Steve Wilks

Terry McDonough Files Lawsuit Against Cardinals, Michael Bidwill

Former Cardinals employee Terry McDonough recently saw his arbitration case against the team and owner Michael Bidwill come to an end. After being awarded $3MM as a result of the Cardinals’ statement made against him last year stemming from his other allegations, the matter could now proceed in court.

McDonough has filed a lawsuit against the Cardinals, Bidwill, the third-party PR firm Counterpoint Strategies and others, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones notes. The suit comes in the wake of an NFL arbitrator ruling the team’s statement against him was “false and defamatory,” resulting in the awarding of punitive damages as well as awards for emotional distress and damages to McDonough’s reputation.

“We are aware of the complaint but have no additional comment as it is an active legal matter,” the Cardinals said in a response to the situation (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).

The arbitration case against Bidwill and the Cardinals did not result in damages owing to the team’s dismissal of McDonough in January 2023. That decision – which ended his 10-year run with the organization during which he served as a high-ranking executive – was argued by McDonough to be retribution for his stance against the usage of burner phones with then-suspended general manager Steve Keim and head coach Steve Wilks (among other allegations). The latter’s own legal situation appears to have a connection to this latest McDonough development.

Mike Jurecki of Arizona Football Daily reports McDonough is prepared to continue his legal action until Wilks succeeds in his involvement in the ongoing Brian Flores-led racial discrimination lawsuit. Wilks became a complainant in that case to argue for wrongful termination stemming from his dismissal after a single season at the helm of the Cardinals in 2018. Portions of the suit will be allowed to proceed in open court, but Wilks’ allegations will be tested in arbitration.

As Jurecki (who has reported other ex-Cardinals staffers received an award in addition to McDonough) notes, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell‘s mentor was Will McDonough. That could grant Terry McDonough, Will’s son, direct access to Goodell and thus help his chances of receiving further compensation from the Cardinals. In any event, this case along with that of Wilks will remain an off-field storyline for Arizona for the foreseeable future.

49ers Fire DC Steve Wilks

In the wake of San Francisco’s Super Bowl defeat, a major change has taken place on the sidelines. Head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Wednesday that defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has been fired.

The decision had not been made until today, Shanahan said in a conference call. He added (via NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo) that Wilks’ system did not align with what the team had used with its previous DCs. As a result, Wilks is out after one campaign in the Bay Area.

As expected, DeMeco Ryans was one of the top coaching candidates in the 2023 hiring cycle. His decision to take charge of the Texans created a vacancy at the defensive coordinator spot, as was the case previously when Robert Saleh was hired as head coach of the Jets. Wilks was brought in following his run as interim head coach of the Panthers, something which many viewed as being sufficient to earn him the full-time position.

Instead, Carolina went with Frank Reich for the job, leaving Wilks to search out a coordinator gig. Expectations were high when he joined the 49ers as Ryans’ replacement, given his experience as an NFL staffer including DC stints during his first Panthers tenure in 2017 and his time with the Browns in 2019. San Francisco’s defense – featuring one of the league’s most highly-regarded front sevens – managed to help bring the team to the Super Bowl, but the unit endured rough patches along the way.

In the regular season, the 49ers ranked in the top eight in both points and yards allowed. The team fared far better against the run than the pass, something which comes as little surprise given the injuries endured at the safety spot in particular. Things took a different turn in the postseason, however, when both the Packers and Lions put up strong numbers on the ground. The effort and attention to detail of Wilks’ unit was called into question leading up to the Super Bowl, including by the 54-year-old himself.

In Sunday’s title game, the Chiefs were held to just three points in the first half. San Francisco also registered an interception in the third quarter, but the team’s defense regressed in the late stages of the contest. On the final drive of regulation, a stop would have won the game, but Kansas City managed to kick the field goal which forced overtime. In the extra frame, the Chiefs’ first possession saw the team drive 75 yards for the winning touchdown. Kansas City finished the contest with 455 yards of offense.

Wilks interviewed for a pair of head coaching positions in this year’s cycle, but he did not emerge as a finalist for the Falcons’ or Chargers’ postings. A move to a new team as defensive coordinator is out of the question for 2024, as every DC spot has been filled in recent days and weeks. Wilks will move forward in search of a position coaching role or a return to the college ranks. He served as defensive coordinator at Missouri in 2021 before jumping back onto an NFL sideline the following year.

