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Dan Bickley

GM Steve Keim’s desperate moves are dooming winless Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, right, talks with general manager Steve Keim, left, as the Cardinals NFL football players run sprints at State Farm Stadium Wednesday, July 24, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Those who play football for the Arizona Cardinals were warned after their 27-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks: Tune out the noise in the days ahead.

It’s good advice. The sound of silence can be deafening.

Four games into a new season and the Cardinals are once again winless, just like they were under Steve Wilks. The new offense is more dink-and-dunk than new-age innovation. Two veteran players have been shipped out under strange circumstances, from positions where depth is a serious issue.

Attending games at State Farm Stadium is no longer a party. It’s a place where the home team is 1-9-1 since 2018. The vanishing scene in Glendale is approaching a tipping point that can’t be sugarcoated by sycophants, suck-ups and the team’s vaunted sellout streak.

During the buildup to the 2019 season, the Hail Mary pairing of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray made the Cardinals one of the more compelling stories in the NFL. Skip Bayless declared himself a Murray fanatic. Peter King swore he was going to pay full attention to every snap in Arizona. Everyone was riveted, and for good reason.

Just one month into this grand experiment, and the Cardinals are already dealing with the specter of a winless season and the threat of creeping apathy.

This might be Steve Keim’s greatest failure since his lofty promotion from scout to general manager many years ago, risking everything on the rarest of rookie head coach and quarterback combinations, only to sabotage them both with a faulty infrastructure.

But that’s what happens when team-building decisions are made from a place of desperation, from a GM who has clearly lost his touch.

Keim signed offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, a player of questionable character, only to release him following a domestic violence incident. He signed offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, a player with a history of getting injured, and watched him get hurt. His acquisition of linebacker Terrell Suggs was a dastardly play on our emotions, a 36-year old whom the Cardinals should’ve drafted in 2003. And finally, the dueling sagas of wide receiver Michael Crabtree and safety D.J. Swearinger.

Word is, Crabtree was a bad teammate. Bad enough to be released after he received over $2 million from the team? On a roster that was void of competent wide receivers long before Christian Kirk’s injury on Sunday? On a team that supposedly has great leadership and culture?

Off the record, the Cardinals will surely claim that Swearinger was a disappointment. That he didn’t look like the same wrecking ball he’s been in the past. So why did he get 99% of the defensive snaps on Sunday? Did Swearinger suddenly become expendable after one missed tackle? Are we really blaming him for not covering opposing tight ends? A player that was picked up on waivers?

This whole thing feels like a shell game that has produced nothing but scapegoats so far.

Up until recently, the Cardinals have acted like a team expecting to win in 2019. They unveiled a television commercial hawking season tickets on the promise of never-ending excitement on offense. And a smart organization doesn’t sign aging warriors like Suggs, Swearinger and Crabtree if they’re building for tomorrow.

In reality, the Cardinals are 0-3-1 and scrambling. It feels like they’re being run by a GM trying to buy more time. For himself.

All of it will test the bandwidth of Kingbury’s coaching ability in the coming months. Can he keep 70% of the locker room in his corner, moving forward, in the same lane?

It won’t be easy. Kingsbury was hired as a glorified offensive coordinator, asked to elevate the offense, mentor the rookie quarterback and let Keim take care of the rest. He has quickly discovered the job is much bigger than anticipated.

Which is precisely why all of his critics were barking in the first place.

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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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier