Michael Bidwill

Steve Wilks Testifies That Cardinals Supplied Him With Burner Phone

Per ESPN’s Tisha Thompson, 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks was recently deposed as part of the arbitration claim that former Cardinals executive Terry McDonough filed against the Cardinals and owner Michael Bidwill. Wilks testified that, when he was Arizona’s head coach in 2018, the team — pursuant to orders from Bidwill and then-GM Steve Keim — gave him a burner phone in order to communicate with Keim during Keim’s suspension for extreme DUI.

“It was a directive from Keim as well as Bidwill,” Wilks said. “They both knew.”

Wilks went on to say that several top members of the club’s power structure were furnished with phones and instructions on how to use them. He testified that Keim had multiple phones, and that Bidwill and other execs communicated with Keim during the club’s contract negotiations with running back David Johnson. For his part, Wilks says that he used his burner phone only once, when Keim texted him to ask how things were going at practice.

Wilks’ testimony supports McDonough’s complaint, which alleges (among other things) that Bidwill sabotaged his former exec’s career in retaliation for McDonough’s objection to the plan to illegally communicate with Keim. As we detailed in April, the NFL would be forced to suspend Bidwill if it becomes clear that he engaged in the burner phone scheme. And, if some of McDonough’s other allegations are substantiated — for instance, he accuses Bidwill of treating a Black employee and two pregnant women poorly and creating “an environment of fear for minority employees” — Bidwill could face more significant repercussions. Indeed, McDonough argues that Bidwill’s conduct is “significantly worse” than that of Robert Sarver, the former owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns who was suspended by the NBA for a year and fined $10MM before ultimately selling the team.

Some addditional context is necessary here. As we also wrote in April, statements made by Cardinals PR consultant Jim McCarthy in response to McDonough’s claim may have created additional causes of action for McDonough that would allow him to take his fight to the public forum of a courthouse as opposed to the more sheltered arbitration setting, but it does not appear as if he has attempted to do so (at least not with respect to his claims against Bidwill and the Cardinals). His complaint remains in arbitration, which is conducted by an NFL-appointed arbitrator and generally weighted in the team’s favor.

Additionally, Wilks’ attorney did not permit cross-examination during his deposition, which was therefore not admitted into the record (though arbitrator Jeffrey Mishkin elected to keep the video and transcript of the deposition rather than destroy it, as Cardinals attorneys requested).

“As much as we would like to share the truth of what transpired, the confidentiality order in place prohibits us from doing so,” the Cardinals said in a statement to ESPN.

It is also worth noting that Wilks is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit alleging racial discrimination originally filed by former Dolphins head coach and current Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores. In that action, Wilks makes an allegation that could be a reference to the burner phone caper and further avers that he was wrongfully terminated after his one season as the Cardinals’ HC.

Wilks’ deposition testimony is, of course, consistent with the assertions he makes in his lawsuit. He said he did not want to communicate with Keim during the GM’s suspension, but as a first-year Black coach, he did not feel comfortable voicing his concerns to Bidwill directly. Instead, he asked McDonough to speak to Bidwill on his behalf, and he witnessed a “heated conversation” between McDonough and Bidwill shortly thereafter. From that point forward, Wilks says, the owner’s demeanor towards him changed.

Wilks also testified that, during his tenure as HC, Bidwill berated him multiple times. One such incident, he says, took place over speakerphone while Wilks was driving home with his nine-year-old son after a game. He added that Bidwill berated a scout who is Black for parking in the owner’s parking space.

The entire ESPN piece is well-worth a read for all NFL fans, and is naturally of particular interest to Cardinals supporters.

NFL Staff Notes: McDonough, NFLPA, Chiefs, Packers, Gruden, Philbin

It’s been nearly two months since former Cardinals executive Terry McDonough first filed an arbitration claim against team owner Michael Bidwill accusing Bidwill of cheating and gross misconduct. The claim specifically levied accusations of breach of contract, retaliation after engaging in protected activity, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and civil conspiracy. The Cardinals’ public relations consultant, Jim McCarthy, released a statement in return containing several personal attacks on McDonough.

The original complaint stemmed from a situation in which McDonough claims Bidwill had devised a plan for McDonough and then-head coach Steve Wilks to communicate with then-suspended general manager Steve Keim through burner phones. McDonough asserts that after voicing his concerns about the plan, he was written up for insubordination and, eventually, demoted.

