General manager Rod Graves talks with team president Michael Bidwill at a practice in Washington D.C. during the team's stay on the East coast.
General manager Rod Graves sat down with azcardinals.com for a question-and-answer session this week as the Cards reached the bye break. The second part of the interview will be posted Saturday.
Q: What are your thoughts being 4-2 going into the bye week and where the team stands?
A: I am most excited about the general direction of the organization. It's been immensely gratifying watching this all come together. This started with a plan, a plan of (president) Michael Bidwill's that began with the acquisition of a new stadium. I can't tell you how important that stadium has been for us, not only for fan support but for home-field advantage. We are, I believe, 9-2 since the beginning of the 2007 season (at home) and that's something we don't think we could have enjoyed previously.
Secondly, the revenue streams created by University of Phoenix Stadium have done a lot in terms of enabling us to bring in talent and hold key players. Thirdly, we put the right people in place. My responsibilities were elevated. Michael selected coach (Ken) Whisenhunt and many others in the organization that I believe have changed the overall culture.
Fourth, we have had good drafts over the last several years. When you couple talent with excellent coaching, you have a chance to mold a solid team. The last factor is the mental toughness this team has developed, and that's certainly come through Ken's leadership. We would not have won a game like we did against Dallas in past years because we weren't as mentally tough as we needed to be.
Our results have not come overnight. This has taken time and a lot of work. And what we want to establish is a tradition, a tradition of winning. We want to build this for the long-term.
Q: Can the Cowboys' win be a turning point for this franchise?
A: Many years ago, when I was with the Chicago Bears, I go back to the 1985 season. There were a couple things that shaped the attitude of our team. One was the thrashing we took against San Francisco the previous season (a 23-0 playoff loss) . We got whipped. But the one thing it proved to us was that we needed to be like San Francisco to be a true contender.
Then early on in the 1985 season, our first big opponent (Washington four games into the season, a 45-10 Bears win), got us over the psychological hump. That was the game that showed us we could play and beat any team in the NFL. For me, the Dallas game this weekend was similar to that type of game in terms of the impact it could have for our team.
We have a lot of games, a lot of tough teams ahead. But this game certainly prepares us to play those teams.
Q: How satisfying is it that the culture change has gotten to this point and were you ever thinking it looked bleak?
A: Certainly we have had some disappointments. We thought we had pieces in place when we hired Dennis Green and that didn't prove to be the case. It is immensely gratifying now to know we have the type of head coach, coordinators, assistants and players … to win. We have worked hard to develop the right kind of attitude and leadership in the locker room. To see it all come together is very gratifying.
Q: How do you think the week spent back in Virginia and Washington worked for the team?
A: I think it was helpful for us to be on the road that week. Just from a logistical standpoint it made a great deal of sense for the operation and for the football team. The other aspect is I am hopeful we will be a playoff team and I am hopeful we can be a championship-caliber team. And this was a good exercise for us in preparation for those times. Obviously if you are a Super Bowl team you have to spend a week on the road. There are a lot of things we went through during that week that we would experience if we were able to get to that point.
Whether it happens this year or in the future, the fact is it was great experience for our team. Even though the results were not as good as we hoped in terms of winning those games, I thought it was a smart decision to stay.
Q: The economy nationwide is not doing well right now. Is the NFL recession-proof, or might the economic downturn affect the way teams – and the Cardinals – do business?
A: I don't think anyone in the league believes the NFL is recession-proof. We have already started to see that. In many respects, teams around the league are not enjoying the season-ticket renewal levels or the same type of commitments for suites and so forth as they have in the past. Obviously it will manifest itself in many respects, and it remains to be seen exactly how it may impact things like free-agent dollars and how teams can compensate players.
That said, the one thing I am excited about is the commitment our fans have shown. The fans want to see good football and they have proven they will support this football team. Our team has responded to that support. Hopefully we will continue to get that, but I no business is immune to the effects of the current economy and that includes sports franchises.
Q: Was there much thought given to any trades this week (Tuesday was the trade deadline)?
A: No. We did receive a few calls from several teams over the last couple of weeks. We are interested primarily in maintaining our core. While we are not as strong in every area as we would like to be, I think our focus needs to be on drafting well and developing those players. We will pick up free agents where we can. The last area will be trade considerations. We just didn't see anything out there this time that would be of interest to us.
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 10/16/08.