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Cardinals’ Culture Killers

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San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

During Steve Keim’s 7 year tenure as the Cardinals’ GM, he has re-signed only three Cardinals’ draft picks to multi-year 2nd contracts:

2014: CB Patrick Peterson—-5 years @ $70M, with $47.4M guaranteed

2016: S Tyrann Mathieu—-5 years @ $62M, with $40M guaranteed

2018: RB David Johnson—-3 years @ $39M, with $31.9M guaranteed

Not only were these contracts 2 years apart, the similarities are striking in that all 3 of the new contracts were given following the players’ 3rd year with the Cardinals—-and, of course, in the case of Mathieu and Johnson the contracts were awarded following injury marred seasons that landed both of them on the IR.

And ironically what all three players appear to have in common is a sense of indignation toward the Cardinals’ organization—-the very organization that has given them so much.

One will argue that the Cardinals received great value from Patrick Peterson by virtue of his 8 straight Pro Bowls and for the years during that span Peterson was widely regarded as one of the elite shut-down CBs in the NFL.

However, once Patrick Peterson signed his 2nd contract, it became painfully obvious that he believed it entitled him to focus on covering his man and doing virtually little else. Where he was once the most talented punt returner on planet Earth, Peterson no longer relished the role—-and that came crashing down on him and the team when Peterson muffed a punt in the 2015 NFC Championship game just when it looked like the Cardinals were gaining much needed momentum in the game.

Then, of course, there was the issue of tackling. Peterson felt it was his right to play in a tuxedo while feeling fine about the rest of his teammates playing in construction vests and hard hats. In an ironic sense, Peterson began treating every one of his games as if it was his favorite game, the Pro Bowl, which over the years has become a glorified game of two hand touch.

Peterson was ecstatic to learn that Tyrann Mathieu landed the next big contract:

And why shouldn’t Peterson have been ecstatic. After all, Mathieu was out there making the tackles that Peterson shied away from.

Whether it was being fed up for having to be Patrick Peterson’s body guard on the field or having to risk incurring a 3rd major injury for a team that by now had been badly exposed for its weaknesses by a team of tough guys, the Carolina Panthers, after the Honey Badger inked his 2nd contract, his effort on the football field waned and waned so conspicuously that Steve Keim had to try to get Mathieu to take a pay cut after the 2nd year of the $62M deal.

Mathieu was indignant that such a request was made.

In a way, one cannot blame him, because if Patrick Peterson was allowed to do his own thing once he got his money, why shouldn’t Mathieu himself be able to do that?

Take the money and coast, like Pat P.

Steve Keim’s cutting of Tyrann Mathieu was yet another in a long line of Cardinals’ PR disasters—-while the organization and most Cardinals’ fans could see that Mathieu was not playing with the kind of effort that made him a DPOY candidate in 2015—-the rest of the NFL world saw the Cardinals cut perhaps their most charismatic defender as artfully depicted on the All or Nothing documentary—-

Keim had double crossed himself and the organization—because the contract was too rich to allow for any trade offers and the Cardinals got absolutely nothing in return for one of their best players.

Yes, the Cardinals cutting the feel good story of the 2013 NFL Draft and a player that head coach Bruce Arians had such a kindred affinity for—-was a PR disaster—-the result of which made the Cardinals look foolish when Mathieu took $1M less in salary from the Houston Texans, while proclaiming that he wanted to pay for a defense that was s”erious about winning.”

Ouch.

To make matters worse, former Cardinals who had left Arizona feeling humiliated and disillusioned—-and there are quite a number of them, jumped to Mathieu’s defense and cheered him on for wriggling free of the Cardinals for good.

Double ouch.

My own personal reaction to all of this was—-man, if you can’t motivate a baller like Tyrann Mathieu to be a leader in your organization and you were the team that took the risk on him and rewarded him $40M in guarantees for his valor on the field, then you have serious problems.

Thank goodness for Chandler Jones and Jordan Hicks the two UFA signees with big contracts who are trying to turn the tables in a different direction—-but there behind them still today—-is Peterson—-doing his own thing.

So. Mathieu was the first of the three to become indignant and then over the past two season we have seen Peterson beg the team in “desperation” to be traded and then have seen him become indignant when the Cardinals wouldn’t restructure his contract so that he could get paid during his 6 week suspension for PED violations.

Peterson’s Instagram tirade wherein he called the Cardinals’ front office “snakes in the grass” once again fired up the hoard of former Cardinal teammates of Peterson’s who offered Peterson their immediate sympathy and support.

Triple ouch.

Is it just pure coincidence that over the past couple of months we have heard that one of the Cardinals’ 2019 UFA signees told a teammate that he preferred to “steal from the Cardinals” instead of from his old team? And another of the UFA signees, while collecting checks on the IR, bet against the Cardinals in Las Vegas?

When PR is this bad—-stuff like this happens.

Hey—-word travels fast—-if you can steal from an organization and get away with it—-why not? After all, the leaders of the organization are “snakes in the grass” themselves. Might as well take them for all they’ve got.

And now David Johnson, the third domino in this disturbing cycle of thievery, appears to be following suit. As we know, Johnson, after putting forth some very questionable efforts on the field which resulted in him getting beaten out by newly acquired RB Kenyan Drake, has taken to social media to express his indignance toward the Cardinals’ organization:

While Johnson insists that the enemies he is referring to is the hoard of Steelers’ fans in his own stadium, this ambiguous phrase feels synonymous with “snakes in the grass.” After all, a few weeks ago Johnson’s wife Meghan expressed her indignance with the Cardinals for the Cardinals, tweeting “In EIGHT football seasons… that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch. SO MUCH TALENT. On a bench. we love you @davidjohnson31.”

To which Johnson himself replied:

While Patrick Peterson is much more ostentatious than the normally soft-spoken David Johnson, they are both avid self-promoters. Just as one of Peterson’s main focuses is to impress the NFL All Pro and Hall of Fame voters, Johnson likewise tries to do the same for his Fantasy Football fans, who were understandably irate when Johnson was relegated to the bench.

Johnson can blame himself for that—-or not.

But what’s troubling about both of these players’ focuses is that they are catered toward personal success, rather than team success.

In my opinion, if Patrick Peterson, after he inked his 2nd contract, had dedicated himself to being a true leader on the field to the point of making sure tackles and giving the team a spark with an occasional breathtaking punt return, then it’s highly likely that Tyrann Mathieu would have never dogged it, nor would David Johnson have adopted a slower, more conservation approach to running the football.

In my opinion, it is too late at this point to see Peterson change his stripes.

But, it may not be too late for David Johnson.

Unlike Peterson and Mathieu who were never taken out of the games for dogging it, Kliff Kingsbury sent a strong message to Johnson and the team that anything less than 100% effort is unacceptable——and if your replacement is giving 100%, then you might not get your starting job back.

Just this week Johnson was full of praise for Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds and expressed him sheer excitement about Kingsbury’s new 3 RB formations. Hopefully, the next time he is given a blocking assignment in that formation he won’t glide right by the first defender. If Johnson puts great effort into his least favorite aspects of his job, unlike Peterson, he could actually emerge as a prolific leader.

The Cardinals need their best players to be a part of the solution and not the problem.

The Cardinals need some fresh leadership at the top of the organization, more than just what they are getting from Kliff Kingsbury because the days of players stealing from the Cardinals have to end, as in asap.

It would help too if the Cardinals’ media would stop coddling the star players—-and recently some of the media have—-which s a good harbinger for change.

When the stealing and double standards stop, and Arizona becomes one of the most exciting teams in the NFL, then their current players won’t have to read something like this again:

Quadruple ouch.

Enough already.