Releasing DeAndre Hopkins only made the Arizona Cardinals a younger football team, so why not just let the kids play and keep building this thing correctly?
The Arizona Cardinals, finally, are a young football team and an organization where players don’t come to retire. When I was younger, friends, immediate and extended family, and even school teachers looked at the Cards as a place where many players, sans Larry Fitzgerald and a few others, spent their respective career twilights.
And management did not disappoint, rolling the likes of Emmitt Smith, Kurt Warner, Edgerrin James, Carson Palmer, Rodney Hudson, Alan Faneca, Joey Porter, you could seriously write a novel on it entitled, Top 100 Players Who Came to the Arizona Cardinals to Retire. So yeah, after decades of trying the same thing over and over again, only for it to rarely work out with absolutely zero sustained success, general manager Monti Ossenfort put a stop to it.
And it’s about time the Cards had an executive in place to make that proclamation. Maybe now, the team will start winning and, oh I don’t know, expanding their window of success a little longer than a couple of seasons?
But that won’t happen in 2023. So perhaps it would be wise to just let the youngest players on the team play.
3 reasons the Arizona Cardinals must let the rookies play from Day One
1 - The veterans have given this team nothing
We don’t know what Clayton Tune will look like when he’s facing complicated blitz packages and the speed of a first team defense. But we know Colt McCoy, David Blough, and Jeff Driskel are backups and will never be long-term starters in the NFL, so start Tune and let him play until Kyler Murray returns.
We don’t know if Michael Wilson will be a viable NFL receiver, but we know Rondale Moore can’t handle a full workload. No, we don’t know if Paris Johnson will be that good (though he probably will be), but we know guys like Elijah Wilkinson and Dennis Daley have limited ceilings.
We know Antonio Hamilton, Krys Barnes, and Leki Fotu are role players, but we don’t know what Garrett Williams, Kei’Trel Clark, Owen Pappoe, and Dante Stills can bring. The former reached their respective ceilings, so why play them over the rooks?
2 - The rookies are the present and the future
Monti Ossenfort wants to build the Arizona Cardinals now, not later. And while it means the Cards aren’t making the playoffs in 2023, it also means the team doesn’t need to look two or three years down the road.
For the playoffs, they do, but to start developing? That can, and should, happen now. Most of the seasoned veterans on this team’s best days are in the past, and they make great mentors. But they won’t be here when this team inevitably starts winning.
3 - Chemistry-building can start immediately
This is the most important reason the Arizona Cardinals must start this thing now. Let guys like Paris Johnson and Jon Gaines II start alongside one another and build chemistry. Hand the keys to Clayton Tune and let him build a rapport with Wilson, and even second-year players like Trey McBride.
Why not let Garrett Williams and Kei-Trel Clark lineup on the outside and in the slot on the same side of the field? Or better yet, what about B.J. Ojulari and Dante Stills lining up alongside one another, too?
Sure, there will be issues early. But come January 2024, this will be a different Cardinals team. But they need to play the rooks now.