Always upbeat, Fitzgerald never criticized the Cardinals' coaching staff, their game plans, the quarterbacks who couldn't get him the ball, the 11 losses that came in the final 12 games. Not a peep. A good soldier.
Now Fitzgerald has a new offensive-minded head coach who has hired an offensive-minded assistant head coach. Bruce Arians and Tom Moore have a combined 60 years of coaching experience in the NFL. The offense will get plenty of attention, and Arians already is on record saying he will get Fitzgerald the ball.
Fitzgerald said Thursday, after the NFC team's Pro Bowl practice, that he already has met and talked with Arians a few times, and he came away impressed.
"I'm excited. It's a change, obviously," Fitzgerald said. "I have great admiration for my former coaching staff. I have great respect for those guys, and I'm sad to see them go. But I'm excited about our future."
Offensively, there's not much in the cupboard behind Fitzgerald and his up-and-coming wide receiver mates, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd. But we all saw the one-year transformation of two poor offensive teams that made significant upgrades at quarterback last offseason. The Denver Broncos finished with the AFC's No. 1 playoff seed and the Seattle Seahawks came within a half game of winning the NFC West.
Team president Michael Bidwell clearly is not ready to give up on Kevin Kolb, whom the Cardinals acquired via trade with the Philadelphia Eagles last offseason, a trade that cost Arizona a second-round draft pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. But Arians, who has done wonders with quarterbacks he's worked with in the past (Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck), is non-committal at this point.
Kolb is set to make $11.5 million, $2 million to be paid out in a roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year. If he stays with Arizona, it will likely have to be at a reduced rate with opportunities to make up the difference through not-likely-to-be-earned incentives.
"That would almost create enough cap room to trade for Alex Smith (2013 salary: $8.5 million) provided the 49ers would trade within the division," Corry said. "Philly did it with (Donovan) McNabb and New England did it with Drew Bledsoe."
Besides quarterback, the Cardinals will need to address their offensive line, especially left tackle. The good news is they have the seventh overall pick in the draft to address one of those two areas, one of the game's premier wide receivers and a coach who knows a thing or two about getting him the ball.
"Our future is in Coach Arians' hands," Fitzgerald said, "and we're going to follow his lead."
Andy Fenelon is a senior editor at NFL.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Andy_Fenelon.