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One of the longest-serving franchise owners in NFL history has passed away, aged 88. Bill Bidwill was the owner of the Arizona Cardinals and had been in charge of the franchise for several decades, overseeing the team’s move from St. Louis to Arizona and their five Super Bowl playoff appearances. Bidwill has been involved in some capacity with the Cardinals for at least seven decades, so the news of his passing has understandably hit the Cardinals community hard in recent days.
One of the main reasons why Bidwill was such a cherished NFL owner is that his decision to take charge of the franchise was based purely on his love of the sport, rather than for commercial benefits. Bidwill was a ball boy for the franchise when it was originally based in Chicago, before eventually working full-time for the Cardinals at the same time the team moved to St. Louis. Bidwill’s mother, Violet, had owned the team for a considerable time. When she died in 1962, Bill and his brother, Charles Jr., inherited the franchise, with Bill eventually becoming sole owner after buying Charles Jr.’s shares in 1972.
Bill Bidwill: A football man through and through
While so many other franchise owners have sought the fame and limelight that comes with the NFL “circus”, notably the Maras and the Rooneys at the Giants and Steelers, or even Jerry Jones at the Cowboys, Bidwill opted to do his work away from the media spotlight. Bidwill presided over one of the franchise’s most successful periods since their single league title success in 1947. In the 70s, the Cardinals were a force to be reckoned with, thanks to stars like quarterback Jim Hart and running back Terry Metcalf.
Nevertheless, that team was eventually broken up and Bidwill oversaw the franchise’s move to Arizona. He initially secured a ten-year lease for the team to play at the Sun Devil Stadium, before moving to the Cardinals’ current Glendale home. It will be a matter of deep regret for all connected with the Cardinals that the franchise was unable to deliver a Lombardi Trophy as a “thank you” for Bidwill’s unstinting financial and emotional support. Bidwill has never apologized for shunning the media spotlight, insisting that he never courted the attention and was merely “raised in the sports business”, with the running of the Cardinals “what [he knew] how to do” and “what [he loved] to do”.
Bengals win is the perfect tribute to Bidwill
With the club left in the capable hands of Bill’s son, Michael, the Cardinals arranged an emotional tribute to Bidwill’s decades in charge. The team wore helmets with his ‘W.V.B’ initials engraved on each of them, for what was always going to be an emotionally-charged game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals held a minute’s silence before the game, which was eventually decided by a late 30-yard field goal from Cardinals’ kicker, Zane Gonzalez. The last-gasp victory was a fitting tribute to Bidwill and a much-needed win at that for a Cardinals team with just one win in the NFC West after a quarter of the season.
The Cardinals are rank outsiders in the Super Bowl futures markets to even make the playoffs, 11 years after losing in their first Super Bowl final against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nevertheless, with expectations almost at an all-time low, it does allow the roster to play with the shackles relinquished somewhat. Although their win over the Bengals was by no means a champagne display, there will have been plenty of positives to take away for the team.
Most notably, their rushing offense was starting to yield dividends. Collectively, the team ran the ball for 266 yards, underpinned by quarterback Kyler Murray’s 93 yards of rushing, which included a six-yard run for a first-quarter touchdown. Meanwhile, the defense will also take a lot of heart from the victory, closing the game out despite retreating and allowing plenty of last-minute yards to the Bengals. Nevertheless, the day was all about celebrating Bill Bidwill, who leaves a void that son Michael will be hoping to fill.