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Q&A with Arizona Cardinals Insider Paul Calvisi on the start of the Cardinals' offseason

12Sports' Cameron Cox talks with the Cardinals team reporter about the firing of Kliff Kingsbury, who could be next, and much more

PHOENIX — It hasn't even been a week since the Arizona Cardinals started their offseason and already there has been plenty of news, including the firing of Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury and the resignation of General Manager Steve Keim. 

12Sports' Cameron Cox got the chance to sit down with Cardinals team reporter Paul Calvisi to talk about everything that has gone down since the season ended on Sunday. 

Questions and responses below may have been edited for clarity and brevity. 

Q: You were in the building all day (Monday when Kingsbury was fired). What was the mood and what did you see? 

A: It was inevitable. You know you go 4-13, there will be change. And on Black Monday, there will be blood. So I think everybody felt it coming. (It) never feels good. As you know, Kliff Kingsbury has been tremendous with the media. You know, when they were 10-2, you know, last season, you start to see the sense of humor, you know, he's a really good person. And as Michael Bidwill said, no one, he's never seen a coach work harder. But obviously, things didn't work out. And some of the same issues, persistent problems you had at the beginning of the season, were still happening at the end of the season, a lot of the same self-inflicted stuff. But you know, when you talk about 2022, this season, I think you have to talk about the entire calendar year. You know, distractions are real and there were a lot of distractions off the field that impacted on the field. Zach Allen told the media as much. He said, yeah, I mean, that's something that the team has to address. And so whether it was contract negotiations, whether it was the off-field tragedy, losing Jeff Gladney, you know what, PED suspensions, homework clauses, I mean, it was always something and for whatever reason, it was proved to be something that the Cardinals couldn't overcome. That and all the injuries. So now, there are even more questions going into the offseason. 

Q: The big word used during team owner Michael Bidwill's press conference after Kingsbury's firing was 'culture.' It seems like this team needs a new culture, do you see that as well? 

A: Yeah, I think that's the big question right here right now. What is culture worth? Is it worth going after a Sean Payton and giving up the draft picks that might be necessary? You know, where can you find that culture? And is it automatically in the form of a coach? When you had Bruce Arians, he was the culture. If you remember, in 2012, the Cardinals lost 58-0 at Seattle. The very next year they went to Seattle, and they beat a juggernaut Seattle team. How? Why? Guys, I remember I talked to them about that. They said everyone believed in the head coach and Bruce Arians, he was that culture. He was that bravado and that confidence. So can you find that? Can you find the accountability that I think was missing almost the entirety of this year? Kliff, Kingsbury and 'Hard Knocks,' it was after the New England loss, and he said, you know what, maybe it's a fault of mine. But I treat you guys like men, and you have to find the accountability in this locker room. Well, obviously, that never materialized, or at least there wasn't enough of it. So who's gonna bring that accountability? For example, getting back to (Arians), he used to have that accountability board and used to have your name up there. And if you made a mental error, or what they called a 'slack' or a 'low,' if you get marked up on that, guys would walk into the locker room. They didn't want to be on that board. It instilled that level of accountability. I remember doing a camp interview with a running back who was emotionally a mess because he had just looked up at the accountability board, he had made five mental errors in a single practice. He thought he was going to be cut later that day. So it does matter. Some guys are self-motivated, the J.J. Watts of the world, the Kelvin Beachums of the world, but a lot of guys aren't. So how do you get everybody to the same level? I think that's the question. Can you find that coach and that GM? 

Q: What else are you looking for in a head coach? What do you think this team needs? 

A: You know, you need someone who has a plan with Kyler Murray, obviously, first and foremost. Kyler regressed this year. Regression is a word that Michael Bidwill used a couple of times (in his press conference). Now, analytics aren't everything, but there was one very telling stat with Kyler Murray this year, that in 2021 when it came to deep throws, he was number one in the NFL. (Do you) know where he ranked this year when he got hurt with a season-ending injury? Dead last. So our eyeball test was correct. The downfield passing attack wasn't there. Why not? You have to get Kyler back to being that dynamic dual threat. And I think a Kyler who's able to run organically, you know as a last option to keep the defense honest. Whereas you know, when he first showed up, and when his first three years what do we talk about he's a pocket quarterback who can run? You don't want him to be a running quarterback who can throw. You know, look at Lamar Jackson, his injuries right now, Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts, look at his status. There's not a lot of long-term longevity in that. So Kyler Murray is the first and foremost. (The) question is you got to find a coach that he's going to connect with. And I don't know how easy that is. I mean, can you send Kyler out to a dinner with a coaching prospect and figure out if those two, if one plus one is going to equal three? To me, that's the real challenge in this coaching search. 

Q: Does that matter though? Kyler is the highest-paid guy on the team, but at some point, the coach has to outrank the quarterback, right? 

