So the reset button for the 2023 season was hit early -- the Cardinals are looking for a new coach and new general manager. There won't be any down time this offseason. Of course, the mailbag was going to be a constant anyway. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Sonny Tijas:
"Hi Darren. With the changes, a few few questions for you.
- If you owned this football team who will you pursue as GM and HC?
- For HC, some talk about pursuing Sean Payton, some media links Jim Harbaugh to Cardinals Do you think these as realistic possibility? Why?
- Do you think other ex-players beside A-Dub could be part of GM selections? Great names like Fitzgerald, Warner, or Palmer come to mind. Do you think they would be a good choice?
- Do you know how much money the Cardinals lost for releasing Kingsbury from his position?
Thank you for the time, always greatly appreciate it."
Here are a few answers.
- I can't honestly just say. Is Sean Payton a very good coach, for instance? Yes. But I can't make an informed pick without all the information -- what a coach would cost (or GM for that matter), what experience we are talking about, how that person would fit in the bigger picture. It's one of the reasons this kind of speculation to me is hard, harder than projecting a player addition for instance.
- Anything is possible. Payton would seem more likely to me than Harbaugh. But again, you are not only talking about big money but probably also significant power. Because of the Saints and compensation aspect, however, it's much more complicated than normal.
- With all due respect to Fitz, Kurt and Carson, those guys have no business jumping in as a GM. They have no experience. Wilson has been in the personnel department for a number of years (and Quentin Harris, also a former Cardinal, for longer) and they have worked in the business.
- I wouldn't say they lost any money. Do they have to pay out probably multi-millions to him now? Yes, but this can be the cost of doing business. It doesn't impact the salary cap.
From Jayson Wing:
"Happy New Year to you and your family. Thanks again for another great year with the mailbag. All Cardinal fans appreciate this forum. I know GMs and coaches don't have any salary cap impact, but do you know how both Keim and Kingsbury salaries were agreed upon with leaving?"
Again, I do not, and frankly, for purposes of following the team, it feels like a moot point to me. If at some point Michael Bidwill claimed those payouts were restricting moves otherwise made, then it's part of the discussion. But watching Bidwill talk Monday, he did not look like a man concerned about what was spent to make these moves. "We'll live with the financial consequences," Bidwill said. "We'll take care of that, so we'll manage our way through that."
From Jeff Runkle:
"Why is Michael Bidwill seeking input from Kyler Murray regarding the next Cardinals head coach? Michael paid him and all he got was an immature quarterback with no leadership ability. The Cardinals need a head coach who's had success in the league. A no-nonsense coach who will whip them into shape."
As I explained, there is nuance to the input Murray would get in this situation, and Bidwill is talking to a handful of players. Not just Murray. But bigger picture, you think it's a great idea to blow off the players, hire some drill sergeant, and that will solve everything. I don't agree that more discipline will be needed but going pure old school isn't winning you anything. You can be angry about that all you want (and what is it with all the raw anger, especially toward Murray? Criticism fine, but Jeff, life will be better if you aren't angry about something you have no control over) but my experience says that doesn't work full bore. You can say what you want about Arians but he wasn't that guy. Not how you describe it.
From Marshall Stone:
"With all the talk about a new coach, I wonder why I haven't heard Eric Bieniemy's name mentioned? He seems to check all the boxes to me and isn't all you have to do is look Kansas City's offense?"
I don't know. He's been in the last few cycles and no one has picked him up. I don't know if it's because the Chiefs are always going deep into the playoffs or something else. But to be honest, other than knowing Vance Joseph will get an internal interview, we haven't heard any potential coaching names yet so maybe Bieniemy will end up in the mix.
