Michael Bidwill didn't sugarcoat it.
After a 6-3 start, the Cardinals owner expected his team to make the playoffs in 2020, and a late-season fade resulted in disappointment.
While the Cardinals improved their record by three wins from 2019, the downward arc of the season put coach Kliff Kingsbury and General Manager Steve Keim in the spotlight for fans and media. On Thursday morning, Bidwill joined the "Doug & Wolf Show" and was asked if 2021 was a playoffs-or-bust scenario for his coach and GM.
"Both those men are as disappointed as I was with the end of the season," Bidwill said during his Newsmakers Week segment on 98.7, Arizona’s Sports Station. "They're digging deep. They know what they've got to do, and we all know we've got to do, which is, we've got to improve."
From a big-picture perspective, Bidwill liked the progress the Cardinals showed from Kingsbury's initial season to Year 2. Bidwill believes the Cardinals are positioned to take another step forward in 2021, as the lowered salary cap could adversely affect other teams in the NFL.
The Cardinals are in better financial shape than most because star quarterback Kyler Murray is still on his rookie deal.
"Veterans are going to be cut around the league," Bidwill said. "When you think about what's going to happen going forward, we're going to be able to improve this team. There are other teams that are going to be moving around because they're going to lose talent. I'm very bullish on 2021 for both Kliff and for Steve."
Bidwill emphasized that the decision-makers must make savvy choices this offseason for his ambitions to become reality.
"We've got to make sure that we make some good moves in free agency and nail the draft, and continue to improve this team," Bidwill said. "I'm excited about it. Our future is bright. We get Chandler Jones back (from injury). We've got some great leadership on our team. I'm excited about our future."
Bidwill also spoke about a number of the team's top players, including the futures of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Patrick Peterson.
- Bidwill had no update on Fitzgerald's decision on whether to play in 2021 or retire: "I know it's on everybody's mind. It normally is about this time of year. I don't have any news to report there. Pretty much every year I say, 'Let's be patient.' There are a lot of things Larry is thinking about. I did get a chance to speak with him on the way back from the Super Bowl. We rode back to Phoenix together and had a long discussion. Didn't ask him a single question about (retirement). You just want to let him take his time, be patient. I hope we're able to see him in our uniform coming back this year."
- Bidwill on the prospect of Peterson, an impending free agent, returning to the team next season: "Pat and I have had a number of conversations. I've been very clear that we want to have him back. We all know that the salary cap is going to go down. I think a lot of these veteran players need to work with us, and they need to understand that while their salary expectations and their compensation expectations may be one thing, we've got to look at it from the reality that the salary cap is going down. It's our hope we can work something out that works for both the club and for Pat to keep him in a Cardinals uniform. He's been an important part of what we've done in the past, and hope to keep him in the future."
- Bidwill was asked about what he wants to see from Murray in his third season: "I want to see the next jump. I think we all want to see the next jump. He made a big step forward between his rookie year and his second year. We really want to see that next level, and hopefully that's going to come in the offseason, where we're able to get together and see that development and the connection with his receiver group, with the offensive line. Doing some of the work they hopefully can be doing at the training facility with a more normalized OTA and offseason later in the spring when the vaccinations are out more broadly. But I fully expect (improvement), and I know he expects the same. He's got a fire in his belly. We've all seen it. He's got a competitive spirit where he wants to win, and he wants to win now. I love that. That's what I want. That's what I expect, and that's what he expects."