If, as it appears, the Cardinals are pre-emptively folding the tents on 2023 in the hopes of landing a generational talent in 2024, there will be a price to pay. First-year coach Jonathan Gannon could be the one to ultimately pay it.
With the team making the surprising swap from veteran Colt McCoy to Josh Dobbs or Clayton Tune less than two weeks before the first game that counts, plenty of players surely are wondering what's going on. Although no player will ever try to lose, players are smart enough to realize when an organization is deliberately tying one hand behind its back.
That's why many think tanking doesn't work, as tempting as it may seem.
“This idea of tanking games to get the best player in our league is mythical, because you can’t turn off and turn on winning,” Broncos coach Sean Payton said in February 2022 on PFT Live. “The idea that it benefits you as a club is crazy. Your locker room’s soul, you sell.”
Payton's point is that teams need to always strive to win. The players will do that. The coaches, in most cases, will do it, too.
The question in Arizona is whether Gannon is aware of, and on board with, what the organization seems to be doing. Even if he is, there's a chance the damage done to the mindset of the roster could require the Cardinals to press the re-set button, again, in 2024.
They'll be more likely to do that if that's what it will take to seal the deal on getting, for example, USC quarterback Caleb Williams under contract. Even that might not be enough for Williams to voluntarily play for the Cardinals, especially after hearing all about the team from new USC assistant Kliff Kingsbury.