Shanahan noted (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle) that he will consider both internal and external candidates to replace Wilks. After going outside the organization last year, it will be interesting if he elects to choose an option more familiar with the scheme used during Saleh and Ryans’ tenures in the position. In any case, the 49ers will have a major vacancy to fill as they begin their offseason.

2024 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

After a crowded carousel previously stopped, the 49ers opened their defensive coordinator position. Here is how the NFC champions’ search looks:

Updated 3-2-24 (10:00am CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dave Ragone)

Buffalo Bills (Out: Ken Dorsey)

  • Joe Brady, interim offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (Bills): Hired
  • Thad Lewis, quarterbacks coach (Buccaneers): Interviewed

Carolina Panthers (Out: Thomas Brown)

  • Marcus Brady, senior offensive assistant (Eagles): Interview requested
  • Brad Idzik, wide receivers coach (Buccaneers): Hired

Chicago Bears (Out: Luke Getsy)

Cincinnati Bengals (Out: Brian Callahan)

  • Andy Dickerson, offensive line coach (Seahawks): To interview
  • Dan Pitcher, quarterbacks coach (Bengals): Promoted

Cleveland Browns (Out: Alex Van Pelt)

Las Vegas Raiders (Out: Mick Lombardi)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Kellen Moore)

New England Patriots (Out: Bill O’Brien)

New Orleans Saints (Out: Pete Carmichael)

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Brian Johnson)

  • Jerrod Johnson, quarterbacks coach (Texans): Interviewed
  • Kliff Kingsbury, senior offensive analyst (USC): Interviewed 1/23
  • Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator (Chargers): Hired

Pittsburgh Steelers (Out: Matt Canada)

Seattle Seahawks (Out: Shane Waldron)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Dave Canales)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Tim Kelly)

  • Nick Holz, passing game coordinator (Jaguars): Hired
  • Thad Lewis, quarterbacks coach (Buccaneers): Interviewed
  • Eric Studesville, associate head coach/running backs coach (Dolphins): Interview requested

Washington Commanders (Out: Eric Bieniemy)

  • Chip Kelly, former head coach (Eagles/49ers): On team’s radar
  • Kliff Kingsbury, senior offensive analyst (USC): Hired

Defensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Ryan Nielsen)

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Mike Macdonald)

  • Zach Orr, inside linebackers coach (Ravens): Promoted

Buffalo Bills

  • Bobby Babich, linebackers coach (Bills): Promoted
  • Mike Caldwell, former defensive coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed
  • Sean Desai, former defensive coordinator (Eagles): To interview

Chicago Bears (Out: Alan Williams)

  • Joe Barry, former defensive coordinator (Packers): To interview 1/27
  • Chris Harris, secondary coach (Titans): To interview
  • Eric Washington, assistant head coach/defensive line coach (Bills): Hired
  • Terrell Williams, assistant head coach/defensive line coach (Titans): To interview

Dallas Cowboys (Out: Dan Quinn)

Green Bay Packers (Out: Joe Barry)

Jacksonville Jaguars (Out: Mike Caldwell)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Derrick Ansley)

  • Jesse Minter, defensive coordinator (Michigan): Hired

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Raheem Morris)

Miami Dolphins (Out: Vic Fangio)

New England Patriots

  • DeMarcus Covington, defensive line coach (Patriots): Promoted
  • Michael Hodges, linebackers coach (Saints): To interview
  • Tem Lukabu, outside linebackers coach (Panthers): To interview
  • Christian Parker, defensive backs coach (Broncos): Interviewed

New York Giants (Out: Don Martindale)

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Sean Desai)

  • Mike Caldwell, former defensive coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed
  • Vic Fangio, former defensive coordinator (Dolphins): Hired
  • Ron Rivera, former head coach (Commanders): Interviewed 1/22

San Francisco 49ers (Out: Steve Wilks)

