The Arizona Cardinals went all in on 2021. All they got out of it was a wild-card berth.
Arizona has been sitting at home for a week now after losing to the division-rival Los Angeles Rams on Super Wild Card Weekend, and those same Rams are now headed to the NFC Championship Game this weekend. Standing in their path to Super Bowl LVI: the San Francisco 49ers, a team that also calls the NFC West home.
Two division rivals squaring off for the conference crown can't sit well with any occupant of the same division, and especially not one that had the division title in sight before letting it slip away. Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill is working toward ensuring it doesn't happen again.
"Disappointing for everybody," Bidwill said, via the Arizona Republic. "For our players, for our coaches, certainly for our fans and certainly as a fan myself, it was very disappointing. We have high expectations. We need to play better.
"We had a lot of great success in 2021. I don't want to take away from that, but we can get better and that's what we're working on now."
Bidwill declined to divulge details related to what he discussed with general manager Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury following Arizona's no-show performance in the blowout loss to the Rams, but did say he's "had lots of internal discussions that I think have been productive and will improve the team."
Improving the team won't be an easy task.
Arizona was the darling of the NFC, if not the entire NFL for a good portion of the season. The Cardinals were the last undefeated team before Green Bay stunned them on a Thursday night in the desert, and they remained in prime position to win the NFC West and earn a home playoff game before a late-season skid -- the second in as many years -- allowed the Rams to steal away the division throne and use their home-field advantage to decimate Arizona in the postseason.
Arizona's 10-2 start would indicate the important pieces are already in Glendale. Perhaps it's more about execution and preparation than personnel, and hoping the injury bug -- which removed DeAndre Hopkins (knee) and J.J. Watt (shoulder) from the field for significant portions of the season, while also costing Kyler Murray multiple games -- doesn't bite so aggressively in 2022.
Regardless, the Cardinals can't do anything about how their 2021 season ended now. They can only hope to learn from their mistakes and apply those lessons going forward.
Oh, and avoid turning on the television this weekend.
"Anytime you see your direct competitors in the playoffs, it should bother any football fan," Bidwill said, "and it certainly bothers this one."