ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill ‘very bullish’ on Kingsbury, Keim in 2021

Feb 18, 2021, 10:02 AM | Updated: 6:44 pm
Cardinals chairman and president Michael Bidwill (Matt Bertram/Arizona Sports)...
Cardinals chairman and president Michael Bidwill (Matt Bertram/Arizona Sports)
(Matt Bertram/Arizona Sports)

The Arizona Cardinals got off to an impressive start in 2020.

Kicked off with a win over the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers in the season opener, the Cardinals found themselves at 6-3 through the first 10 weeks.

The playoffs looked like they were firmly in reach.

But just as it looked like Arizona would be back in the postseason after a five-year hiatus, the door was slammed shut.

Unable to replicate their early-season success, the Cardinals lost five of their final seven games to finish at 8-8 and narrowly miss the playoffs.

It wasn’t the ending Cardinals general manager Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury envisioned, but there was still noticeable growth that owner Michael Bidwill took away from 2020.

“We’ve had some great conversations internally. Both are as disappointed as I was at the end of the season and they’re digging deep and they know what they gotta do and we all know what we gotta do, which is we’ve got to improve,” Bidwill told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Thursday.

“I liked the improvement between Year 1 and Year 2 with Kliff. I think Isaiah Simmons is gonna come on, he was a big contributor so I was glad to see draft choices working out under Steve’s leadership. … Our future is very exciting.”

While Simmons was slow to get his feet wet, the 2020 first-rounder turned it on in the latter half of the season, recording 54 tackles, four of which were for losses, two sacks, an interception, two passes defended, a forced fumble and three QB hits. Another one of Keim’s draft choices from years past, linebacker Haason Reddick, had the best season of his career, pacing the Cardinals with 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for losses.

As for Kingsbury, Bidwill saw the head coach take another step as he improved from his first-year win total by three games. Kingsbury’s also done some shifting in-house, promoting Sean Kugler as the team’s run game coordinator and Cam Turner to QB coach to better utilize the minds within the organization. Kugler was Arizona’s offensive line coach last season, while Turner worked as an assistant QB coach.

Then there’s 2021 free agency, which is shaping up to be a wild ride with the salary cap ceiling projected to drop from the $198 million mark a year prior.

“There’s going to be a seismic shift here. We’re already starting to see it in 2021 with veterans that are going to be cut around the league,” Bidwill said. “When you think about what’s going to happen moving forward, we’re going to be able to improve this team. There’s gonna be other teams moving around because they’re going to lose talent. I’m very bullish for 2021 for both Kliff and for Steve.

“I look at the changes that Kliff has made with his coaching staff are gonna be big improvements. … I look at the connection Cam and Kyler have. It’s a great one. I think we’re going to continue to improve and we’ve got to make sure we make some good moves in free agency and nail the draft again and continue to improve this team. I’m excited for our future, it is bright. We get Chandler Jones back and we’ve got some great leadership on our team and I’m excited about our future.”

Bidwill and the Cardinals will need to be smart with their moves this offseason as they compete in the NFC West arms race. With a combined 36-28 record last season, only the AFC North finished better (38-25-1).

“We feel it every day. When you look at the NFC West, it is the strongest division in football,” Bidwill said. “It’s going to be that way. I had a chance to catch up, a long discussion, with [49ers CEO] Jed York when they were out here practicing and playing at State Farm Stadium. We’re great competitors and they’re going to continue to build what they’ve got going out there.

“We’re going to continue building what we’ve got. The Rams are extremely strong. Of course Seattle is strong. We’ve got tremendous competition and we’ve got to build a team that is better than those teams. And we’ve got to go out there and execute and win. That’s what we’re determined to do.”

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