The Arizona Cardinals are starting to garner a little bit of attention on the national level. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, then you probably haven’t been a Cardinals fan for very long. For those of you who have been following the Cardinals long before their magical Super Bowl run in 2008, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In the past the only national recognition the Cardinals received from the media was negative. To be blunt, the Cardinals were the laughingstock of the NFL.
The Bidwill family has owned the Cardinals since 1933. They were the Chicago Cardinals then. The Bidwill’s moved the team to St. Louis and then later, in 1988, they moved the team to Arizona. Throughout the Bidwill’s tenure the team has been awful far more often than they’ve been good. Bill Bidwill was often at the top of every list of the worst owners in American team sports. In 1996, Michael Bidwill joined the family business. Michael started as the Vice President of football operations before eventually being named team President. It has been during his reign as President that the Cardinals have quietly become a respectable NFL franchise.
Since Michael took over the majority of day-to-day operations the team has accomplished some major milestones. The first, and maybe still the biggest, was the construction of University of Phoenix stadium. Without the new building the Cardinals simply couldn’t compete. The team promised that if the voters approved the new building then the team would be able to be competitive and could afford to pay to keep their best players. Ever since the stadium opened in 2006, the Cardinals and the Bidwill’s have kept their word. The team has signed many of their own free agents to massive contract extensions, including the record deal for wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The team even made a run at Peyton Manning when he was a free agent after being released by the Colts.
Michael has also taken a leadership role in the Phoenix area. He has held key roles as a member of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the Greater Phoenix Leadership. He has played a big part in the University of Phoenix stadium playing host to one Super Bowl and preparing to host its second next year.
Most important to Cardinals fans though is the work that Bidwill has done behind the scenes of the team itself. The stuff that has made the greatest impact on the field. Most recently that has been the decision to fire former head coach Ken Whisenhunt and longtime general manager Rod Graves. Whisenhunt took the team to its only Super Bowl but was coming off his third straight losing season as coach. Graves was like family to the Bidwill’s but was the man ultimately responsible for some very questionable personnel moves over the years. The team needed new direction and Bidwill was the man who made the call. His next decision was going to be a crucial one. Who should he put in charge of the franchise going forward?
When Bidwill fired Graves most people would have understood if he wanted to go outside the franchise for a replacement. After all the team needed a fresh voice. After conducting a thorough search and completing his due diligence, Bidwill decided that the best man for the job was already in the building. Steve Keim had been with the franchise for 13 years and was a steady voice through many of the team’s biggest blunders. Keim was reportedly staunchly in favor of drafting Adrian Peterson over Levi Brown. He also favored Jay Cutler over Matt Leinart. Take a second to imagine how different the Cardinals would look right now with those two players rocking the Cardinals black and red.
I will give you a second to wash the bile out of your mouth.
It sure looks like promoting Keim was the right decision. Today Mike Florio from Pro Football Talk named Keim his executive of the year. To be recognized by the national media in such a way is quite a compliment and change of pace for a Cardinals general manager. It is also praise that is well deserved. Keim has been a steady force inside the Cardinals world. Bidwill and Keim worked well together in their search for a new head coach. They showed rare patience even in the face of criticism as they took their time looking for Whisenhunt’s replacement. They eventually hit a homerun when they hired Bruce Arians to be their guy. Arians helped the team double their win total from last season as the team narrowly missed the playoffs.
Michael Bidwill has been instrumental in helping the Arizona Cardinals become not just a respectable franchise, but one that is on the rise. He helped the team move into a shiny new cathedral that has sold out all 83 of their home games since it opened. He has put the right team together to lead the club. Keim and Arians will soon be household names for football fans, even those outside of Arizona. It’s time that Bidwill gets the credit he deserves for turning this team around.
The Cardinals days as the laughingstock of the league are over. My apologies to fans of the Raiders, Browns, and Jaguars. The buzzards are circling.