Google Jim Mora quotes and it’s possible to have a lot of fun with some of the classics he uttered while the head coach of the Saints and Colts.

The most famous, of course, is when his team was 4-6 and a reporter said the team would have to win out to make the playoffs. Mora responded, “Playoffs?! Don’t talk about playoffs! Are you kidding me? Playoffs?! I’m just hoping we can win a game, another game!”

However, one of my favorites came to mind this week reading and listening to the apoplexy in these parts after Monday’s release of backup running back Eno Benjamin.

There have been multiple reports that Benjamin, upset with his playing time (one offensive snap) in Sunday’s game against the Rams, had a confrontation with an assistant coach on the sideline that likely continued in the locker room.

This, of course, came during and possibly after a victory, which has been in short supply this season.

The story led to an avalanche of opinions, many criticizing the alleged overreach by the organization, despite the reality that none of us know the true details of what led to the team’s decision.

Mora’s words on that came to mind because he once told reporters, “You guys really don’t know when it’s good or bad when it comes down to it. You really don’t know. You think you know, but you don’t know, and you never will.”

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury shed little light on the incident when he said Wednesday, “We’re just always going to do what’s best for the organization. I’m not going to get into a lot of details on it, but it’s just one of those cases.”

A later question cleverly back-doored the situation by asking “generally” what the right way is for a player to express his frustration with coaches.

Kingsbury then said, “I think each case is different. It’s case by case, but coaches want to do the best job they can by playing the best players they can and maximizing their personnel. Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong, but you have to be able to ultimately get on the same page. If you don’t like your situation, (then) you’ve got to work harder and do right by the team, your teammates and your coaches.

“There’s a lot of different ways to do it. You see it all the time in this day and age that it gets done, but I don’t have the exact answer. I think, like I said, it’s case by case and (from) what I’ve seen is if you really want to be on the field, you earn the time and you prove to your coaches that you deserve to be out there.”

Some argue that Benjamin had earned it after playing 27 percent of snaps the week before against Seattle and played 87, 73 and 74 percent of the snaps in the games when James Conner was inactive. Of course, again, we don’t know if there were issues in practice last week, or if what happened in the Rams game was simply determined by how the game developed.

Rookie Keaontay Ingram played five snaps in the game and had one carry for five yards in the third quarter. Conner had eight rushes for 21 yards in the first half, but after the Cardinals built a lead, Conner had seven attempts in the fourth quarter and rushed for 23 yards on five carries in a nine-play drive that ended with his 9-yard touchdown and provided the team with a 24-10 lead.

We also aren’t aware if there might have been other incidents that made this one the last straw and my contention throughout, while initially surprised, was simple: Does anyone actually believe Benjamin would have been cut without it being a serious breach of player conduct?

It’s also instructive to remember how wide receiver A.J. Green and linebacker Isaiah Simmons handled reduced snaps in games this season.

Wednesday night’s Hard Knocks episode failed to address the Benjamin release and even in the background of camera shots, there was nary a sighting of him.

However, director Terrell Riley shed a bit of light while visiting with Bo Brack and Johnny Venerable on the Cardinals PHNX podcast following Wednesday’s night episode.

Reilly didn’t provide any details (“I won’t give it away,” he said), but emphasized it will be dealt with next week in episode three. “Definitely stay tuned and watch show three,” Reilly said, while offering a tease on what the cameras caught: “It was shocking to me.”

That should be quite a treat on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, from a football perspective, the depth at running back must now be considered problematical especially if Conner has additional injuries. In 10 games this season, he has left two games and missed three.

In the five games he has been available from start to finish, he has played 72 percent/47 snaps, 60/50, 66/50, 71/45 and 96/65.

When asked Wednesday if there is concern with using Conner too much, Kingsbury said, “I felt like we were really cautious beginning the year with him. Maybe to a fault at times because he is a player that gets better as the game goes on and he wants that rhythm. You could see that this past week and all these running backs that are your top guy.

“There’s always that chance of getting wear and tear, but he’s a guy who has played at a high level, had big-time seasons and stayed healthy. We’re going to continue to work him. It’s not a deal where we’re trying to run him into the ground; it’s just what’s best for the football team and he wants to play and get his rhythm going.”

However, the reality is during his four seasons with the Steelers, Conner never played all 16 games and played only 10 in 2019. He played 78 percent in his best Pittsburgh season (2018) when he rushed for 973 yards. After that, missed games limited him to 52 and 63 percent.

On a few occasions before this season, Kingsbury said it was important to create a job-share and pointed how that worked well last season when Conner and Chase Edmonds split snaps.

In fact, in the first eight games of the 2021 season when the Cardinals were 7-1, Edmonds played 59.9 percent of the snaps and Conner played 42.3. His snaps increased when Edmonds was injured on the first play of the Week 9 game against San Francisco and missed the next four games.

In those five games, including the one that Edmonds left early, Conner played 77, 82, 82, 91 and 96 percent. Edmonds returned in Week 15 against Detroit and played 39 percent, but Conner played only 44 percent before being injured. He missed the next two games in which Edmonds played 82 and 80 percent and was injured again.

While it’s true the Cardinals are in desperation mode trying to grind their way back to .500, it’s still risky to overuse Conner.

Of course, the biggest question is whether Ingram is capable of carrying a bigger load. Kingsbury said Ingram has come “a long way in a short time.” Behind him on the practice squad are Corey Clement and Ty’Son Williams, the latter who Kingsbury said has “really come on” since being signed Oct. 12. At least one will be elevated or signed to the roster for Monday night’s game.

Kingsbury insisted, “I feel good. We’ve got four guys we think can handle it and at some point Darrel Williams (who is on reserve/injured) will be back.”

Williams has to miss two more games before he can be designated for return.

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me: howard@gophnx.com

Author

Howard Balzer is in his 47th year covering professional football as a writer, editor and broadcaster and has covered 41 Super Bowls. His connection with pro football began in 1976 with College and Pro Football Newsweekly, and since then he has been a featured columnist for The Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly, USA Today Sports Weekly and The Sports Xchange. Balzer moved to St. Louis in 1978 to work for The Sporting News, where he became Pro Football Editor in 1979. He was an analyst on ESPN's initial broadcast of the NFL Draft in 1980 and continued in that role through 1988. He has won seven writing awards in the Professional Football Writers of America competition, won an Emmy for commentaries on KPLR-TV in St. Louis in 1986 and was nominated for an Emmy in 1988 and 1990. He was named the 2016 winner of the Bob Broeg Media Award presented by the St. Louis/Tom Lombardo Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. The award is for enthusiasm, integrity, professionalism and devotion to the game of football and is reserved for individuals whose contributions to football in the St. Louis area have made a significant difference. Balzer was an officer (secretary and secretary/treasurer) for the Professional Football Writers of America for 33 years and was inducted into the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Balzer relocated to the Phoenix area in 2020 as the publisher of the FanNation AllCardinals site and is now the Cardinals reporter for PHNX. He is entering his 19th year as one of 49 voting members on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is also on the Hall's Seniors Committee. He is the co-host of the weekly Pro Football Hall of Fame radio show on SiriusXM NFL Radio and is a part-time host at ArizonaSports 98.7 FM.

2 Comments

  1. You could definitely see your expertise within the work you write.The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe.At all times follow your heart.

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