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Wilks, Bidwill wait on Fitz like everyone else

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2018 – 2:44 pm

New coach Steve Wilks said Tuesday he had a conversation with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but the wide receiver has not indicated to him one way or the other if Fitzgerald was planning on playing in 2018. Wilks made it clear it was important to him — and the Cardinals — that Fitz return.

“We would definitely love to have him back,” Wilks said. “He’s a major part of our success, past, present and future. First ballot Hall of Famer, so we’d definitely want him back.”

Team president Michael Bidwill, who has said before he had no interest in speculating — or even speculating on the speculation — was asked what his gut told him about what Fitzgerald might do.

“My gut says everyone needs to relax, let Fitz go through his process, and give him a few weeks to make his decision,” Bidwill said. “He’ll let us know.”


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In the wake of Steve Wilks arrival

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2018 – 3:44 pm

The wait is over, and even with all the talk/speculation about potential assistant coaches hung up working in the playoffs, the Cardinals, Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim went with a man whose team was sent home a couple of weeks ago — Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

This comes with all the caveats, the same ones that show up with every head coach. We won’t know what this means on the field until September at the earliest. Even in the case of Bruce Arians, when the Cards stumbled around for half a season, it took a minute for things to settle in. And as we all know, Wilks’ first year will be dictated in part by a quarterback that we not yet know. Well, we might know of him, we just don’t know if which one will be the Cardinals’ guy.

All that said, in my brief interaction with Wilks today, you can see why he can command a room. Michael Bidwill said recently that in the second round of interviews, usually someone stands out, and I can see why that would have been Wilks. We will see how his staff builds out. But now, the offseason feels like it can officially get started.

— No official word yet on assistants, but there has been some speculation. Jason LaCanfora reported that the Cards will have former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in for an interview. Bevell interviewed for the Cardinals’ vacant head coaching job in 2013 that went to Arians and is a product of Scottsdale Chaparral High School. Meanwhile, LaCanfora said Panthers offensive line coach Ray Brown (who began a long NFL playing career with three years as a Cardinal) could be coming to Arizona, with Joe Person saying Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb could be as well.

One thing to remember about all the assistant coach talk and speculation is that while some names will accurately land on staff, others won’t, for various reasons. It always plays out like that.

— There are some Cardinals assistants still under contract that Wilks will undoubtedly sort through over the next couple of days. I know many are asking, but there is nothing yet about what might happen with defensive coordinator James Bettcher.

— Speaking of defense, yes, Wilks ran a 4-3 in Carolina. The personnel he has inherited is for a 3-4 base. Something is going to have to change, although do not forget that the vast majority of defensive snaps these days are spent in packages that usually include extra defensive backs. And when the Cards rush in obvious passing situations, they line up with four up front anyway.

— I’m thinking it’s too early to know what the impact of Wilks is on Larry Fitzgerald’s decision. I’d think he’d want to know who the offensive staff will be first.

— The Wilks press conference is Tuesday at noon, and it’ll be streamed live on azcardinals.com. (Thanks to the Panthers for the pic.)


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Seeking QB without QB is new for Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on January 11, 2018 – 4:55 pm

Michael Bidwill mentioned the other day — after Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer had announced their retirements — that the Cardinals didn’t have a coach or a quarterback in 2013 for a time, and that worked out OK. So being without both right now is not a concern. The coach situation will be sorted out sooner rather than later, and then comes the QB. What exactly will happen is TBD, in part based on whoever the coach will be. Besides, a shift in QBs (with Palmer’s retirement) is often coming with a new coach.

The Cards were looking for a new QB in 2013 as Bidwill noted, but unlike now when the non-Palmer QBs all have expiring contracts — Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Barkley — the Cards actually did have quarterbacks they could have kept in 2013 when Arians arrived. They actually had four as free agency began.

Kevin Kolb, beat up as he was, was due a big contract. John Skelton was still around, as was Ryan Lindley, and the Cardinals even extended a tender offer to restricted free agent Brian Hoyer for 2013. When Stanton signed as a free agent the second day that was possible, the Cards basically had four QBs. A couple of days later, the team let Kolb go. When Hoyer finally signed his tender offer on April 1, the team released Skelton. Palmer arrived the next day in trade. Hoyer was later released in mid-May. Lindley stuck around as the third QB that season.

There is much more up in the air right now. There is no pat hand to play, unless one or more of the FAs-to-be get an extension — which could happen. There were at least placeholders back in 2013, had the Cards not found what they wanted.


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Coach patience, and the dates of hire

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2018 – 11:41 am

Michael Bidwill said he isn’t in any rush to hire a new coach, nor did he want to be. It’s not so much about going slow as much as not speeding into the wrong decision. Since I started covering the Cardinals full-time (at the time, the Tribune) back in 2000, this will be the fifth head-coaching hire. Vince Tobin was in place when I got the beat covering the team. He didn’t even last until mid-season before he was let go and Dave McGinnis was made interim boss. Here are the dates on which the hires of the four previous head coaches were official:

— McGinnis, Dec. 19, 2000 (He had the interim tag removed before season’s end.)