A: Sure, and you can have a 49ers team that is so loaded, that you can still win with a third-string, rookie quarterback in Brock Purdy. You're right, that is the goal to be so dominant on the offensive and defensive line of scrimmage to have so many weapons, and all of a sudden the quarterback isn't that important. But you have $230 million wrapped up into Kyler Murray, and he's a former Pro Bowl quarterback who played anything but in terms of his quality of play this year, so you've got to figure that out. But you're right. I think the other thing you need, obviously, you know, (is) a GM, and this to me, trumps everything, culture, and everything is just an eye for talent. Because you know, what's more valuable than culture? Players, difference makers, right? Dudes who can just ball, who can get out there and just be better than the other team. And you need to get back to the days where you're pulling Tyrann Mathieu out of round three and David Johnson out of round three and finding an All-Pro safety in Budda Baker in round two. You've got to get back to those days with that eye for talent. And so who is that guy? Where can you find that next GM? 

Q: We know Michael Bidwill has interviewed two in-house candidates for GM, Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson. Can you give us some insight into those two guys and why they would make good candidates for General Manager? 

A: If you heard the report from NFL Network (Tuesday), they both went into the locker room with two weeks to go on the season. And they told the locker room they needed everyone to bring maximum effort. So there is accountability with those two guys, two guys who have played the game, who have played for the Arizona Cardinals. They know the culture of the team. And they've been around the team, which I think gives them an inherent advantage for the following reason. There are 30+ free agents here. Who better knows who's part of the problem, and who's part of the solution than Adrian Wilson and Quentin Harris? I think they have a pretty good handle on that. And they're going to be making their list and checking it twice as to who should stay and who should go. Now, ultimately, I think another candidate to look at would maybe be a Malik Boyd, who's a VP with the Bills, but he spent a long time with the Cardinals. So not only does he have that comfort factor with the Cardinals and the knowledge and the building has with him. But he has also gone out to the Bills for the last five, six years. And so he's seen how it's done other places. (He) might be able to bring in other best practices. So I would throw him maybe into that mix as well. But it seems like the Cardinals, based on reports, are starting with the GM interviews first. And then hopefully if they can find that guy, that general manager will be involved with the head coaching interviews next. 

Q: How much do you think NFL experience and NFL head coaching experience matters when it comes to finding the next head coach of the Cardinals? 

A: Steve Wilks was a first-time NFL head coach. Kliff Kingsbury was a first-time NFL head coach. So I think it's a factor. You know, teams when they replace coaches tend to go the opposite, right? You went from Bruce Arians, things might have got a little lax at the end, you brought in the disciplinarian Steve Wilks who was a defensive coach. Then you went with an offensive coach in Kliff Kingsbury. So I think a proven former head coach helps. But if you identify a Demeco Ryans, the Niners' defensive coordinator, being that dynamic next head coach, so, and he's capable of doing what a Brian Daboll did with the Giants coming from the Bills over to New York this past season, then you absolutely don't hesitate to make that hire. 

Q: A big name in the Cardinals head coaching search has been former New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and Payton has talked about the Cardinals recently. Why do you think that is? 

A: There's two reasons. He's either genuinely interested or he's trying to gain leverage with other teams. So I'm not exactly sure which one it is. Once again, what is culture worth? Is it worth the number three pick overall, because remember, the Saints are going to get compensation. I'd say absolutely not. If it's a round-three pick, okay, we're talking. Is that realistic? No. So you're probably talking about maybe a future first-round pick for Sean Payton. And then you have to decide. Alright, is the guy with a Super Bowl ring on his hand, is it worth it? Here's the thing to me. Sean Payton just left the Saints. Alright, can you trust a Sean Payton long-term? And what does Sean Payton do? He left the Saints as soon as he didn't have a franchise quarterback. Sort of like Sean McVay is about to do with the Rams right now. Right? The going gets tough. They realize they don't have a lot of players and they might not have the franchise quarterback. They're more apt to pull the plug. So, you know, to me, Sean Payton would be great and it would be a home run, but is it going to be worth the assets you have to trade in return? Because once again, you have a lot of holes and you have a lot of needs, and nothing wins in the NFL like talent, not even great coaching. 

Q: There has been a report that the Cardinals could try to trade wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this offseason. Do you think they make that move? 

A: I think so. I really do. I think the way this season ended, I think his cap figure, I think his age and the fact he missed 15 games over the last two years, where he had missed two games over his first eight years. That doesn't trend well. And there's a big belief you might be able to get a first-round pick from a team out there. Heck, if the Cardinals gave a first-round pick for Hollywood Brown, don't you think you get a first-round pick for (Hopkins)? So I think the timing is right. And even though you're gonna have a big cap hit next year, you know, he has no more guaranteed money in his deal and he has a no-trade clause but you would think he'd be incentivized as well to find a new team and a new contract. 

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