First of all, if you haven’t yet seen Cardinals Flight Plan...
You’re in for a treat. It’s a behind-the-scenes look from their media department at the team’s progress and process. It gives a view rarely seen into the operations of an NFL organization.
The series encapsulated the fresh new start of the 2018 Arizona Cardinals following the retirement of Bruce Arians, to the hiring of Steve Wilks, signing of Sam Bradford and drafting of Josh Rosen.
And now? With Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray entering year two (adding one key piece to the puzzle in DeAndre Hopkins), the series has been there to cover it every step of the way. Including now with the Coronavirus outbreak that’s put not just the sports world but the entire world on hold.
So before doing anything else...be sure to watch the latest episode below:
Got all that? Good.
Let’s go over some takeaways:
#1. 0:00 The tonal quality understood the seriousness of the coronavirus situation from the beginning
Most Cardinals’ Flight Plan episodes go in chronological order, explaining context and showing items as they happen, laying out a story like it would happen in real time. This helps craft the narrative of a season.
However...with the current times, a stark contrast by opening with a somber Larry Fitzgerald walking through an empty training facility. Fitzgerald knows what it’s like to lose a mother, and his father’s at a high risk age.
There’s people who’ve lost loved ones. And there’s no replacing that, even if football is an escape.
And one thing we want to recommend here at Revenge of the Birds is for those who can and are willing to donate to the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund here if you can, or use the Cards Carry Out to ensure that great locally-owned restaurants are able to keep local eateries, jobs and businesses open.
#2. 2:20 The Cardinals’ brass’s camaraderie is on point...unlike Kliff Kingsbury’s interior decorating skills
It’s a little different seeing the Cardinals brass with an NFL owner, NFL head coach and GM doing the one thing that seemingly become a shared experience now: an online video-conference with other co-workers and ribbing someone over their background of choice.
Michael Bidwill immediately logging on with the quip “Kliff I love what you’ve done with your walls” was easily the best line of the episode.
As the life-long bachelor who himself said he hadn’t yet met a woman he’d leave the game of football for, clearly, had nothing but white blank space behind him like almost any other bachelor you’d know without someone helping them spruce it up, (As I type this I have one painting and one old photo of Wrigley Field as the sole decorations demonstrating that I know this to be true).
The ensuing laughter reminds me that at around this time a year ago, things weren’t quite the same. While I don’t think “tension” is the right word there was definitely a bit of unease around the Cardinals brass given that Arizona ended up moving off of the quarterback that Steve Keim had traded up for just one season ago to take another one. Something that couldn’t have been popular and as the Cardinals admitted, certainly wasn’t an easy or quick decision. The fact that Kyler and Kliff proved themselves well last year and the former won the Rookie of the Year award seems to have gotten the big three decision-makers onto much more of the same page.
Trust has to be earned and it seems very much like Kliff, Keim and Bidwill have all gained that with one another, which is good news for Arizona moving forward.
#3. 4:30 Area Scouts are a different breed from your average internet scout...and yet somehow still the same ol’ sports fan
It was a fun segment seeing a few of the Cardinals’ area scouts bantering back and forth at the Senior Bowl over guys they liked, what traits they saw “guy catching above the rim” or complimenting blocking.
The difference from your average Joe fan being that...their job isn’t to watch NFL football games every Sunday but scout HUNDREDS of players in the collegiate ranks, and with many of them having worked up from high school or colleges, often there will be players they’ll know of since they were 16 to players who came out of nowhere transferring in from a D-III school.
And that means that they don’t get to watch the cream of the crop every day. Rather, their goal is to find the needles in the haystack. When getting the chance to watch a Senior Bowl in which the best collegiate players in the country were performing on one field in practice, it was EASY to hear the joy in their voices.
While an NFL GM will be critical and aim for flaws, scouts can find positive traits given that most of the time the players they’ll be evaluating ARE from the best of the best.
It’s something different than we normally think about, and the relationship of the back and forth banter isn’t unlike something you might read about in some comments of Youtube highlights or hear in a sports bar.
Just a different level to it. (Notable how they complimented the size of this receiver class and maybe we can piece a few things together...)