— Dennis Green, Jan. 7, 2004

— Ken Whisenhunt, Jan. 14, 2007

— Bruce Arians, Jan. 17, 2013

Every search is different, obviously. Of that list, only Arians was coming off a staff that had made the playoffs — and the Colts had lost Wild Card weekend — so they were all available fairly quickly. Of the current list of coaches the Cardinals have talked to, most (as of today) are still in the playoffs, and it’s possible the desired choice will remain in the postseason beyond this weekend. One interesting date to consider coming up: Senior Bowl week begins Jan. 22. Will there be Cardinals’ coaches there, or just scouts?


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Talking coaches, roster and a podcast

Posted by Darren Urban on January 4, 2018 – 3:18 pm

The Cardinals will be conducting coaching interviews on the road over the next few days as they move toward finding a new football boss. When it comes to the idea that Michael Bidwill pointed out yesterday — that he wanted potential coaches to have a chance to visit Arizona and the team’s Tempe facility and interact with staff — I don’t think we are talking about every single person. My guess is that you’d have to have caught the Cardinals’ eye. If the initial interview doesn’t intrigue Bidwill or GM Steve Keim, I don’t see it going further necessarily. But we will see. It’s always an interesting time of year when a potential coach could end up being busy into February if his team makes it to the Super Bowl, and then having his “new” team having to wait it out. Could that be the Cards?

— My annual roster breakdown can be found right here. It gives the contract status of virtually everyone, so yes, it includes who will be free agents in March.

— Our weekly Cardinals Underground podcast is right here. I believe it’s always a good listen with myself, Kyle Odegard and Paul Calvisi (so if you can, get in the habit of checking us out, assuming you don’t already.) This week’s episode has a special treat at the end: A “Best of Bruce Arians” soundbites montage put together by Jim Omohundro. It was certainly an interesting five years.


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Bidwill to take part in NFL social justice meeting

Posted by Darren Urban on December 13, 2017 – 4:59 pm

For much of the season, the NFL and its players have been trying to work towards support to players’ concerns about social issues and create a social justice partnership/initiative. Recently, the league agreed to donate $90 million while teaming with players toward those goals. With owners meetings currently underway, ESPN’s Jim Trotter reported the tentative working groups for the initial social justice meeting between the league and the players will have a decidedly Cardinals flavor.

Among the players and former players expected to take part are three ex-Cardinals: Anquan Boldin (who, along with Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, has been at the forefront of this work from the players’ side), Josh McCown and Aeneas Williams (who was tapped by the city of Ferguson to help heal that area after the unrest there in 2014.)

On the owners’ side, one of the representatives is Cardinals president Michael Bidwill. This too is not a surprise. Current Cardinals have been pleased with how engaged Bidwill has been with them this season on this subject. It is obviously a hot-button topic this year with the NFL and many fans, and working toward results — rather than rhetoric — is important.


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Keim: Peterson trade example of a “swing”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 16, 2017 – 8:25 am

Steve Keim had looked at all options when David Johnson first got hurt, and that included research on Adrian Peterson. But the push to trade for the veteran running back didn’t come until last week, when Keim said he “picked up the phone and it worked out pretty quickly.”

The “why” of the deal wasn’t complicated.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “At the end of the day, it made us better. The one thing I am committed to do as the General Manager, and I know Michael (Bidwill) and B.A. (Bruce Arians) is committed to do, we’re not going to sit on our hands if we think we can get better.

“It doesn’t mean we always make the right decisions. I’ve certainly made my mistakes here. But the one thing I’m going to do is I’m going to swing. To me, you can never hit a home run if you don’t step up to the plate and swing. I owe it to the organization, I owe it to the fan base, and that’s the mindset I’m always going to have.”

It was interesting to hear Keim, who mentioned at least a couple of times the “mistakes” he has made as a GM. And as good as Peterson was Sunday, he wasn’t proclaiming the move the end-all-be-all.

“Hopefully it would add a spark to the offense,” was Keim’s thought process. “More than anything, I think we created balance.”

It also helped morale, Keim said.

“It was about igniting a spark and creating an enthusiasm throughout the building, which was infectious the moment we did it on Tuesday,” Keim said.

— Keim said he thought what was overlooked Sunday was the return of the left side of the offensive line. It was going to be difficult, Keim reiterated, no matter who the running back was with all the injuries. Earl Watford already looks like he’ll settle in at right guard, but it was left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone who showed what impact they could have.

“For the first time this year, we saw five guys up front playing in unison,” Keim said. “I thought D.J. was excellent. We’ve always know he can run block. His ability to roll his hips and finish at the point of attack is something to me that sets him apart from a lot of other tackles. He and Alex on several of those ‘deuce’ blocks created five- and six-yards of run lanes for Adrian.”

