When the Seattle Seahawks face the Arizona Cardinals in 2019, it’ll be interesting to see if Byron Leftwich is still the offensive coordinator for Steve Wilks. That is, if Wilks is even still the head coach.
Since firing offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in Week 8, the Cardinals offense has shown no progress. In fact, the team has been twice as bad as any other offense over the last six games per FootballOutsiders, who has them as posting the third-worst DVOA on that side of the ball dating back to 1986. The only offenses that were worse?
The expansion 2002 Houston Texans and the 1992 Seahawks. Which you probably already knew.
The ‘92 Seahawks are the second-worst offense by DVOA, meaning that if the ‘18 version pitches a shutout and forces some turnovers and whatnot, maybe they can finally move a spot down the list. Shutting down Leftwich’s offense won’t be hard if the Cards play like they have over the course of this season.
Arizona is 32nd in points, yards, yards per pass attempt and yards per carry. From FO, the Cardinals only have one positive game all season ... barely:
And, on the flip side, the Arizona Cardinals have put up only one game all season with an above-average offensive DVOA. And it’s not above average by very much. After changing opponent adjustments this week, Arizona’s offensive DVOA for Week 5’s 28-18 win over San Francisco is 0.0016%.
The Cardinals offense is -43.2% in weighted DVOA (more emphasis on recent games) and 31st place is at -24% for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, that gap is as big as it looks.
They’ve scored five touchdowns in the last four games: two touchdown runs by Chase Edmonds in a win over the Green Bay Packers, a David Johnson run in the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons, and then a garbage time throw by Mike Glennon in the fourth quarter in a game they lost 40-14, and a pass from Larry Fitzgerald to David Johnson in a blowout loss to the LA Rams last week.
In those four games, rookie Josh Rosen has zero touchdowns and three interceptions. Five weeks ago was Rosen’s last touchdown, a 25-yard throw to Fitzgerald in a 45-10 loss to the LA Chargers.
In the last five games, the Cardinals are 31st in total yards, yards per play, net yards per pass attempt, and 30th in passer rating. They’ve scored just three third quarter touchdowns all season long. They have eight touchdowns in their three victories and six of those have come against the San Francisco 49ers, who rank 23rd in DVOA on defense. The two others came against the Packers, who are 26th. Three came against the Raiders, who are 30th. Six of their touchdowns are one or two-yard runs by David Johnson.
They surprisingly took a 14-0 lead against the Chicago Bears in Week 3 with Sam Bradford at QB. The Bears won 16-14.
So what does Arizona do next?
If the Cardinals lose this Sunday, it’ll secure them the first overall pick next year. Debates will probably go on for a bit: take defensive end Nick Bosa out of Ohio State, the consensus top player in the draft right now, and improve a pass rush and defense that also needs help. Or take an offensive lineman, which almost certainly would come after trading down. Is it okay to take a defensive player when you have the worst offense in the NFL and need to do a better job of protecting the QB you just drafted in the first round?
I think the answer will probably be that yes, it is okay. It is extremely difficult to find a franchise left tackle outside of selecting one in the first round of the draft, but not impossible, as the Seahawks proved with Duane Brown.
But the Cardinals will still need to find replacements on the offensive line. It seems likely that left guard Mike Iupati and right tackle Andre Smith won’t be back, though they save nothing by releasing Iupati. They signed right guard Justin Pugh to a big free agent deal and he missed more than half the season with a torn MCL. They’ve got left tackle D.J. Humphries on the fifth-year option and rookie Mason Cole at center.
They’ve still got a projected $63 million in cap space per Overthecap.com.
Meanwhile, Fitzgerald is a free agent and two questions surround him: does he still want to play in the NFL and if so, does he still want to play for the Cardinals? His next contract, even if it’s only one year, could possibly be his last. There’s little hope for Arizona to get back to the playoffs next season, though not impossible. Would he at least like to take a higher percentage shot with the team he chooses?
There’s little else of note at the receiver position other than Christian Kirk, a second round pick now on IR with a broken foot. So it is likely that the team will also need to focus the draft and free agency on upgrading the receiver position.
So that’s help at offensive line, help at receiver, and possibly seeking a receiving weapon at tight end that they also lack. Johnson is the running back they’ve chosen to build around next to Rosen at quarterback having given him a $39 million extension in the offseason. None of which will matter if the coaching staff doesn’t do better and that’s where Leftwich may find himself on the outside looking in. Not that these problems are necessarily his fault either — he inherited that position midseason, what else was he supposed to do — but the team seems to just be getting worse. A bigger shake-up could be necessary and coordinators are hired and fired so frequently in the NFL that it wouldn’t be long before his next opportunity either way.
It may even benefit him to get a different opportunity anyway, unless Arizona has a monumentally good offseason.