- Jalen Ramsey Show – 005: Season Off – July 31, 2020
- Bears Army – July 23, 2020
- Sunset Now: Season LIV, Episode 1 – Patrick Peterson – July 1, 2020
Good Morning. I’m Helen Mirren and this is Sunset Now. You know, the last couple seasons have been a lot of fun in terms of inviting so many young NFL stars into our homes; the likes of this new breed of mobile AND competent NFL quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes; defensive aggressors like Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett; and coverage backs like Jalen Ramsey and Marshon Lattimore whose careers have developed from college by adjusting to the new twists and turns in these ‘high octane offenses’. However, just as these new stars start taking more space on your television screen and consume more segments of the 24/7 sports media #content machine, it means the end is coming for the careers for just as many former standouts whose prime — and, therefore, their general NFL usefulness — has passed. It is in this new feature, Sunset Now, that we take the time to look at these fleeting professional football careers before the last generation of stars join Brock Osweiler in the echos of NFL history.
All too often, professional athletes are silently pitied by the fans to which they were once adored. Generally, this is the result of a simple miscalculation. That is, assuming more fuel remains in the tank than is actually there. The harmless wish of one last hurrah. Of a renaissance that, on the right team, could mean walking away while on top. Sadly, players with less self-awareness celebrate themselves as a best in the game, their egos feeding on the desperate cultness of downtrodden fan bases who tweet, “how about Player X? Maybe all he needs is a change of scenery.” For these players, it is never too early to talk about the downside of their careers — for these are men who may never accept that their time has come and gone.
Today, we talk about a man whose 2019 marked the beginning of his ultimate decline as a professional football player, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson.
We met with Rod Graves at the league front office, where he currently works, about the drafting of Peterson to the Arizona Cardinals, where Graves was the general manager from 2002 to 2012.
Oh man, Patrick was a talent. He was the consensus #1 CB in the draft and we liked him as a foundation to rebuild our coverage defense. You know, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie was fine but he wasn’t going to grow anymore and, with his rookie contract ticking, we saw Patrick as the better value in the short and, likely, the long term. And, of course it helped that the draft order sat such that, after Cam Newton went first, AJ Green and Von Miller were such NFL sure things that only Buffalo, who took Marcell Dareus to shore up their line, that we knew there was a very good chance Peterson would fall to us at five. Either way, we’d have taken Cam, AJ, Von, or Patrick, depending on who was off the board.”
Patrick was excited. He had a chip on his shoulder and he was NFL-ready. He met Coach Whisenhunt and was unabashed about announcing his intentions to help drive Ken back to the Super Bowl. I mean, his rookie season was the year the team split quarterback duties between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. We went 1-7 to open the season and I credit Patrick’s locker room demeanor for keeping everyone focused enough to flip that and end the season at 8-8…….But you know, that was 2011. A decade is a century in the NFL.
Peterson quickly rose among the ranks of the NFL’s top cornerbacks and, as rule changes continued to support offensive passing attacks and season scoring figures continued to grow, “shutdown corners” like Peterson became a prized commodity in the league. We spoke with his former coach, Bruce Arians, about the defensive back’s obstacles to maintain consistent play at the elite level.
You know 2014 was weird because, any other season, Pat’s decline in performance would have been more of a story. I mean, he should have been looking like an All-Pro but he faltered from Week 1. That wasn’t a big deal though because, frankly, the offense operated so well that most of our opponents were basically one-dimensional by the middle of the third quarter. And when you’re 9-1, everyone on the team kind of gets a break. But then, man, that was an unlucky squad. I think about half the roster made a visit to the IR in the second half of the year. Same deal though — you gonna blame Pat for not carrying a decimated roster? No one even had to throw on us at that point. A nine point lead in the first was seemingly insurmountable for that offense once Palmer and Stanton were out.
[Off Camera] How big of a deal was the diabetes diagnosis?
It was a big deal, right? His blood or liver is all fucked up and we’re asking him to operate as a world class athlete. I get it. But he got the diagnosis. It’s type II; eat a salad. He got it under control. No no, Pat’s problem was between the ears. We lost that playoff game to Carolina — again, with a practice-squad quarterback we had to claim from San Diego so we weren’t likely to win — but Pat let it get to him. He was like….offended. Then in 2015, another dominate team with a tough loss, again to Carolina, in the Conference Championship. But I saw this is where his mindset broke. He started reasoning why he didn’t need to put in the effort. That if the offense was going to under-perform, then everyone needed to focus on improving them rather than continuing to elevate the defense. It wasn’t like a Deon Sanders business decision or anything you’d see on tape. He just lost his focus a bit.
[Off Camera] Did you ever bring this up to him? Did he acknowledge it?