McDonough has reportedly added more accusations in an amended arbitration complaint this week, accusing Bidwill and the Cardinals of defamation and invasion of privacy in response to McCarthy’s statement, according to ESPN’s Tisha Thompson. He called the statement “untrue and reprehensible,” and his wife, Lynette, called the statement “the most bizarre and dishonest thing that I have ever heard.” The new complaint also states that McDonough will prepare to pursue a civil complaint against McCarthy and his group, CounterPoint Strategies, for “grossly defamatory statements.”

The NFL recently selected Jeffrey Mishkin to arbitrate the employment dispute, according to another report from Thompson. Mishkin is the former chief legal officer for the NBA, leading the Association’s in-house legal department for seven years. He will determine the schedule of events, which are expected to last for several months.

Here are a few other rumors concerning staff positions in the NFL:

  • Earlier this month, Mike Florio of NBC Sports reported that the league’s Players Association was moving closer to selecting a new executive director. The final candidates are not yet known, but we’re not completely in the dark. Previously this year, The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan identified candidates Matt Schaub, the former quarterback, Kellen Winslow Sr., the former tight end, Teri Patterson Smith, the NFLPA chief operating officer, Don Davis, the NFLPA senior director of player affairs, George Atallah, the NFLPA assistant director of external affairs, and Dominique Foxworth, the former NFLPA president. A couple weeks ago, Jim Trotter, also of The Athletic, reported that no internal candidates made the cut, eliminating Smith, Davis, and Atallah. Foxworth is also expected to no longer be in consideration. Former wide receiver and former member of Congress Anthony Gonzalez has been mentioned but not confirmed as a candidate. The NFLPA is proceeding with the process with the utmost confidentiality and plan to bring it to a close sooner rather than later.
  • After previously participating in the Chiefs‘ Norma Hunt Training Camp Fellowship Program last year, Madison Aponte was hired on as a player personnel assistant. According to Neil Stratton of SucceedinFootball.com, while Aponte’s title hasn’t changed, she will continue acting as the team’s college scouting coordinator, a role she’s held since the start of the 2022 season.
  • Stratton reports another addition, this time by the Packers. According to Stratton, Green Bay has hired Joey Laine in the role of salary cap analyst. Laine was a longtime presence in the Saints’ building after working with the team for more than ten years. He eventually left, following Ryan Pace to Chicago and working as the Bears’ director of football administration for eight seasons.
  • Finally, two former NFL head coaches have taken minor roles with new teams this season. According to Jeff Duncan of nola.com, the Saints have brought in former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to assist in the integration of new quarterback Derek Carr in the Saints’ offense. Carr played his best statistical seasons under Gruden during their time together and Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael welcomed Gruden’s assistance with open arms. The second former head coach is former Dolphins’ skipper Joe Philbin who, according to Pete Thamel of ESPN, has been hired as an offensive analyst at Ohio State.

Latest On Terry McDonough’s Claims Against Cardinals, Michael Bidwill

Earlier this month, former Cardinals executive Terry McDonough filed an arbitration claim against the team and owner Michael Bidwill. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk details, the specific causes of action are breach of contract, retaliation after engaging in protected activity, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and civil conspiracy. In response, Cardinals PR consultant Jim McCarthy released a statement that has attracted widespread criticism.

The statement, which can be found here, levies a number of personal attacks against McDonough, including allegations that he engaged in “extreme domestic violence,” abandoned responsibility to one of his daughters by cutting her off financially, and made a practice of undermining fellow employees. Assuming those allegations — some of which, like his purported abdication of his parental duties, are seemingly unrelated to his duties with the Cardinals — are true, it is fair to wonder why Arizona would have employed him for the past 10 years (according to NBC Sports’ Peter King, McDonough was just dismissed earlier this year).

It would seem, as Florio suggests in a separate piece, that the more prudent course of action for the team would have been to simply deny the allegations and allow the arbitration process to play out. Claims like McDonough’s are resolved via internal channels that are generally weighted in the team’s favor, and the Cardinals’ response may prove to be an unnecessary measure that has, at best, resulted in bad optics for the franchise.

