clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cardinals: Years and Steps Behind

Arizona State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With Bruce Arians leading the team to three 10+ win seasons in a row from 2013-2015, things all began to unravel when Arians decided that building his own coaching tree amongst his hand picked cronies was of paramount importance.

One thing that the Cardinals are horrible at—-and the main reason why they simply cannot maintain a modicum of year to year success—-is foresight.

Example 1: how could the Cardinals possibly imagine building a dominant 34 defense passing the DC baton from Todd Bowles to James Bettcher (3 years into the league with no experience coordinating a defense)—-and somehow think along the way that they could readily replace Calais Campbell, who was in many ways the most valuable player (stalwart vs. both the run and pass) on the defense because he commanded regular double teams which kept virtually all of the linebackers clean.

Example 2: with Carson Palmer taking a yearly pounding, it was crystal clear that the Cardinals needed to draft their QBOF in 2017—-but the Cardinals sat by idly and watched the Chiefs and Texans leapfrog them in the draft to select Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson right from under their noses. This is why the Chiefs and Texans are once again heading to the playoffs, while the Cardinals are mired in last place in the NFC West and remain years and steps behind in the process.

Furthermore—-the Cardinals selected OLB Haason Reddick in the 1st round instead and then tried to convert him to ILB because Deone Bucannon, the 1st round safety the Cardinals converted to ILB, was coming off a subpar season and was still nursing a foot injury. With Calais Campbell now becoming a 1st Team All-Pro and DPOY candidate in Jacksonville, neither Reddick nor Buchanan would be able to be kept clean on their side of the defense.

Finally—-after three defensive coordinator changes in the past three years—-the current coaching staff has decided, you-know-what, let’s try Reddick on the edge where he thrived at Temple.

Example 3: With Bruce Arians’ and Carson Palmers’ sudden retirements in January of 2018 and with the cupboard still bare at QB, the logical forethought was to hire an offensive minded head coach who could hand pick his QBOF—-because this time—-the Cardinals HAD to take a QB in the 1st round. They had no other choice.

Instead, the Cardinals hired a defensive minded head coach in Steve Wilks and paired him with Mike McCoy at OC. When the QBs were getting scooped up in the 1st round, the Cardinals panicked (certainly feeling paranoid from getting leapfrogged the year before) and traded their 1st, 3rd and 5th round draft picks for QB Josh Rosen. However, strangely the plan was to sit Rosen for a year or two because they invested $20M in oft-injured QB Sam Bradford on a 1 year deal with a team option for year two—-which happened to coincide with McCoy’s two year contract. It appeared that, McCoy was hired more for Bradford than Rosen.

We know how those moves turned out.

Example 4: Agonized by booing home crowds and some of the worst football imaginable, Michael Bidwill sought advice outside of the organization from “The QB Guy” former Colts and Giants’ GM Ernie Accorsi—-and thanks to that conversation, Steve Wilks was fired with the thought of doing what the Cardinals should have done the year before—-hire an offensive-minded head coach who could hand pick his QB. In came Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. Out went Wilks and Rosen.

Despite seeking advice outside the organization, Michael Bidwill doubled down on Steve Keim as GM, lauding Keim for the first three years of his tenure and then later encouraging Keim to take the credit for drafting Kyler Murray.

However, how could any respectable GM coming off a season in which he gave up 3 draft picks to acquire Josh Rosen, in which he ponied up $20M to put the QB reins in the hands of Sam Bradford and in which he had to fire his hand picked choice for OC in McCoy by mid-October following the Broncos’ 45-10 lambasting of the Cardinals on national TV—-how could he possibly entertain the idea of giving up on Josh Rosen after one year?

This is why the Cardinals again lacked proper foresight—-because it no longer made sense for Steve Kieim to be the team’s GM while the team was erasing the chalk marks from many of the ill-advised moves Keim made himself.