From Jard Joslin:
"Hi Darren. I was listening to the postgame interviews with Paul Calvisi and he interviewed Jalen Thompson. Jalen said something that I think should be a major story. Paul asked him what can the team learn from this season, and ostensibly apply to next season. Jalen gave the bland media answer, yada yada, but in there he said 'we need better team chemistry.' That was huge. He essentially let leak that our team didn't really bond all that great. And I think it shows. I don't think our defense, as a total unit, has any identity. There is a certain brashness that you need on defense specifically, and I think we need to find that dude. On offense, the problem is tougher. I don't mean to beat a dead horse Darren but Kyler. The franchise QB needs to be personality on offense. He drives everything."
So here's the deal on this from me: Chemistry, to me, is a fluid by-product of a team rather than a driving force. Especially in a pro locker room full of, ultimately, mercenaries. Think about how a roster is built: Guys are either drafted to a place -- so they have no choice who their teammates are -- or they sign where they get the biggest (or only) paycheck. So teammates aren't much of a factor. Derek Carr and Devante Adams have a ton of chemistry. Didn't help the Raiders (or Carr). You know what creates chemistry? Winning. Talent. I realize others might feel different. And you can't have a bad person in the mix, like an Antonio Brown, because that can be a distraction. I'm not arguing with JT on the subject and I don't doubt he feels that way. But if 2019 Chandler Jones was pushing 20 sacks, that alone might've helped chemistry quite a bit.
From Jerry Shugars:
"Am I the only one who thinks Jalen Thompson is the most underrated player on the Cardinals?"
I mean, I haven't asked, well, everybody else. So chances are you won't be. He was the only defensive starter to play every game and was under the radar all season, so he's got an argument as that guy.
From Robert Malicki:
"Hi, Darren. Here are three topics of interest to me that you may choose to comment on. How do you see the compare and contrast of Larry Fitzgerald and J.J. Watt's careers closing out? They are so different in personality but so alike in professional pride and in likely HOF enshrinement. Larry remains in and around town. Do you think Watt will, too? Next, there's the impact of playing 17 games. Assuming divisional arrangement remains the same do you think teams will prioritize shooting for a nine-win season in how teams are established to deal with what this long season does to a roster? Lastly, do you agree that whomever is our coach is in 2023 someone other than Colt will be a caretaker starting QB while we await Kyler's full recovery?"
Let me give this a shot:
- Watt's departure was awesome. I loved how he played down the stretch, I loved covering it, and it was a good story in the dying embers of a terrible season. It was also exactly what Larry Fitzgerald wanted to avoid with his retirement. They are different guys and Fitz wanted no part of that. I think fans would've loved to do for Fitz what happened with Watt, but ultimately, the player dictates that. I think Watt is wealthy enough to keep a house here but I think in the end he'll want to be closer to family and his wife's soccer career. That isn't in Arizona.
- If you are asking if teams will "rest" players and live with nine wins to stay healthy, I'll say nope. One, resting players doesn't mean they won't get injured, especially in this sport. Two, nine wins doesn't necessarily get you in the playoffs. Three, it's been shown that the majority of the time, it's the better teams record-wise who get to the Super Bowl.
- I have no idea who the backup QB will be. But yes, who the coach and GM will be will go a long way in deciding that.
From Chad J:
"I know we could break down every word Mr. Bidwill shared on his press conference, but I found it interesting when he was asked if he was surprised Keim resigned, and replied he 'didn't expect that at the start of the year.' Do you think if Keim hadn't resigned he would have been relieved of his duties? Or does the reference to the start of the year imply that Bidwill did expect it in recent weeks. I know it is speculation, but just curious."
I'll be honest, I have no idea. I took it to mean Michael never expected when the year began to be in a spot to have Keim resigning, which is obvious after Keim got a contract extension during the Scouting combine.
From Michael Weber:
" 'This game is played by humans. Always remember that.' Thanks for sharing that quote in your last mailbag Darren. It's sad that something tragic needs to happen before people start to think about that. There is often so much hate in the comments on social media. Kliff, Keim, Kyler, Simmons and others they all got so much hate. Of course there was a lot going wrong this season and of course as a fan you can criticize that. But we all should do it respectfully. There are more important things in life than football. Thank you for your work Darren. Really like the mailbag and your articles. Greetings from Germany."
