Cardinals’ bizarre contract extensions mean one of two things

Mar 2, 2022, 8:40 PM | Updated: 8:57 pm

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals and head coach Kliff Kingsbury wait along the sidelines du...

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals and head coach Kliff Kingsbury wait along the sidelines during a 37-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

There are two conclusions from the bizarre contract extensions awarded Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury on Wednesday:

Michael Bidwill has become very rich and very soft. Or Kyler Murray is much worse behind the scenes than we’ve ever imagined.

Scenario 1:

Bidwill has been the “owner” of the team for a while now, effectively in full control since his father passed in 2019. Real NFL money has been pouring in for years now and the Super Bowl is returning to Glendale next season. He is a youthful 57, with an embarrassment of riches ahead of him. He must feel like a tremendous success story, which he is. And with all these other triumphs happening simultaneously, winning a Super Bowl no longer matters as much to him as it does to us.

That was a trait we hoped he hadn’t inherited from his father.

Why else would a head coach who is 0-for-5 in playoff-clinching games over the past two seasons; who spends a lot of time accepting blame; whose offense was embarrassingly unprepared for its only playoff appearance in three years; who has a history of second-half collapses; and who was a longshot hire to begin with … warrant the madness of a contract that now runs through the 2027 season?

This is not hate. Those are facts.

Also: Bidwill clearly values his personal friendship with Steve Keim, a general manager who willingly accepts and indulges the owner’s ubiquitous and controlling nature, his desire to be on the sideline, on road trips, at Keim’s side whenever he wishes. To be fair, that’s not abnormal behavior for NFL owners.

But if Bidwill actually puts Keim on a hot seat and the team craters, like it might in 2022, he might actually have to fire him. Then he has to go shopping for a real replacement. And real GM’s with proven track records don’t always indulge their owners. Not like Keim does in Arizona.

As for Kingsbury? Well, he works really hard. His teams keep getting better, even if they always collapse in December in January, when winning allegedly matters most. He has really famous friends, which is pretty cool. And, to be fair, he was likely promised a contract extension if he made the playoffs in 2021, which Kingsbury accomplished with an 11-6 record.

But on Jan. 25, NFL insider Jason La Canfora was hearing talk of Cardinals coaches who hadn’t received their playoff bonuses yet. Which means someone on the staff was getting worried the status quo and ratted out the owner.

Fast-forward a mere five weeks later, and those worries seem absurd, where one of the most unconventional head coach selections in NFL history received one of the most generous extensions on record. At least in terms of length.

Scenario 2:

Kyler Murray is much worse behind the scenes than we can even imagine, and the organization finally understands their level of culpability and enablement. And it’s all stopping now.

In other words, Keim has proven to Bidwill that Kingsbury’s NFL collapses are more about the quarterback than the head coach. Because Murray won’t stay in the pocket, step up in the pocket or play a majority of snaps under center. Or how he doesn’t bother to watch film because he thinks he’s a savant and (gulp) why bother when he can’t really see the entire field?

Even more depressing, he doesn’t seem to love playing football. Not after Thanksgiving, when the injuries and attrition set in, as they do with everyone in the NFL. Not when the games really matter, when he can almost hear defensive players frothing at the mouth.

Maybe the Cardinals are tired of Murray’s arrested development and having to cover for him at every turn. There was a time when Keim sold a blatant lie to the media, clapping back at Bart Scott and vigorously defending Murray’s leadership skills in the fall of 2020. Some of us have heard stories of how Murray enraged Larry Fitzgerald with his entitled attitude, and seriously, if you can’t get along with Larry Fitzgerald…

Recently, Christian Kirk’s mother liked a tweet that was critical of Murray. And Fitzgerald’s father didn’t bother to mince words, calling Murray “spoiled” on Twitter.

Keim and Kingsbury share a piece of the blame. They are ultimately in charge of Murray’s growth and are guilty of giving too much and coddling too often. Remember when Kingsbury actually said Murray had earned a say in personnel matters? Laughable.

So pick a side. Or just wait for the answers to unfold. If the Cardinals don’t extend Murray before the 2022 season, they are making him prove his worth. They are very publicly pointing a finger back at him while giving Keim and Kingsbury the security he coveted.

In the end, Murray was correct for feeling like a scapegoat. Because he is. And for all his breathtaking talent, maybe he deserves it.

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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