Michael Bidwell is not an overly vocal NFL president. However, a nine-game slide, and a humiliating 58-0 loss to the Cardinals divisional rival Seattle Seahawks was apparently too much to much to ignore and he was finally forced to break his silence.
In his first interview on the subject of the Cardinals recent run of poor form, Bidwell committed to a "top down" review, but insisted that decisions would not be rushed, and that major staff changes would not come before the end of the season.
He admitted that he understood that fans have been "living and dying with each one of these losses," but added that there was "lot of emotion around [the Seahawks loss] but [the front office] don't intend to make any decisions based on emotion."
The decision is unlikely to give any solace to current Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who is one of the highest paid head coaches in the league. Due $5.5 million next year, Whisenhunt undoubtedly must feel that his chances of remaining in Arizona in 2013 are slim at best.
Though Bidwell insisted that his decision would not be motivated by money, with every additional loss, it becomes more and more apparent that Whisenhunt's overall record is simply no longer in the same ballpark as those with whom he shares a salary bracket.
Bidwell showed the restraint which has made the family and franchise well known around the NFL, stating that changes like this are big, and insisted that allowing Whisenhunt and the current staff to play out the season puts them them the best possible position to fully evaluate their talent in all areas for the future.
No position is sacred in the NFL, especially following the dramatic sort of fall from grace that the Cardinals recently went through. Other positions likely to be reevaluated include those of general manager, Rod Graves and his front office and talent evaluation team, offensive line coach and assistant head coach Russ Grimm—who many suspect only remains on staff because of his relationship with Whisenhunt—offensive coordinator Mike Miller, and even the usually highly praised strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott.
Lott is widely considered to have one of the better strength and conditioning regimes in the NFL. His high-intensity, no-nonsense system has been widely praised for ensuring that the Cardinals typically have far fewer key players committed to IR than most NFL teams. However, in 2012 injuries have plagued the team, with several, including left tackle Levi Brown, running back Ryan Williams and the recurring injuries to quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and John Skelton considered major factors in the Cardinals losing record.
While it is easy to understand why such a radical shake up should not be rushed into, it is nonetheless a tough pill for Cardinals fans to swallow. As I have previously written, the cost of delay could be catastrophic if defensive coordinator Ray Horton is tapped up for a head coaches job elsewhere. Even if the Cardinals manage to keep him as their own head coach in 2013, he is a completely unknown and unproven commodity as a head coach, and by not giving him time to try his hand at the job on an interim basis for the remainder of the season, the Cardinals run the risk of losing yet another season if he fails to quickly adapt to the expanded role.
Making matters worse, the Cardinals 4 game winning streak to start the season remains a stumbling block for their hopes of writing off this season in the name of rebuilding.
In spite of their nine game skid, the Cardinals still currently project at picking only around seventh overall in 2013. Consensus top QB prospect Geno Smith will be off the board by that point, and the chances of the Cardinals slipping behind the Kansas City Chiefs to take him now appear slim at best.
The next best quarterback in the draft, Matt Barkley, is now widely considered to be outside of the top ten overall, meaning the Cardinals will either need to reach to take him, or stick to their "best player available" strategy, and watch him fall past them, once again risking missing out on a franchise QB.
Whichever road they take, is unlikely to be popular. Recent history has proven that first round QBs can immediately improve teams, but with memories of the last USC QB taken by the Cardinals, Matt Leinart, still fresh in the minds of many Cardinals fans, Barkley represents a risk which few will be absolutely in love with. Take anyone other than a quarterback however, and the team all but concede defeat for the foreseeable future, barring a Tom Brady-esque late round steal.
Times are tough for the Cardinals and change will surely come this offseason. By taking their time and refusing to rush into a decision, the Cardinals leadership shows a level of consideration and calm not always seen during such troubled times. But by refusing to make clear and decisive decisions, one also has to worry if maybe they are also running the risk of losing yet another season. And while their fans may be willing to write off the remainder of this season, losing another is something most fans will struggle even to contemplate.936727