Michael Bidwill must save Cardinals from himself amid arbitration claims

Apr 5, 2023, 2:26 PM

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill speaks with the media during GM Monti Ossenfort's introduct...

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill speaks with the media during GM Monti Ossenfort's introductory press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

Guilt and blame are issues for another day.

For now, Michael Bidwill needs to take a step back, vacate his title of team president and hire a football man to serve as liaison between him and the on-field product. For the sake of real culture change and general perception, he must remove himself from the daily churn.

A younger Bidwill once saved the Cardinals from the competitive sins of his father. Now, he must save the Cardinals from himself.

At the moment, there are no other conclusions to draw from the arbitration claims filed with the NFL by Terry McDonough, a football lifer and former vice president of player personnel.

The timing is awkward. The Cardinals are attempting to turn the page and close the book on one of the most dysfunctional periods of football in team history. They have a new general manager with fresh eyes and a solid reputation. They have a young head coach with an impossibly young staff, but the energy level and communication seem healthier than they’ve been in years. The NFL is built on rags-to-riches stories, and that is where Bidwill’s attention should be centered.

Instead, there are troubling questions and allegations. Bidwill has been accused of cheating, bullying employees and creating a workplace so toxic that it resembles the one exposed by the NBA’s investigation of Sarver. And if Bidwill didn’t instigate a burner phone scheme in 2018 … if he truly discovered a conspiracy to circumvent Steve Keim’s DUI suspension in 2018, as the team has openly admitted … why wasn’t the former general manager fired on the spot?

Even if McDonough’s claims are found to be baseless and reckless, recent history seems to reveal a wayward franchise that has lost its road map and its compass. From the Kyler Murray contract saga and the vindictive study clause addendum; to the Sean Kugler incident in Mexico City; to the cancellation of Eno Benjamin and the disappearance of Keim; the Cardinals have been relegated in class. They are ranked near the bottom of the recent NFLPA player surveys, positioned at the same table as Daniel Snyder’s Washington Commanders.

Now, this. A case where the former No. 2 man in football operations complains of retaliatory tactics against Bidwill, only to be hit with even more retaliation in the form of character assault from an outside advisor hired by the team.

Will the NFL pursue the case like the NBA did with former Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver? Not likely. Commissioner Roger Goodell draws an obscene salary for two reasons: to maximize league profits and to protect his 32 bosses at all costs. He is the shield for the shield, willing to absorb and deflect all shrapnel. The Bidwill family genealogy is also of note, dating all the way back to the beginning of pigskin, where an oft-misspelled surname is also present among the founding fathers of the league.

Meanwhile, Michael has served as a federal prosecutor for six years. He is the chair of numerous committees and staged three Super Bowls in Arizona. During the most recent title game, Goodell couldn’t say enough good things about what Bidwill has accomplished in advancing the league’s agenda.

But McDonough also claims to have receipts, including his original burner phone. If there is legitimacy and evidence behind his claims, it might even spark an uprising among disgruntled former employees inspired by the gravitational force of truth and injustice. We’ll see where this goes.

Until then, Bidwill would be wise to recognize that less often means more when it comes to NFL owners; that Kurt Warner and Bruce Arians deserve more credit for the team’s renaissance than anyone else in the room; and that the owner was far too loyal to a mediocre, homegrown, road buddy of general manager who drove this team into a ditch.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6–10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

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