The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Did the Cardinals Get It Right or Wrong at GM?

The Arizona Cardinals formally introduced their new General Manager, Monti Ossenfort, at an introductory press conference on Tuesday. It was a huge success.

Monti’s story as a small town kid doing good by two hard working parents, his dad working in a meat packing facility and his mom cleaning houses and Monti putting in 22 years of hard work in the NFL to finally arrive at his dream job is right out of a book. 

Ossenfort was personable, relatable and full of energy.

I loved the hire. The Cardinals finally invited an outsider into their home. I compared the hiring of Ossenfort to the movie “The Village”. Finally, someone from the modern world has breached the walls of the Cardinals compound and can finally share the secrets of the real time NFL. Hopefully the hire turns out to be better than the actual movie, but you get the point.

Monti Ossenfort nailed the press conference.

But did the Cardinals nail the hire? That is going to depend on a few things.

One is, will Michael Bidwill allow him to do his job to the full scope the job requires? Or will Bidwill tell Monti he can drive only to sit shotgun and dictate all the turns and stops?

I thought it was rich that Bidwill preached accountability being a new theme of the Cardinals organization. He described conversations with current members of the team who all asked for more accountability then declared accountability was officially going to be a thing for the Cardinals going forward.

The funny thing about accountability is you can’t use it like a light switch and flip it on and off when you want. The other funny thing is accountability starts at the very top and at no point since the Cardinals embarked on these changes has Bidwill accepted his. He kept Steve Keim and his lousy draft track record around too long; he hired a failed college coach and watched as Kingsbury’s ineptness as a leader destroyed the culture around the team.

Someone forgot to bring the mirror to the press conference for Bidwill.

So the first step to Monti Ossenfort succeeding is Michael Bidwill staying mostly out of the way and accepting his actions from the past can’t continue or the results WILL repeat themselves no matter how well qualified the hire or well intentioned the process is.

The second factor that will determine whether this GM hire is a success is how it helps Kyler Murray get back on track as the face of the franchise and best quarterback he can be.

It was clear from the press conference that Budda Baker has become the most influential player on the roster. It’s Budda Baker who now arguably has the most leverage and influence within the franchise and there are very good reasons for that. It’s also clear that Budda’s ascension is at the expense of Kyler’s downfall last season.

In order for this franchise to be at its best, Kyler needs to be at his best. That means hiring the right GM to set the right tone and hiring the right head coach to directly connect with Kyler.

When I asked Monti Ossenfort one on one if he believed Kyler Murray can lead the Cardinals to a Super Bowl championship, he didn’t answer “yes” and he didn’t answer “no”. He raved about Kyler’s ability from scouting him at Oklahoma and celebrated his ability to stress a defense but he stopped well short of a full throated endorsement of the Cardinals mercurial QB.

I like that approach. Everyone has fawned over Kyler enough in his first four years, it's time to change the approach.

Monti Ossenfort needs to find the right balance between championing Kyler and challenging Kyler and he showed he can do that on his first day on the job.

Finally, we truly only evaluate GM’s by the results of their job. The story, the person, the mantras, the communication style all give way to the success rate of draft picks, trades, free agent signings and hirings.

Its already a tough start for Ossenfort in that his hiring basically eliminated the Cardinals from hiring the head coach so many Cards fans have been lusting over. The Cardinals are out of the Sean Payton sweepstakes, barring something incredibly dramatic.

Ossenfort preaches the Patriots Way. Payton believes in the Payton Way. Those two approaches don’t mix. Payton isn’t abandoning the processes that propelled him to Super Bowl success in New Orleans and Ossenfort isn’t compromising his belief system after finally landing his dream job. Sean Payton is going to lead his way and Monti Ossenfort his. For better or for worse, the Cardinals and Sean Payton will not be a thing.

Still, I believe Monti Ossenfort is a very good hire for the Cardinals. I also believe he could end up on the hot seat by the end of the week with the wrong head coach hire.

That’s the life of an NFL GM and the best news for Cardinals fans is I don’t think Monti Ossenfort would want it any other way.

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