So, Michael Bidwill tried to reassure all Cardinals fans of Steve Keim’s prowess as GM and even give him credit for the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury and the drafting of Kyler Murray when those two moves clearly were directed by Michael Bidwill.

What Bidwill asked Keim to do was to surround Kingsbury with an NFL coaching staff and help Kingsbury improve the roster via free agency and the draft.

Obviously, the most critical decision Steve Keim had to make was at defensive coordinator. This time around Keim HAD to get it right. This was the single one decision that was of utmost importance. With a good, highly competent DC in place, that would take a great deal of the pressure off of the rookie head coach.

Now—-it is important to add that because the Cardinals acted quickly in hiring Kingsbury, they were the 2nd team to fill its head coaching vacancy—-so Steve Keim had an ample pool of defensive coordinator candidates to choose from.

The caustic irony is that Keim turned once again to a Broncos’ castoff in ousted head coach Vance Jospeh. Yet, had Keim performed a more thorough process of vetting Jospeh, he would have found that Joseph had frustrated and alienated the Broncos’ front office, players and fans for not only his two losing seasons at the helm, but for the noticeable decline in the team’s supremely talented defense. After all, defense was supposed to be Vance Jospeh’s forte.

After hiring Vance Joseph, Steve Keim made a number of other dubious decisions where he was many days late and dollars too short in his handling of the Josh Rosen situation (and the eventual trade) and most recently in his handling of the Patrick Peterson situation where it has been widely rumored that Keim turned down a 2020 1st round pick from the Eagles (which currently is the #12 pick) for Peterson.

Jess Root of Cards Wire wrote an excellent piece today about the irony of how the Cardinals pass defense has actually gotten worse since Peterson returned 6 games ago.—-and is the worst pass defense in the NFL.

During the bye week, Steve Keim said, “VJ is doing the best he can with what he has.”

If Michael Bidwill had had the foresight to start the 2019 season afresh with a new GM and head coach—-when it was widely anticipated that he would—-then Bidwill and Kingsbury wouldn’t be in the horrendous pickle they are in right now.

How can Bidwill possibly stick with Keim in light of the preponderance of poor decisions Keim has made in recent years?

Here is a poll Burns and Gambo took on 98.7 a few days ago.

Burns and Gambo on 98.7

The #AZCardinals put out another unimpressive performance on defense in yesterday’s 34-7 loss to the Rams.

Who’s to blame for this season’s issues on defense?

26%—-Vance Joseph

50%—-Steve Keim

24%—-The players

1,980 votes

Yet, yesterday John Gambadoro made the statement: “If you’re Kliff, you don’t want a different GM.”

Gambo has an excellent point. Kliff is so new to NFL coaching that he has been relying heavily on Steve Keim—-so how could Kliff possibly advocate for a change at GM?

These are the kind of corners that dysfunctional organizations, ones that perpetually lack foresight, find themselves boxed into.

My feeling is this—-

Kudos to Michael Bidwill for bringing the Kliff and Kyler package to the Cardinals.

Bidwill had to swallow his pride and sacrifice a lot to make those key moves happen.

Keep going in that direction, MB. Call Ernie Accorsi again. Or whomever else you trust.

Getting the GM situation right is the next step.

Then getting the DC situation right is imperative.

The Cardinals need a bonanza of an off-season in free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft—-one that a fresh, diligent and charismatic GM could brilliantly orchestrate.

Kliff Kingsbury will easily adapt. He has chameleon-like qualities. Involve him in the interviews.

It will be awkward—-but hey—-Kingsbury handled the awkwardness of coaching Josh Rosen for a few weeks before the Day 2 draft trade—-and then following the trade, Kliff had the kindness to call Rosen to wish him well. Moments later, Kliff quickly focused his attention on Kyler and that was that.

Ergo, the sooner that Michael Bidwill and the Cardinals surround Kliff and Kyler with the best supporting cast—-the better.

The best way to get steps ahead—-is to take fewer steps behind.