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Cardinals Evolving into First Class 21st C Franchise

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Kyler Murray Press Conference Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Background: Apr 26, 2019; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill (left) alongside quarterback Kyler Murray prior to being introduced to the media in a press conference at the Cardinals Training Facility after being drafted with the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas

The smartest thing Cardinals’ owner and team president, Michael Bidwill has done in his tenure as the leader of the franchise was to hit the reset button after the team’s dismal 2018 season.

Still reeling from what one could describe as the “BA Hangover”, Bidwill did what the best of leaders do in the midst of collective failures—-he shouldered the blame and he conceived of highly creative and gutsy measures in a full-bore attempt to alleviate the franchise of its current woes.

Here we are two years later and if you watched the newest episode of the Cardinals’ Flight Plan on YouTube, what you saw was a refreshing new two coats of paint over the once beer-stained walls of the organization.

One of the recurring criticisms of the Cardinals of the past was their oft-perceived anachronistic, behind-the-times ways—-not only in the manner in which the franchise did business, but often in the team’s decision to hire coaching retreads and sign over-the-hill free agents. On the surface, it may heave appeared as if the Cardinals were trying to improve their image by bringing in household names—-but so often the efforts turned out making the team look old and stuck too heavily in the past.

Over the past two years, Michael Bidwill has adopted a more aggressive and courageous approach in the manner in which he is conducting business (highlighted by hiring Kliff Kingsbury as head coach and drafting Kyler Murray to replace Josh Rosen as the franchise quarterback)—-and in the process—-Michael Bidwill has successfully brought the Cardinals into the 21st century, not only in the way in which the Cardinals run their day-to-day operations, but also in the refreshingly new age style of their offense.

In a very short time, the Cardinals have become extremely tech savvy. This year has proved that more than ever, not only in the way in which the Cardinals adapted to a “virtual” off-season, but in the innovative and meticulous way in which they are handling the COVID-19 protections for their players and staff.

The players have raved about the Cardinals’ protocols and have said to a man how safe and reassured they feel about the diligent and conscientious way the Cardinals training staff, led by head athletic trainer, Tom Reed, has tackled the challenge. Reed and his staff have taken advantage of every possible technological measure (even including social distancing monitors and plexiglass separators between lockers) in order to protect the players’ and their families’ safety.

Combine this with the personal touch Michael Bidwill continues to provide for the players, particularly in welcoming the team’s draft picks by making their signings of their first NFL contract a special and unforgettable moment. Clearly, Bidwill fully embraces what a dream-come-true achievement this is for the draftees.

Not only that, but the way in which Michael Bidwill and the team staff have embraced the Black Lives Matter movement, has galvanized the players into a cohesive team during an off-season that made such a thing nearly impossible.

One of the most salient moments of the Flight Plan episode was Bidwill declaring that as a former prosecutor who tried numerous homicide cases, the police brutality of black men and women “has to stop.”

Bidwill and Kliff Kingsbury encouraged the coaches and players to convene virtually in order to speak their minds. Plus. on this week’s Flight Plan Bidwill lauds the philanthropy of several of his players, most notably Corey Peters’ in the veteran’s promotion of literacy and BLM awareness at local schools (both on site and virtually). In fact, in this episode we learn that Bidwill has been working closely on the BLM movement with Peters and others for a couple of years now. Hmmm—-this is what it looks like to be ahead of the times.

On the tour of the Cardinals’ facilities this week—-there was, in my opinion, a notable change in the atmosphere. The once tangible aura of a country club complacency has been replaced by the excitingly professional vibrancy of a Fortune 500 building.

Like Corey Peters and his guest, Chandler Jones, talking to students about “accountability”, the current tenor of the day to day modus operandi at the Cardinals’ facility screams of the accountability that comes when the employees eagerly adopt a higher set of standards and a greater sense of purpose.

In past years—-it may have sounded coined or maudlin to hear a new high-profile Arizona Cardinal say to the media that he had “chills” putting on the Cardinals red, white and black uniform.

But, coming directly from the lips of DeAndre Hopkins this year—-it feels real.

This is what the exciting truth feels like.

This is what being ahead of the curve—-instead of perpetually stuck behind it—-feels like.