Cardinals need leaders who can create identity, develop Kyler Murray

After three head coaching hires in 10 years, Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell must finally land a coach and general manager tandem that is aligned, can establish a sustainable, winning culture and can get Kyler Murray to play to his full potential.

Bidwell announced Monday that Kliff Kingsbury had been relieved of his duties. The 43-year-old head coach had signed a contract extension through the 2027 season just 10 months ago. The team also announced that GM Steve Keim had resigned after walking away from the team due to health-related issues last month. Like Kingsbury, Keim signed an extension during the season through the 2027 season.

“We will live with the financial consequences,” Bidwell told reporters, when asked how he would handle the remaining years on Kingsbury and Keim’s contracts.

Cardinals fire HC Kliff Kingsbury, GM Steve Keim resigns

Cardinals fire HC Kliff Kingsbury, GM Steve Keim resigns

The Cardinals finished last in the NFC West at 4-13, prompting the changes. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe react to the news.

Bidwell said he has already interviewed two internal candidates for the general manager position in Cardinals vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris and vice president of pro personnel Adrian Wilson. The two took over Keim’s duties last month.

During his 10-year tenure as general manager, Keim had his share of swings and misses at the top of the draft board, including busting quarterback Josh Rosen, along with tepid production from recent rookies in safety Isaiah Simmons and linebacker Zaven Collins.

Keim traded Arizona’s 2022 first-round pick for receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who missed five games this season with injuries. The Cardinals have the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft.

Arizona could use some stability on the coaching front, having never had a head coach last more than six years at the helm in more than 100 years as a franchise.

“We’re going to cast the net far and wide and do it differently than we’ve done in the past,” Bidwell said of the search for a GM and head coach.

In addition to internal GM candidates, the Cardinals have also reportedly requested interviews with San Francisco 49ers director of pro personnel Ran Carthon and 49ers assistant general manager Adam Peters, along with Chicago Bears assistant GM Ian Cunningham and Tennessee Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort.

Bidwell is a member of the league’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. He said he prefers to hire a general manager first and then have that person help hire a new head coach. However, Bidwell did not rule out the possibility of hiring a head coach first.

Current Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is a potential candidate for the head coaching vacancy.

Who is to blame for Kliff Kingsbury’s failed tenure?

Who is to blame for Kliff Kingsbury's failed tenure?

Emmanuel Acho, Joy Taylor, LeSean McCoy and David Helman discuss who is to blame for Kliff Kingsbury’s flameout in Arizona.

The Cardinals reportedly intend to contact the New Orleans Saints for permission to interview former head coach Sean Payton. But hiring Payton would require draft compensation, and the cost financially could be more than the Cardinals are willing to spend, especially if they find themselves in a bidding war with other teams.

But landing someone like Payton is what Arizona needs. The Cardinals haven’t won a playoff game since 2015, the last time Arizona captured the NFC West. Payton has a Super Bowl win to his credit and is developing Drew Brees into a Hall of Fame-worthy quarterback. He could provide stability and structure for Murray to develop into an elite QB.

Finding a coach to get the most out of Murray should be near the top of Bidwell’s list, after signing the Oklahoma product to a five-year, $230 million extension last offseason. Murray underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee last week and is unlikely to be fully recovered by the start of the 2023 season.

“We want to make sure we have the culture in the locker room, the culture in our organization has really focused on maximum effort to make sure we do everything we can do to win the NFC West,” Bidwell said.

The owner said he has spoken to a handful of managers in the locker room to get their input on the general manager and coaching search. That group will include Murray.

Bidwell noted that early last season the Cardinals were 10-2 and one of the hottest teams in the league. Since then, Arizona has gone 5-18, including seven straight losses to finish the 2022 season.

“We were the hottest team in the league 13 months ago,” Bidwell said. “You’ve all seen it. There’s been teams that have been down a few years ago that have turned around and are now in the playoffs. So I feel like we can be a quick turnaround. We’ve got to get the right coach, the right general manager here. We can do it. We have a lot of talent on this team.”

Similar to what Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll accomplished with Russell Wilson, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh accomplished with Lamar Jackson or even Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves accomplished with Michael Vick over 20 years ago, Bidwell must find a experienced head coach who can get the most out of Murray for the Cardinals to reach their full potential.

“I don’t know that we’re as broken as people might think,” Bidwell said. “Our record is terrible. But when you look at the talent on this team, we have a lot of talent. We just have to make sure they all play together.”

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Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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