Let’s hope the Cardinals’ burner phone plot doesn’t burn them in 2024

Apr 3, 2024, 2:46 PM

Former Cardinals GM Steve Keim and Arizona owner Michael Bidwill...

Owner Michael Bidwill (R) and general manager Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals look on during training camp at State Farm Stadium on July 30, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals fans received embarrassing and inconceivable news before the 2023 NFL Draft. They learned their favorite team was losing draft capital for tampering with Jonathan Gannon during the week of the Super Bowl.

Could it happen again before the 2024 draft?

Could it influence the way the team currently views Marvin Harrison Jr., the Ohio State star who has everything you need in a transcendent wide receiver?


The issue isn’t the $3 million judgment awarded to former executive Terry McDonough on Monday for bearing the brunt of false and defamatory comments. To their credit, the Cardinals seem to be taking their penalty on the chin, painfully aware that Michael Bidwill has a hard time walking away from fistfights.

The issue is the burner phones the Cardinals employed in 2018, a clear violation in the arenas of honor, integrity and sportsmanship. The burner phones were implemented following Steve Keim’s suspension for DUI, allowing the team to conduct standard business operations while appearing to be disciplining and rehabilitating their wayward general manager.

Their duplicitousness makes the NFL look bad.

For the record, the Cardinals won three football games while using burner phones. Which means the team went to great lengths to cover for a general manager who had clearly lost his grip, thereby proving how clouded Bidwill became in his friendship with his lapdog buddy GM.

Hard lessons, indeed.

To be fair, Keim did some great things for the Cardinals. He traded for Carson Palmer. He hired Bruce Arians. And in the 62-page document issued by an arbiter in federal court on Monday, Keim testifies that the burner phones were McDonough’s idea.

Which means there is conflicting testimony on the most crucial remaining issue. Remember, Bidwill admits to the burner phone episode but claims he personally shut it down the moment he learned of its existence.

In the end, as bad as it looks, the Cardinals circumvented a self-imposed team penalty of Keim. They did not violate a ruling or suspension handed down from the NFL. They gained nothing by cheating.

Is that enough to close the book on Era of Dysfunction in Arizona, from McDonough’s claims to the tale of former assistant Sean Kugler, international man of mystery? Or will the burner phones be treated like deflated footballs in New England, and that the organization must pay a price no matter who is to blame? Have the structural improvements Bidwill made in the organization following the dreadful NFLPA report card bought him time and security?

Dear Commissioner: We’ve suffered enough.

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

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Let’s hope the Cardinals’ burner phone plot doesn’t burn them in 2024