"It’s just the way it goes.”
Three days ago, I asked Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury a simple question, but one that understandably is difficult to answer with any certainty.
The question came the day after linebacker Chandler Jones became the 18th Cardinals player to land on reserve/COVID-19 since training camp started for rookies on July 23. Of those 18, which later became 19 with defensive tackle Zach Allen, three spent time on the list twice. Six of the players are no longer with the team.
It was noted to Kingsbury that the Cardinals were one of the gold standards last year with very few players on the COVID list while this year they have, by far, the most in the NFL.
He was asked, “Is there any explanation for it at all? Do you look at that or does anybody look at that and wonder why it seems to be happening?”
Kingsbury’s response: “It’s just the way it goes.”
Since Wednesday, what has transpired makes that appear even more like a horribly insufficient answer. “Just the way it goes” is not good enough. Something is amiss.
Thursday came the report that two unidentified staff members in addition to Jones had tested positive, pushing the organization very close to having enhanced and much stricter protocols.
It seems prescient to recall when vaccinated left guard Justin Pugh tested positive on Aug. 18 he called on the league and NFLPA to agree to test vaccinated players every day rather than every 14.
Eventually, it was reduced to seven days, but that still means a vaccinated player could be walking around infecting others for several days without anyone knowing he had tested positive.
Of course, while that is an issue, it still doesn’t explain how the Cardinals have been blindsided by so many positive results, especially this week.
Friday came the stunning revelation that head coach Kliff Kingsbury, quarterbacks coach Cam Turner and Allen all tested positive. Not long after that came the news that general manager Steve Keim would also not be on the team plane to Cleveland because of a positive test.
Most everyone in the organization has to be wondering what Saturday or even Sunday might bring, leading to speculation the game could be postponed. However, the NFL has been steadfast in insisting that won’t happen this season while earlier saying there could be forfeits only if a spread within a team started with unvaccinated players.
That’s not the case with the Cardinals considering Kingsbury said recently the team became 100 percent vaccinated earlier this season.
Plus, earlier this year, the Saints played a game without eight assistant coaches. In last season’s playoffs, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski and other coaches were absent when the team still defeated Pittsburgh.
Deal with it, the NFL says.
The Cardinals haven’t lost in five games this season while reveling in the ”next-man-up” mentality front and center. However, no one envisioned this.
Kingsbury is the team’s offensive play-caller and Turner would have presumably been next in line for that task.
With defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and special-teams coordinator/assistant head coach Jeff Rodgers sharing head coaching responsibilities against the Browns, it begs the question who will call the offense.
The game plan and play sheets are in place, so what possible collaborative effort will there be to implement the plan? Too many hands in the pie can be a bad thing; someone has to have the ultimate say.
Will it be offensive line coach/run-game coordinator Sean Kugler? Or might the unconventional Cardinals lean on backup quarterback Colt McCoy to call the plays with input from other coaches.
Call me crazy, but that might be the best option and end up being just another story line in what has already been a bizarre NFL season with 12 Sundays still to play.