Per Daniel Wallach, legal analyst for The Athletic (Twitter thread), the statement may have also created additional causes of action for McDonough that would allow him to take his fight to the public forum of a courthouse as opposed to the more sheltered arbitration setting. Wallach suggests that the “extreme domestic violence” claim in particular could give rise to two separate torts: “false light invasion of privacy” and “public disclosure of private facts.” If McDonough chooses to file suit, the homefield advantages that Bidwill and the Cardinals enjoy in the league’s arbitration procedures would no longer be present.

As King writes, if it becomes clear throughout this impending saga that Bidwill, as McDonough alleges, supplied McDonough and former head coach Steve Wilks with burner phones to secretly communicate with then-suspended GM Steve Keim, then the NFL would be forced to suspend Bidwill. Interestingly, Wilks’ existing lawsuit against the Cardinals alleging racial discrimination included an averment that, “there is evidence of Mr. Keim’s input and participation during his so-called suspension” (via Florio). It is possible that Wilks’ allegation is a reference to the burner phone scheme, which would seem to corroborate McDonough’s claims. Arizona, meanwhile, does not deny that the burner phones were used; the team simply asserts that Bidwill acted swiftly to end the practice when he learned about it.

From a long-term perspective, the portions of McDonough’s filing that do not include burner phones could be more damaging to Bidwill if they are substantiated. McDonough accuses Bidwill of treating a Black employee and two pregnant women poorly and creating “an environment of fear for minority employees.” He avers that Bidwill is abusive and engages in widespread workplace misconduct, and he is not the only former staffer to make such a claim.

As Florio details, former Cardinals executive V.P. and COO Ron Minegar wrote a resignation letter to Bidwill in December 2019, one page of which was included in McDonough’s arbitration claim. In that letter, Minegar, like McDonough, asserted that Bidwill put an end to a review of the team’s workplace culture in 2019 when the early responses were largely unfavorable and cast Bidwill himself in a negative light.

Minegar wrote, “sadly, we learned that a majority of our employees are working in fear. There are several factors, but much of this was directed at you based on the poor interaction they’ve had with you. … What was your reaction when you saw the preliminary responses? Instead of leaning into it and trying to change things for the better, you shut the study down.”

He added, “I am sad for you and worried about you. You deserve to be happy, but you are miserable. You know it. The people around you feel it daily and it impacts them more than you understand.”

In 2022, Minegar sent an email to Bidwill in which he congratulated his former employer on the halftime tribute the team conducted in honor of Bidwill’s father. He took that opportunity to apologize to Bidwill for his part in the deterioration of the relationship between the two men, and said, “I wrote this very private note to Michael to ‘Make Amends’ as part of my program of sobriety which I have undertaken for the past 1000+ days.”

Minegar says that, for the first time since his resignation three years prior, Bidwill recently reached out to him, asking if he could use Minegar’s email in his response to McDonough’s claims. Minegar agreed, but only if the entire email and the entire resignation letter were publicized. Much to Minegar’s dismay, Bidwill did not oblige.

“Unfortunately, [Bidwill and McCarthy] opted to pick and choose segments of the letter in an attempt to put their position in a favorable light,” Minegar said. “I stand by the statements I made in my December 2019 letter and am willing to discuss with the involved parties as part of the NFL’s Arbitration Process.”

McDonough argues that Bidwill’s conduct is “significantly worse” than that of Robert Sarver, the former owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns who was suspended by the NBA for a year and fined $10MM before ultimately selling the team. It is obviously far too soon to consider whether the Wilks and McDonough actions will lead to a similar outcome for Bidwill, but the reports stemming from those disputes and Bidwill’s responses thereto do paint an unflattering picture of the owner and his club. Time will tell whether the Cardinals can reverse their on- and off-field fortunes under Bidwill’s stewardship.

Cardinals’ Terry McDonough Accuses Michael Bidwill Of Cheating, Gross Misconduct

Cardinals executive Terry McDonough filed an arbitration claim against Michael Bidwill, accusing the owner of cheating and gross misconduct. McDonough’s filing claims the owner sabotaged his career in retaliation for an objection to support a plan to illegally communicate with then-suspended GM Steve Keim, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports.