What really frustrated me was, in ’15, we talked about the way to beat Cam Newton was his emotions. Don’t let him get momentum. He’s a guy you can get in his head. He is a guy you can rattle. He is a guy you can break. He isn’t Manning or Wilson or Cutler — these quarterbacks that just do not feel pressure. And what does Patrick do? The exact thing we told him not to. Pat goes and gets emotional and shaken and pouty! So I think that loss, the way he took it, that planted the seed for this interview today. And you’re right — his best days are behind him. Had he handled that loss and off-season better — he might be in the all-century conversation, not just all-decade.
But what Arians saw wasn’t what Peterson’s peers felt. Peterson was named that off-season as the best CB in the league in a players poll. Unfortunately, as Peterson was back to his old self, the team was not.
Ay yo, look, I played with Pat P from our LSU days through 2017. Dude’s a brother to me and I am a dedicated friend to that man for life. And that’s why it was so upsetting that Pat didn’t….it saddens me that he never left the Cardinals.
Man, 2016 and 17 were bad seasons for the team. We were, like, sliding down a mountain and just couldn’t stop. It was the most surreal time to, like, have a good team with a solid roster and a sound locker room and, still, we just sucked man. I hated losing. I hated the way the team — the organization, I mean — accepts losing as just part of the business. I’ve heard office types accuse Pat of making business decisions and that’s bull. He brings it every day. Every game. Every practice. Pat may get beat but it’ll never be for lack of effort. And if the franchise isn’t supporting winning, how they gonna sit there and point the finger at Pat for following their lead? On winners, players set the tone. When I got out, the front office was setting the tone.
[Off Camera] You wanted to be traded out?
Nah. I wanted the Cardinals to fix their problems instead of asking me to give a my money back to a multi-million dollar organization who needed to be spending their efforts on fixing their organizational problems. So, officially, they got rid of me because I wouldn’t take a cut but, really, holding that line was just a convenient excuse to get out of that dysfunctional organization. BA ran that show. Then the front office turned on him and no one gave a shit. We were looking for new homes. Patrick was balling out, to his credit, but the more you see Michael Bidwill, the worse the team does. And Patrick, man, he like invited that moron to the locker room. It was frustrating. I appreciate Pat’s effort but, you know, this wasn’t like LSU where everyone is bought in to winning. This is the pros — lot of guys are around for the wrong reason. Mike Bidwill, born into this, is here for the absolute worst reason. I never made it contentious, even at the end, because Bidwill gave me the chance in the NFL. But when I showed them they made the right move, that moron joked that I should be cutting them back a check for like a finders fee. Greedy idiot.
So Mathieu goes to the Texans and then Kansas City where they just won the Lombardi Trophy. He’s happy with the way things have played out. The Cardinals, meanwhile, forced out Arians and brought in Steve Wilks.
I never should have taken that job. You know how it goes though. You’re out drinking. It’s another Saturday night and everyone is hooking up and you’re like, “man, if I don’t get laid tonight then I’m gonna shoot myself. No one cares. I’ll just get me some strange.” Then up rolls the pretty-drunk recent divorcee, complaining about her recent ex who is nothing like you, and all you can really think is that it sounds like crazy bitch drove him off but maybe she’s just a bit fanatical and could stand to lose 15 pounds. So, I mean, you might be too good for this skank but, then again, she’s DTF and ain’t like no one else here gonna give you the time of day so, fuck it, I’m like, “I don’t have any condoms, it that gonna be a problem?”
Patrick was not welcoming of me. He didn’t like the 4-3 I was hired to implement. Like, I was supposed to cater to his playing style and, if we’re catering to the players, why was Bruce Arians gone? And, oh by the way, we didn’t have a quarterback. Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen so I was a little frustrated that ownership told me that one strength this team had was Patrick. I was told I was coming in and getting a guy who can command the defense. Who studies. Who works hard. He ends up wanting out of town. Trying to lead a coup. Playing soft. Getting torched. Blah blah blah. And, you know, we find out in the end that it’s just because he was juicing.
Peterson was popped for PEDs after the 2018 disaster season, resulting in Peterson sitting for six games before an unremarkable stretch of another losing year. Now he’s in the final season of an expensive 5/70 deal. Penned in 2015, at his literal peak, the only news related to Peterson was a February announcement from GM Steve Keim that they were having contract talks. Keim said he expects Pat to be back with a chip on his shoulder….but Keim is a proven unreliable source over the years; a cheerleader GM who broadcasts moves that don’t live in the reality of roster restrictions or salary caps. For example, Josh Rosen is our guy. Arizona went five of six draft picks on defense but nothing in the secondary. You can look at the Arizona roster and see only former Falcon Robert Alford and recently-extended Kevin Peterson are only CBs besides P2 with over 2 years experience. But, again, you can’t gleen much analysis from looking at a Steve Keim 5am Boilermakers-and-Drive roster.
