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A Growing Rift Between Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim?

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Bidwill has always seemed very proud of Steve Keim’s ascension from Cardinals’ scout to GM and has applauded all of Keim’s successes along the way. But, in light of what has transpired this year, starting with Bruce Arians’ “retirement,” the hiring of the Anti-BA in Steve Wilks, the paring of Wilks with Mike McCoy, the backlash from the release of the Honey Badger, the signing of QB Sam Bradford, the drafting of a QBOF without a clear plan of how to develop him, Steve Keim’s mid-summer arrest, Keim’s five week suspension during training camp and a miserable 3-11 season where the Cardinals’ -175 point differential is on a par with the winless 2017 Cleveland Browns’—-perhaps there are enough reasons to believe that there is a growing rift at the top of the organization between Bidwill and Keim.

If there, is such a rift—-as to why—-here is a theory:

Michael Bidwill

  • Made the bold decision to move on from Bruce Arians due to BA’s health issues, mounting acrimony between the staff and players, his “win or lose, we booze” mantra—-and BA’s blind devotion to under-performing assistant coaches.
  • Went into the hiring process determined to be deliberate and to distance himself from the vast majority of BA’s staff.
  • Hired Steve Wilks because in so many respects Wilks was the Anti-BA—-a health nut, defensive tough guy, highly disciplined “leader of men” who was willing to reach out to and develop a cadre of underachieving players with ‘different personalities” that the previous staff were at odds with.”
  • Wilks was eager to embrace Bidwill’s clear and well-itemized agenda and Keim’s belief in McCoy and QBOP Sam Bradford.

Steve Keim

  • Was not happy with the way the Arians situation was handled.
  • Wanted to honor BA’s wishes that James Bettcher be the next head coach.
  • Wanted Mike McCoy to be the OC—-if not with Bettcher, with Wilks.
  • Was rewarded a 2rd contract extension by Michael Bidwill, despite having 2 years left on his contract and coming off two disappointing seasons and a growing reputation around the league for being a low baller in the UFA market, particularly in the treatment of his own free agents—-exacerbated acutely, for right or for wrong, this off-season when Keim cut fan idol Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu after Mathieu wouldn't accept Keim’s pay cut offer.
  • Believed that his roster, with the expensive addition of QB Sam Bradford, was good enough to make the Cardinals a legit contender.
  • Vowed to the fans that he would never use the word “rebuild,” even though he finally drafted a QB in Round 1, by trading up to select Josh Rosen.
  • His ‘retooling” of the much maligned offensive line was heavily reliant on former 1st round draft picks, like his QB1 Sam Bradford, with injury histories and/or age concerns.
  • Missed 4-5 weeks of training camp due to July 4th DUI arrest.

In my opinion——it is the steady erosion of accord between Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim that is most responsible for the Cardinals’ current demise.

Bidwill knew how close Steve Keim and BA were—-and Bidwill knew very well of Keim’s unshakable loyalty to BA.

But, Bidwill was fed up with BA—-he viewed the situation as growing more and more toxic and scary with regard to BA’s faltering health and volatile personality.

This is where things got sticky between the owner and the GM. Bidwill had to find a way to appease Keim—-and Keim had to find a way to cope with Bidwill’s loss of trust in BA and several key assistant coaches on BA’s staff.

A compromise of sorts was reached—-Bidwill got the guy he wanted as head coach and Keim got the guy he wanted as offensive coordinator.

It would be difficult to imagine that Steve Keim was ever comfortable with this compromise. He did not look like a happy camper at Steve Wilks’ introductory press conference.

In essence, Steve Keim felt like the organization of which he is the GM had betrayed his beloved “older brother.”

Initially, Michael Bidwill was very happy that Steve Wilks was willing to embrace his vision of what was needed to amend the culture.

Bidwill tried to smooth things over with Keim by rewarding him with the contract extension—-which in effect was made to look like the organization was absolving Keim of any and all of the past two years’ regressions.

Then there was that supremely awkward moment at Wilks’ press conference where Wilks turned sharply back to Bidwill and Keim and said, “I guarantee you—-you guys made the RIGHT decision.”

