Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill fired coach Kliff Kingsbury Monday morning and accepted the resignation of general manager Steve Keim the same day. This, as you’ll recall, was less than a year after signing both to major extensions intended to keep them in red polo shirts longer than an entire election cycle.
Depending on the terms of these agreements, Bidwill will pay off these decisions over a period of time. The pressing question at the moment, though, is whether he’ll make Cardinals fans pay for them, too.
Here’s the thing about being an NFL owner that a lot of people don’t understand: If you want something, you can have something, as long as you’re willing to pay for it. If you want to be the Eagles this year, signing veteran free agents well into November to bolster a run to the No. 1 seed, just open your checkbook. You want to be Robert Kraft, equipping your club with whatever technology Bill Belichick stumbles upon during a visit with some of the military’s most cutting-edge experts? Cool, give up the credit card. If you want to be the 49ers, somehow roll into the playoffs in relative health, even though all your best players are professional headbangers, you know what it takes to assemble the medical and recovery team of your dreams.
If you want to make your fans pay for your mistakes and see your own organizational failures as the cost of doing business, that’s fine too. No one is going to stop you.
And it could happen in Arizona, which is in terrible shape at the moment. Take a look at the waiting list, like we did a few weeks ago, and try to make a case for an expedited processing time. It’s tough, but it’s not impossible. Pro Football Focus’ preseason rankings had the Cardinals in the high 20s, but that takes into account the contributions of JJ Watt, now retired, and veterans like Rodney Hudson, who played just four games this year before hitting injured reserve, and tight end Zach Ertz, who went on injured reserve just after Thanksgiving.
To make a worn analogy, the beams and columns that hold up this old house need to be replaced.
If money is no object, Bidwill can clear the decks and try to build the dream in Arizona. I’ve heard people say this year isn’t the deepest of coaching pools, and to that I say the pool is only as shallow as you want it to be. Not only is it an excellent list of young and talented first- and second-time candidates, but it is the outer reaches of one’s imagination.
I don’t care if David Shaw doesn’t want to coach again. Call him. I don’t care if Nick Saban is entrenched in Alabama, determined to eliminate the NIL so he can continue his one-man monopoly on the sport. Offer him such a ridiculous amount of money that he has to get on a plane. On the veteran side, there’s Sean Payton, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and Marvin Lewis. Throw some money around. Throw some weight around. Make some noise during the cycle.
When it comes to today’s head coaching and general manager market, don’t accept that the job is unattractive. Make it attractive. Get in the mix by offering more money, more resources, more bits of power. San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans looks great in red and can likely put these first round picks on defense to good use. The same can be said for Rams DC Raheem Morris, who, if not already the preferred internal candidate to replace a retired Sean McVay, would bring defensive expertise to Arizona and ties to a number of talented coaches around the league. Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen could put Kyler Murray to work after having success with Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts.
Of course, the Cardinals could choose a safer route. They can ride out the storm with the people they have in the building, which is a legitimate possibility. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph may get the full-time job. The tandem of Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson could stay and share general manager duties.
Bidwill could maintain a certain sense of comfort while sparing himself the expense of setting up an entirely new staff or making significant changes to the scouting department. Joseph has done a lot of work behind the scenes to make this Cardinals team functional over the last few years beyond just calling a defense. That way, he deserves a chance to wear the headset again after two years with the Broncos.
And if that’s the case, invest in Joseph. Invest in whoever gets this job. Don’t make the next candidate a new Steve Wilks, forced to wither through the smoke of past successes. Don’t make the fans even more cynical than they already are and think they are the ones who have to suffer just because Kingsbury and Keim haven’t worked out.