New GM Monti Ossenfort lays out his vision for Cardinals

Among Monti Ossenfort's first priorities will be finding a new head coach for the Cardinals. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Monti Ossenfort’s first day as the Arizona Cardinals' general manager was plenty busy.

He had an entire building’s worth of people to meet, a staff to evaluate, a roster to digest and a news conference to hold, all while a lengthy to-do list waited for him back in his new office.

An office that he still didn’t know how to get to.

“I'd love somebody to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, so I know my way around the building ... ” Ossenfort said. “I am still just trying to get my bearings, quite honestly.”

He won’t have a lot of time to do that.

On Tuesday, Ossenfort walked into a new job with a significant amount of work ahead of him. He has to:

  • Hire a head coach

  • Prepare for collegiate all-star games

  • Get to know his franchise quarterback, Kyler Murray, whom he’s planning to call this week

  • Decide how to handle wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins' future in Arizona; owner Michael Bidwill said Ossenfort will do that in the next two weeks

  • Review a roster that has 32 pending free agents

To say Ossenfort will be busy is an understatement.

“I've seen success here and I've seen things that have worked, and I see a lot of the same pieces that are in place here, and a lot of opportunity for us to move forward and get things going in the right direction knowing that there's work to be done,” he said.

But there’s more.

The 44-year-old will try to revamp Arizona’s personnel department. However, Ossenfort said he's not going to replicate any one setup from his previous stops with the Tennessee Titans (director of player personnel, 2020-22), New England Patriots (2003, 2006-19) and Houston Texans (2002, 2004-05).

“I'm gonna take pieces from each of those organizations,” Ossenfort said. “Things that I've learned, things that I like, processes that I'll keep, but I'm also gonna put my own spin on. This is not a wash, rinse and repeat of someplace else. What works in one building is not just easily transferable to another building, but there are foundational elements that can be taken from each of those buildings, and [they have] helped form who I am.”

Ossenfort said it was “extremely important” to leave the Patriots, where he spent 15 seasons, to see how other franchises worked. Those three years in Tennessee working under former Titans general manager Jon Robinson, who was also a longtime member of the Patriots’ scouting department, were a steppingstone for Ossenfort to get the Cardinals GM job.

Part of Ossenfort’s Patriots history shined bright during his introductory news conference. He called his time under coach Bill Belichick a “master class education of how to build a football roster and how to build a winning organization.” Ossenfort reiterated a staple of the Patriots’ Way: “We are not just collecting talent. We're going to build a team.”

Ossenfort did say one thing that turned some heads on Tuesday: “Ego will not be tolerated in this organization,” he said. “We are going to look for focused, driven people that are willing to put the team first at every step of the way.”

Ossenfort later expanded.

“There's one goal here, that’s to win,” he said. “There's no putting personal interest in front of the team. I was told once the definition of mental toughness is putting the team in front of something that maybe would've been better personally for me.

“So, that to me is the type of players that we're looking for.”

Bidwill said Ossenfort’s comments on egos sprung from Bidwill’s conversations with players after former coach Kliff Kingsbury was fired.

“It was described in a different way,” Bidwill said. “It was accountability. We need more accountability."

From his first conversation with Bidwill, Ossenfort was attracted to the Cardinals’ job, describing that conversation as “easy,” “informative” and “focused.”

During the news conference, Ossenfort kept revisiting the idea of harmony in the front office between ownership, the general manager and the head coach.

“We're gonna strive to find a collaborative environment where we are completely aligned in the football structure that we're gonna put before this organization,” Ossenfort said.

The goal, Ossenfort said, is for that alignment to trickle down through all levels of football operations.

When it comes to Murray, Ossenfort said the priority is to get the quarterback healthy. Ossenfort pointed to Murray’s performance in Week 1 of the 2021 season, when the Cardinals beat up on the Titans in Nashville, as a sign of what Murray can do on the field.

“I've seen what a healthy Kyler can do," Ossenfort said. "I did a lot of work on Kyler coming out of Oklahoma. I know that he is extremely talented, both with his legs and his arm.”

Murray will be part of what Ossenfort described as a “collaborative process,” along with Bidwill, in finding Arizona’s new coach.

“We want the right coach,” Ossenfort said. “And whether that's an offensive coach or a defensive coach, it frankly doesn't matter. We want the best coach. And when we have a plan for what we are going to be as an organization, we're gonna develop our players and we're gonna put 'em in the best position to make us successful and ultimately win.”