[Off Camera] What is a shutdown corner?
It’s the guy who you put on a receiver one-on-one and trust them to win the match up. You gotta study. You gotta know the routes. You gotta know the schemes and the trends. You gotta know where the other receivers are going because it ain’t enough to just shadow your guy. You’re the first and last defender on plays to that wide out– and, by the way, that receiver is the best guy on their team. The one who gets the most reps with the QB. Look at it like this — and I don’t know the exact numbers today — but Matt Ryan was making $30 million a year. Julio Jones about $14 million. The Falcons were spending almost three million dollars per game on those two. The shutdown corner is the one player who can be trusted to neutralize that enormous investment each week.
[Off Camera] And Peterson? He’s a shutdown corner?
He was. But it’s a tough label. He could do it now to a lot of guys still. But is he, like, a better corner than every wide out in the league? Obviously not; and that has been the case for a few years. But he’s good. You just gotta be real here. How many guys take off three years — the first two of which he was using, it seems — and come back with the brilliance of their prime? Kurt Warner. kind of, but that dude was cerebral. Pat is emotional. Ain’t no way the 2020 Cardinals a team that rejuvenates Peterson.
[Off Camera] Tyrann Mathieu has said he thinks Peterson should have left the franchise.
Yeah, I’d agree with that. I’m a big proponent of changing teams. But Patrick is in there with Larry Fitzgerald, you know. Fitz is a career Cardinal and I know that has influenced Patrick. Larry is a guy who will gladly go down as the greatest Cardinal in history, even though that likely means never getting a ring. I think Pat is committed to being a career Cardinals who brings his franchise a ring — but that just ain’t happening man. This isn’t the NBA. You can’t will a franchise to jack. Hell, even the front office was starting to turn on the guy a little last year when Pat wasn’t making tackles and looked pretty disinterested out there. My opinion? The guy needs a change of scenery. A change of culture. He left LSU in 2011. It’s been a decade since he’s been in a locker room that was devoted to winning. I mean, absolutely committed to winning. And it shows. Now he looks like a guy who has other interests to pursue if the rest of the team doesn’t pull their weight. And it isn’t like he can just switch it on and off anymore; so if he isn’t on all the time, then he’s off.
[Off Camera] Where would be a good spot for Peterson if, say, Steve Keim did decide to deal him?
I think you got until the bye next season and, in his heart, Patrick accepts that the celebration of the Kyler Murray offense is cute and all but if he can get traded to a contender that needs to make a move while their window is still open — you know, I don’t think the Saints have the ability to go so big to get another corner but maybe the Packers or Seahawks as trade partners — it’ll be the landing and possibly the rejuvenation Patrick needs. You know, you can’t be afraid to put on another jersey. You can help a team but, you know, look at that 2015 season. Dude is returning punts, subbing in to wide out on some trickery, cheating down low because any opponent could get a small lead that season and then just run the ball knowing that the stagnant Cardinals offense wasn’t going to be able to do anything. But it ain’t all bad. Everyone’s career comes to an end. Some end up destined for the hall of fame. Other guys maybe get a spot in their team’s ring of honor. It’s fine.
[Off Camera] You think Peterson is near the end?
As a corner, he’s got a few more years. Might be able to tack on a couple more if he wants to transition to safety but I’m not sure that position fits his style. I think you’ll look back and see that Patrick Peterson had a nice little NFL career. He’s making a lot of money. He’s stayed pretty healthy. I think he has a future somewhere else in the game, maybe as a backs coach, once he retires. And I’m more of a pessimist, if you want to use the word, about his future. I’d say I’m a realist but, either way, he’s already had a very good career. He is a very good corner. Why stain his accomplishments by raising the bar for the way a diabetic PED-user will perform on a losing team after turning 30? Let him play out his days and just enjoy the twilight years of his career.
Peterson has had a quiet off season. Front office interviews, as well as those with Coach Kliff Kingsbury, indicate that the franchise position is one that is committed to Peterson and expects to see him back “playing some of his best football.” A high bar but not an unusual statement from this team. Fans appear to have accepted that the trade demands and game suspensions are a thing of the past and seem ready to embrace Peterson as a fan favorite once again.
The Arizona Cardinals are scheduled to open their 2020 season at the defending Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco 49ers. In their last 2019 meeting, Patrick Peterson accounted for four solo tackles and a pass defended as 49ers quarterback, James Garoppolo, threw for over 400 yards in a comeback win. Peterson will have an immediate chance to display dominance against a fairly weak WR1 in Deebo Samuels, a second year wide out who is returning from off season foot surgery. Fans and players alike will be watching this game to see exactly where Peterson’s play is, now that his best days are well behind him.
Thank you for joining us today and, from all of here at the TruTV studios, stay safe.