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The Michael and Scottie Era of Cardinals Football Part II

NFL: Player Headshots 2022 Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals’ concept of trying to draft a QB who could have a Michael Jordan kind of impact on the franchise most likely originated back in 2017 when Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said this about Deshaun Watson:

“He comes to every meeting prepared. That’s how you change things, you change the culture, through...for me it’s through discipline and recruiting, staffing and all that stuff. For them, it’s decision-making, it’s who you pick. And I’m just telling you: They pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan. I mean, I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, I’m just an old funky college coach, but Deshaun Watson is the best, by a long shot.”

At that time, Cardinals’ owner Michael Bidwill and GM Steve Keim were building a strong relationship with Dabo Swinney. Swinney invited Bidwill and Keim to attend their Fiesta Bowl practices —- and it was no secret that in 2017 the Cardinals were searching for their QBOF.

Bruce Arians recently claimed that the Cardinals’ top target in the 2017 NFL Draft was Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes. In retrospect, BA’s claim seems perfectly reasonable. But, if you go back and listen to how cynical BA was at the 2017 NFL Combine about college “system QBs in the spread” who have “never taken a direct snap from a center” it would appear very strongly that BA was referring to the likes of Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes.

Having spent a couple of days watching Deshaun Watson prepare for the Fiesta Bowl and then being in attendance at the game in which Watson led Clemson to a 31–0 rout of Ohio St. in the CFP semifinal while winning the Fiesta Bowl’s offensive MVP award, it is entirely likely that Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim were locking in on Watson as their top choice for QBOF.

The Cardinals’ interest in Watson had to be intensified after Clemson went on to defeat No. 1 Alabama 35-31 in the 2017 FBS Championship game, where Watson once again took home the game’s MVP award, posting this outstanding line: 36/56, 420 yards and 3 TDs versus the nation’s top ranked defense that featured such future NFL players as Reuben Foster, Rashaan Evans, Ryan Anderson, Jonathan Allen, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Daron Payne and Marlon Humphrey.

You might recal that Watson delivered the game winning TD pass to Hunter Renfro in the closing seconds of the game. It had all the feel of a Michael Jordan buzzer beater.

Sure, in the weeks afterward during the pre-draft process, Dabo Swinney’s warning to NFL teams that passing on Deshaun Watson would be like passing on Michael Jordan came across to many NFL pundits as utter hyperbole, conjured up by Watson’s over-zealous college coach —- but, Swinney’s notion was planted like a seed in minds on a number of NFL GMs. But, not all of them, that’s for sure.

The Chicago Bears weren’t buying it, as they traded a whole slew of picks to move up one spot from #3 to #2 to select Mitch Trubisky. Then, the Chiefs pulled off the miraculous trade up from pick #27 to #10 to a Bills organization that was not keen on drafting Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson —- which gave the Cardinals a chance to trade up from #13 to either #11 (Saints) or #12 (Browns) in order to select Deshaun Watson.

Like Langston Hughes asks, “What happens to a dream deferred?”

The Houston Texans swooped in one spot ahead of the Cardinals and were ecstatic to take Deshaun Watson off the board, jumping all the way up from pick #25 to #12.

“Or does it explode?”

The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans pulled off two of the greatest 1st round draft heists in NFL history, while the Cardinals were sitting on their hands.

We know that a year later, in 2018, all of the teams that were embarrassed by passing on Mahomes and Watson, went right to work trying to find their new rookie QB:

  • Browns (#1): Baker Mayfield
  • Jets (#3): Sam Darnold
  • Bills (#7): Josh Allen
  • Cardinals (#10): Josh Rosen* (giving up 1st, 3rd and 5th round picks to the Raiders)

Obviously, the Bills finally got things right. But, ironically, other than the Bills trade up to select Josh Allen, the Ravens pulled off one of the greatest 1st round draft heists in NFL history by trading up with the Eagles to pick #32 to sneak away with Lamar Jackson.

It has been my theory all along that after the Cardinals’ miserable 2018 season that Michael Bidwill, unconvinced that Josh Rosen was “the guy”, was still in search of his Michael Jordan type QBOF, which is precisely why he called Ernie Accorsi, “The QB Guy”, to ask him whether he felt the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray, despite his diminutive size, could be a meteoric force in the NFL.

Accorsi said yes.

The good news for the Arizona Cardinals was, when a team has the #1 pick in the NFL Draft, it doesn't not have to trade up.

