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Cardinals’ Flight Plan and Pat’s Peeve

Indianapolis Colts v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

In this week’s edition of the Cardinals’ Flight Plan “Card Core” video, owner Michael Bidwill from the get-go wanted Cardinals’ fans, coaches and players to know how busy he is orchestrating the team’s off-season agenda.

In the first scene Bidwill was filmed at his desk on the top floor of the Cardinals’ facility working the phone to set up his meetings for the day. One has to wonder whether this video clip came on the morning of the day that, per Kyle Odegard, Bidwill conducted a meeting with Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury to vent his emotions as to how the Cardinals’ once promising season came to such a calamitous conclusion.

Bidwill first wanted everyone to know that he and Kyler Murray have been talking on a regular basis and their chats have been amicable and productive. Which begs the question —- why then does Kyler’s continue to put the word out to the national media that the Cardinals have made no attempts to negotiate Kyler’s contract extension and that Kyler likely has no intention of playing another snap for the Cardinals without the extension. Of course, most recently that includes Kyler’s decision to work out on his own and not with his teammates during the Cardinals’ OTAs.

Secondly, Bidwill wanted to give us an inside look into his contract signing ceremonies, which this time included a video tour of how far the players have to walk up into the upper reaches of the facility in order to sign on the dotted lines. On a couple of occasions, in-house free agents mentioned how they had never been in that part of the building before.

Michael Bidwill clearly relishes this part of his job, not only to rejoice with the players in the signing of new contracts, but to, in his words, have the opportunity to “get to know the players better.” Bidwill is dang good at this. He’s affable and displays his charm with natural ebullience. During James Conner’s signing, with Conner’s family seated at the table, Bidwill asked James’ mother if she ever envisioned her son becoming a star in the NFL. James’ mom responded by saying she was too busy raising her kids to look beyond getting them to the next practice or cooking them their next meal. It was one of the most poignant and enlightening moments of the episode.

Then the camera shifted over to Steve Keim’s office where he was watching tape of a prospect. Keim reminded fans how it is his job “to make the difficult decisions.” This was a segue into Keim’s parting ode to Chandler Jones, whom Keim thanked for being such a gregarious teammate who made every practice lively and fun, but could flip the switch on game day to become one of the most dominant pass rushers in the game.

For those fans who took note earlier in the off-season when during Michael Bidwill’s sole brief interview on Arizona Sports radio he said how the team “would love to resign Chandler Jones” and that, per custom, he was going to hand the business of that “over to Steve”, most of us knew at the time, apparently including Chandler, that the Cardinals had no intention of re-signing Chandler Jones. More on this when we get to “Pat’s Peeve.”

In this video, what occurred to me more than ever before, was how Michael Bidwill relishes the idea of him being the “good cop” to Steve being the “bad cop.” Keim was quick to mention how he needs to be “thick skinned to sit in his chair.”

Thirdly, what Michael Bidwill wanted fans to know is that he is not discouraged too much by what happened at the end of the season last year and that he remains as hopeful as ever in the team’s potential to fly to new heights.

Fourthly, for Cardinals’ fans who have been supremely frustrated with the Kyler Murray situation and the Cardinals lack of splash outside free agent signings, Bidwill went to the extent of informing us of his off-season strategy which was not to sign any free agents who were asking for more that $10M a year, in favor of waiting until after the NFL Draft to then have Steve Keim sign the next James Conner or two. Bidwill offered a statistic on how well free agents who get more than $10M a year fare with their new teams and according to him the percentages were very low —- like in the teens.

My frustration with Michael Bidwill is how significant communications like this one come too infrequently and typically too late. Imagine the consternation that he could have saved us fans if he had informed us of the team’s off-season philosophy from the get-go. He might have saved all of us hundreds fruitless twitter searches over the past month or so.

I wonder if Michael Bidwill takes the time to understand what it is like for the team’s own fans to be on the roller coaster of emotions that comes with our commitment to the team. For example, the disparity of seeing the Rams go out and sign WR Allen Robinson and LB Bobby Wager in comparison to the Cardinals re-signing WR A.J. Green and outside free agent LB Nick Vigil. It’s not a knock per se on Green and Vigil, because are solid players who hopefully will turn in productive seasons this year. But, there is a star factor involved here and a ”go for it” mentality that is not lost on the fans.

Perhaps Michael Bidwill could understand what Cardinals’ fans are apt to think in the first week of OTAs when they view videos like this:

For Cardinals’ fans like myself this kind of truth, as explained by Adam Shein, hurts.

