DAN BICKLEY

Bidwill faces tall task in selection of next Cardinals head coach

Dec 31, 2018, 6:10 PM | Updated: Jan 2, 2019, 10:02 am
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

In the NFL, head coaches are the new quarterbacks. There aren’t enough good ones to go around. The demand exceeds the supply.

Welcome to the Cardinals’ new reality.

For the second consecutive offseason, our NFL franchise is in the market for a new leader. The team has learned painful lessons and made painful admissions. They haven’t had a winning record since 2015, and Michael Bidwill didn’t mince words when explaining his decision on Monday.

He said he made a mistake in hiring Wilks, the only head coach in Arizona history to make the Cardinals No. 1 in the NFL draft. While others delivered self-indulgent tributes to Wilks’ personal character, Bidwill opened a window into the incompetence we’ve witnessed for the past few months.

Bidwill also said Wilks’ plan for 2019 was nothing he could endorse or support. In other words, he asked Wilks for a reason not to fire him, and Wilks failed at that, too. How bad is a 3-13 head coach when he can’t even articulate a way out of the darkness?

That suggests Wilks wanted out of here as badly as we wanted him gone, starting with the day he lost Patrick Peterson.

Rarely will you find an owner willing to publicly shoulder such colossal failure in judgment. Even if Bidwill is just pacifying his star cornerback, thereby recruiting Larry Fitzgerald for one more season.

Smart play. I’ll take those two over Wilks any day. Wouldn’t you?

More to the point:

Longtime fans have been through purgatory with this football franchise. The younger Bidwill has lifted a moribund family business, atoning for the competitive sins of his father. I believe he is sincere in who he wants to be, namely our next Jerry Colangelo. And I think he’s humiliated and humbled by his error in judgment, however it occurred.

Unlike Suns owner Robert Sarver, I’m betting Bidwill will not make the same mistakes over and over again, hiring inexperienced talent for the alluring purpose of cost, control and convenience.

Here’s what Bidwill needs to know going forward:

There are eight head coaching vacancies in the NFL. Adam Gase is in high demand, fitting the prototype and representing the fast lane of professional football. He’s young, energetic, young, offensive-minded and quarterback-centric. He’d be a perfect fit for Josh Rosen.

Problem is, 25 percent of the NFL is looking for new head coaches and the Cardinals are a middle-of-the-pack job at the moment. To get Gase, they must move fast and act fiscally irresponsible.

They must dramatically overpay, the smartest play for a franchise falling woefully behind in the NFC West.

Build from the top down. With one voice and one leader.

Or they can build the best car from the best available spare parts. Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator; Dirk Koetter or Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator; Jim Caldwell or some other respected figurehead pulling strings from atop.

They can even appeal to Bruce Arians’ sense of loyalty. Let him put the band back together, with drinks on the house. With a wink and a nod from the organization that any dissatisfaction with Arians in 2017 was misguided and ungrateful.

Seriously: Why would Arians consider the Browns and Buccaneers and not the city that made him famous?

Here’s what the Cardinals can’t do: They can’t hire a rookie head coach. The job is too big, with too much bandwidth. Former NFL star Kurt Warner said the art of coaching is the rare voice who can hold the hearts and attention span of a 53-man locker room on a daily basis, pushing through the triumphs and the dumpster fires.

Yeah. So no more rookie head coaches. Please.

In some ways, this is Bidwill’s first real test of adversity. He engineered a successful campaign for a new stadium. He resurrected one of the worst franchises in sports history. He brought back Kurt Warner and kept Larry Fitzgerald in tow. He’s ascended inside the NFL oligarchy, to corners of power his father could never reach.

But can he attract a big-name head coach? Will he pay for one? Just how far has he ascended among NFL ownership?

His faith in General Manager Steve Keim must be warranted and not a sign of personal weakness. He must hire the right mentor for Rosen, providing the stability a young quarterback sorely needs. And this time, when the music is over, he can’t be the last owner standing, waiting for a head coach to drop.

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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