  • Gerald Alexander, safeties coach (Raiders): Interviewed 3/1
  • Daniel Bullocks, defensive backs coach (49ers): Interviewed 2/28
  • David Merritt, defensive backs coach (Chiefs): To interview
  • Nick Sorensen, defensive passing game specialist (49ers): Promoted
  • Brandon Staley, former head coach (Chargers): Interviewed

Seattle Seahawks (Out: Clint Hurtt)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Shane Bowen)

  • Brandon Lynch, cornerbacks coach (Browns): Interviewed 1/30
  • Dennard Wilson, defensive backs coach (Ravens): Hired

Washington Commanders (Out: Jack Del Rio)

  • Joe Cullen, defensive line coach (Chiefs): Considered a candidate
  • Joe Whitt, defensive backs coach (Cowboys): Hired

2024 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

The Commanders’ hire has wrapped this year’s cycle. Barring a team making an 11th-hour change, the 2024 HC carousel has come to a stop. The final breakdown produced five defensive coaches being hired compared to three with backgrounds on offense. Many teams are still searching for offensive and defensive coordinators, however.

Updated 2-1-24 (10:37am CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

New England Patriots

  • Jerod Mayo, linebackers coach (Patriots): Hired

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Falcons Send Out Seven HC Interview Requests

11:35am: A seventh name can be added to the Falcons’ growing list of targets. Texans OC Bobby Slowik has received an interview request, per SI’s Albert Breer. Slowik followed DeMeco Ryans from San Francisco to Houston this offseason, and 2023 has marked his first stint as a coordinator. His and the team’s success has landed the 36-year-old on the HC radar this offseason. The Panthers and Commanders have also submitted interview requests for Slowik.

10:13am: The Falcons have been connected to two high-profile coaches in recent days, but the team has yet to line up any interviews with interested candidates. That is set to change soon, as Atlanta has now sent out six interview requests.

[RELATED: Head Coaching Search Tracker]

The Falcons are looking to speak with Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, who adds Atlanta is also interested in Bengals OC Brian Callahan. In addition, Lions DC Aaron Glenn and Ravens defensive line coach/associate head coach Anthony Weaver are on the list of request recipients, colleague Ian Rapoport tweets. 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has also received a request, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Lastly, Atlanta has requested an interview with Rams DC Raheem Morris, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Johnson, as expected, has been one of the most sought-after candidates so far. In his second season at the helm of Detroit’s offense, the Lions have remained among the league’s most efficient teams on that side of the ball. The 37-year-old has been in the Motor City since 2019 and a coordinator only since 2022, but his relative lack of experience did not stop him from generating interest during last year’s hiring cycle. An aggressive Johnson pursuit is expected from the Panthers, but he is also on the radar of the Chargers and Commanders.

Callahan has likewise been connected to a number of openings this season after receiving interest last year. The Bengals fell short of expectations this season, and the offense struggled in a number of categories. Despite going much of the year without Joe Burrow, though, Cincinnati still managed to go 9-8 while finishing 16th in the league in scoring. Notably, each of the other candidates listed for the Falcons’ vacancy have a background on the defensive side of the ball.

That includes Glenn, whose unit has not matched Johnson’s in terms of effectiveness. Nevertheless, the former has received interest from the Chargers, Titans and Commanders so far. Weaver has served as a position coach during his three-year Ravens tenure, but he has held a coordinator role in the past, doing so with the Texans in 2020. Mentioned less frequently than fellow Baltimore staffers Todd Monken and Mike Macdonald, Weaver has nonetheless received an interview request from the Commanders in addition to today’s summons.

Wilks and Morris both have interim head coaching experience. The former finished off the season with the Panthers last year after Matt Rhule was fired. Wilks received support from several Panthers players to be retained on a full-time basis, but the team instead went in a different direction. That led him to San Francisco, where he has guided the 49ers’ defense to top-10 finishes in both points and yards allowed en route to securing the NFC’s top seed.

Morris, meanwhile, is an interesting name given his Falcons connection. The 47-year-old joined Atlanta in 2020 as an assistant head coach, later taking on the DC title in 2020. Midway through that season, Dan Quinn was fired and Morris finished the campaign as interim head coach. He has not received another opportunity to lead a staff since then, but his three-year coordinator run with the Rams has been well received and it has put him back on the HC radar this offseason.

