No egos: Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort focused on we-not-me approach
TEMPE — Fresh into his new role, Arizona Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort’s to-do list is lengthy and detailed.
In addition to his family finding their bearings in a new city, the GM enters an organization in desperate need of a culture change, a head coach with the right vision and, at the end of the day, a realistic path out of the NFL gutter after Arizona finished the 2022 season 4-13.
There’s a mountain of things to process, evaluate and go over in a short time for the new lead man, who is still working on getting a lay of the land and the best route to his new office after arriving in the Valley on Monday night.
For Ossenfort, Arizona’s turnaround starts with getting the right personnel in place and building a unified message that spans across the GM, head coach and ownership of exactly what they want to be as an organization.
Simply put: If you have an ego, check it at the door.
“We’re going to turn over every stone to find the right players for this team,” Ossenfort said Tuesday. “We are not just collecting talent. We’re going to build a team. We’re going to look for the right type of players. Ego will not be tolerated in this organization. We are going to look for focused, driven … people who are going to put team first every step of the way.
“There’s one goal here: to win,” the GM added. “There’s no putting personal interests in front of the team. I was told once that the definition of mental toughness is putting the team in front of something that maybe would have been personally better for me. That to me, that’s the type of players we’re looking for.”
Monti Ossenfort on his vision for the #AZCardinals:
"We're going to look for the right type of players. Ego will not be tolerated in this organization.”
— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) January 17, 2023
Luckily for Ossenfort, he’s already got the perfect blueprint in what type of players he’s searching for in Cardinals safety Budda Baker.
Having crossed paths with the safety during Baker’s 2017 NFL Combine interview with the New England Patriots, Ossenfort knew then what the Pro Bowler brought to the table.
The then-director of college scouting even went as far as to say he was ready to run through a brick wall for the safety after the interview.
Finding players with that kind of mentality is paramount in righting the ship as Ossenfort takes over a post previously occupied by Steve Keim, who stepped away from his role officially last week to focus on his health.
“We need more accountability,” owner Michael Bidwill said Tuesday on what he discovered when talking with player leadership. “That is something that Monti and I talked about and it’s clear that’s going to be an emphasis here.
“It’s absolutely something our players are interested in and that was something I had in my mind when I was evaluating what a great talent evaluator Monti is, what a great leader he is, what his work ethic and passion is around winning football. That was something very important to me and our players’ input had its impact.”
There’s much more than just adding more talent to Ossenfort. His job starts with finding the team’s next head coach before he’ll begin deciding on the players and other members of the organization already on the roster.
Additionally, he needs to get in touch with quarterback Kyler Murray and further pick the signal caller’s brain as he continues to rehab from his ACL tear last season, something Ossenfort plans to do sooner rather than later.
The former Tennessee assistant GM has seen what Murray can bring to the table. He had a front-row seat to the QB’s play two seasons ago in Arizona’s season-opening victory over the Titans. The first order of business is getting Murray back on the field healthy.
There’s also the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft and the team’s No. 3 pick to work with, a draft selection Ossenfort hopes to never have at his disposal again.
There is no easy remedy — nor should there be — in Ossenfort’s eyes when it comes down to getting the franchise back on track. He’s building for sustained success, not a quick fix that ultimately sends the organization backward in the long run.
There are a number of ways Ossenfort can attack his new role. Cutting corners will not be one of them.
“The little things make all the difference,” Ossenfort said. “The little things stack and stack and stack and lead to the big things.”