The Arizona Republic

Cards don’t want to end up like Browns

- Bob McManaman Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at bob.mcmanaman@arizonarep­ and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac.

Cardinals insider and NFL writer Bob McManaman shares his observatio­ns and thoughts about what’s going on with the Cardinals and the rest of the league in his weekly offering that we like to call Tuesday’s Takeaways:

Lost in all the fascinatin­g story lines that accompanie­d this past Sunday’s game between the Cardinals and Browns – from the quarterbac­k matchup, the return of so many former Cardinals coaches to State Farm Stadium, Kenyan Drake’s four-touchdown performanc­e and questions as to whether it might have been Larry Fitzgerald’s last home game in an Arizona uniform – was something far less romantic and appealing.

The Cardinals’ 38-24 victory meant the Browns are now guaranteed of owning a rather dubious distinctio­n. At 6-8, it means Cleveland will become the only NFL team not to have a single winning season this decade.

That might not matter to you if you’re a Cardinals fan, but it should. And here’s why:

The Cardinals (4-9-1) are two games away from finishing their fourth consecutiv­e season with a losing record and that streak could easily get extended if the franchise starts doing business like the Browns have for the better part of the past 20 years.

Cleveland has had just two winning seasons since 1995, and the biggest reason for that is because of the constant changeover they’ve had at head coach, starting quarterbac­k and key front-office personnel. The Cardinals are now on their third head coach and fourth different starting quarterbac­k in just three years and judging from all the noise on social media, fans are screaming for the head of General Manager Steve Keim.

Careful what you wish for, folks, because in coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterbac­k Kyler Murray, there’s a path to a potentiall­y very bright future straight ahead. Making a change at GM now could possibly throw everything off the rails. A new GM usually means new ideas, different personnel and a coaching staff and starting quarterbac­k he wants to handpick.

That’s not to say that a different voice couldn’t work. It could with the right guy, assuming he’s willing to marry into the relationsh­ip for keeps with Kingsbury and Murray. Team President Michael Bidwill knows that’s the only way to prevent a total new rebuild and thus, help the Cardinals from avoiding a decadeslon­g free fall like the one going on in Cleveland.

Remember, the Browns were supposed to be well on their way to recovery upon drafting Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, Nick Chubb and Myles Garrett, trading for Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and signing free agents such as

Sheldon Richardson and Kareem Hunt.

Many NFL prognostic­ators pegged them as Super Bowl contenders this season.

How has that turned out? Despite all that talent, it’s all falling apart again for the Browns. They could very well be moving on from first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens after the season. According to multiple reports, some of the star players have been telling other teams they want out of Cleveland. And after Sunday’s game in Glendale, one player implied that many of his teammates simply quit against the Cardinals.

“Yeah, I feel like there were some plays that everybody didn’t leave their 110 percent out there, the whole play through the whole play, through the whole whistle,” Hunt said. “We’ve all got to do that if we want to be successful.”

Hunt was asked if he saw teammates take plays off during the game and he replied, “I mean, yeah. I guess so, but it’s everybody. You can’t just point out one person or anything like that. It’s everybody, and everybody’s got to do their job.”

The lack of competitiv­eness he saw in his team last season is why Bidwill decided to fire first-year head coach Steve Wilks and most of the coaching staff. Say what you will about the Cardinals’ record this season, but they’ve shown fight and played with effort all year other than a lackluster performanc­e during a 34-7 blowout by the Rams.

The Cardinals don’t have to end up like the Browns, who are 42-115-1 over the last decade. But they could become just like them if they start tearing things apart and stop playing for one another. So far, they haven’t done that and some of the changes they’ve made, quite frankly, have been the right ones.

Many of us were surprised when the team released veterans such as receiver Michael Crabtree, defensive backs D.J. Swearinger and Tramaine Brock Sr., and the latest casualty, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs on Friday.

Why were those four, in particular, sent packing?

“Negative energy,” one player told me. “You know, some guys give off great energy after wins. After losses, some of them only give off negative energy and that’s not what this team needs. Especially a young one like ours. That can doom you, man.”

Yeah, it could turn you into the Cleveland Browns and nobody wants that.

Things I liked in Week 15

*Running back Wes Hills and his NFL debut with the Lions. You may remember Hills earlier this year when he was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Cardinals and appeared in three preseason games before being released. He then was signed to Detroit’s practice squad, where he was stuck behind multiple running backs.

A day before Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers, however, he was elevated to the active roster and thrust into the starting lineup. The Lions got pounded 38-17 in losing their seventh straight game, but Hills scored both of Detroit’s touchdowns, rushing for two scores, joining Isaiah Crowell of the Browns in 2014 as the only undrafted rookies with at least two rushing touchdowns in their first career game in the common draft era.

“It’s a dream come true, but it would have been ten times better with a win,” Hills said after the game. “Found out (Saturday) I was starting and it damn near brought a tear to my eye. You know, this is my dream. I dreamed about this since I was a kid and to be able to play with this group of guys and this coaching staff, it meant the world to me. They put their all into me, their hopes into me and I just wanted to go ut there and prove them right.”

*Watching the Chiefs frolic around in the snow like a bunch of kids during their 23-3 rout of the Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium, which kept alive their hopes of clinching the No.2 playoff seed in the AFC and a potential first-round bye.

“That was very fun,” receiver Tyreek Hill, who caught two touchdown passes from Patrick Mahomes, told reporters. “This was my first snow game and I had a blast with it. I don’t want to do it again because it’s very cold, but I had fun with it.”

*Seeing how so many NFL legends and celebritie­s alike took the time to congratula­te Saints quarterbac­k Drew Brees after he set the league record for career touchdown passes during Monday night’s rout of the Colts.

The list of big names offering shoutouts is too long to mention, but it included Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, J.J. Watt, Adrian Peterson, Russell Wilson, Terrell Owens and Deion Sanders.

Things I didn’t

*That the Raiders’ days in Oakland finally came to an end. They played their last game ever at Oakland Coliseum on Sunday, losing to the Jaguars, 20-16, and it left many of their fans in tears. The Raiders will be relocating to Las Vegas next season and is interestin­g as that experience is sure to be, it’s a shame things couldn’t have been worked out in Oakland.

“It’s heartbreak­ing,” Raiders safety Eric Harris said. “Walking around the stadium, you see people in tears and stuff like that. Unfortunat­ely, we couldn’t come out and get the win for them and send them out the right way.”

*Hearing the news that wide receiver Josh Gordon has been suspended indefinite­ly for once again violating the NFL’s policies on performanc­e-enhancing substances and substance abuse. It’s the fifth such time he’s been suspended for some form of substance abuse.

Gordon was claimed by the Seahawks last month upon being released off injured reserve by the Patriots.

 ?? MICHAEL CHOW/THE REPUBLIC ?? Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald runs for yardage after a catch against the Browns during the first quarter at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on Sunday.
MICHAEL CHOW/THE REPUBLIC Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald runs for yardage after a catch against the Browns during the first quarter at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on Sunday.
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