Now, three years later, the Top Ten highest paid QBs in the NFL are:

  • 1. Aaron Rodgers (Packers): $50.3 million (3-year, $150.8 million contract)
  • 2. Russell Wilson (Broncos): $49 million (5-year, $245 million contract)
  • 3. Kyler Murray (Cardinals): $46.1 million (5-year, $230.5 million contract)
  • 4. Deshaun Watson (Browns): $46 million (5-year $230 million contract)
  • 5. Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs): $45 million (10-year $450 million contract)
  • 6. Josh Allen (Bills): $43 million (6-year $258 million contract)
  • 7. Derek Carr (Raiders): $40.47 million (3-year, $121.4 million contract)
  • T-8. Dak Prescott (Cowboys): $40 million (4-year, $160 million contract)
  • T-8. Matt Stafford (Rams): $40 million (4-year $160 million contract)
  • 10. Kirk Cousins (Vikings): $35 million (1-year $35 million contract)

As excellent as these QBs have played, none of them have won multiple Super Bowls. Rodgers, Wilson, Mahomes and Stafford have raised the Lombardi Trophy once.

Therefore, to liken any of these QBs to Michael Jordan would be supremely far-fetched, at this point.

The exception, of course, is Tom Brady, who, ironically, is currently counting $11.2M on the Bucs’ 2022 salary cap.

However, the point is, that Kyler Murray has made it his promise to “win multiple championships” in Arizona.

Kyler’s head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, who, as a college head coach in the Big XII, once said that if he had the #1 pick in the NFL Draft, he would take Kyler Murray. Kingsbury has since doubled down on Kyler by saying that “he is the only (starting) QB I want to coach,” asserting that “when Kyler is at his best, he is as good as it gets.”

The point is, the Cardinals believe, as Dabo Swinney did with Deshaun Watson, that Kyler Murray can deliver on his promise to win multiple championships —- which is the main reason why they are paying Kyler a half a million more than Watson is getting from the Browns.

The youngest QBs on the list above:

  • Kyler Murray —- 25
  • Josh Allen —- 26
  • Deshaun Watson —- turns 27 in 4 days
  • Patrick Mahomes —- turns 27 in 7 days

As a concept for trying to build a championship caliber team, the Cardinals believe that Kyler Murray is the QB to build their championship dreams around.

As for projecting Isaiah Simmons to having a Scottie Pippen type of impact on the Cardinals’ defense, that is not as far-fetched as it first may seem. Like Pippen, who at 6-8, 228 pounds, could smother any player at any position on the basketball court, Isaiah Simmons, at 6-3 5/8, 238 pounds, with his superior athleticism and 4.39 speed, can cover any eligible receiver on a football field, while stopping running backs in their tracks.

Dabo Swinney said of his consensus All-American and tinnier of the 2019 Butkus Award:

“He’s just unique. In a day and age of football where everybody is looking for the hybrid guy, to me, he’s the model of what you want to find. With Isaiah Simmons, you don’t have to settle, he’s going to go high. He’s going to be a great football player. He’s got character. He’s got work ethic. He knows how to compete. He loves to compete. He’s not a prima donna guy looking for a paycheck and ride off into the sunset. That guy likes to play. He’s going to be an awesome player at the next level. For people who don’t think that they’re crazy.”

In the 2020 NFL Draft the Cardinals were shocked to see that Isaiah Simmons was still on the board at #8. Rumors were that they were planning to select DT Derrick Brown, CB C.J.Henderson or T Tristan Wirfs (whom, per rumors, they were wanting to convert to G).

The Cardinals, like they did with Kyler Murray, dropped every other consideration, and took their mightiest swing for the fences when they selected Isaiah Simmons.

In back-to-back NFL drafts, the Cardinals selected two dynamic players to build their offense and defense around.

When Doug and Wolf invited Dabo Swinney to their radio show to get Swinney’s reaction to the Cardinals taking Simmons, Swinney called Simmons a football “Godzilla” and said, “He’s like a superstar. He’s a low-maintenance dude in a superstar body.”

While the comparison of Kyler Murray’s and Isaiah Simmons’ impact on the Cardinals’ chances to win championships to Michael Jordan’s and Scottie Pippen’s impact with the Bulls is hyperbolic...perhaps, for now, a more fitting toon-like comparison should be:

“The Road Runner and Godzilla.”

Year three of The Road Runner and Godzilla Era of Arizona Cardinals football officially begins this Sunday.

“Dreams come in a size too big so that we may grow into them.” — Josie Bisse

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”—Walt Disney

Note: if you wish to compete in the weekly ROTB “Pick 3” contest and missed seeing the article earlier in the week, you can make your picks here:

As of today, a little over 30 members have posted their Week 1 picks.

ROTB staff members are very much welcome to join the competition as well.

The winner at the end of the season will have his or her pick of one of these signature Arizona Cardinals miniature helmets:

or... this JUST IN: