As they did with a blistering statement issued by external public relations advisor Jim McCarthy three weeks ago after former personnel executive Terry McDonough filed an arbitration claim against the Cardinals and made sure the news became public, the club answered in kind this week through its attorneys, not only with their official response but also ensuring it too is public as they fight fire with fire.

The Associated Press obtained the response, which was filed Monday.

It says that McDonough’s “erratic behavior eventually damaged his career.”

The club says a contract signed by McDonough a year ago in May had a waiver of any legal claims and further asserts that when general manager Monti Ossenfort told McDonough he would not have a job after that contract expires in 2024, “in retaliation (he) filed his arbitration demand and launched a publicity campaign, both of which are full of exaggerations and falsehoods about the Cardinals organization and its President (Michael Bidwill).

“Mr. McDonough’s filing is full of allegations and assertions that, while colorful, are not true and do not state viable legal claims. Mr. McDonough has been hanging onto this salacious yet fictitious story since the summer of 2018 and occasionally threatened to make it public.”

The response relates specific instances of McDonough’s erratic behavior, which makes anyone wonder, if true, why he wasn’t fired.

*After not being hired as the 49ers general manager in 2017, the club says that when Bidwill communicated “words of encouragement,” McDonough instead was “livid and indignant” and the club later discovered “that Terry made an inappropriate phone call to the 49ers to vent his anger about their decision and later had to call them back, more than once, to apologize.”

*In June, 2018, prior to then-general manager Steve Keim being arrested for extreme DUI, Keim took exception to McDonough talking to reporters when he should have been paying attention to practice. That allegedly led to a heated discussion during which McDonough was “taking an aggressive physical posture and gesturing with his index finger in (Keim’s) face.”

*The next month, a few days after Keim was suspended by the team, Bidwill sent McDonough a text that said, “What was very disturbing today was the unprofessional and argumentative reaction you had to my comment to you after practice to not let me ‘be an afterthought.’ Your reaction was completely disproportionate to my statement. You had no reason to lose your temper. I can’t remember the last time I had that kind of interaction with any member of our staff, say nothing of an executive. It was juvenile and unbecoming. Puffing out your chest, pointing your finger at me, raising your voice and repeating yourself in an attempt to intimidate me into agreeing with you. Telling me to ‘prove’ my concern. Really?!”

To which McDonough quickly replied: “I apologize for the interaction today. You have been a big advocate and supporter of mine. I have a great amount of respect for you. …  It will not happen again.”

The Cardinals’ general counsel then sent a memo to McDonough referencing his “unprofessional, argumentative conduct in the workplace” involving Keim and Bidwill.

*Here’s one to picture in your mind: After quarterback Kyler Murray was selected with the first overall pick in the 2019 draft, he came to the team facility with his family. According to the club, McDonough was wearing flip-flops, cargo shorts and a T-shirt when he entered the building.

That prompted another text from Bidwill that said, “Walking in at noon in front of Kyler Murray, his family and cameras looking like you just stepped off a beach was embarrassing and unacceptable.”

The response claimed that McDonough apologized, but then was a no-show for the remainder of the draft, which they said was “a serious violation of the terms of Terry’s employment” and that they “had good cause to fire him immediately.”

Yet, they didn’t.

The club then claimed McDonough sent a “threatening” text that said, “You continue for some reason to come after me even though (I) have done a great job for you. You can ruin my reputation with all the BS you want. Everyone in America is going to find out you are a liar and a cheat and (I) have all the evidence to prove it. Your move.”

As to the burner-phone claims by McDonough, the response says a senior football executive no longer with the team distributed them after Keim’s suspension and that after finding out about it, Bidwill put a stop to it and had the phones collected. Steve Wilks, who was the head coach at the time, did not accept a phone while McDonough was the only one who failed to return it.

Once again, that begs the question of how McDonough kept his job after all those alleged missteps.

The following year (2019), McDonough began working from his residence in North Carolina and was demoted to a senior personnel executive from vice president of player personnel. Quentin Harris was promoted from director of pro scouting to director of player personnel, He is still with the team and is now vice president of player personnel.

ESPN reported Tuesday that the NFL has selected Jeffrey A. Mishkin to arbitrate the employment dispute between McDonough and the Cardinals. Mishkin will begin an expected lengthy process in which he will schedule depositions and discovery.

Mishkin has been with the New York office of the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP since 2000 after working as the executive vice president and chief legal officer for the NBA for seven years. He has remained the NBA’s chief outside counsel and has participated in every major legal decision that has affected the league over the last 35 years.

Since starting at Skadden, in addition to his NBA work, Mishkin has represented the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA, PGA TOUR and USTA.

Meanwhile, there has been chatter in recent days that other arbitration claims will be filed by former Cardinals employees.

Those, if they occur, would likely be unrelated to the dispute Mishkin is handling, instead potentially focusing on McDonough’s claims of a toxic workplace.

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me:


Howard Balzer is in his 47th year covering professional football as a writer, editor and broadcaster and has covered 41 Super Bowls. His connection with pro football began in 1976 with College and Pro Football Newsweekly, and since then he has been a featured columnist for The Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly, USA Today Sports Weekly and The Sports Xchange. Balzer moved to St. Louis in 1978 to work for The Sporting News, where he became Pro Football Editor in 1979. He was an analyst on ESPN's initial broadcast of the NFL Draft in 1980 and continued in that role through 1988. He has won seven writing awards in the Professional Football Writers of America competition, won an Emmy for commentaries on KPLR-TV in St. Louis in 1986 and was nominated for an Emmy in 1988 and 1990. He was named the 2016 winner of the Bob Broeg Media Award presented by the St. Louis/Tom Lombardo Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. The award is for enthusiasm, integrity, professionalism and devotion to the game of football and is reserved for individuals whose contributions to football in the St. Louis area have made a significant difference. Balzer was an officer (secretary and secretary/treasurer) for the Professional Football Writers of America for 33 years and was inducted into the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Balzer relocated to the Phoenix area in 2020 as the publisher of the FanNation AllCardinals site and is now the Cardinals reporter for PHNX. He is entering his 19th year as one of 49 voting members on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is also on the Hall's Seniors Committee. He is the co-host of the weekly Pro Football Hall of Fame radio show on SiriusXM NFL Radio and is a part-time host at ArizonaSports 98.7 FM.