Background: Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill addresses the media after the team announced Kliff Kingsbury was relieved of his duties as head coach and General Manager Steve Keim’s decision to step down to focus on his health at the Arizona Cardinals Training Facility in Tempe on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. NFL Cardinals Afternoon Press Conference. Alex Gould/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK
We can debate whether or not Kliff Kingsbury deserved to be “calmed the eff down” for good yesterday by Michael Bidwill. Most Cardinals fans and pundits were overwhelmingly in favor of Bidwill pulling the plug on the head coach he gave a 5 year $37.5M fully guaranteed contract extension to back when Kyler Murray was trying to see what his options would be if he and his agent issued Bidwill a contract ultimatum in the form of a social media RANSOM NOTE.
Thanks to Tom Blogett (@sp_blodgett), here is the chronology of news-worthy occurrences that Kliff Kingsbury was faced with over the past 12 months:
NFL coaches hate distraction. Here’s a good example why: the 2022 Arizona Cardinals. Consider all of what has happened since the Cardinals lost their playoff game to the Rams last January (a thread): 1/— Tom Blodgett (@sp_blodgett) January 9, 2023
- Feb. 7: Kyler Murray scrubs his social media regarding the Cardinals without comment, setting off speculation on his unhappiness.
- Feb. 13: Report emerges that Murray refused to go back into the end of the Cardinals’ playoff loss.
- Feb. 28: Murray agent Erik Burkhardt releases a screed in all caps calling out Cardinals about Murray’s contract.
- March 2: GM Steve Keim, Coach Kliff Kingsbury get long extensions, making fans scratch their heads at the least.
- May 2: Six-game suspension announced for DeAndre Hopkins for violating league’s PED policy.
- May 23: Murray skips OTAs.
- May 30: Key free agent signing Jeff Gladney killed in auto accident.
- June 14: Rodney Hudson is absent from mini-camp, and Kingsbury says it is unexcused.
- July 25: It is revealed Murray’s new contract has a “study clause.”
- July 29: Cardinals remove study clause from Murray’s contract.
- Aug. 3: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown arrested for criminal speeding — 126 mph in a 60 mph zone.
- Aug. 4: Cardinals place RB coach James Saxon on administrative leave after it emerges he was charged with domestic battery. He later resigns.
- Aug. 27: Former second round pick Andy Isabella makes comments that suggest team held him back from developing.
- Sept. 2: CB Antonio Hamilton seriously burned in a cooking accident.
- Oct. 2: J.J. Watts reveals his heart had to be shocked back into rhythm earlier in the week because of atrial fibrillation.
- Oct. 4: Isabella waived.
- Nov. 14: Eno Benjamin abruptly released without explanation. It comes out later he was unhappy with lack of playing time in previous game and had a confrontation with an assistant coach,
- Nov. 23: OL coach and running game coordinator Sean Kugler fired after being accused of groping a woman in Mexico City. A couple weeks later, Kugler has announced hie is appealing his dismissal to the NFL, due to misinformation or a case of mistaken identity.
- Nov. 25: It comes out that former Saints coach Sean Payton has an interest in the Cards’ coaching job, along with Chargers, further turning up heat on Kingsbury.
- Nov. 30: Former Cards CB Patrick Peterson says on his podcast that Murray only cares about himself, prompting a response from Murray a day later.
- Dec. 14: Keim takes an indefinite leave of absence from team.
- Dec.23: Report suggests a fed-up Kingsbury may resign after season. Kingsbury refutes report.
- Dec. 28: No begrudging this, but Watt announces imminent retirement after season.
We can continue to debate whether Michael Bidwill should have signed Kyler Murray to a 5 year $230.5M contract with $189.5M guaranteed —- but at least the drama could have subsided after the contract was inked...except...
Imagine what this poison pill did to Kyler Murray’s morale heading into the season. Under these circumstances, is it any wonder why the level of Kyler’s play regressed? That is a question for anyone anyone who believes that a player’s morale and sense of well-being matters.
The truth is —- under these circumstances —- both Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury had no decent chance to succeed this season.
Imagine what it was like for Kliff Kingsbury:
- To try to win football games during a season that was was derailed by the poison pill that Bidwill himself put in Kyler Murray’s contract.
