The NFL season has reached the halfway point, and the Arizona Cardinals have been the most disappointing team in the 2016 season.
Among all the analyst in the media, the Cardinals were predicted to make a Super Bowl appearance representing the NFC. Those chances have taken a big detour and are almost slim to none odds.
Stumbling out of the gate would be an understatement, as the Cards were that distracted horse that simply forgot to come out of the gate ready to race.
A horse that was more startled and afraid looks more like this year’s Arizona Cardinals squad. But the question remains what has spooked this team into such a bad take off at the starting blocks.
After carefully examining the patient, there is only one underlined problem that has plagued this team for two seasons.
One issue that covers a multitude of transgressions and that would be a team that is mentally weak.
The game of football is like 80% mental and 40% physical. The Cards have the 40% physical in place and have demonstrated that they can be an overpowering force when they are right.
This year’s team reminds me of a character in the movie “Life” when Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy were in prison, and they named one of the prisoners “Can’t Get Right” is that he was slow mentally.
Mental, the mental can be a hurdle that is very difficult to get over and some can hit it straight on and concur the beast and others simply can’t get right.
The 2016 Arizona Cardinals new name for the 2016 season is “Can’t get right” and this name didn’t just begin this year, it started back in 2015 season.
When the pressure moments of a season come barreling down and the team must perform at its best, this team’s mental psyche comes into play and they get overwhelmed by the moment.
The Cardinals are listening to the media and all the underlining hype of a game before they play it. For example, last year’s loss to the Rams, the underlining hype was who had the most physical defense. The entire game was marquee based on this point. When it was time to perform and find out, the Cardinals lost their mental focus and lost at home.
Then the Pittsburgh Steelers game of 2015, the marquee hype was head coach Bruce Arians returns to Pittsburgh, and the team took on the burden of winning this one for the coach and mentally could not get right to complete that task. Allowing an unproven backup quarterback to come in and torch you after dominating most of the game.
Of course, the demolition that happened in Carolina in last year’s NFC championship game, underlined was getting revenge for losing to this team the year prior.
Adding to the mental challenge was a team pep rally before boarding a plane to Carolina, and many players making promises adding more pressure and ultimately were overcome by the enormity of the moment and simply couldn’t get right mentally.
This year the hype has been the Super Bowl predictions and two underlining matchups against the Seahawks and Panthers circled on the calendar.
Again, the Cardinals mental psyche gets in the way and caused them to stumble out of the start of both these match-ups.
If you haven’t figured out the underlying issue with the Arizona Cardinals by now, let me spell it out for you, M.E.N.T.A.L.L.Y W.E.A.K.
When you allow the moment to be bigger than the actual game at hand, that is a clear sign of mental weakness.
Missed chip shot field goals that cause two losses, dropped passes from so-called star receivers, and trying to play to the level of last year’s MVP status at quarterback and on and on.
This team needs to regain a strength that will allow them to focus as a unit and stay mentally engaged before and during a game.
Understanding that making media appearances before games and answering the questions “what will happen in this game” knowing whatever the response, you must live up to those expectations. That adds more pressure to perform and can take the focus from what is truly at hand.
The Cardinals must take on the old saying “put up or shut up” stop talking in the press about how good you are, who’s the best corner, who should be MVP candidates, or playing for the underlined hype of a game.
Rather, shut up and just play the game and do the best you can and live with the results. The 2016 Cardinals have not done the best that they can, and that is due to the 80% mental factor hurdle they can’t get over.
How does one get over the hurdle? Well, it starts by focusing your eyes on the size of the hurdle and using the proper technique at every hurdle the same way to get over it, and not losing your concentration which allows for a mental block to make you do things out of form and cause a stumble into the hurdle during the race.
Mental focus has been the clear enemy of the 2016 Arizona Cardinals and getting over each hurdle will take a refocus on basic technique and fundamentals and maintain them throughout a game and the rest of the season.
The mental challenge starts at the top of the food chain and works its way down and every individual part has a function that cannot lose focus. What does that look like? Go back and watch several games of the 2015 season where the same team has overcome odds and found a way to focus and get the task done in the crucial pressure points of the game.