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Playing the Swami in Arizona

Denver Broncos Introduce Peyton Manning Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

If you haven’t as of yet read Dan Bickley’s most recent op-ed (“Steve Keim’s failures as Cardinals GM costing Kingsbury, Murray”), you are in for quite a ride. Here is the text:

Bickley peers into his crystal ball and plays the role of the Swami here and offers the following potential “worst-case scenario” in 2020 for Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury:

“Know this: Someday in the near future, there will be a seismic shift in power. Kingsbury’s failures will be swift and spectacular, celebrated by defensive coordinators and traditionalists who love to scoff at college football. In a worst-case scenario, he will be the first head coach fired in 2020, at the hands of a new general manager in Arizona.”

ROTB members—-you have your own crystal balls—-don your Sultan hat and peer deeply into the crystal and tell us what YOU see!

After I perused Dan Bickley’s article this morning, I dusted off my own crystal ball—-and here is what I discerned:

First of all, Kliff Kingsbury is going to remain the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals for years to come. In my opinion, as I have been theorizing for months, Kliff Kingsbury is the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals thanks to conversations Michael Bidwill had with the Giants’ former GM Ernie Accorsi. As my theory goes, first Bidwill and Accorsi zeroed in on QB Kyler Murray as the game-changing player to take with the #1 pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Then, what followed was the discussion of what coach would be the best fit to groom QB Kyler Murray—-and seeing as Lincoln Riley was going to stay at Oklahoma, Bidwill and Accorsi pointed to Kliff Kingsbury as the best available fit.

What I am seeing akin to what Dan Bickley is forecasting is the Cardinals moving on from GM Steve Keim.

Bickley is technically incorrect, imo, when he says that the best decisions Keim made this off-season were hiring Kingsbury and drafting Murray. Here’s how Bickley put it:

“In times like this, it’s important to focus on what’s actually going wrong. I solemnly swear it’s not Kingsbury and it’s not Murray.

Both are rookies, young in dog years. Both need to get a lot better. Both need a little seasoning. Together, they represent an astounding gamble on the highest level of professional football, where the Cardinals bet the house on a rookie head coach, a rookie quarterback and an offense that’s never been proven in the NFL.

Alas, it was one of Keim’s few good moves.”

The thing is—-if my theory is correct, the hiring of Kingsbury and the drafting of Murray were not Keim’s moves.

Keim, after his roughest season as GM in 2018, was at Michael Bidwill’s mercy and therefore, he was happy to be retained and eager to try to carry out Michael Bidwill’s agenda..and this spared Bidwill from having to perform a clean sweep of GM and head coach following one of Bidwill’s darkest hours as President of the Arizona Cardinals.

Plus, Bidwill had gifted Keim with a surprise raise and contract extension in 2018. Thus, adding another GM’s salary to paying Keim’s and Wilks’ and all of Wilks’ staff members who were let go was a daunting financial burden.

However, if you still believe after firing Steve Wilks that Bidwill remained completely confident in Steve Keim—-think of it this way—-if Michael Bidwill fully entrusted the future of the franchise to Steve Keim, why then would he go outside of the organization to reach out to former GM Ernie Accorsi?

The biggest problems that have thus far come back to haunt Keim this year are (1) his dubious handling of the Josh Rosen trade—-where he basically tortured Rosen for three months and then didn’t have the decency to talk to Rosen after the trade; (2) the continued “band-aid” approach to trying to trot out a much improved offensive line; (3) the trading of T Korey Cunningham to the Patriots (of all teams) without having an immediate replacement on the roster; (4) and most recently spending close to $2.5M on veteran WR Michael Crabtree for what amounted to 3-4 weeks of work, before he became yet another one of Keim’s recently over-paid, grossly under-performing or oft-injured free agent failures.

But, most significantly, if Keim’s appointee for defensive coordinator, Vance Jospeh, doesn’t start showing his competence as the leader of the Cardinals’ defense, this would mean two years in a row that Keim has saddled his rookie head coach with a former head coach/coordinator who has done more to burden the new head coach than help him.

In three games this season, the Cardinals’ offense under Kingsbury and Murray—-which by the way has been pretty dang good and exciting, all rookie considerations applied—-has given the team 4 leads—-and the Cardinals defense promptly (the very next series) surrendered those leads all 4 times.

Plus, it hasn’t helped Kingsbury and Murray to be placed in the immediate holes the defense out them in versus the Lions and Ravens.

For a rookie head coach and rookie QB who are so eager to prove themselves and to bask in the joy of their very first well-earned victory, it is extremely disappointing that they have been continually playing from behind and have not had a single chance in three games to build on one of their 4 leads.

Steve Keim said back when Vance Joseph was hired that Kliff Kingsbury should and would be able to lean on Joseph. Keim said the same thing about Steve Wilks being able to lean on Mike McCoy. But, thus far with Joseph as it was with McCoy, Bill Withers must have been on vacation when the CD tracks of those “Lean on Me” songs were scheduled.

When I perused the title of Bickley’s article of “Keim costing Kingsbury and Murray,” the Vance Joseph situation was the first thing I thought of—-and I was surprised that Bickley made no mention of Keim’s hiring of Joseph.

Hopefully, Vance Jospeh quickly turns things around—-but, if he doesn’t—-imo, he will join Steve Keim as the first two dominos to fall.

Thus far, neither Joseph (scheme), nor Keim (personnel), have demonstrated any capacity whatsoever to come up with a competitive plan to cover tight ends.

If Joseph fails and both he and Keim are let go—-now that I am into the crystal ball—-the face that is emerging is that of the Rams’ Senior Personnel Executive, Brian Xanders (pictured above).

Xanders was the GM of the Broncos from 2009-2012 and thus was the principal architect of the Broncos’ foundation of talent that helped propel them to victory in Super Bowl 50.

Xanders drafted 6 Pro-Bowl players during his tenure: LB Von Miller, WR Demaryius Thomas, CB Chris Harris Jr., TE Julius Thomas, DT Malik Jackson, and OG Zane Beadles. He also acquired, signed or extended 8 Pro Bowl players: QB Peyton Manning (FA, 2012-15), SS Brian Dawkins (UFA, 2009-11), WR Brandon Lloyd (FA, 2009-11), RB Willis McGahee (FA, 2011), CB Champ Bailey (re-signed, 2011), DE Elvis Dumervil (re-signed, 2010), WR Brandon Marshall (re-signed, 2010), and OT Ryan Clady (1st round, 2008).

Imagine that—-re-signing your own good draft picks!

According to Xanders’ bio on Wikipedia, “during his tenure as the Broncos’ general manager, he engineered the personnel transformation where 90-percent of the team’s roster (55 of 61 players) were acquired through the draft, free agency or re-signed by the club.”

This is precisely what the Cardinals need—-a roster builder for the present and future—a vigilant, dedicated executive who makes it his ultimate goal to ensure that the incoming talent is developed and groomed—-and to create a culture where productive draft picks are rewarded and re-signed to second contracts.

It is not difficult to imagine that Brian Xanders would be very excited to inherit Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray and would view them as a promising a young HC/QB duo like Sean McVay and Jared Goff.

Xanders was a linebacker at Florida St. and has had the opportunity the last few years to watch a consummate pro at work in venerable defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Thus, Xanders is apt to make a wise decision as to whom the Cardinals’ appoint as the next defensive coordinator.

Yes, if Vance Joseph doesn’t cut it—-Brian Xanders is a name to watch.

Now it is your turn.

Go ahead—-peer into your crystal ball and tell us what you see.

Who among us is the most prescient Swami?