After making the unsurprising move of dismissing Arthur Smith, the Falcons have been connected to both Jim Harbaugh and Bill Belichick. Links to the latter have continued in the wake of his long-rumored spilt with the Patriots having been confirmed. No Harbaugh or Belichick interviews have been lined up to date, of course, but the team will now have meetings with a host of other options as the Falcons look to take a step forward in 2024 and beyond.

Panthers, Chargers Request HC Interviews With Bengals’ Brian Callahan

JANUARY 9: Callahan will have a chance to meet with the Chargers as well. The Bolts requested an HC interview with the five-year Bengals OC, per Pelissero. Unlike the Panthers last year, the Chargers have not made their priorities clear in terms of coaching expertise. Callahan joins Ben Johnson, Todd Monken and OC Kellen Moore as offense-oriented coaches on the Bolts’ request list. Though, the team is interested in Jim Harbaugh. Moore interviewed for the job on Tuesday.

JANUARY 8: After firing Scott Fitterer earlier today, the Panthers have already started requesting general manager interviews. Apparently the organization isn’t wasting any time with their other major vacancy. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Panthers have requested an interview with Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan for their head coaching opening.

[RELATED: Panthers Request GM Interviews]

After being hired by the Bengals in 2019, Callahan’s offense would have a pair of underwhelming seasons before Joe Burrow took off in 2021. The Bengals offense ranked seventh in points in both 2021 and 2022, with the passing offense ranking top-10 in most categories between those two campaigns.

That performance earned him head coaching interviews in each of the past two offseasons. He was interviewed for the Broncos job in both 2022 and 2023, and he also earned interviews last offseason with the Cardinals and Colts. He got to the second round of interviews in Indy, an indication that he was on the brink of getting a HC gig.

The Bengals offense took a step back in 2023, although that was partly due to Burrow’s injury issues. That apparently hasn’t stopped the coordinator from generating head coaching interest, and he’s the first official candidate to replace Frank Reich (and interim fill-in Chris Tabor) in Carolina. While Callahan is the first definitive candidate, that hasn’t stopped pundits from speculating about other potential fits. We heard yesterday that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could be an option in Carolina if he’s let go in New England.

One coordinator who won’t get a look in Carolina is Steve Wilks, who guided the Panthers to a 6-6 record while filling in for the fired Matt Rhule in 2022. Wilks was a main candidate to take on the full-time gig in Carolina, but owner David Tepper ultimately opted for Reich. Wilks went on to become defensive coordinator in San Francisco, and he helped guide the 49ers defense to a number of top-10 marks this season.

Despite his continued success, Wilks won’t be considered for the job in Carolina. Per ESPN’s David Newton, Tepper “won’t put aside his pride and admit he made a mistake” during last year’s coaching carousel.

Chargers Request HC Interview With Steve Wilks, Ben Johnson, Aaron Glenn, Todd Monken

The NFL pushed back the HC carousel’s actual interviews this season, the in-person meetings at least. The league will delay onsite HC interviews until after the divisional round, but teams can still begin requesting meetings today. HC-needy clubs have gotten to work.

This now includes the Chargers, who sent an interview request to 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, according to’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo. The Bolts need to hire both a head coach and a GM, so plenty of moving parts — the biggest being Jim Harbaugh — are in place here. But Wilks is back on the HC radar after keeping the 49ers’ defense in high gear.

The Bolts are also interested in speaking with both the Lions’ top coordinators. Aaron Glenn and Ben Johnson received requests to meet about the Los Angeles job,’s Tom Pelissero tweets. Johnson, who has now collected requests from the Commanders and Panthers, has been on the Bolts’ radar for a bit. Mutual interest is believed to exist. Ravens OC Todd Monken is also on the Chargers’ radar, with Rapoport adding the recent college play-caller received a request about this job as well.

Last year, Wilks went toe-to-toe with Frank Reich for the Panthers’ HC position. After two interviews, David Tepper went with Reich. Tepper had been connected to wanting an offensive-minded coach, sending Wilks out the door after he went 6-6 as Carolina’s interim HC. Reich lasted 11 games, and the Panthers are back on the HC carousel. Tepper is not interested in bringing Wilks back this year, but the Chargers want to see if he makes sense for them. The 49ers, who have seen their past two DCs (Robert Saleh, DeMeco Ryans) become head coaches, rank third in scoring defense and fourth in defensive DVOA.