What is very interesting about the “Card Core” Flight Plan video is how Bidwill included clips of Kyler Murray’s most benevolent moment of the off-season when he donated $20,000 to to local youth organizations and then provided a clip of Murray’s most awkward moment of the off-season where he tried to convince the Arizona media that his social media scrubbings were, as any “24 year old kid” knows, something that happens all the time —- which was a prelude to confirming that “I am an Arizona Cardinals and I have always given my all to this organization and will continue to do so, and I am not worried about my future as an Arizona Cardinal.”

Curious that the posting of this Flight Plan episode came a day after Kyler Murray elected to be a no show at the Cardinals OTAs.

I came away from this video thinking that Bidwill included Kyler’s charity work and Kyler’s only face to face comments to the media this off-season as potential reference points —- that could work either way, if Kyler were to stay, or try to force his way out. We did not see or hear Michael Bidwill double down on how much he “loves Kyler” nor did we hear him give any indication of how he was going to address Kyler’s situation.

That being said, the portions of the video that were most inspiring were the clips of Zach Ertz, James Conner, Dennis Gardeck and Maxx Williams signing their new multi-year contracts. That, and watching J.J. Watt make his charismatic presence felt in the community. It was a comforting reminder of how Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury have shifted the roster building philosophy to improving the team’s leadership and physicality.

I believe that this new, more specific approach to roster building is why the Cardinals jumped out to a 10-2 start. The hard part was losing J.J. Watt and Maxx Williams, the two toughness exemplars on each side of the ball. But, the more and more the Cardinals stick to this philosophy of building a brotherhood of ballers, the more that the old “country club” culture of the Cardinals past is fading away.

The Cardinals culture was a topic of discussion on the internet yesterday, as two former Cardinals, Patrick Peterson and Chase Edmonds agreed that the Cardinals “haven’t done enough to surround Kyler Murray” with the kind of winning culture he deserves. They assert that “Kyler wants to win” and he’s not going to “sit around and wait for it to happen” in Arizona.

There is a lot to say about Pat’s peeve with the Cardinals —- but at this point I jwant to point out that over the past couple of years the Cardinals have surrounded Kyler Murray with All-Pro and/or Pro Bowl caliber talent in WR DeAndre Hopkins, C Rodney Hudson, TE Zach Ertz, RB James Conner, G Justin Pugh, T D.J. Humphries, DE J.J. Watt, OLB Chandler Jones, S Budda Baker, S Jalen Thompson and K Matt Prater, while drafting stud college players like Isaiah Simmons, Zaven Collins and Rondale Moore.

All of these players, except Chandler Jones, are returning the Cardinals and I believe that they want to win just as badly as any players in the NFL.

Peterson cites the Cardinals’ not electing to re-sign Chandler Jones as one of the major reasons why the Cardinals are not doing enough to help Kyler win. Yes, of course, Chandler Jones is going to be missed. But, Chandler’s production dropped off the last two years and he still wanted to be paid as one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL. He got his wish in Las Vegas. That’s very good for him and i am excited for him.

This past season, the Cardinals stuck with Chandler when they had an easy way out of the last year of Chandler’s contract which would have added $15.5M of cap space.. They stayed committed to him, even though he asked to be traded. However, like the team, Chandler started out strong, but faded down the stretch.

As for the other player Peterson mentioned, Calais Campbell, in retrospect, Peterson has a point, because the Cardinals’ 34 has not be quite the same since Campbell left for Jacksonville in 2017. But, the irony is, at the time, the Cardinals elected to pour their money into Chandler Jones instead, as they didn’t think they could afford both Jones and Campbell, certainly not at the lucrative salary the Jaguars offered Campbell. The Cardinals also thought they had drafted a potential replacement for Campbell in Robert Nkemdiche, which, alas, did not work out. But, there was a plan in place.

The fact is —- these days the Cardinals are not going to take a 1st round flier on a player like Robert Nkemdiche, because he does not completely fit the Cardinals’ criteria.

It is no wonder, then, why Michael Bidwill wants to see Kyler Murray do a better job of checking the leadership box before committing long-term to him. This is now the Cardinals’ modus operandi.

If anyone wants to know about the Cardinals’ new culture, this 2022 team is planning to be the most physical Cardinals team ever. Look at the players the Cardinals elected to re-sign. All of them are physical dynamos. Then take it a step further. When you watch the game films of CB Jeff Gladney, G Will Hernandez and TE Stephen Anderson, all of these welcomed additions bring an impressive physical component to their games.

Michael Bidwill has high hopes for this team, He believes his new approach to roster building will manifest itself in the Cardinals’ more physical style of play and a far stronger culture in the facility.

As they now prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft, which is a week from today, the Cardinals have been building their draft profiles and rankings specifically with leadership and physicality as the two most important boxes for prospects to check. As anyone who watches NFC West games knows, those are games for slobberknockers.

What did you think about the video? What jumped out to you?