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Why National Perception and Their Hiring Process Hinder the Cardinals’ 2019 Search

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim believe that the Cardinals have the most attractive opening for head coaching candidates.

Here is a rebuttal of that notion:

Major sticking point #1:

The National Perception of the Cardinals’ Organization

  • If you just scan the twitter feeds today you will first see “Agent’s Take: The 2018 Contract Awards” in which Khalil Mack wins the “Most Valuable Acquisition” award and Sam Bradford wins the “Least Valuable Acquisition” award. The “Biggest Steal” award goes to RB Adrian Peterson. Remember him? Vikings’ DE Danielle Hunter wins the “Best Contract Year Extension for a Team” award, while RB David Johnson is the runner-up for “Worst Contract Year Extension for a Team.” See for yourself.

  • Scroll down a little farther and you will see a tweet with a link to yesterday’s Houston Chronicle article about how happy Tyrann Mathieu is with the Houston Texans and why he chose to take $1M less from the Texans than what the Cardinals were offering him on a pay cut.

In all four cases, the Bradford signing, the release of Adrian Peterson at a mere $3M a year (whom they gave up two 6th round picks for in the trade with the Saints), the premature contract extension they gave David Johnson (with the franchise tag as a safety net) and the cutting of local icon Tyrann Mathieu were key decisions that Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim made over the past 9 months.

Some Cardinals’ fans have argued—-the Cardinals had no QB at the time so it seemed good to sign Bradford—-Peterson was superfluous with Johnson returning—-David Johnson is an elite RB so he deserved that extension—-Keim did the right thing with the dispirited Honey Badger because he drafted Budda Baker to take his place.

The fallout from the Tyrann Mathieu situation is profound. This Washington Post article put everything in total perspective—-and after you read it—-you will ask yourself the same question Mathieu asks: “Why?” smart was it to pour $20M into the deep pockets of a QB who played one game last year due to a degenerative knee issue...the Cardinals needed Peterson last year when Johnson was injured, at $3M that’s good insurance and quality depth at a position that these days requires a prolific tandem...David Johnson missed 15 games last year and held out during the team’s minicamp, so why not let him play the year out and then gauge his true market value...and alas Honey Badger was such a feel-good story for the Cardinals and was one of the main reasons why the Cardinals went 13-3 in 2015...and on the heels in the previous year of losing another key star in DE Calais Campbell who was a unanimous 1st Team All Pro with the Jaguars in 2017...this all looks like a documentary of poor team management.

It certainly doesn’t help that Mathieu (like Campbell in 2017) has flourished as a captain with the Texans this year and is a Pro Bowl alternate thanks to his 89 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions while helping the Texans go 11-5 and win the AFC South...a season reminiscent of the Cardinals’ in 2015.

Other Poor PR Hits for the Cardinals on a National Level:

  • Keim’s extreme DUI and subsequent 5 week suspension during training camp.
  • Vegas giving Cardinals the worst odds to win the Super Bowl, despite the Cardinals’ insistence that they were “retooling” to be a playoff contender.
  • Hiring Mike McCoy as OC under yet another rookie defensive minded head coach.
  • A blowout 45-10 loss at home to the 2-4 Denver Broncos on national TV after Von Miller swore the Broncos were going to kick the Cardinals’ rear ends, amidst large, loudly cheering orange and blue swathed sections of rabid Broncos’ fans.
  • An indignant, yet revitalized John Brown publicly professing how the Cardinals mistreated him in 2017.
  • The firing of Steve Wilks after one year on the job, despite the lack of help from the Cardinals’ front office.
  • Note—-it didn't help the Cardinals’ national image either that owner and team president Michael Bidwill twice used his platform to endorse high school buddy Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
  • The recent news that 2 of the most highly coveted head coaching candidates have turned down the Cardinals’ requests for interviews. They give their reasons—-but who is kidding whom? Let’s not forget that last year, Mike Munchak turned down the Cardinals’ request for a second interview.

Major sticking point #2.

The Cardinals’ Hiring Process

Bidwill and Keim like to be deliberate and seem justified and proud of doing so.

So why would you suppose that Mike Munchak didn't want to come to Arizona for a second interview last year? The Cardinals had interviewed Munchak during the bye week of the playoffs last year, so he had a chance to hear what the Cardinals were looking for.

Munchak said he was too happy with his life and role in Pittsburgh to move, but he never thanked Bidwill publicly for the invitation.

Would it be too much of a stretch to imagine—-that Bidwill and Keim did not offer Munchak the final say on roster decisions—-and/or—-that they wanted him to take on Mike McCoy as OC and/or James Bettcher as DC? Munchak has been down that road before when he was the head coach of the Titans. He knows first-hand how important it is to have control of his own staff and roster decisions.

Munchak, now, a year later, is a candidate for the Broncos and Packers. You think he’s really more interested in staying in Pittsburgh?

While Mike McCarthy is claiming he needs to stay close to home—-it’s very difficult to imagine that McCarthy wouldn’t at least come for an interview if he was told that all options are on the table. But, McCarthy knows, Steve Keim isn’t going anywhere.

The reason why it was easy for Bidwill to choose Steve Wilks was that Wilks was amenable to Bidwill’s and Keim’s condidtions. Wilks did not have final say over the roster—-nor obviously was he given much of an input during the draft (5 of 6 picks on offense, including the first 4)—-and he agreed to have McCoy as his OC along with a handful of Bidwill’s and Keim’s leftover coaches from BA’s staff—-which—-for a brand new rookie head coach—-is rarely ever a good idea.

Bidwill had a clear agenda of what he wanted from Wilks. All you have to do is go back and replay Wilks’ introductory press conference. Wilks pretty much recited everything he was asked to do by Bidwill verbatim.


I believe that the reason why Bidwill is in the habit of hiring one of the last rookie head coach candidate standing is that the top candidates have been advised by their confidantes to be wary of the Cardinals’ modus operandi—-which is all moot because they won’t accept the conditions that come with the job anyway—-and, as an added perk, Bidwill only has to pay rookie head coaches salaries in the $2M-$3M range.

What head coach candidates are always looking for is roster decision autonomy, strong say in personnel (“I ought to be able to shop for the groceries”—-Bill Parcells), strong input in the draft, and control of the coaching staff.

Based on the current national perceptions about the Cardinals as an organization and about Steve Keim’s inadequacies as a GM, it would take a desperate candidate to accept the job—-and who typically are the most desperate? Rookies who figure this may be their only chance or veterans who worry that no one else will ever hire them again.

This is the main reason why I and others were so ardent for Bidwill to clean the slate and put the control of the team into new, more capable hands—-ones who could expunge old precedents by replacing them with effective, respectful personnel policies—-and ones who could spawn a new, exciting image of the Cardinals moving forward. Kind of like what young GM Ryan Pace has done with the Chicago Bears over the past three years. In fact, a lot like what young Ryan Pace has done with the Bears.