Lack of selling at trade deadline shows Arizona Cardinals were never tanking

If the Arizona Cardinals were tanking in 2023, they surely didn’t act like they were tanking, even with a 1-7 record and current rights to the top pick.
Baltimore Ravens v Arizona Cardinals
Baltimore Ravens v Arizona Cardinals / Norm Hall/GettyImages

If Arizona Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort intended to tank in 2023, he probably should have taken a lesson or two from executives around the professional sports landscape who have successfully done so. Because if Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon were serious about tanking, they would have done the following both before the season, or at least yesterday’s trade deadline:

  • Kept quarterback Colt McCoy and let him start for eight games
  • Refused to have activated Kyler Murray
  • Traded Budda Baker, Marquise Brown, and James Conner
  • Traded other primary assets the team has from the Keim era

Therefore, we have two outcomes: Either a) Ossenfort was never trying to tank to begin with, which is the most logical explanation, or b) he has no idea how to tank. And to be honest, tanking a pro sports team can’t be that hard - it only involves trading away your greatest contributors while having the funds to cover the dead cap. 

Despite their record the Arizona Cardinals were never tanking in 2023

Sure, Ossenfort did some things that gave off the illusion of a tank. He signed no-name free agents, and he also accumulated draft picks for 2024. But by activating Kyler Murray, trading for a more competent quarterback in Joshua Dobbs (for a while, at least), and ironically only trading away Dobbs at the deadline, it shows us that Ossenfort, for the most part, was trying to make the best of a bad situation. 

It was going to be a rough year regardless, so yeah, a major rebuild was in order after all the damage the Steve Keim regime did. There was also no way Ossenfort was repeating Keim’s mistakes, hence the lack of free agent signings and trying to build a solid team in a one-year window, which would have likely led to what you’re seeing on the field now sometime in 2025 or 2026. 

This is why the Arizona Cardinals will be better in the second half of the season. Kyler Murray will be back in either Week 9 or Week 10. The Cards still have a key asset in Budda Baker, and another one (for now, at least), in Marquise Brown, and perhaps yet another if Conner gets activated off of injured reserve. 

No, this team is not making the playoffs barring some dramatic shift among the NFC, which isn’t happening. But funnily enough, once Murray is back, they will look better on paper than they had at any other time this season.