The Arizona Cardinals started 2020 strong, climbing to 6-3, and briefly sat atop the NFC West. Following the Hail Murray, however, it all fell apart, with the Cards losing five of their final seven games to finish 8-8.
The late-season collapse to miss the playoffs has put the spotlight squarely on coach Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim. Owner Michael Bidwill didn't mince words on 98.7 Arizona Sports radio Thursday when discussing his expectations.
"Both those men are as disappointed as I was with the end of the season," Bidwill said, via the team's official website. "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."
The Cards took a step forward in Kingsbury's second season. Still, the coach is under the microscope after his offense struggled late in the season, lacked diversity for large spells, and his in-game management was questioned.
Keim has been Bidwill's right-hand man since taking over as GM in 2013. In eight seasons under Keim, the Cards are 65-61 with just two playoff appearances. Arizona hasn't been over the .500 mark in any of the past five seasons under the GM, a period which included a suspension after a DUI in 2018.
Parsing Bidwill's comments, he expects Keim to have one of his best offseasons, with the Cardinals not in cap-hell like some teams could find themselves depending on where the salary cap lands.
"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."
In NFL parlance, bullish generally means winning expectations. The repercussions of failure in these cases usually aren't pretty for the subjects.
Bidwill also touched on two prominent, long-term members of the Cardinals who could be gone: Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson. The owner didn't have an update on Fitzgerald's retirement decision, citing patience. As for Peterson, the subject of rumors in Arizona, Bidwill sounded like the Cards could be hoping the free-agent corner might take less money to remain in Arizona.
"Pat and I have had a number of conversations," he said. "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."
Keim shared similar comments to Bidwill during a Friday interview with 98.7 Arizona Sports, telling the station he has yet to speak to Fitzgerald about his plans and that there "are a lot of factors that are unknown" regarding Peterson's future.