The 2013 Arizona Cardinals could go down as one of the best teams in franchise history.
No, the season did not finish with a playoff birth which the team has done in the past, but record-wise and performance-wise, it was as good a team that the organization has put on the field since they moved to Arizona in 1988.
For Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, he did not look at his team’s season coming to an end, the end of what they plan to accomplish.
“It was not really an end,” Arians said on Monday. “It was a beginning.”
The Cardinals will go into the 2014 off-season with a ton of momentum. Not just because of winning six of their final eight games of the regular season following their bye week, but because of the buy-in from a roster that started 2013 with a new coach, general manager, and a long list of new players. All of whom who are now on the same page.
“We can keep the core of our players together,” Arians mentioned. “I think we will have a firm belief going into OTAs that this works. This system works, the way we practice, the way we work, training camp all the way through, they know. We should be able to take it and build upon it.”
“You never know what is going to happen next year with injuries and everything else, but we should be able to build and have a heck of an off-season,” he added.
After the clock struck zero on the Cardinals for their 2013 season, six of the 22 players who started the final game of the regular season against the San Francisco 49ers will be free agents. Those six include Karlos Dansby, Matt Shaughnessy and Yeremiah Bell from the defense and Rashard Mendenhall, Eric Winston and Jim Dray from the offense. Arians was the first to acknowledge the fact that with all the turnover in the NFL these days, he hops as much of the core as possible can stay together.
“It’s going to be tough to keep all these guys here,” Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby said after the game on sunday. “But if we do, we’ve got something special.”
“I hope the organization does everything in it’s power to try to keep as many people on this team as possible,” mentioned Cardinals ten-year veteran Darnell Dockett. “We have a lot of guys who want to win and have a lot of guys who will sacrifice to win.”
There are many questions, despite the 2013 success, to what directions the Cardinals go. Will Carson Palmer be the man under center next year and will the Cardinals go quarterback early in the draft? Will Mendenall be back, Andre Ellington be the main man or a key running back free agent (Konshon Moreno, Ben Tate, Maurice Jones-Drew) end up in Arizona? Will they make a push for key free agent offensive tackle with Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher hitting the open market this off-season?
Should make for a very intriguing off-season that even Bruce Arians, though he would rather be playing in the playoffs, seems very excited about.