The Arizona Cardinals organization has been a bit of a dumpster fire of late. To the point where many assumed they were going to lose on purpose this season, hope the Texans did awful, and emerge with the first and second picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. Preseason Super Bowl odds had Arizona and Houston with the longest shot to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Fast-forward to now: The Cardinals are a respectable 1-4 — right on schedule! — but appear committed to quarterback Kyler Murray going forward. I used to bash the guy pretty hard until it fully dawned on me just how much dysfunction Kyler dealt with since entering the NFL.
The only question that matters about Kyler’s future is: Does Kyler’s camp trust Michael Bidwill?
If they don’t, all the Gannon/Kyler stuff can be real but still just window dressing.
My hunch is Kyler’s camp blames Bidwill for Kyler’s entire reputation taking a massive hit.
One of the most illuminating revelations from my self-awakening/Kyler Trutherism was the Cardinals’ report card from the NFLPA that dropped last year. They were graded on various vital categories, such as treatment of families, quality of facilities, and so forth. Among 32 NFL teams, Arizona ranked 31st overall. Big yikes.
Team owner Michael Bidwill inherited the Cardinals beginning in 2019. While I’m sure there’s a steep learning curve that comes with that, it’s not an excuse to be an arse to everyone in your building. According to a deep-dive piece by The Athletic‘s Kalyn Kahler that just dropped, Bidwill promoted a fearmongering workplace culture.
“The Athletic spoke to more than a dozen current and former employees with 100-plus combined years of experience with the team, most on the non-football side of the organization. All were granted anonymity out of their fear of retaliation from Bidwill, an attorney and former federal prosecutor.
Those who spoke to The Athletic detailed how Bidwill would sometimes react strongly to what they considered minor transgressions – like a squeaky wheel on an office cart or a woman laughing too loudly in the office – contributing to a culture where many employees felt constantly on edge.
That culture was referenced in a letter outgoing COO Ron Minegar delivered to Bidwill in December 2019 – ‘a majority of our employees are working in fear,’ Minegar wrote.”
I could copy and paste disturbing, lengthy passages ad nauseam, but for the sake of superior brevity, we’ll go with a macro overview of what else The Athletic‘s well-sourced reporting unearthed.
Bidwill, for his part, said in a statement that he knows his direct approach “doesn’t always land well” and that he’s working on that. Better than refusing comment I guess?
Sure, I leave room for people to grow and mature as human beings. However, at a certain point or age, you start to lose the benefit of the doubt. Michael Bidwill, aged 58, meets that “loss of the benefit of the doubt” threshold.
Maybe his people skills and EQ have progressed. Arizona has made upgrades to the report card categories since those findings were released.
But how far do the Cardinals have to go to resemble a well-functioning football operation? Thanks to Bidwill, per this exposé, quite a ways I’d surmise.
In addition to getting triggered by, um, an office cart that doesn’t meet his WD-40 lubrication standards, Bidwill didn’t hire a Chief Operating Officer once he took over in 2019. He waited until literally two months ago to fill that role. Seems kind of important. IDK.
Get a load of this story about Bidwill’s intimidating, hovering presence at Cardinals HQ, where he occupied a second-floor, centrally-located office that an ex-employee called “tiptoe alley”:
“Avoiding Bidwill’s wrath was made more difficult because he sometimes involved himself in minor or mundane workplace tasks.
One former employee said he became upset when a new hire’s cell phone number was assigned the 480 area code used in the Phoenix suburbs instead of the 602 area code for the city center.
Another time, after a department opted to turn off the fluorescent lights above their cubicles in favor of softer lighting, one employee said Bidwill flipped the fluorescent lights back and announced: ‘Here we work with the lights on!'”
Sounds like a blast! Wow! What a joy it must’ve been to stroll into work every day!
If those workers wanted to air their grievances or file a complaint, there was presumably the fear of prosecution from the ex-prosecutor Bidwill. Given that these current and former Cards employees were scared of that just by going on the record with The Athletic, you’d have to assume they were wary of that outcome if they complained about their toxic workplace.
Check this out, though: Bidwill didn’t feel compelled to hire a human resources director until 2021, nor a fully-staffed HR department until last year.
Meanwhile, literal walls were put up around the office to discourage women from fraternizing with male coworkers, or players or coaches. Four women also said they were made to feel as if they weren’t permitted to use the weight room when players weren’t around. That weight room received an F- from that NFLPA report card, by the way.
Adding to the gender-based segregation and alienation, female staffers were prohibited from entering the locker room until 2022.
The Cardinals tried to beat back some of their 2019-based toxicity by hiring Kelly Jones as their Chief People Officer in February 2021. He lasted a mere couple months in the role and distances himself from that brief stop of his career to this day. I wonder why that is…
They eventually settled on Shaun Mayo for that job in July of that year. Seems there have been some improvements since. Nevertheless, this closing line to The Athletic‘s report about Mayo’s routine meetings where employees could vent about issues at work — the most recent coming this past April — is rather telling:
“[The] listening sessions took place in the executive conference room in the center of the second floor. The shades were lowered, but the location was public — anyone in the office could see who was coming and going. In at least one case, the session ended before the employees were done sharing their concerns.
“Sixty minutes wasn’t enough time.””
Imagine having what many on the outside would consider a dream job. Working for an NFL team. And this is the trash you deal with at work on a daily basis. Maybe the league office will intervene! Oh wait…
Will the recent report regarding an allleged "culture of fear" in the Cardinals organization prompt an investigation by the NFL? When asked that question, the league declined comment. https://t.co/dFMWy8FGfY
I hope for the sake of the many seemingly-good people in the Cardinals’ building, their players and their fans that Bidwill sells the team to somebody who won’t cut corners on costs — or more importantly, people.
I get that being a multi-billionaire could distance you from reality and us common folk quite a bit. Still doesn’t excuse how awful the toxic environment under which the Cardinals are frequently operating.
With Kyler coming back from injury in the not-too-distant future, a coach in Jonathan Gannon who’s getting his undermanned roster to play hard and a savvy GM in Monti Ossenfort who’s set himself up well for the 2024 draft, there’s hope on the horizon in the desert.
Let’s pray the owner follows suit and bucks that old dog/new tricks cliché. Because all this documented behavior ain’t the way to own a professional sports franchise, bub. It’s disgraceful. Please make it stop. Somebody. Anybody.