Wilks’ statement sounded as if he was still trying to convince the Bidwill/Keim team that he was the best choice. In my opinion, Wilks accurately sensed that the Bidwill/Keim team was still divided.

The look on both Bidwill’s and Keim’s faces when Wilks made this statement was one of unwieldy ambivalence.

Wilks, in his press conference, manifested the look and sound of a leader of men. But—-again—-it was as if he was trying too hard—-and while trying to emphasize the humble and sacrificial aspects of teamwork, he wound up touting himself as a person who was “born to stand out.”

Wilks went right to work trying to win the players’ confidence—-and employed the kind of tactics that high school and college coaches use to try to galvanize a team—-with a heavy dose of symbolic props and philosophical acronyms.

These were thoughtful gestures on Wilks’ part—-but—-again—-they were the result of trying too hard and too quickly to gain the players’ trusts and loyalties.

Then—-in a highly ironic and symbolic twist of fate (in an off-season where Bidwill was trying to change the booze culture)—-Steve Keim was arrested for DUI—-an embarrassing tape of the arrest was released—-and Michael Bidwill was furious.

Bidwill handled the situation swiftly, conscientiously and with the force of a taser gun.

Yet another irony was that things were going extremely well for Wilks and his staff all the way through training camp until the very week Steve Keim returned. The once auspicious pre-season ended with a disappointing loss at home versus the Broncos—-a game in which rookie QB Josh Rosen wasn’t even given the chance to play—-and despite Wilks’ promise that “the best players will play” there seemed to be a degree of favoritism in the final cuts—-and worst of all, the Cardinals layed such a complete egg in the first game at home versus the Redskins that the Cardinals’ fans were booing the team by half-time.

What Michael Bidwill was counting on from Steve Wilks was some of that good old Carolina Panthers’ type of toughness that made for easy whippings over the Cardinals the past three times they played.

Instead—-few Cardinals seemed even remotely interested in tackling Cardinals’ castoff Adrian Peterson.

What Steve Keim was counting on from Mike McCoy, Sam Bradford, newly extended star RB David Johnson and Keim’s rehashed offensive line was a strong running game accentuated a precise passing attack led by a QB whom Keim gushed as having an “elite skill set.”

Instead—-the offense was a “3—and—out” paradigm of incompetence.

As the season ensued—-it became more and more readily clear that both Bidwill’s and Keim’s decisions had quickly backfired.

McCoy was fired a week before the bye week. The same week that Patrick Peterson’s agent was telling the media and all interested trade partners that Pat “desperately” wanted out of Arizona.

And now it appears that Steve Wilks will be the next coach fired.

Throughout this most difficult and painful season, Michael Bidwill has remained eerily and conspicuously silent.

Meanwhile, Steve Keim moved his weekly “Keim Time” radio interviews from Mondays to Fridays in what may have been an attempt to prolong having to address the concerns of the restless and disillusioned fans while they are still steaming by the watercoolers on Monday.

The newly named State Farm Stadium has been overtaken by the opposing team’s fans. The remaining Cardinals’ fans continue to boo and leave the once happy venue formerly known as “U of P” feeling dispirited and ripped off.

After yet another embarrassing performance yesterday in Atlanta, the Cardinals are an organization in utter chaos and turmoil—-

One of the few real leaders of men still standing is WR Larry Fitzgerald who lowered his shoulder on a Falcons’ defender late in the blowout loss in order to show his hapless teammates (including a fellow captain) that there is only one winning way to play the game.

After the game, Fitz declared his love for Coach Wilks and what Wilks stands for. That’s the kind of class that Larry Fitzgerald exudes.

Fitz knows in his heart that Wilks is not the main culprit for the Cardinals’ demise—-but—-as Larry did the week before McCoy was fired when Larry cited how hard McCoy was working and spoke of the personal sacrifices McCoy was making—-Larry sees the writing on the wall and knows that Wilks is very likely going to take the fall and have to bear the onus as to why the Cardinals have been so alarmingly incompetent.

This kind of falling out is often what can and will happen when there is a rift at the top of an organization—-and as a result—-there is a trickle down effect—-which this year seemed to come as an avalanche.

That’s what rifts in mountains do—-when it snows long and hard enough—-rifts create avalanches.