The comment from Rod Graves was truth cloaked in humor, as he and Michael Bidwill were pressed on who would have the final decision when it came to hiring a new coach for the Arizona Cardinals.
“In any situation, let’s face it,” said Graves, the team’s vice president of football operations, “there is ownership and then there are employees.”
Bidwill, also a team vice president and son of owner Bill Bidwill, tried to paint a picture that Graves was in control when the two met with the media last week. The list of coaching candidates was Graves’ list, Bidwill said. The new coach wasn’t someone who would be taking any of Graves’ authority, Bidwill said.
But as the Cardinals move into another new coaching era, ownership — specifically, Michael Bidwill — remains deeply involved in running the football side of the team.
Graves, despite his earlier comment, insisted he was “pleased” with the organizational structure.
“(Bidwill meddling) is a myth with respect to the amount of involvement and influence in our dealings on the football side,” Graves said. “I think to a large degree those in my position have not always stepped up and said, quite frankly, how much influence we have. It is easy to hide behind the Bidwills because of the track record.”
But as much as Michael Bidwill tried to portray himself as simply helping Graves out during the coaching search, it is Bidwill who announced who the candidates would be. It is Bidwill who accompanied candidate Dennis Green to a press conference last week, and who updated the media on the interviews with a pair of playoff defensive coordinators.
Some members of the outgoing coaching staff are convinced Michael Bidwill, and not Graves, is running the show. Then there was an ESPN report about Green (who happens to work for the network) that said Arizona’s selling point to Green was the power it could give him, practically ignoring Graves’ presence.
The organization, as much as Graves and Bidwill tried to deny it during the season, went into rebuilding mode prior to 2003. It was only natural, with Graves taking over as vice president of football operations. Graves was in favor of letting a veteran quarterback (Jake Plummer) and its best receiver (David Boston) walk away in free agency, but the moves were steeped in both his and ownership’s desire not to spend a lot of money on either player.
Defensively, the Cardinals were hurt when they couldn’t entice free agents Rosevelt Colvin and Vonnie Holliday to sign — an inability in part because ownership declined to overspend for either.
The Cardinals ended up scoring a league-low 225 points and giving up a league-high 452 points, the first time a team has hit that miserable double of worsts since the 1987 Atlanta Falcons.
Michael Bidwill continued to say last week a large part of the Cardinals’ losing over the years had more to do with not having a state-of-the-art stadium and the resulting poor economic situation rather than poor ownership. He insisted the franchise’s struggles had nothing to do with a lack of desire.
He also insisted ownership knows how to build such a winner. “That is something I don’t think we can say enough,” Bidwill said, “that we are committed to putting a winning football team on the field.”