A former GM candidate, McDonough accuses Bidwill of hatching a scheme in which McDonough and then-head coach Steve Wilks would communicate with Keim using burner phones during the GM’s team-imposed suspension in 2018. The Cards suspended Keim after his extreme DUI arrest that year. McDonough’s claim indicates he and Wilks objected to Bidwill’s plan. Upon voicing concerns about the alleged plan, McDonough said Bidwill wrote him up for insubordination and later followed through with a demotion. The demotion occurred in 2019, according to Stewart Mandel, Kalyn Kahler and Mike Sando of The Athletic (subscription required).

A Cardinals exec for the past 10 years, McDonough was a finalist for the 49ers’ GM job that ended up going to John Lynch in 2017. He has hovered off the radar since but has been an NFL staffer for more than 30 years. The claim also accuses Bidwill of sabotaging Wilks’ first HC opportunity — which ended after one season, a 3-13 year in 2018 — and berating McDonough since he came forward with objections to the 2018 plan. Wilks, whom the Cardinals replaced with Kliff Kingsbury in 2019, joined Brian Floresclass-action discrimination lawsuit last year. Wilks alleged the Cardinals gave him little chance to succeed and “unfairly and discriminatorily” fired him at the end of the ’18 season.

The Cardinals, who have since replaced Keim after 10 seasons in the GM chair, have denied McDonough’s claims, calling them “outlandish.” McDonough is seeking damages for breach of contract and emotional distress.

Keim’s suspension, which ran from July to August of 2018, prevented him from communication with Cardinals personnel. The filing indicates McDonough and Wilks voiced objections to the plan July 23, 2018. McDonough and Wilks followed through with Bidwill’s alleged scheme and used the burner phones to talk with Keim. McDonough is still in possession of the burner phone, according to his claim, which includes a picture of the device.

Once the Cardinals’ VP of player personnel, McDonough is listed on the Cardinals’ website as a senior personnel executive. McDonough informed Bidwill in 2019 he recorded phone conversations between he and Keim during the GM’s suspension, according to The Athletic. The demotion to senior personnel executive, per the claim, occurred shortly after McDonough’s text to Bidwill regarding the Keim recordings. The demotion cut McDonough’s salary from $550K to $330K. In 2022, McDonough said he was demoted again — from seventh to ninth in command. The Cards had extended him back in 2017, but this relationship has gone south since.

When Keim took a leave of absence last year — a hiatus that led to his permanent departure from the team — Bidwill installed execs Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson as front office bosses in the interim. McDonough has alleged his refusal to go along with Bidwill’s plan led to career advancement opportunities disappearing. McDonough has not interviewed for a GM position since 2017; the claim also indicates Bidwill “bullied, belittled and criticized” McDonough in front of coaches and scouts during two meetings.

Regarding the phone scheme, the Cardinals denied Bidwill orchestrated it. The team said, via Schefter, another Cards exec “interfered with the protocol of that suspension” and credits the owner of directing the phones be retrieved and all communication with Keim stopped. McDonough’s filing also accuses Bidwill of treating a Black employee and two pregnant women poorly and creating “an environment of fear for minority employees.” Denying this claim as well, the Cardinals labeled it “a transparent smear that is truly beneath contempt.”

Under league rules, the Cardinals have 20 days to respond to McDonough’s filing. The NFL will handle the matter through its arbitration policy, per The Athletic. McDonough has been in the NFL since interning with the 49ers in 1989. He is the son of famed reporter Will McDonough, brother of ESPN play-by-play man Sean McDonough and former Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough.

Panthers Add Adrian Wilson To Front Office

Weeks after interviewing for the Cardinals’ general manager job, Adrian Wilson stood in limbo after the only organization he has worked for went with Monti Ossenfort. But the veteran staffer is relocating.

The Panthers are hiring Wilson as their vice president of player personnel, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Wilson finished his Cardinals tenure as their VP of pro personnel but has been with the team as a scout or personnel exec since 2015. As a player and exec, Wilson had spent 20 years with the Cardinals.

A longtime Cardinals safety, Wilson finished last season working alongside Quentin Harris atop the franchise’s front office hierarchy. The organization parted ways with longtime GM Steve Keim, despite authorizing a lengthy extension earlier in 2022, and placed Wilson and Harris as the interim front office bosses. Ossenfort has begun restructuring the front office, however, and one of Keim’s top lieutenants is on the move.

Ossenfort brought in Dave Sears as his assistant GM; Wilson will now become one of Scott Fitterer’s right-hand men. While Fitterer does not have a history with Wilson, new Panthers HC Frank Reich was on the Cardinals’ coaching staff during Wilson’s final season with the team (2012). This will also be a homecoming of sorts for Wilson, a High Point, N.C., native who played collegiately at North Carolina State.

