
When Arizona Cardinals' wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald announced his decision to return for a 14th season last week, he did so because he felt the franchise's championship window is still open.
"We just felt like we had some unfinished business, the window of opportunity in the National Football League is very small," Fitzgerald said in a radio interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 Tuesday morning.
Not every team starts an NFL season with a realistic opportunity to win the Super Bowl, especially teams that finished with sub .500 records the previous season. Still, after coming off a 7-8-1 campaign, Fitzgerald felt the Cardinals have enough talent in the fold to make a serious run at a title, and that inclination helped sway his final decision.
"When you have an opportunity with a team as talented as ours to make a run, you don't want to walk away too early and have that regret so that was the biggest component," Fitzgerald said. "I wanted to have an opportunity to do what Tom Brady has done five times."
Fitzgerald has spent all 13 seasons of his NFL career with the Cardinals, earning 10 Pro Bowl selections and posting eight 1,000-yard seasons. Despite the individual accolades and his status as a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame selectee, the one part of history evading Fitzgerald is a Super Bowl ring.
During his interview on 'Doug and Wolf' Tuesday, Fitzgerald said that after the conclusion of the regular season, he was completely uncertain about his future. But after spending part of January watching playoff games, he felt a burning desire to get back on the field and compete and said that played a pivotal role in his decision to return for a 14th season.
"I wanted to think it through and take some time and compose myself and make sure that the fire was still burning like it needed to be burning to play and go through the rigor of the season and I concluded after watching some of the playoff games that there's no way I could sit here and watch this and watch it without any emotion," Fitzgerald said. "So I made the decision pretty quickly."
This isn't the first offseason full of speculation regarding Fitzgerald's potential retirement, and by the sounds of it, it may not be the last. Fitzgerald said that he's fully committed to the 2017 season, but would once again take inventory after this year before making a decision regarding his status in 2018.
"I'm committed to this season, I think looking forward it would be be foolish of me to say I'm going to do this or do that, but I'm going to give everything I have," Fitzgerald said. "I'll have nothing left when I walk off the field for the last time next season in terms of energy and emotion. I'm going to leave it all out there like I do every single season I play."
Now that Fitzgerald has elected to return, the Cardinals are still awaiting the decision of 14-year NFL veteran Carson Palmer, who has yet to indicate whether he plans to return to the franchise in 2017.
Palmer has spent four seasons with the Cardinals and thrown for 4,000 yards in three of those four campaigns, and his presence has helped Fitzgerald reach impressive heights late in his career. In back-to-back seasons, the duo has connected on more than 100 passing attempts including in 2016, when Fitzgerald tied for the NFL lead with 107 receptions.
Fitzgerald said he knows that the Cardinals' championship window remaining open hinges on whether or not Palmer returns, and like most members of Arizona's organization, Fitzgerald is eagerly awaiting Palmer's decision.
"Obviously we're not foolish, we understand he's the linchpin, if you don't have a quarterback in this league, you don't have a chance to compete no matter how good you are at the position," Fitzgerald said. "We understand that and Carson understands that. I would imagine, in his mind, he's thinking some of these things."