Defending Mr. Green

Before you get upset about the fact that the Cardinals are not going to immediately fire Dennis Green, you need to realize a few things.  But first, you need to think back and remember what it was like to be 17 years old...

Are you there?  Are you filled with angst?  Depressed?  Don't understand why your life is so difficult and why no one understands you?  Do you wish your parents would just leave you alone?  If they'd just stop with the yelling, they'd understand that you know everything and know what's best for you.

Dennis Green is not the only reason the Cardinals are 1-7.  Neither is Neil Rackers.  It's not even the offensive line's fault.  And, you could blame the Bidwells or some type of Valley of the Sun Curse, but that would be short-sighted as well.  It's about egos and money, pure and simple.

Dennis Green:

Well, this is mostly about egos.  Green has a system that has been successful in other precincts and has produced big numbers.  He believes that, if he can teach the system to a group of players (hopefully handpicked by him), play enough defense to get by, and mold whatever quarterback he has at the time to fit the system, he will win divisions and be in playoff contention every year.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, most of the necessary personnel was not in place when he took the job.  He now has his three receivers and a young quarterback to mold.  He even has a defense that can get him by and a coordinator in Clancy Pendergast that is well respected in league circles.  What he does not have, however, is the confidence of his players and a competent offensive line.  He needed so much time and resources to build the other pieces that he forgot about one of the most important aspects of every offense.

Green was so caught up in fitting together the essential cogs in his system that he neglected the fact that people actually have to block effectively to make it work.  He already had a pretty solid offensive line in Minnesota.  One of the reasons the wheels started to fall off there was that he had lost the confidence of his players and everyone was starting to get old.  The machine he had assembled to run his system was beginning to break down and he had no idea (and, more importantly, not enough time) to fix it.

Now, Green believes that he has all the pieces in place to run his system the way it should run.  The only issue is that the players aren't making the plays.  In a high school or collegiate situation, he could motivate his players to execute simply by screaming at them.  With today's players, though, you end up with a lot of 17 year olds, wondering why Mom and Dad won't shut up and let them live their lives.

The Players:

Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald know that they're talented players.  Matt Leinart knows he's talented.  Edgerrin James has a history of success running the football in the NFL.  While they may not admit to feeling that they're not responsible for Arizona's 1-7 start, the fact of the matter is that players in the NFL are people, just like all of us.  Edge knows that he can gain a lot of yards if he has holes to run through.  Fitzgerald and Boldin know when they're open and when they aren't (and, most receivers will tell you that they're always open).  Leinart knows that he'll hit the open man in stride if he just has enough time to throw and enough space to step up in the pocket.

It can be preached again and again that football is a team sport and that it's not about individuals.  It's another thing entirely to believe it.  At this point, it seems, no one on the Arizona Cardinals believes that they're playing a team sport.  After a few key collapses, they seemed to fold up their tents and call it a season.  They're all professionals and still have a job to do, but they seem to have lost their fight.  They seem to forget that football is about more than just them.  Fans are involved.  Teammates are involved.

Dennis Green's job security is involved.  And he's starting to yell about it.  The tragic part of that is that the players are under no obligation to listen.

The Bidwells:

I've taken my share of cheap shots at the Bidwells.  I've given them fair criticism.  Occasionally, I've even praised them.  But, the issue with Dennis Green, as the Bidwells see it, is about money and egos.  They hired him to do a job and they'll be damned if they're going to quit now.  They'd have to pay him $3.75 million to not coach their team.  They believed he was the best man for the job when they hired him and they believe it now.  Or so they say.

So, part of it is egos, but the big chunk of the reason Dennis Green is still employed as a coach in the National Football League is money.  They don't want to eat any more of his contract than they have to.  With the recent rise in salaries for assistants, they'll have to buy out the assistants and hire new ones.  We're probably talking about an endeavor that will cost the Bidwells around $10 million next year alone.  They just shelled out $30 million for Edge.  They've been active (at least active by their standards) in free agency the last three years.

They sold out their new stadium, but their ultimate return on their investment is one win and seven losses for the 2006 season.  And that is unacceptable.

The Solution:

Can't fire Green now.  Too expensive, too dismal a thought to even consider, no one to replace him on the current staff, too many egos and too much money.

After the season, though, the man's gotta go.  The situation in Arizona has gotten too out of hand and there are too many issues for the one person (and his staff) that is most responsible for those issues to fix.  Green can't fix what he's broken.  It's his system.  His system is perfect, if the players would just execute it properly.  And, with the turnover in assistants, he hasn't established, and will not establish, the kind of continuity and stability that the organization needs.

The Cardinals need to hire someone like Marvin Lewis.  When Lewis stepped into the offices of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003, he started to change the culture and the mindset of that organization.  The Bengals had suffered through a decade of futility.  Players needed to sign contracts that stated they would be fined and docked pay if they bad-mouthed the organization.

Lewis signed veteran players that he knew would fit his system and mentor his young players.  He signed Carson Palmer before the draft, so there wouldn't be yet another hold-out.  He got the Browns (who make the Bidwells seem like Mark Cuban) to spend money.  Most of all, he told the players that it wasn't going to be "business as usual" in Cincinnati anymore.  They were talented, they were young, and they had a chance against any team in the NFL if they simply believed in each other and went into every game expecting to win, as opposed to worrying about losing.

Most importantly, Lewis had never held a head coaching job before.  He had no hubris to overcome.  When the Bidwells start their coaching search in the off season, they need to look at up-and-coming assistants (Ron Rivera comes to mind), as opposed to established coaches.  They're a team that needs to prove themselves, they need a coach with the same mentality.

Above and beyond a complete overhaul of their offensive line, the Cardinals need to overhaul their culture.  And they can't do that with Dennis Green coaching the team next season.

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