Things bitter behind enemy lines

Cardinals' faithful and sports-talk gurus around the country can go on panning the gag gift the Big Red handed Chicago on Monday night, but if the Cardinals are to save their season they quickly must flush it from their minds and turn their focus forward to Oakland.

It might be easier said than done, but a loss to the winless Raiders in the Bay Area on Sunday and a promising season would be all but over at 1-6. The Cardinals can afford no more than two more losses the remainder of the season if they are to make the playoffs, and they still have the second round vs. all their NFC West foes ahead, including a critical home game vs. Seattle. The rematches with San Francisco and St. Louis will be on the road.

So the task of cleaning up after a monumental cave-in is daunting.

Dennis Green, who coach-slapped a microphone during his post-game news conference on Monday night, wasn't much calmer by Tuesday, when he fired offensive coordinator Keith Rowen.

Green is now on his third offensive coordinator and third offensive line coach in his third season with the Cardinals.

Who keeps hiring these guys, anyway?

Green is on the hot seat and he knows it. As he approaches the midpoint of his third year, the Cardinals have lost more than twice as many games as they've won.

That is despite the team having rebuilt the defense with some exciting young players who showed their potential in what was essentially a shutout of the Bears offense.

The Cardinals also have assembled a set of skill-position offensive players who could be plugged in almost anywhere and thrive.

Who wouldn't take Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, with Bryant Johnson as a speedy third wideout? Or 6-8 rookie tight end Leonard Pope, who for reasons best known to the Cardinals has been seriously under-used thus far? Or Pro Bowl back Edgerrin James? Or rookie quarterback Matt Leinart with a still-capable Kurt Warner as his backup?

The Cardinals' greatest shortcoming has been their colossal whiff on the offensive line, and the fingers must be pointed directly at Green for that. He's the one who cut starting center Pete Kendall on the eve of Green's first training camp when there was no experienced backup. The Cardinals still haven't figured it out at center.

And Green is the one who bagged left tackle L.J. Shelton, who might not have been a Pro Bowler but was serviceable.

And Green's the one who moved Leonard Davis to left tackle -- granted, almost everyone projected Davis at that position when he came out of Texas as the second player overall in the 2001 draft -- after Davis had been a mauler in his early pro years at right guard.

Anyone remember Davis pancaking Brian Urlacher at Chicago in those years at guard? He did. Or Davis essentially shot-putting a blitzing Mike Brown in the same game? He did.

Perhaps with Davis still at right guard to deal with Urlacher and Brown on Monday night the cave-in would have been avoided.

Green can, and no doubt will, continue tweaking his staff. He has now fired or demoted seven coaches in three years, including three of them during a season.

Pretty soon, Green has to take a long look in the mirror.

And even sooner, the Cardinals have to deal with a winless opponent that they absolutely must beat in the face of its Raider Nation home crowd, or they can begin thinking about will be coaching the team in 2007.

The Cardinals wanted to use the Monday night stage to make a statement, and they did. For anyone who may have been in doubt, the Cardinals said emphatically that this franchise simply hasn't a clue of what it takes to win.


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