There probably wasn’t any player in the NFL last season who gained as much sympathy from fans as Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Known as one of the good guys in the league, and a player with unbelievable talent, Fitzgerald muddled through 2012 (by no fault of his own) with stats that were nowhere near his normal production.
The lack of a strong quarterback, offensive line and running game spelled utter doom for Fitzgerald, as defenses could key on him and double up coverage whenever they wanted. Even when Fitzgerald could get open, the chances that whoever the quarterback was that day could find him were slim.
Many figured Fitzgerald to be on his way out of Arizona after such a disastrous season, and to be frank, nobody would have blamed him for demanding a trade or asking for his outright release. The 11-man NFL version of the Keystone Cops that was the Cardinals offense would have been enough to make anyone send a letter to congress asking for federal intervention.
But, in typical Larry Fitzgerald fashion, he never complained, never asked for sympathy and, most importantly, never made excuses for his drop in production. He decided to stick it out with the team where he made his bones, bucking the trend of what most premier players in the league–particularly at wide receiver–tend to do.
Fitzgerald’s reward for his loyalty? Bruce Arians.
If ever there was going to be a coach who could pinpoint how to make the most of what the Cardinals have to work with on offense, it’s Arians. He’s coached some of the league’s best quarterbacks, and made some entirely mediocre looking groups of talent look absolutely outstanding on the field.
Arians will utilize Fitzgerald to his fullest, and find more than just go-routes, skinny posts and back shoulder throws in the offensive arsenal to get his All-Pro receiver the ball. Newly acquired QB Carson Palmer will also no doubt be of some help, as he can sling the ball with some of the best of them on his good days, but the play calling and schemes that Arians lays out will free both men to hook up more regularly.
Sometimes players make the right choice by sticking it out in what looks like an unwinnable situation. Larry Fitzgerald will return to his top form in 2013, and if he chooses to remain, will accompany the Cardinals to the playoffs in many years to come under Bruce Arians.