I share those sentiments, Michael. (Other than thanking myself for my work -- that would seem a little egotistical.)
From John Turelli:
"I'm saddened about what I witnessed on MNF. I am praying for Damar to recover and continue his life. No player should go through what he is right now. No game is more important. I pray for the day I witness Damar walking out of the hospital and walking back on the field. When I was 10 years old I witnessed Chuck Hughes collapse on the field towards the end of a Bears-Lions game to find out as a kid he passed away on the field, and this brought back a horrid childhood memory."
Fortunately Damar Hamlin has made a remarkable recovery already and having a normal life again seems to be trending in his favor. That said, it was hard on a lot of people seeing what happened to Hamlin. It's great to see he is doing better.
From Peter Kacmar:
"Hello Darren. I get repeatedly confused by calls for hiring Sean Payton as a HC. Am I the only one who would mind having a HC with his Bounty Gate history? Especially after going after Kurt Warner in his last game? I am disappointed someone even considers his name. Are you willing to share your opinion? Thank you for keeping your high level despite the miseries of this season."
I'll be honest, I had forgotten about that connection until you brought it up. Payton served a one-year suspension for that transgression. So he did his time. As for now, you know most fans just want a winner, and the rest of it is just noise they don't think about.
From Uros Matovic:
"Hi Darren. I hope you are getting enough sleep with all this extra work with the latest news, and probably few times more questions here in mailbag. With HC and GM changes now official, how do you think it impacts the contract talks for players like Byron Murphy or Zach Allen? With big change, my guess is that some veterans such as Markus Golden, Kelvin Beachum, Justin Pugh, Maxx Williams, A.J. Green are probably not going to be in Arizona next season. Who do you thing has most chance to stay? Beach had yet another solid season. Also, we had a chance to see three backup QBs in action this season. How realistic is the addition of new number two for 2023? Sorry for giving you extra work with all this questions, all the best from Serbia."
The questions are what I am here for, Uros. Murphy and Allen are the kind of players I'd think you'd want here regardless of coach, so I still think the Cardinals try and get something done, but as we get closer to free agency in March, interest from other teams is going to become apparent and it'll come down to money. Like always. As for those other names, Pugh and Green have talked retirement. Golden is under contract. Because the rest are free agents, Golden is the most likely for now. Beachum's spot comes down to Josh Jones in my opinion. As for quarterback, again, we have to see who is in charge. That makes all the difference.
From Chris Range:
"Does the team/organization have any kind of monthly magazine subscription for their out-of-town fans? Chris from down-state Illinois. Thank you for your time."
It does not. The days of printed products are fading fast, in town and out of town. But Chris -- isn't azcardinals.com, accessible by any mobile device or through a free app, not enough for you? I mean, even if you want it as a gift, it's the cheapest gift ever. (Zero dollars!)
From Big Kahuna:
"Hi Darren. Thank you for the mailbag this year, always enjoy reading. To save sending multiple emails, I'll just comprise all my thoughts/questions into this one:
- Priority list (agree/disagree): DL No. 1 (includes pass rush given third overall pick), OL No. 2, CB No. 3, RB No. 4
- At cornerback, do we need a true No. 1? Yes (I think Murphy should be allowed to walk). But otherwise I think we have a fairly deep group. I'll preach to the choir and say that if we have a really good DL/Pass rush, you can get by with non-star CBs. So we are in a good place.
- We need a No. 2 RB. Blake Corum out of Michigan is my pick.
- Thoughts on trading Hopkins? Love the guy, but we aren't winning a ring anytime soon.
- Fun fact (pointed out on reddit) if not for that crazy Raiders win we'd have the No. 1 pick."
Some answers (lots of mega multi-question entries this week.
- I'm OK with the first three. I'm not a guy who sweats running backs.
- Where are you replacing Murphy if you let him walk though? Depends what plan B is to me.
- Corum is going back to school, but even if you need a No. 2 I think you can find one without too much issue.
