Anderson's frustrating 2010 season reached a breaking point during a postgame press conference, as he lashed out at Arizona Republic reporter Kent Somers who questioned Anderson about a moment during the game's fourth quarter, when ESPN cameras caught the Cardinals QB smiling on the sidelines with offensive lineman Deuce Lutui.
"What Deuce and I talk about is nobody else's business," Anderson responded.
"Why was something funny when you're down 18 points in the fourth quarter," he was asked.
"It wasn't funny, I wasn't laughing ..."
But, the reporter pressed, "the cameras showed you ..."
"That's fine, that's fine, that's fine. That's fine. I'm not laughing about it. You think this is funny? I take this (expletive) serious. Real serious," Anderson said, cutting off any follow-up questions. "I put my heart and soul into this (expletive) every single week. ... I'm just telling you right now what I do every single week. Every single week, I put my freaking heart and soul into this. I study my a** off. I don't go out there and laugh.
"It's not funny. Nothing's funny to me. I don't want to go out there and get embarrassed on 'Monday Night Football' in front of everybody."
After the back-and-forth continued for a bit more, Anderson ended it with "I'm done" as he walked away from the podium.
Arizona trailed 24-6 at the start of the fourth quarter, just seconds after Anderson had thrown his lone interception of the night, when ESPN's cameras cut to a replay of Anderson with Lutui. ESPN analyst Jon Gruden laid into Anderson, perhaps precipitating the line of questioning in the postgame press conference.
"One of the things I don't like to see, walking down on these sidelines, is the demeanor sometimes of the players on the bench when you're playing bad," Gruden said over the image of Anderson smiling. "When you're down 18 points and you've had five first downs, I want it to bother you ..."
Anderson finished the night 16 of 35 for 196 yards. For the season, during which he was benched at one point in favor of undrafted rookie Max Hall, Anderson's now thrown nine interceptions to seven touchdowns. The Cardinals, who came into Monday's game 3-7 but just two games back of first place in the miserable NFC West, were roundly booed throughout the evening by their disgruntled home fans -- with the brunt of that animosity flowing toward Anderson's offense.
But Anderson's postgame meltdown took everything to a new level. For what it's worth, ex-Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner -- whose retirement after 2009 may have doomed Arizona before 2010 even started -- came to Anderson's defense on Twitter.
"(People), just a game... and we all have bad ones! Next time u have a really bad day, promise me you won't smile ALL day! ... There was absolutely nothing DA could have said 2 make that look good in (people's) eyes!"
Warner's got a point, to some extent. Between the circumstances of Anderson's chuckle, Gruden's strong admonishment of it and the general disdain of Cardinals fans on Monday night, it would've been hard for Anderson to come out of that situation smelling like roses.
But that doesn't clear the way for him to fly off the handle. The reporter had every right to ask Anderson to put that moment in context, given when it occurred in the game. If Anderson didn't want to deal with it, he could have brushed it off with a "No comment" or even "Deuce told a joke" -- sometimes the best remedy for a struggling athlete is to loosen him up; it's a trick pulled by baseball managers all the time.
Instead, Anderson came off like he'd been caught with one hand in the cookie jar, first denying that he'd ever laughed, then losing his cool when presented with the evidence.
Fair or not, quarterbacks are held to an extremely high standard in the NFL. And Gruden's criticism, while probably a bit over the top, makes sense. If you're getting blown out at home, the last thing you want to see as a team is your quarterback, your supposed leader, making light of the situation.
The whole sideline incident was probably blown out of proportion -- Anderson's mood at the start of the fourth quarter likely had little to no bearing on how the game turned out. If he had been sitting on the bench alone, sulking, would that suddenly have turned him into Warner and led to an epic fourth-quarter comeback? Of course not.
That doesn't excuse Anderson's meltdown, though. It simply means that Arizona's disappointing season has hit another low point. And it's definitely nothing to smile about.