2012 rewind: Cards collapse after 4-0 start

Top 10 Arizona sports stories of the year, as

selected by FOX Sports Arizona staff.

No. 4: Quarterback follies sabotage Cardinals after 4-0 start

Quarterback play. It was the key ingredient in the Cardinals’ two-year run of success from 2008-2009. It was the missing ingredient in the Cardinals’ two-year fall from grace in 2010 and 2011.

Entering 2012 training camp, the feeling was that if Kevin Kolb – with a better understanding of the offense — could just stay healthy, the Cardinals had the pieces in place to return to the postseason.

But Kolb wasn’t even the starter when the season opened. That distinction belonged to John Skelton after Kolb turned in a dismal preseason that forced coach Ken Whisenhunt’s hand. But it didn’t take long for things to change. When Skelton suffered a severe ankle sprain late in the team’s season-opener against Seattle, Kolb came off the bench and rallied the club to victory.

Riding an elite defense and some timely offense, the Cards surged to a 4-0 start — including a win at New England — that made them the biggest surprise of the young season. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, another missing ingredient derailed the party: pass protection.

Kolb was sacked nine times and beaten up badly at St. Louis as the club dropped its first game. The following week, Kolb suffered a season-ending injury on busted play when two Buffalo Bills fell on top of him, separating several ribs from his sternum.

That injury – and a rash of others on offense (that actually began with tackle Levi Brown in the preseason) – precipitated a nine-game slide that turned a dream start into a nightmare finish. The Cardinals will miss the playoffs for a third straight season and will likely match their worst record in the Whisenhunt era (5-11) with a loss Sunday in San Francisco. The low mark was a 58-0 debacle in Seattle, the exclamation point a nine-game losing streak that followed the 4-0 start.

With expectations increased – and with so much of team president Michael Bidwill’s money committed to Kolb and contract extensions for Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington, Darnell Dockett, Adrian Wilson and Larry Fitzgerald – change is certain this offseason.

It could involve starting fresh at quarterback, after trying four different alternatives this year. Running back Beanie Wells and an aging Wilson could be gone. And even Whisenhunt, the architect behind that short-lived run off success, could fall victim.

The NFL is a results-oriented, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. Lately, the Cardinals have done nothing for their fan base and their owner.

–Craig Morgan