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Cardinals need leaders who can create identity, develop Kyler Murray

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

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

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

Cardinals fire HC Kliff Kingsbury, GM Steve Keim steps down

Cardinals fire HC Kliff Kingsbury, GM Steve Keim steps down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bidwell is a member of the league’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee. He said his preference is to hire a general manager first and then have that person help with the hiring of a new head coach. However, Bidwell did not rule out the possibility of hiring a head coach first.

Current Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is a potential candidate for the vacant head-coaching position. 

Who gets the blame for Kliff Kingsbury’s failed tenure?

Who gets the blame for Kliff Kingsbury's failed tenure?

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

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

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

Finding a coach to get the most out of Murray should be near the top Bidwell’s list, after signing the Oklahoma product to a five-year, $230 million extension last offseason. Murray had surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee last week and likely will not be fully recovered by the start of the 2023 season. 

“We want to make sure we’ve got the culture of that locker room, the culture of our organization really focused on maximum effort in making sure we do everything we can do to win the NFC West,” Bidwell said.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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