Wilson confirmed (via Twitter) the Cardinals wanted him back as part of Ossenfort’s staff. He asked Michael Bidwill if he could pursue the Panthers job, and the owner signed off on the intra-NFC move. Wilson being under contract would have allowed the Cardinals to block the move, something the team could not have done were this a GM position.

The five-time Pro Bowler also interviewed for the other vacant GM job this offseason — Tennessee’s — but Ran Carthon secured that post. He met with the Giants last year and was on the Jaguars’ radar. Moving up the ladder, via the player personnel VP title, would stand to further the 43-year-old exec’s pursuit of a GM position.

Trade Cost Dissuaded Cardinals From Pursuing Sean Payton

Sean Payton was the top candidate on the head coaching market this year, and he drew considerable interest around the league while still being under contract with the Saints. The Cardinals interviewed him during their search, but he ultimately wound up in Denver.

Part of the reason for that was the trade compensation New Orleans was seeking for a hire to become possible. When speaking publicly on the topic, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill revealed that trade talks quickly left Arizona out of the running to acquire Payton, in light of their rebuilding effort.

“We spent a lot of time,” with Payton, Bidwill said, via Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper“The issues around coach Payton had nothing to do with the money, the compensation we would be paying him. It was all the compensation, the draft compensation to the Saints. We just weren’t willing to go with what the Saints wanted us to give up. It would have been too costly to the team for us to rebuild that roster. It was really a series of tradeoffs. I still felt like we got great coaches out there that can get this team turned around. I think we were right when you look at [Jonathan Gannon].

Denver sent New Orleans 2023 first- and 2024 second-round picks in exchange for Payton and a third-rounder in 2024. That came as little surprise, given reports early in the interviewing process that the two teams had the framework of an agreement in place. The Broncos’ willingness to part with a Day 1 selection is especially noteworthy considering the package they sent Seattle for Russell Wilson last offseason, and is obviously greater than what Bidwill deemed an appropriate price within his team’s circumstances.

The Cardinals turned their attention away from Payton towards a shortlist of finalists which included Gannon. The now-former Eagles defensive coordinator took the Arizona job not long after the Super Bowl, and has a pair of new coordinators on his staff to lead the franchise in a different direction after the Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim era came to an end after the regular season. The reputation the team took on during that span was one of the key reasons Payton ultimately headed to Denver.

“I think [Cardinals QB Kyler Murray] is extremely talented, and I think they have the same challenges there that we have in Denver,” Payton said after his Broncos hire became official. “They are very similar challenges. Culture in the building has to be better. It just does.”

Having passed on a Payton deal, the Cardinals now approach the new league year with roughly $14MM in cap space and four of the first 97 picks in the upcoming draft. How they use that capital in the coming months will go a long way in determining their success, and, to an extent, whether or not balking at the Saints’ trade demands was the right call.

Cardinals Request GM Interviews With Ian Cunningham, Ran Carthon, Adam Peters, Monti Ossenfort

It was announced not long after the Kliff Kingsbury firing that the Cardinals would also be in need of a new general manager. Steve Keim has permanently stepped away from the team due to health-related reasons, meaning Arizona joins Tennessee as the only NFL clubs currently in need of a new leader in their front office.

Keim took an indefinite leave of absence in December, and it was reported days later that he and the team were expected to part ways. With that move now having been made official, the franchise is currently operating with vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris and vice president of pro personnel Adrian Wilson filing in on an interim basis.

Each of them has already been interviewed for the full-time position, though, owner Michael Bidwill said on Monday. He added that his preference would be to have a new GM in place prior to the team’s next head coaching hire, but that the opposite order would also not be an issue (Twitter link via team reporter Darren Urban). External candidates have begun to emerge alongside Harris and Wilson.

One of those is Bears assistant GM Ian Cunningham, who has had received a formal interview request from the Cardinals, per CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (on Twitter). He has also drawn the attention of the Titans in the early goings of their GM search, a testament to his continued rise through the ranks of various NFL front office positions during his career.

Cunningham began with the Ravens in 2013 as a scout, translating his time there into a move to Philadelphia in 2017. Over the course of his time with the Eagles, he worked his way up to the title of player personnel director. Most recently, he was hired by the Bears last January in another promotion, this time to assistant general manager.

