You want to know what ineptitude and the denial of it looks like?
You need to look no further than the preposterous snake oil exhibition that Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim staged yesterday.
One year ago at this time, following a tearful farewell from Bruce Arians, Michael Bidwill was all smiles when talking about engaging in the pursuit of Arians’ successor—-while Steve Keim sat there looking like someone had stolen his car.
Yesterday, after announcing that he had made a big mistake in hiring Steve Wilks, Bidwill patted himself and Steve Keim on the back for “the process” by which they use to hire head coaches. “We followed the process when we hired Ken Whisenhunt and we followed the process when we hired Bruce Arians and we all know how that worked out.”
The reality is that Ken Whisenhunt, like Mike Munchak last year, turned down Bidwill’s invitation for a second interview. But, when it suddenly dawned on Whisenhunt that he was not going to be promoted to head coach by the Steelers and that with a new head coach coming to town he could be out of a job, Whisenhunt, in desperation, called Bidwill with a change of mind.
Fast forward to the Cardinals’ hiring of Bruce Arians. Bidwill’s so-called process had left him as the last man at the hiring dance. Arians wanted the Bears’ job. But when the Bears picked Marc Trestman over Arians, Arians desperately turned to Bidwill.
The fact is—-the Cardinals backed in to both Whisenhunt and Arians. No one else was going to hire them and both men were desperate for jobs.
The smartest thing Whisenhunt finally did was turn over the offense and the running of it to Kurt Warner. Kurt Warner carried that team, even with its swiss cheese defense, all the way to the Super Bowl.
Kurt Warner was the best thing that ever happened to the Arizona Cardinals. And yet, following the Cardinals’ first ever Super Bowl, Michael Bidwill managed to screw that one up by lowballing Warner on a new contract to the point where Warner had to force Bidwill’s hand by interviewing with the 49ers. Bidwill finally did get Warner to sign a two year deal—-but Warner only played one more season—-and he freely admitted that the contract dispute he had with Bidwill took a lot of the wind out of his sails,
Arians came in with a swag, a swig and a vulgar disregard for decorum. He sold his players on his “All or Nothing” mantra. It was the best three year run (regular season record-wise) in the history of the Cardinals in Arizona. But—-for all of the winning and all of the pomp—-when the dust had cleared, all Arians’ teams had managed to do was win one playoff game—-and that win was nearly thrown away when Arians yelled over to James Bettcher at Hail Mary time to abandon the prevent defense in favor of sending a full house blitz on Aaron Rodgers. We know how that turned out.
The luckiest three things possible then happened—-(1) Mike McCarthy decided to kick the PAT instead of going for two to win the game—-the Cardinals were so stunned, it’s very likely Rodgers would have been able to easily convert the 2 pointer. (2) The Cardinals won the coin toss in overtime. (3) On a rare scramble under pressure, Carson Palmer found a wide open Fitz across the other side of the field. And Larry Legend took care of the rest.
A week later, Arians’ Cardinals were completely embarrassed by the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game by the score of 49-15.
Bidwill’s and Keim’s response to that disappointment was very telling. Keim pulled off a good trade for DE Chandler Jones—-but the buck stooped there, as Keim left gaping holes at RCB and long snapper (both of which would cost then the first game versus the Patriots, a loss that Arians said ruined the entire season), while trying to patch up the shoddy offensive line by moving his year-long inactive 1st round draft pick D.J. “Knee Deep” Humphries to RT and signing veteran RG Evan Mathis who was coming off a painful back injury with the Broncos.
In the aftermath of playing in the NFCCG, apparently Keim couldn’t attract any of the top free agents. Not one.
But—-in both cases with Whisenhunt and Arians—-Bidwill made the mistake of lavishing them with lucrative raises and contract extensions well before their original contracts were up. In both cases, one year later, their teams were on downward spirals, to the point where Bidwill had to eat the finals years of their contracts in order to hire new coaches.
Yesterday, Bidwill was holding out Arians’ 50 wins in 5 years as a reason why no one should have any doubts about him or GM Steve Keim and their “hiring process.” If the goal is to achieve regular season wins regardless of what happens in the playoffs, then Bidwill has a point about back then. But something feels awfully hollow about those 50 wins, 5 of which came in meaningless games at the end of the largely uncompetitive 2016 and 2017 seasons which ultimately cost the Cardinals a better chance to draft a QBOF.
Then Bidwill was touting the team’s number 6th ranked defense last year as one of the main reasons why he fired Steve Wilks. if Bidwill was so enamored with that defense, why then didn’t he go with Arians’ and Keim’s first choice of James Bettcher as Arians’ successor?
The problem is, Bidwill knows that #6 defense ranking is and was a joke. That defense gave up more than 30 points 6 times last year. They were 19th in the NFL in points against. And, quite frankly, Bettcher’s defenses never tackled consistently well, nor did they ever keep contain as he always had his ends crashing down to try to stuff the run. Ask all the QBs who ran for easy TDs versus Bettcher’s defense.