- To try to cope with the array of injuries that the team was amassing when his GM was often away from the premises.
- To lose two key games in part because of Steve Keim’s cost-saving contract for Matt Prater’s replacement while Prater was nursing a hip injury.
- For the second year in a row at the trading deadline, to see a division rival hit the jackpot to spring their teams into major Super Bowl contention, when his owner and GM did nada.
- To see his offense take the lead in the 4th quarter of three games down the stretch only to see his defense, sticking each time to soft zone coverages, on all three occasions give up game winning drives that left no time on the clock for the offense to counter.
- To get competitive performances from 4 different QBs over the last 8 games, and come away with only one win, despite four 4th quarter leads.
- To see yesterday that he and Michael Bidwill were scheduled to have their customary year-end meeting with media at 2 pm and then be pulled into Bidwill’s office for what Bidwill described as a “hard but very good conversation.”
- To hear Michael Bidwill repeatedly say the Cardinals were 12-2 last year. Talk about hyperbole.
- To hear Bidwill call him the hardest working head coach he has ever seen in all his years and then moments later hear Bidwill say how he is in close contact with Kyler Murray because he wants Kyler’s input on the coaching search.
Imagine that —- firing the hardest working person (ever) in the building and then currying favor with the player whom the owner felt required to have lack of effort and investment-related clauses included in his new $230.5M contract, via a study clause and a $10.5M off-season participation incentive.
Not only did Bidwill look unctuously smug and especially happy with himself during the entire press conference, he knew he was pleasing the fans to no end with this firing, just as he felt he was pleasing the fans to no end to fly in with Hollywood Brown on draft night and just as he aimed to make the fans ecstatic when he lavished Kyler Murray with the 2nd richest contract in NFL history.
Bidwill’s response to whether he feels a sense of urgency (with potentially 6-7 teams involved in their own searches) to make timely decisions on the GM and HC positions was “we are going to cast the widest possible net to find the best GM and the best coach.”
Translation: I am going to take my sweet time, as I always do, because this is the part of my job that I relish and savor the most.
Bidwill said he had already interviewed Adrian Wilson and Quentin Harris for the GM opening. Well then, how confident do you think Adrian Wilson or Quentin Harris are right now? And how are Wilson and Harris going to feel if Bidwill hires some young hotshot that he hobnobbed with at the league’s ‘meet and greet young GM candidates” session?
More potential drama and strained loyalties to come?.
So now that Kliff has been calmed the eff down for good, in the finale of HBO’s Hard Knocks In-Season for all the world to see, he gets to play the “fall guy” for the Cardinals woes this season,, while Bidwill gets to play the “courageous hero” who has rolled up his starched sleeves and is hard at work “casting the widest possible net. —— in much the full-circle way Bidwill wanted the fans and the world to know how wonderfully hard at work he was signing players at the beginning of this year’s first episode of Cardinals Flight Plan.
Bidwill has vowed, as he always does, to do his due diligence in performing extensive background checks on the candidates —— and when the candidates do the same on him, what do you think they are going to find? .
That Bidwill’s wide net is actually a snare?
Well, the one silver lining might be the allure of knowing that whenever Bidwill’s GM and HC have a 10+ win season, they are going to receive lavish, fully-guaranteed contract extensions which they can take to the Phoenix Savings Bank for years to come, whether they are given Bidwill’s blessings to stay in the net or get thrown back into the water.
After all, Bidwill likes people think he’s generously loyal, until he is not.
It’s the dubious manner in which Bidwill handles his employees —- that’s the issue here.
Giving a young head coach a handsome 5 year contract extension and then 10 months later “relieving him of his duties” is much like scheduling a customary “ owner with head coach” press conference and then sucker punching the coach, before showing up at the presser alone and looking terribly smug.
Thank you, Kliff.
Best wishes to you, Kliff. Thanks for keeping the playing hard right to the end under what Ron Wolfley called the worst set of calamities in one season that he's ever seen. If you wind up being the Patriots' OC, I will drive over to Gillette to cheer you on. https://t.co/bFKSiR1t0H— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) January 9, 2023
You deserved much better.
For fans, whom do you believe is most responsible for the team's demise this season?— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) January 5, 2023