Keim also praised the perimeter blocking of the wide receivers that helped Peterson.

— Keim said there was a lot of discussion with team president Bidwill about Peterson, both on and off the field (including, it stands to reason, the year-long suspension Peterson had after child abuse accusations.) Keim said as with every player, the decision-makers talk through every part of a player, on the field, off the field, in the locker room and in the community. “Both of us were comfortable with that,” Keim said.

— Keim was asked, if he had been GM and not just in the front office in 2007 when the Cards were drafting, if he would have drafted Peterson at No. 5 (The Cards took tackle Levi Brown; Peterson went two picks later.) “You can go back and say that about a lot of different players,” Keim said. “I was not the general manager and I’ve certainly made enough mistakes in the position I’m in now. I’m just trying to take every day, every year and get better at my craft. Hopefully I can put a product on the field that fans can be proud of.”

— About the defense, which allowed a big second half after the Cards built a 31-0 lead before holding on, 38-33: “There is something to be said about momentum,” Keim said. “Part of that momentum we created on offense was a good thing. Now we have to figure out why the momentum issues are happening to us on defense.”

Keim said the defense played well in spurts, but they need to rally better after giving up a big play. (An aside, the Bucs still converted 50 percent on third downs, which continues to be an issue for the defense.) Keim praised Corey Peters, Frostee Rucker and the work of cornerback Tramon Williams. Keim echoed Arians’ thought that Williams should get more playing time. Keim also said safety Antoine Bethea (three picks in three games) doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.

— Keim said he is confident cornerback Patrick Peterson (quad) will be able to play in London against the Rams.


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After practice: The Governor visits

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2017 – 4:49 pm

It was the last regular schedule day at #CardsCamp Wednesday (as well as the last open practice.) There is a morning practice closed to the public Thursday, and then training camp is (mercifully) over. Last year, the last regular practice had visitors — the Phoenix Suns. This year, there was also a special visit — Govenor Doug Ducey, who arrived with team president Michael Bidwill and talked with Bidwill through the length of the workout.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald actually left practice at one point (the setup of practice left the starting offense and the starting defense on the sideline for extended period of time while the other side of the ball worked) to say hello to Ducey and to threaten to give Bidwill a hug despite being sweaty as hell by that point. (That, like tackling, is a favorite thing for Fitz. I speak from experience.) Later in the practice, Fitzgerald brought David Johnson over for an introduction. Then Fitzgerald had another post-practice conversation with Ducey. Fitz understands how to make all the connections.

— CB Tramon Williams did not practice, apparently taking a rest day. RB Kerwynn Williams sat again with a sore foot, after it had been stepped on.

— At one point, S Budda Baker went down after a play and hobbled off with the assistance of head athletic trainer Tom Reed. But Baker turned out to be OK and came back to practice.

— Fitz made a spectacular diving one-handed catch on the sideline. Tight end Gerald Christian made a great leaping TD catch in the back of the end zone, and fellow tight end Ricky Seals-Jones made an equally impressive grab over (literally) linebacker Philip Wheeler. Wide receiver Krishawn Hogan made an improbable catch with CB Brandon Williams in a perfect spot.

— One day left.


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Bidwill’s gesture earns Musial award

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2017 – 9:05 am

When the Rams left St. Louis, they also left a void in the community in a couple of places. In one such case, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill stepped in, donating $10,000 to the St. Louis chapter of the National Football Foundation so it could hold its annual banquet to honor local high school football players.

Now, Bidwill is being honored himself, for the gesture. He will be recognized at the Musial awards — named for St. Louis Cardinals baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial. The awards banquet is in St. Louis Nov. 18.

“Michael Bidwill’s actions embody the goodness and decency we seek to celebrate with the Musial Awards,” St. Louis Sports Commission president Frank Viverito told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This was something he certainly did not have to do and did not seek credit for. In light of everything, he sets a perfect example of what it means to be a ‘good sport.’ ”

Just the other day, Bidwill — seen below with Cardinals (and Rams) Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams this past week at the Hall of Fame game — was helping another person with St. Louis ties — rescuing the stranded family of Kurt Warner so they could get to Warner’s Hall of Fame party in Canton.


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Bidwill helps the stranded Warners

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2017 – 5:03 pm

Kurt Warner is being inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday. But tonight, he is hosting his induction party in Canton, near the Hall of Fame. One problem — his large family was having trouble getting to Canton.

Warner’s family/traveling party of 13 got stuck in Chicago after weather issues canceled their flight. Warner even put out an SOS of sorts via Twitter trying desperately to find a solution. The solution came, not from Twitter but from Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill.

Bidwill, who himself landed in Canton late Thursday afternoon bringing a Cardinals contingent to the game and Saturday’s induction, ended up sending a plane to Chicago to pick up the Warners. UPDATE: And they made it to the party just fine.

 


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