DAN BICKLEY

Cardinals’ trio has weaved tangled web for owner Michael Bidwill

Mar 1, 2022, 7:02 PM | Updated: 7:20 pm
(L-R) General manager Steve Keim, president Michael Bidwell, quarterback Kyler Murray and head coac...
(L-R) General manager Steve Keim, president Michael Bidwell, quarterback Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals arrive to a press conference at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center on April 26, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. Murray was the first pick overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 NFL Draft. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Talking points now define the Cardinals. They are an organization unfamiliar with leadership through effective communication. And to no one’s surprise, Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury stuck to the narrowest script on Tuesday, tap-dancing through media sessions at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

But, oh, what a tangled web they have weaved.

Keim and Kingsbury were careful to not place blame or project anger on their most important player, even after being subjected to more drama from Kyler Murray some 30 hours earlier. Instead, they both pointed to Eric Burkhardt as a necessary culprit. After all, he’s just “an agent doing his job.”

Yeah, right.

Except no agent would choose to embarrass owner Michael Bidwill while pushing him into a negotiating corner before the end of February. On the NFL calendar, it’s way too early for heavy artillery. And no intelligent agent would direct Murray to scrub his Instagram account of Cardinals content, creating unnecessary anxiety and disruptions for a team and a fan base that badly needs to mend.

In the end, this is all the handiwork of the Murray family, a tight-knit unit where a young quarterback leans heavily on the instruction of his father. I respect their bond and their conviction, if not their case.

It should also be noted that another famous football father chimed in on Tuesday. It was Larry Fitzgerald Sr., who used the word “spoiled” to describe Murray and his stunted development, a quarterback who might’ve hastened Larry Junior’s exodus from the game.

But here’s where things get really sticky: Burkhardt is not only Murray’s agent. He’s also the agent for Kingsbury, who is also looking for a contract extension. Keim is also desperate for a new deal, a GM who has been hanging by his fingernails for years now. And by all appearances, it looks like Bidwill told all three the same thing:

Prove yourself in 2022.

With all these conflicting agendas, disappointments, crossed wires and shared agents, it’s very easy for paranoia and mistrust to seep into the walls.

We’ve heard reports that Murray feels like a scapegoat following a lopsided playoff loss to the Rams. We’ve heard that Kingsbury’s tactical failings following DeAndre Hopkins’ injury sabotaged everyone on offense. Whatever the reason, the Cardinals had an appalling lack of belief and self-confidence when they took the field in Los Angeles for a playoff game against the Rams. They knew their plan was destined to fail.

For all his limitations as a NFL head coach, Kingsbury is excellent on accountability issues, at rejecting credit, taking his share of blame and showing grace in failure. But how does an agent serve both the head coach and quarterback when one is carrying the heavy side of the piano? How does he sell the merits of one without blaming the other in situations like this? And how does an unproven NFL head coach find the right tone, authority and separation he needs with an unpolished quarterback when they share the same representation?

Meanwhile, Keim also knows his future is delicate, likely tied to Kingsbury’s tenure in Arizona. No doubt, Keim has hit some tape-measure home runs in recent years, delivering playoff-caliber rosters in the previous two seasons. But his drafting skills remain poor. And in some ways, the collegiate model he’s built in Arizona is as counter-intuitive, unconventional and ill-fated as the NFL model installed by Ray Anderson at Arizona State.

Bidwill has to sift through all of this. And if he must pick a side, he is reminded about the laws of supply and demand in the NFL, where you must always side with the franchise quarterback.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6-10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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