At the recent NFLUK event I had the pleasure of speaking to Tyrann Mathieu, he made time for everyone who wanted to speak to him and answered everything with honesty, but I’ve not seen many people so keen to get to the lunch buffet as this fellow.
The Cardinals had an up and down pre-season, coach Arians has had a cancer scare, and starting quarterback Carson Palmer seriously contemplated retirement. They also lost key starters Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson in free agency.
I asked Mathieu about the potential for St Albans UK’s own Josh Mauro to step up into the large void on the defensive line left by Campbell and he told me “he’s a tough guy who plays really hard, I think he has a chance to be a starter for us this year.”
A glowing reference for Mauro but the most interesting part of his answer was the snigger he gave me for asking the question, I can only assume he has been asked this a lot which bodes well for the defensive lineman as currently he receives almost no recognition from pundits in his place of birth, who prefer instead to push the likes of Jay Ajayi and Menelik Watson.
Given the loss for 2 to 3 months of star running back David Johnson the Cardinals will need everyone to step up, not just those on defence. Carson Palmer looked a shadow of his old self against the Lions and the Cardinals fans minds have got to be pondering the fact that they missed out on Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 Draft.
Like Carson Palmer talk of retirement also follows legendary Larry Fitzgerald, I asked Tyrann Mathieu if this would be the last season for Palmer and Fitz, he seems to suggest that it may be and that the team really wants to do everything to win for the pair, “I think its important for us to go out there this year and win a Superbowl for those guys, with the uncertainty around whether they will be playing [next season], they deserve to ride off into the sunset, we have to get them a championship ring”
The success of the Arizona Cardinals in the current phase the franchise, revolves around the coach, its quarterback, young running back and its star wide receiver. Yes, the defence is excellent led by stars Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, however Arians, Palmer and Fitzgerald represent the soul of the team and to replace them next year would be a major shift in philosophy for the whole organisation.
If Arians was forced to call it a day through ill health, would Palmer want to spend what is left of a good career learning a new playbook? We all know with new coaches come new quarterbacks. If Palmer hung up his cleats would Fitzgerald want to stick around and help bed in a rookie? What each of them wants to achieve may not be possible in the immediate future, it may be that their best opportunity has passed them by.