I truly thought it would take Ken Whisenhunt and his staff a year to change perceptions. To fumigate the losing odor that had seeped into the brick walls at Warner and Hardy.
To teach the Arizona Cardinals that winning on the road or winning back-to-back games isn’t against league rules.
But when things started to go south with losses to Carolina, Washington and Tampa Bay, the staff and players kept their cool, won a pair of very losable games (against Detroit and Cincinnati) and pushed back to .500. Now anything can happen in a very mediocre NFC, where flawed teams such as the Cowboys and Packers look like world-beaters.
Chike Okeafor, Matt Leinart, Bertrand Berry and Adrian Wilson were all on the sidelines in Cincinnati — and the Cardinals still won. On the road. They won while overcoming mistakes, while leaning on oft-criticized players such as Calvin Pace and Antrel Rolle to survive.
The reward? The final six games are going to be pretty interesting — provided Kurt Warner can stay vertical. The Lions are tumbling. The Redskins and Eagles are in a tougher division.
A 4-2 finish might get Arizona to the postseason — and while a win at Seattle would be preferable, running the table in Glendale could do it, too.
The Cardinals should beat San Francisco, St. Louis and Atlanta — three truly lousy teams.
They can beat Cleveland — unless Phil Dawson banks in a field goal off the roof from 60 yards out — and are capable of winning in Seattle or New Orleans, although I wouldn’t want to hang my hopes on it.
But after picking the Cardinals to go 5-11 and after picking them to lose the last two weeks when the scent of implosion was in the air, the same old Cardinals are nowhere to be found.
Meaningful football in December? Imagine that.
I Can See for Miles
Les Miles is in a tough spot, with LSU in position to play for a national championship. But if he doesn’t take the Michigan job as soon as it’s offered to him, he wasn’t paying attention in class at Ann Arbor.
LSU fans are as fickle as they are rabid — Tiger fans have spent the past few years calling Miles “no Lou Saban” — and the SEC is loaded every year.
Miles is a Michigan alum, married to a Michigan girl and is about as Cajun as a bologna sandwich. The Big Ten comes down to the Wolverines and Buckeyes every year — think about the rest of the Big Ten — while the SEC has roadblocks nearly every week in Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee...
But 11-1 in Michigan is only good enough if you beat your rival. Just ask John Cooper — or Lloyd Carr.
• New York papers are buzzing with a scenario that has Isiah Thomas being fired as head coach and GM and Jerry Colangelo stepping in — at the behest of NBA commissioner David Stern — to turn around the league’s most visible team. Colangelo empowered in the Big Apple with an unlimited budget? That makes far too much sense for James Dolan and the MSG boys to have anything to do with it.
• I called Warren Buffett for some advice about my new contract negotiation. Nothing yet, but I’m hopeful.
• The New England Revolution lost in the MLS finals Sunday, showing someone from Boston can actually lose at something these days.
• If you’re upset at the Patriots for running up the score, how do you feel about all these professional teams that mentally quit under the New England pressure each weekend?
• The best part about Rolle’s epic three-pick, three-TD (the one called back was bogus) performance? If the kid had grabbed a fourth pass and returned that one for a TD, I’m fully confident that he had yet another end zone celebration locked and loaded.
• Not wanting to miss out on all the holiday festivities in prison (extra food and yard time and the Secret Santa grab bag), Michael Vick turned himself in three weeks before being sentenced on a dogfighting conviction. I understand Vick trying to make sure he’s free in time to play football next year, but I can’t imagine the NFL not extending his league ban by at least the 2008 season.