Dennis Green Calls Season

Well, it looks as though, with the rumors that Dennis Green is going to hand the reins of the franchise over to rookie QB Matt Leinart, that the Cardinals' season is officially over. 

Sure, they'll still play the games that are left on the schedule.  We're all professionals here.  But, Coach Green has essentially announced that the Cardinals have no chance at contending and the fans in the Valley of the Sun must once again suffer through a "rebuilding" year.

It may seem early to rush to such a judgment, but Green has always been a man of action.  Especially at the quarterback position.  After all, his team has started 38,515 different guys behind center the last couple of years, including a McCown brother and Kurt Warner's brother-in-law.  And, given that Arizona has gone 12-23 in the Dennis Green era, all the while changing quarterbacks as frequently as a lonely housewife changes batteries, it seems perfectly logical to abate more losing by making another questionable quarterback change.

All sarcasm aside, in order to understand Green's affinity with switching up signal callers, you must first understand the man himself.  Green has a system.  He has a scheme.  The personnel in the system (especially the man behind center) are irrelevant.  He called the plays for the most potent offense in NFL history with a (seemingly) washed up Randall Cunningham as his starting QB.  He finished first in passing yards last season with a, "the guy that's behind center when the music stops says 'hut'" strategy.  It's the system, not the quarterback.  It's the schemes, not the quarterback.  After all, the offense that surrounded Cunningham in the record setting 1998 season had a number of high profile guys surrounding the quarterback.  Robert Smith at tailback, Randy Moss and Chris Carter at wide receiver, and a can't-miss kicker in Gary Anderson.

All the pieces seem to be in place: stud running back, two high quality wide receivers, Pro Bowl kicker, former MVP quarterback in the twilight of his career, and an aggressive, attacking defense that tries to get the ball back in the hands of their potent offense as quickly as possible.  Same scheme, same system, same coach.  Different results.  Is Green seriously trying to convince us that it's Warner, or McCown, or Navarre, or Leinart that will right the ship because they're right for the system?  If the quarterback is irrelevant, why change?  If the guy you had behind center wasn't really your guy, why put him in there in the first place.

The answer is simple: Green's trying to buy himself another season.  He must feel that Leinart can't be any worse than Warner in the system and that, at least in theory, Leinart will eventually get better overall as the season continues.  At the end of the season, he'll be able to sit down with the Bidwells and show improvement on film in Leinart's decision making and performance.  He'll be able to say that he needed to take out Warner to save the future of the franchise.  That the players have had 3 full seasons in his system and that the switch will go off this year (though a lot of folks said that about last season and this season as well).  He'll tell them that he needs one more year to turn around the franchise.  He thought Warner had what it took to bring the Cardinals to the next level, but he didn't.  So Green was forced to start over.

All of this will give Green time to fix what's actually wrong with the Cardinals.  Same as 2004.  Same as last year.  It's the offensive line, stupid.

He's hoping that Leinart can use his athleticism (next to Warner, he's freaking Gale Sayers) to buy some additional time in the pocket and find the open man.  He's hoping that the draft picks he's invested in the offensive line the last three offseasons will pay dividends at some point.  And he's hoping that someone of some quality will come available in the free agent market.

Most of all, he needs time.  And, strangely enough, ending the season early buys him that time.

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