This represents quite the comeback for Monken, who had spent three years as Georgia’s OC after the 2019 Browns imploded. A one-and-done OC on the ill-fated Freddie Kitchens-centered staff, Monken — a former Buccaneers OC — rebuilt his value in Georgia, helping the Bulldogs to back-to-back national titles. He may have to beat out Harbaugh, whose Wolverines lost to the 2021 Bulldogs in the CFP semifinals, for the gig. Monken, however, has considerable momentum thanks to Lamar Jackson being on the cusp of his second MVP award. The Ravens rank in the top six in scoring and total offense, rebounding after 17th- and 19th-place finishes — albeit in seasons Jackson did not finish — in 2021 and ’22.

Johnson might be this year’s hottest HC candidate. Similar to Arthur Smith‘s stock in 2021, Johnson could end up receiving requests from the full lot of HC-seeking teams. While Smith is not the best name to bring up right now, Johnson joins the ex-Titans OC in being a two-year play-caller as an assistant. The Lions revived their offense after Dan Campbell handed Johnson the reins in 2022. Jared Goff ranked fifth in QBR last season. Although Goff took a step back this year, sitting 14th, the Lions won 12 games for just the second time in franchise history.

Johnson is 2-for-2 in top-five offensive finishes as a coordinator. It would surprise if he did not land a job during this cycle, and multiple offers could come his way. The Panthers loom for the ascending OC, a North Carolina native, but they are not exactly in a good place organizationally — and Johnson turned them down in 2023. The Chargers will have candidates eager to coach Justin Herbert; Harbaugh may well be among them.

Glenn interviewed with the Cardinals and Colts last year, but his unit’s performance does not match the Lions’ offense. The Lions have finished 31st, 28th and 23rd in scoring defense during Glenn’s three-year tenure, and he was rumored to be on the chopping block during the 2022 season. But Detroit crafted a turnaround that has carried over to this year. Glenn has also seen two of his DB pieces (C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley) suffer major injuries. That has not stopped both the Chargers and Commanders from reaching out about their HC vacancies.

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.

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 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.

Latest On Brian Flores Lawsuit

March has been dominated by the flurry of free agent moves taking place around the league, but it has also seen an important development in the ongoing lawsuit led by Brian Flores. The ex-Dolphins head coach saw mixed results in a ruling on the matter of arbitration being used to settle his claims against the league and a number of its teams.

A federal judge in Manhattan ruled that Flores can pursue his racial discrimination suit against the NFL and the Broncos, Giants and Texans in open court, as detailed by Larry Neumeister of the Associated Press. The NFL had attempted to keep the matter an internal one, and handle Flores’ claims through arbitration.

That will be the route taken to determine his case against the Dolphins, however. The same is also true of co-plaintiffs Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, who joined the suit last April. The latter two added complaints against the Cardinals and Titans, respectively, for decisions affecting them in the past. Wilks argued in the suit that Arizona hired him in 2018 as a “bridge coach” with no long-term prospects of retaining the position. Horton has alleged that Tennessee conducted a “sham” head coaching interview with him in 2016.

Per the judge’s ruling, Wilks’ and Horton’s claims (as well as Flores’ outstanding ones against the Dolphins) will be handled through arbitration owing to their respective contractual statuses at the time the alleged malpractices took place. In a statement, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league will “move promptly with arbitrations… and seek to dismiss the remaining claims.”

He added, however, that the NFL “recognize[s] there is more work to be done” on the matter of diversity and inclusion. The judge’s decision was based in part on her concern about the hiring practices in the league, and added that this case has shined “an unflattering spotlight” on the NFL in this regard. Flores, who drew head coaching interest from the Cardinals before being hired as defensive coordinator of the Vikings, is now clear to test most of his claims in front of a jury.

No decision has been announced regarding whether or not NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will personally oversee the arbitration cases. It is expected he will do so, although the judge also noted she will have the authority to review his findings if he does not delegate to another member of the league. With a path now cleared to have elements of this case heard in open court, it will remain a storyline to watch in the near future.