In addition to Cunningham, the Cardinals wish to meet with Ran Carthon and Adam Peters, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets. Those two hold the titles of director of pro personnel and AGM, respectively, with the 49ers. Like Cunningham, they too have caught the eye of the Titans for their general manager vacancy. Carthon, 41, has served in his current role since 2017 after spending time in the front office with the Falcons and Rams.

Monti Ossenfort is also on the Cardinals’ radar, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Ossenfort, a longtime Patriots exec who has been with the Titans since 2020, saw the team elevate Ryan Cowden to its interim GM post in the wake of Jon Robinson‘s firing. Interviewing for GM roles in the past, Ossenfort serves as Tennessee’s director of player personnel. Given the Cowden development and the Titans’ changing of the guard, it will be interesting to see if Ossenfort remains on staff ahead of the 2023 season.

Peters, meanwhile, has been an NFL executive for two decades, beginning with the Patriots and later, the Broncos. He joined the 49ers in 2017, working his way up from VP of player personnel to the assistant GM title last year. He was a finalist for the Giants’ GM job last winter, which ultimately went to Joe Schoen.

Seeking their first GM in a decade, the Cardinals will have plenty of options to consider before making a hire. On the head coach side of the situation, quarterback Kyler Murray will be involved in the search for Kingsbury’s successor (Twitter link via Johnny Venerable of the PHNX Cardinals Podcast). That could add a interesting element to Arizona’s offseason, one which will be busy in light of today’s events.

Latest On Kliff Kingsbury’s Future With Cardinals

The Cardinals are about to miss the playoffs for the third time in four seasons under Kliff Kingsbury, leading to natural questions about the head coach’s future in Arizona. Multiple team sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Josh Weinfuss that they could see a path where owner Michael Bidwill will give his head coach another year at the helm, “due in part to injuries ravaging the roster and a personnel department in flux.”

On the flip side, Fowler and Weinfuss detail an increasingly ugly situation in the locker room, especially between Kingsbury and star quarterback Kyler Murray. While the QB was recently lost for the season with a torn ACL, the relationship between the duo had “grown increasingly distant” throughout the 2022 campaign, with Kingsbury described as “extremely frustrated” with his signal caller. In particular, the HC was wary of Murray’s “negativity” and his ability to influence others in the building.

The Murray-Kingsbury dynamic dates back a decade when the coach tried to recruit the QB out of high school. However, the two have gone periods this season without interaction, with one source saying the relationship seems “particularly bad this year.” As a result, passing game coordinator Cam Turner was forced to serve as a buffer between the two prior to Murray’s injury.

While sources say the relationship between Kingsbury and Bidwill hasn’t been without tension, the owner still may be willing to give his head coach the benefit of the doubt. Sources said Kingsbury hasn’t necessarily been given the resources to succeed, and the constant offensive injuries has left the head coach “miserable” since he can’t run his preferred system.

“He knows that it’s not a situation that lends itself to him being happy and successful and at his best for that organization, which he wants to be,” a source said. “They won’t let him. They won’t let him be great.”

A source told ESPN that Kingsbury wanted to fire offensive line coach/run game coordinator Sean Kugler long before he was dismissed for an incident in Mexico City. While the coach had already “lost opportunities to contribute to offensive planning,” it was believed that Bidwill didn’t want to fire Kugler and eat his contract, with Kingsbury supporters pointing to this anecdote as proof of the coach’s limited control in Arizona.

On the flip side, while the owner still meets with the head coach before and after games, the organization generally holds Kingsbury responsible for the W/L record. Ultimately, the Cardinals are 28-34-1 in Kingsbury’s three-plus seasons with the organization, with only a single playoff loss to show for their efforts. Kingsbury still has five years left on his contract, and the organization inked Murray to a $230MM extension prior to the 2022 campaign.

Latest On Kyler Murray’s Contract Status

After drama started to build around the Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray, the team seemed to make it clear they plan on extending him. Today, his agent made a strong statement putting pressure on the team to make that new deal their top priority (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). 

