TEMPE, Ariz. - Monti Ossenfort watched in dismay two years ago as Arizona’s Kyler Murray ripped apart the Tennessee Titans defense, accounting for five touchdowns in Arizona’s 38-13 victory.
He’s much more excited to see the quarterback again now that they’re part of the same team.
The 44-year-old Ossenfort was introduced on Jan. 17 as the Cardinals new general manager, coming to the organization following three years with the Titans and 15 years with the New England Patriots. He helped the Patriots win four Super Bowls during his time with that organization, and now tries to bring a championship to the Cardinals for the first time since 1947.
Ossenfort has a lot of work ahead. The Cardinals had a dismal 4-13 record last season, which led to the firing of fourth-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The team also parted ways with Steve Keim, who had been the team’s GM since 2013.
"No one here is happy about the results of last year," Ossenfort said. "But it’s not too long ago that this team was in good position. I was witness to it first hand two years ago when this organization came into Tennessee and Nissan Stadium and ran all over us.
"That’s what we’re going to get back to."
The Cardinals do have some talented cornerstones on the roster, particularly with Murray. The 25-year-old signed a $230.5 million deal last offseason that could keep him in Arizona through 2028.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection tore the ACL and other ligaments in his right knee against the Patriots in December, causing him to miss the season’s final four games. He could also miss the beginning of next season depending on how quickly he recovers.
Ossenfort said Murray’s injury timeline presents a "challenge" for the organization, but "we’ll be ready for it."
"The first order of business is Kyler’s got to get healthy," Ossenfort said. "We want to do everything in our power to help him get healthy. We want to see him out on the field. Again, I’ll go back to that game two years ago at Nissan — I’ve seen what a healthy Kyler can do."
Outside of Murray, the Cardinals also have Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker, young linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins and three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
But there’s plenty of room for a roster makeover: The Cardinals have the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft. They’ve also got to decide who to bring back among roughly 30 unrestricted free agents.
"We are not just collecting talent, we’re building a team," Ossenfort said. "We’re going to look for the right type of players. Ego will not be tolerated in this organization. We are going to look for focused, driven people who are willing to put the team first at every step of the way."
Ossenfort — who grew up in the small town of Luverne, Minnesota — was a fixture in the Patriots’ front office through much of the past two decades. He said the one thing that organization did particularly well was making sure everyone was aligned with the same goals.
"Every day going to work was a masterclass education in how to build a football roster and how to build a winning organization," Ossenfort said. "There are core beliefs that I’ll take from there, just like I’ll take from every step along my way. I plan to bring it here, put my own spin on it and make it the Cardinal way."
Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said he interviewed seven candidates for the GM job. Three were internal — Adrian Wilson, Quentin Harris and Matt Harriss — while four were external, including Bears assistant GM Ian Cunningham, Ravens director of player personnel Joe Ortiz, former Giants GM Jerry Reese and Ossenfort.
Now the most immediate task for the Cardinals is finding a head coach. Bidwill said an interview is scheduled with Vance Joseph, who has been the Cardinals defensive coordinator over the past four years and was the Denver Broncos head coach in 2017 and 2018.
Ossenfort said he’ll keep an open mind as he helps Bidwill make the hire.
"Whether it’s an offensive coach or a defensive coach, it frankly doesn’t matter," Ossenfort said. "We want the best coach."
Monti Ossenfort (Courtesy: Arizona Cardinals)