It was so tough to watch, this NFL playoff game in the rain in Charlotte over the weekend. A sloppy weather day, and an even sloppier NFC playoff game.
Here was the sub-500-Carolina Panthers (7-8-1), the division winners in the rag-tag NFC-South, getting a home game over the Arizona Cardinals, who were (11-5), who finished second in a rather tough NFC-West.
Here was a battered Arizona team, with an ailing super star receiver, no running game, a shaky offensive line, and a defense that had lost two of its stars for the entire season, having to lineup against Cam Newton, the Panthers go-get-em pass rush, and play before a howling mob of fans.
And there was Ryan Lindley, the record setting quarterback at San Diego State, forced onto the field, because the Cardinals two veteran quarterbacks were gone for the year with injuries, knee injuries to established star Carson Palmer, and then a knee injury and infection to his veteran journeyman backup Drew Stanton.
Lindley, who has been in the league three seasons, has hardly played at all. He was the choice, because rookie quarterback Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech, had practiced so poorly earlier in the week, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had to pick his poison. Who goes to the wolves, Lindley, with limited experience, or Thomas, with absolutely none?.
We remember Lindley as a special kid at San Diego State; stayed at home, turned down big offers elsewhere, rewrote the record book, graduated, and is a devout Christian. So many positives. That’s why this weekend of negatives was so painful to watch.
Strong, tall in the pocket, a cannon for an arm, his college career was indeed special. Some 9,537-yards passing, 67-TD passes, a ton of 300-yard games, a special 528-passing night vs Utah, and a 6-TD game against Colorado State. He replaced record-setting Kevin O’Connell, whose NFL career was up and down for a five year run, before he retired.
But this was hard, despite spending 2-plus years in the Arizona system, and 10-weeks this year with the Chargers developmental squad, Lindley was thrown into the fire.
The end result was a record-setting day of futility for the Cardinals, an all time NFL low 78-yards in offense, breaking a 1958-Cleveland Browns record, of 86-yards against the all powerful New York Giants from the Sam Huff era.
Lindley was sacked, chased, flushed, pressured. Two interceptions, a fumble, four sacks and some wild errant throws, missing open receivers, then forcing balls, trying to make a play. Arizona’s defense died because the offense got nothing done.
Once upon a time, the NFL had a spring development league, NFL-Europe. You may remember names like the Scottish Claymores, London Monarchs, Barcelona Dragons and the likes. Part of the NFL plan in the eight year run the league had, was to market the game in Europe, sell jerseys, let the fans feel the NFL experience. Another part of the plan was to develop younger players.
The most notable grads of NFL Europe were Kurt Warner and Jon Kitna, one a Hall of Fame quarterback, the other spent 16-years in the NFL. You wish NFL Europe was still there for the likes of a Ryan Lindley. Oddly, both were big and strong, guys from smaller programs, and devout Christians, much like Lindley, with a playbook in one hand, and a bible in the other.
He is mentally tough, physically tough, but you hope he will not be emotionally scarred by all this. It’s doubtful the Cardinals will bring him back, after having cut him once, and then being forced to play him.
His career numbers in Arizona are alarming, 10-games, 3-TDs-13-interceptions-3 fumbles lost and 22-quarterback sacks.
Maybe someone brings him to camp and works with him. A spring in London or Berlin might have helped. A stint in Canada may be in the offing. Rumblings are he is such a good athlete and good guy, maybe he becomes a tight end or a safety.
For one day this past weekend, we wanted to root for the local guy to make good. It didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean Ryan Lindley is all things bad. His faith, and his athleticism will help him thru this tough week, with the hope there is another day, in another city, and maybe at another position.