- Given his cap number it's probably a thought. I'd want the new GM and coach to be able to sit down with him and chat though.
- This is true.
From Surge Gamboux:
"I'm starting to wonder what the future for Colt McCoy looks like, from a health point of view. He's been in the league a long time, made good money, but this is another documented concussion. Any consideration he may retire? I absolutely resent the idea of trading for or spending major capital on signing a vet QB (who are all expensive). We understand next year probably isn't a Super Bowl year. I'm OK with David Blough (or someone else) getting a five-week NFL tryout."
I did not get the sense Colt McCoy wants to retire, but I am sure he will take a little time to think about it. Heck, he was pushing to play after the concussion, so I don't see it. As for what they do with QB, that's going to be up to two people who have yet to be hired in those positions, so until that happens, I can't hazard a guess.
From Harrison Bickford:
"How early do NFL players start playing the game? Are they mostly starting at the PeeWee level? I assume most of them start all four years of high school, but what about players who switch sports? Are there any freak athletes who, for example, learn the receiver position in a couple years? What about QB, how long would that take?"
Generally, most players have played at least starting in high school. Football doesn't necessarily have to start before then. But there are plenty of examples of guys who start later in their high school lives, even a few of guys who play their senior year and then blossom. Or guys who play college basketball and then try football because they are freak athletes. Now, I don't know any quarterbacks that have started late -- that's a different animal. But other positions? Sure.
From Jason B:
"Hi Darren. I was concerned yet optimistic at the beginning of the season. Can you please tell me what fans have to hold on to this offseason and why any season-ticket holder should renew their tickets? Over the past four years we have only won 10 home games, the O-line still is unable to block, we have no depth and we never really addressed our defensive problems. I love this team, and there are a lot of fans who want to see the best from this team. But there are too many questionable decisions being made from coaching to management."
All of those reasons and others are why Michael Bidwill made the decisions he did on Monday and why the Cardinals are going in a different direction. I've never been good at sales, which is why I write. I'm not the one to tell a person what to do with their money. All I can say is that this team plans to hire a better combo at GM and coach to fix where they are. It's not like this franchise can't be good; we've seen it, with Whisenhunt and Warner, with Arians and Palmer. They flashed with Kliff and Kyler last season. They plan on getting back there sooner rather than later.
From Tye Goodman:
"Always love reading the mailbag. Had a little bit of nostalgia this week and it reminded me of something cool from my childhood spending a few years in Casa Grande. Back in 1998 I was classmates and friends with Anthony Edwards' two sons. He played for the Cardinals and he was a Casa Grande native. I had heard he had worked for the organization and I was just curious if he was still involved or if he still does work for the team. Thanks again for the always awesome mailbag!"
Anthony is a wonderful guy and worked for the Cardinals for a number of years in multiple capacities before retiring in 2021.
From Kirk Christensen:
"Hey Darren. Long-time reader and fan. Always enjoy your perspective. I will take this moment to share that Cardinals Underground is by far my favorite podcast. I don't miss an episode and it feels like I'm listening to friends chat about my favorite team. The bantering and the insights are entertaining for sure but also informative. To my question: one benefit of the 'Hard Knocks' series is that we get to know the player as a person and appreciate their drive, compassion, and relationships. I noticed that Colt, Trace, and even David had air time to show the viewer who they are. For some reason it seems that Kyler didn't have the same level of air time. Granted, his injury is a factor, but do you think there is some level of a missed opportunity for Kyler? Thanks again for the content you and the team create. I appreciate it year round!"
Thanks for the kind words. As for Kyler, part of the big problem was he got hurt in the first game they featured, played one full game, and then tore his ACL. That more than anything else sidetracked any chance to get deep into Kyler. I don't think it got any deeper than that. Would Kyler have been wanting to have a deep dive into his life? Good question. But it was moot after his injuries.
From BDUB Wooten:
"Darren. Your answer to Bobby in last week’s mailbag was EPIC. That is all."
I felt pretty good writing it. That is all.