Larry Fitzgerald was once recognized as an elite talent, a one of a kind receiver with a rare combination of size and freakish athleticism. But at age 29, he’s slowly beginning to fade out of the picture.
And it’s not because his knees are getting weak or that he’s losing passion for the game. Fitzgerald has seen his numbers go down because the Arizona Cardinals‘ front office is still searching for Kurt Warner’s replacement (three season removed from the NFL).
Since he retired from the league back in 2009, the Cardinals tested life without Warner with former first-round pick Matt Leinart under center in 2010, but found little success before turning to a trio that would make any NFL offensive coordinator cringe in Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Max Hall.
With hopes of avoiding a similar offensive disaster the following season, the team traded their promising, talented CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Kevin Kolb. Fast forward to the present, and you’d think that was a bit pricey on the Cardinals part for a quarterback that’s only been healthy for 15 games in two seasons and has been rather ineffective for the most part when he has played.
Ever since Warner left the field for a broadcasting studio, the Cardinals have fallen from Super Bowl contenders to bottom feeders of the NFC-West, and Fitzgerald has fallen with them.
With Warner at quarterback (2005-09), Fitzgerald was averaging 93 receptions, 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns per season. Without Warner (2009-12), Fitzgerald is averaging 79 receptions, 1,111 yards and just six touchdowns per season. He’s also experiencing one of his worst seasons in 2012, accumulating a career-low four touchdowns and fewer than 1,000 yards for the first time since 2006, not to mention he’s currently ranked 39th among receivers in fantasy football this season with just one game to go after being touted as a top-5 receiver heading in. Yes, he finished behind the likes of Cecil Shorts, Lance Moore, Brian Hartline and 35 other players.
Despite leading the team to four of their five victories this season, the Cardinals are expected to cut ties with Kolb in the off-season. San Francisco 49ers newly appointed backup Alex Smith will be a potential candidate for the Cardinals in 2013 if the team can’t address the need through the draft. While Smith is no Aaron Rodgers, he’s an effective game manager and knows how to move the chains, and will definitely serve as an upgrade over Kolb, Skelton or Ryan Lindley.
Bottom line, keep an eye on the Cardinals quarterback situation as we chug through the off-season before making the mistake of drafting Fitzgerald in the early rounds of your fantasy draft in 2013.