Their discussion of players talking about some of them could have meant OSU WR K.J. Hill or ND’s Chase Claypool, (Van Jefferson as well) but I’d put my money on it being WR Denzel Mims who was the most exciting wide receiver prospect that week. For the one who might have “taken the crown?” Could have been an offensive lineman like Ben Bartch or Matt Hennesy who rose up after holding his own despite being from a small school...which would explain the “newbie” comment that was made.
Oh and one other thing that might be interesting. The “little guy” I at first thought might have been Eno Benjamin (and maybe it was) but the other smallest player there on the South team was Ke’ShawnVaughn out of Vanderbilt so those might be names to watch on Day 3...assuming it was the RB in the video they were talking about (it isn’t always).
One such “little guy” this year was WR Devin Duvernay, a slot WR who is related to Kyler Murray, runs a 4.3 and set records at Texas for receiving.
4. 8:30 The Combine meetings...in retrospect, are more important than ever
It was more “business as usual” for Kliff Kingsbury this year it seemed, and despite the new changes the Combine went off without a hitch. But with less interviews it was indeed a very different sort of experience for teams and there is a lot less face-to-face than a normal draft process.
For those wondering, there’s open lists online or twitter searching available to know who the Cardinals met with at the combine, and, as you’d expect it was with a lot of the top 10 prospects. Here’s the list in order below, as checked from the NFL Combine website:
- WR K.J. Hamler
- WR Jerry Jeudy
- CB Jaylon Johnson
- LB Kenneth Murray (this was obvious from his background of his mom as a police officer and father as a pastor...google his story sometime if you can)
- UPDATED: TE Adam Trautman (previously said DE Kenny Willekes)
- OT Mekhi Becton
- OL Tristan Wirfs
- LB Isaiah Simmons
- CB Jeff Okudah
- LB/DE Darrell Taylor
- WR CeeDee Lamb
Quite the list there! I’d expect that at least one of the names on here very well could be in Cardinal red by the end of this next weekend. Also I couldn’t help but notice one particular reaction near the end...
Find someone who looks at hou the way Cards WR coach David Raih looks at CeeDee Lamb (I would be in the same boat) pic.twitter.com/9J4TArlvnh— Blake Allen Murphy @ (@blakemurphy7) April 17, 2020
5. 22:00 Props to Steve Keim for publicly shouting out the Cardinals’ IT team that’s helped them prepare for a unique NFL Draft & Kliff donating blood
Keim bringing out the old player draft cards to stick onto a grease board (versus a digital screen version) is a fun bit of nostalgia.
But these guys are often only the ones who get called if there’s an issue or a problem, and rarely are known beyond that. Not just offering up a thanks to “the IT team” but putting guys’ names into the video is a classy move by the General manager.
Likewise, seeing Kliff Kingsbury wearing a medical mask for protection while donating blood is something that was inspiring after the Cardinals put forth a valiant effort and, while it was definitely safe, in a time like this the effort has no small merit.
I hope that the recipient of said blood doesn’t immediately start tending toward wearing sockless shoes with Oakley shades, that being said...a little humor there.
So that’s it!
Oh did I forget something?
Mmmm...can’t think of anything important that happened for the Cardinals in the last few months....oh wait.
Mood pic.twitter.com/H25PryMKzE— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) March 16, 2020
While there was very little behind the scenes action due to the Coronavirus it was fun seeing the reactions as one of the best WR’s in the game, if not the best, was acquired by the Cards in a crazy good trade. It was wild that this start of free agency AND the Larry Fitzgerald/Michael Bidwill commercial were shot on the same day just hours before it began. What a wild time.
Since the above-mentioned situation is still ongoing it was a bit strange to not only not see him but to also see Devon Kennard’s interview over Zoom without nearby cameras and the nearby pop-up interview booth in a possible stairwell/alcove for Michael Bidwill.
All in all, seeing this level of hard work despite the challenges was rewarding to fans. And while the draft coverage will be perhaps JUST as bizarre...given that:
A) No big fan party
B) Everything done over video conferencing w/out as much media access given that it’s a draft war-room
C) Players will be “virtually” at the draft without a commissioner handshake
...I kinda can’t wait to see what the Cards’ creative team comes up with to capture the moment.
And I’m sure you can’t either. Let’s all hope football comes back as quickly and safely as possible.