Cardinals’ Bidwill believes Kingsbury helped quicken Fitzgerald’s return

Jan 23, 2019, 8:51 AM | Updated: 12:19 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Larry Fitzgerald made a relatively hasty call in his now-annual retirement decision-making cycle.

On Tuesday, he signed on the dotted line of a contract that will keep him an Arizona Cardinals receiver through the 2019 season, his 16th year with the franchise and in the league. It came about three weeks earlier than Fitzgerald’s decision to return for the 2018 season last Feb. 15, and one could insinuate without speaking to him that the hiring of head coach Kliff Kingsbury played a key part in his decision.

“Well, I think you need to ask him that, but I think the answer is, I believe so,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Kingsbury and his Air Raid spread passing attack led some of college football’s most explosive offenses as the Texas Tech head coach over the past six seasons. Despite lacking NFL coaching experience, he’s now tasked with replacing coach Steve Wilks, who led Arizona to a 3-13 finish in his only season at the helm.

Kingsbury’s unique resume apparently didn’t put apprehension in Fitzgerald.

“I think they had a great conversation and he’s excited about focusing on the offense,” Bidwill said Wednesday. “Obviously, he was very disappointed as all of us were in 2018. He bleeds Cardinal red. He wants to be part of getting this turned around. It’s exciting he was able to make a quick decision and get right to it.”

Bidwill said Fitzgerald had been in an “ongoing dialog” with the Cardinals over the last couple of weeks.

“I don’t want to push Larry, I want him to come to his own decision,” Bidwill said. “When he was ready … we did the deal. Was over at his house signing it on his kitchen table yesterday morning before he left town.

“We had been talking and (general manager) Steve Keim had worked on it over the last couple of days so it came together pretty quickly. It was emailed to me so (I) was able to print it off and run it over before he left town yesterday. It was fantastic to get that piece in place.”

With the exception of the line, the Cardinals’ offense appears to be in relatively decent shape well before the draft and free agency.

With quarterback Josh Rosen entering his second season and franchise running back David Johnson also in the fold, Fitzgerald returns to a wide receiver room that will again include Christian Kirk, who is coming off 590 receiving yards in a rookie season cut short due to injury.

Chad Williams is also under contract for his third season, as is late season waiver pickup Pharoh Cooper and undrafted free agent Trent Sherfield. Sherfield made 19 receptions for 210 yards as a rookie in 2018.

Keim, Kingsbury meticulous in vetting coaching staff

The Cardinals wanted to act fast in replacing Wilks. They did that by hiring Kingsbury but have since taken their time in a thorough evaluation of his assistant coaches.

Kingsbury admitted that he would lean on Keim in filling out his coaching staff, and Bidwill believes the duo is putting in the necessary work to make the right hires, even if the head coach is relatively unfamiliar with some of his staffers.

“I’ve been around this franchise my entire life. He is putting more time than I’ve ever seen any coach put in to the interview process,” Bidwill said. “They’re going for half a day or more with many of these assistants, just making sure they’re on the same sheet of music.

“I know that there’s been, ‘Well, he’s relying on Steve.’ I think that’s a good thing, ’cause a lot of times in this industry, when a coach gets a job, they tend to hire their friends. Sometimes their friends are really good coaches, and sometimes they’re guys that may not be as strong as some of the other people out there in the marketplace.”

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