DAN BICKLEY

Patrick Peterson’s trade demands reflect on true state of Cardinals

Oct 24, 2018, 8:34 PM | Updated: 11:07 pm
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)...
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Conflict resolution is the art of human relations. The last-place Cardinals have few peers on this playing field.

They’ve successfully negotiated the short-term happiness of star cornerback Patrick Peterson. His trade demands have been shelved until further notice. His compliance is a life preserver to Steve Wilks, a rookie boss bobbing in a turbulent Red Sea.

This story is far from over. Peterson’s unhappiness is unfinished and legendary. He’s a consummate professional, a team captain with a great reputation. His actions seem out of character, spawning critics who see a $70 million athlete looking to bail at the first sign of trouble.

Wrong.

Peterson has been unhappy for a while now. He lives to achieve, to be exalted, to beat Larry Fitzgerald in golf and Super Bowl rings. His trade demands were more than a mirror into his soul and character. They reflect the true state of the 1-6 Cardinals, and how dire things have become.

One day, we might thank Peterson for this sorry episode. For relenting his hardline and resuming his post before the Cardinals became a national laughingstock. Before the team lost a chunk of their hard-hewn reputation, along with their beloved sellout streak at State Farm Stadium. For giving the Cardinals another chance. And most of all, for going to the wall with his lack of faith, illuminating Michael Bidwill on what’s really wrong with this grounded franchise.

The trail is full of crumbs, dating back to when Deion Sanders spoke on Peterson’s behalf in Oct. 2017, imploring the Cardinals to trade him to a contender. Sanders is a close friend of Peterson’s, and his words came after a 34-7 loss to the Eagles in early October, when the Cardinals were stumbling from the gate in the final year of Bruce Arians.

Peterson clearly saw signs of trouble. Two weeks later, the Cardinals were embarrassed by the Rams in London in a high-profile showdown. Surely, he sees the same now, only worse.

The 2017 team rallied with a stout finish and a .500 record, soothing his wanderlust. So did the appointment of Wilks, who vowed to take Peterson to another level. One of his true peers in the NFL, cornerback Josh Norman, told Peterson that Wilks would make him “Supersonic.”

That’s why Peterson’s mindset is so profound. It reflects a player who was sold a bill of goods, promised a new vision only to see the team get worse. What else would make him seize this moment, ruining the reprieve Wilks would’ve normally received for firing offensive coordinator Mike McCoy?

Some fans will never forgive him, especially if his trade demands resurface in the offseason.

But Peterson does not shirk at responsibility or take this stuff lightly. He has substance and style. To the chagrin of his teammates, he once cancelled a Victory Monday for the entire defense, uncertain if his team could handle prosperity.

He wouldn’t lash out now if things didn’t need to be said.

Credit Michael Bidwill for swooping in with another crucial save. His 30-minute meeting with Peterson was another example of his stellar stewardship of our NFL franchise, and how adroit the Cardinals have become at public relations.

Bidwill successfully guided a wretched franchise through a public vote for a new stadium. His handling of Larry Fitzgerald’s discontent kept a Hall of Fame player in Arizona.

And now this.

Bidwill didn’t need to reassure Peterson of his commitment to winning. That’s been on display for some time, an owner who understands the commitment that victory requires, who understands the value of serving his best players. But he must have said something that made a difference.

Bidwill might’ve asked for more time, appealing to his sense of loyalty, reminding him of the helicopter ride they shared to inaugurate training camp in 2017. He might’ve appealed to Peterson’s ego, explaining that no NFL team could trade a player of his stature in such a short window.

He might’ve struck a bargain benefiting both, agreeing to trade Peterson before the 2019 season if he isn’t satisfied with how the current season ends, or how Steve Keim handles an offseason when armed with crazy cap space, valuable draft picks and a franchise quarterback already on the roster.

In return, Peterson must play well and play nice; use his pedestal to quell mutiny, not incite dissent; and help preserve the brand of franchise that has come a long way under Bidwill, who has forged a powerful narrative in the NFL, atoning for the competitive sins of his father.

Bidwill bought time, not loyalty or future services. He also showed the leadership and personal skills that once marked Jerry Colangelo’s reign over Valley sports, only to elude Robert Sarver’s Suns and their sad history of disgruntled players.

In the end, Bidwill helped the team score their second victory of the season. It won’t show up in the standings.

It’s way bigger than that.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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