New dawn may be coming for Cardinals after loss to Broncos in Denver

Dec 18, 2022, 5:43 PM | Updated: 10:13 pm
Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) is hit by Denver Broncos linebacker Alex Singleton ...

Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) is hit by Denver Broncos linebacker Alex Singleton (49) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

The Cardinals are in a dark place. Extreme dysfunction in 2022 has resulted in one of the worst seasons in franchise history. A cultural overhaul is long overdue.

They inhabit a realm where draft position now matters more than anything, that awful place where victories feel like losses and losses are to be celebrated.

In that light, the Cardinals’ toothless defeat to the Broncos was the best possible outcome on Sunday.

That’s because their 10th loss of the season puts them ahead of the pitiful Broncos in the upcoming draft order based on head-to-head competition. That is doubly meaningful in Arizona because the Broncos owe their first-round pick in 2023 to the Seattle Seahawks, an NFC West rival who is still alive in the current playoff race.

It’s all so sad. But a new dawn might be coming.

Sunday’s game began with a different kind of consolation prize for Cardinals fans, a report that claimed the team was expected to part ways with General Manager Steve Keim. Callous or not, this is the first step to recovery in the Valley.

Keim is currently on a medical leave of absence. He is also the biggest threat to the competitive outlook in Arizona. He’s been on the job for 10 years. He’s cycled through three head coaches. His drafts have been spectacularly bad. He’s the only GM in the NFC West without a Super Bowl appearance. He has produced an aging roster with expensive contracts and very little homegrown talent and has had one playoff appearance since 2015.

His job security is not commensurate with his performance, and the heavy scent of cronyism has led many Cardinals fans to lose faith in owner Michael Bidwill and the direction of the franchise.

Which is why the promise of a new GM in Arizona is far bigger than the outcome of Sunday’s game in Denver.

Since the departure of Bruce Arians, the Cardinals have been sorely lacking direction, definition and leadership. There seems to be no philosophy, no identity and no long-term plan in place. The Cardinals are in danger of losing 13 games in a season for just the third time in a ragged 102-year-old history that spans three different cities.

It would also be the second time in the past four seasons, and that’s a damning indictment of the current general manager.

Sunday’s game was also a microcosm of the season, where an overachieving defense compensated for an impotent, underperforming offense. It was a tribute to the Hall of Fame talents of J.J. Watt, who dominated the first half, turning back on the clock with a statistical output that included three sacks, a forced fumble and many other impact plays. A cynic would say Watt is in a major contract push for one final megadeal. Maybe in Arizona, maybe not.

Anything and everything are on the table in Arizona. A team careening for their place in the Arizona Hall of Shame. Possibly the most disappointing team in a franchise known for dog-breath football.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6–10 a.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7.

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