Getting blown out was a precedent set by Arians’ teams going back to the 2015 NFC Championship game.
In 2016, the Cardinals’ defense gave up more than 30 points 6 times...and gave up 48 points at home to the Saints.
Thus, when Bidwill and Keim were readily alluding to lopsided losses as the reason for firing Steve Wilks—-the precedent for that had already been set.
This season—-Bidwill and Keim sent rookie head coach Steve Wilks into a rock fight with a bag of nerf balls.
The tried to con Wilks and the fans into believing that this was not a rebuilding year, but a retooling year with their yearly expectations of being a playoff contender. Interesting that Las Vegas was the first to call that bluff.
And when one looks closer at the moves Steve Keim made in the off-season, one could wonder whether Keim was actually being vindictive in his anger that Bidwill went with Wilks over Bettcher.
Think about it.
If you were going to set uo a defensive coach to fail, how would you do it?
A pretty good place to start would be in hiring an OC who was fired at mid-season by a rookie head coach in Denver last year. Next would be to invest $20M in a QB whose chronic knee injury (which his past coach described as “degenerative”) forced him to miss 15 games in 2017. Follow that up with investing millions of dollars in a makeshift offensive line to 3 players coming off the IR in 2017 and one over-the-hill free agent tackle who was relegated to backup guard duty in 2017. Finally—-devote 5 of 6 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft to taking offensive players.
Much has been made about Wilks’ mistake in switching the Cardinals’ defense from a 34 to his 43. Let’s, however, quell this notion, once and for all. With the cast of defensive players that Steve Keim gave Steve Wilks to work with, it wouldn’t matter what defense Wilks tried to employ. Why?
There is not one legitimate NFL thumper linebacker on the roster. Keim invested $8.7M in Deone Bucannon to be an answer at LB—-but you can just imagine what Wilks must have thought when he saw the Washington tape and Bucannon wanted nothing to do with tackling Adrian Peterson.
Keim kept the defense thin at DT all season long. Those DTs were over-burdened in a 4 man front. The CBs in Steve Wilks defense are supposed to be physical run supporters—-otherwise a ton of chunk yard plays would occur on the perimeter just as they did all season long. The only real tacklers on the defense were Josh Bynes (until he landed on the IR) and the Cardinals three safeties, Antoine Bethea, Budda Baker and Tre’ Boston—-all of whom were worn down to the nub.
The best success Wilks had was in drumming up pressure—-and Wilks was pretty brilliant at that.
The players know, like Las Vegas did, that Steve Wilks never had a chance. They also know hard work and dedication when they see it. Markus Golden went as far as saying how proud he was to play for Steve Wilks.
And the worst irony is at the time when communication is paramount between a HC and a GM (training camp), Steve Keim was not in the building.
You combine all of these impediments and this was a first-rate recipe for failure.
Therefore, it feels like an egregious injustice that the person most responsible for this years failures is still employed..
if that isn't enough to prove that Bidwill is in denial of where the real fault lies—-Bidwill went on to claim that he believes that Arizona is the “best” of the openings. He cited having a franchise QB on a rookie contract, ample cap space, great facilities, attractive location and the #1 pick in the draft as reasons why the top candidates should want to come to Arizona over all others.
However, Chris Mortenson on ESPN yesterday alluded to why the Cardinals last year were the last team to hire a head coach. As Mort put it, “around the league, the Arizona job was not considered a good job.”
Bruce Arians left the organization in shambles—-fleeing players and former stars like Tyrann Mathieu and John Brown were quick to express their disdain for the organization. Arizona is at the bottom of free agents’ wish lists. The Cardinals’ own free agents are excited to leave. Yesterday, one player took a Sharpie and wrote “UFA!!!” on the white board.
The problem with Bidwill’s claim too is that it’s impossible right now to consider Josh Rosen a franchise QB. Bidwill had better hope and pray that due to the substandard coaching Rosen was given by him and Steve Keim this year, that Rosen isn't already broken.
The reality is—-there is no guarantee at this point whether Rosen is the answer at QB, free agents and their reps are leery of Steve Keim and the Cardinals’ organization, former players continue to be outspoken about their disdain for the way players are treated in Arizona, the facility is great, that is if opposing teams’ fans aren’t louder and more excited than the Cardinals’ own fans and if the grass isn’t slippery, and now Bidwill just fired a one-year head coach whom the players loved.
The most stinging reality is—-despite Bidwill’s denial—-right now the Cardinals have replaced the Cleveland Browns as the doormat and laughing stock of the NFL.
After 17 weeks of hiding under a rock, Michael Bidwill serpentined out like a nervous rattlesnake, made his forked-tongued statements and when the questions got tough he and his king cobra, Steve Keim abruptly bared their fangs and slithered back into the shadows.
It took 17 weeks to see where the real problems are—-and at least the long-suffering Cardinals’ fans can see them for themselves.