[Related: Cards’ Owner Bidwill On Kyler Murray]

“Kyler wants to be direct with loyal Arizona Cardinals fans and the great community of the Valley in stating his two very important goals and objectives”, it begins, listing those two goals as remaining the Cardinals’ QB long-term, and winning a Super Bowl with the team. It stresses that “achieving both goals will take incredible commitment from himself and the entire organization”.

It further states that Murray’s camp has sent “a detailed contract proposal to the organization” which “provides financial protection, is in-line with the current QB market that compares his results alongside relevant comps, lowers his 2022-23 salary-cap number to allow the Cardinals to re-sign other deserving teammates and add additional free agents, and, most importantly, represents a real commitment from the organization”.

The move publicly puts the ball in the organization’s court, stating that “actions speak much louder than words in this volatile business”, a reference to owner Michael Bidwill recently saying the team has had “good conversations” with the 24-year-old and is eyeing the summer as a time to hammer out a new deal. However, the statement reads, “words and hypothetical contractual promises are regularly dismissed“, further pushing for a new pact to be offered as soon as possible.

The statement concludes that Murray “remains hopeful that the organization chooses to commitsomething they can do as early as the new league year in mid-March. As Bidwill noted in his recent comments, however, recent mega-deals with emerging QBs like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen were both signed in the summer, after free agency and the draft had passed. Whether the club opts to stick to that kind of timeline – or, alternatively, let him play out the fourth and potentially fifth years of his rookie deal, not unlike the Ravens and Lamar Jackson – will be even more of a key offseason storyline after this.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero notes that Murray is due roughly 5.5MM this season (video link). He states, however, that he doesn’t expect Murray to play at that figure in 2022. Overall, then, this situation is set to remain one of the most important in the upcoming QB market.

Cardinals Owner Michael Bidwill On HC Kliff Kingsbury

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill touched on a number of key topics during a Friday radio interview, including rumors of acrimony between the team and QB Kyler Murray. In addition to his affirmation that Murray remains in the Cards’ long-term plans and that he has had “good conversations non-stop” with his star signal-caller, Bidwill also discussed head coach Kliff Kingsbury‘s future in the desert.

“I look at the college coaches who have made the transition from college to the pros and the ones that are successful, and Kliff is [successful],” Bidwill said (via Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network). Throughout the interview, Bidwill reiterated that Kingsbury has a “bright future” and gave no indication that he is on a short leash.

Wilson, though, says that the 42-year-old HC is on “something of a hot seat” heading into 2022. If true, that would be due to Arizona’s late-season swoon that culminated in an ugly wildcard round loss to the eventual-Super Bowl champion Rams.

Indeed, we heard in early December that an extension for Kingsbury was one of the Cardinals’ top offseason priorities, but that report surfaced at a time when Arizona was sitting at 9-2. The team would go on to lose five of its final seven games, including the playoff defeat, which added to the narrative that Kingsbury is unable to make necessary in-season adjustments. As Wilson notes, Kingsbury’s teams at both the collegiate and professional levels have a 42-20-1 record in the first seven games of a season but are just 17-45 from the eighth game forward.

Bidwill ascribed the Cardinals’ stumbles down the stretch of the 2021 campaign primarily to the injuries sustained by Murray and top wideout DeAndre Hopkins. “I think [the struggles are] a combination of things, certainly (Hopkins’) impact on the field and off the field is huge,” Bidwill said. “And losing him from not only a football Xs and Os standpoint, but also from an emotional standpoint was big.”

He added, “Kyler got injured for three games. He certainly, before the injury, was playing at the top of his game, and then he came back. I think having a healthy Kyler Murray is always better than Kyler coming off of an injury. This team has a bright future and I’m excited about it, especially knowing those guys are coming back 100 percent.”

Kingsbury’s contract expires at the end of the 2022 season, though Arizona holds a team option for 2023. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals will explore an extension in the coming months, or if they wait to see if Kingsbury can overcome his reputation as a fast starter but slow finisher (as well as the concerns that have been expressed about his play-calling acumen).

At least publicly, Bidwill is confident in his HC’s abilities. “I feel like (Kingsbury’s) had an adjustment period. Had a few years to adjust and I feel like he’s going to get better and better because I feel like he understands the pro rules and the pro game and the pro speed and everything else much better than he did a couple of years ago,” Bidwill said. “[W]e’ve got a bright future together. Kliff, Kyler, [general manager] Steve [Keim], all of us have to make great contributions as we go forward. I know they have a great relationship.”