On Keim's Dime

Mitch

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From today's front page of ASFN mag:

Steve Keim knew at the tender age of eight that he wanted to grow up to be a general manager in the NFL. He told his mother that he intended to earn a football scholarship to college, then try to play in the NFL and after that, do whatever it took to become a GM. His mother, upon hearing her precocious eight year old son’s life plan, reminded him that doing his math and science homework was going to do more for him in the long term than his avid interest in evaluating college and NFL players.

Keim stayed true to his plan—he excelled on the football field in Harrisburgh, PA—earned numerous college scholarship offers—matriculated at North Carolina State—became a two-time All-ACC guard—was named team captain and MVP as a senior—he played briefly in the NFL for the Dolphins and the CFL for the Edmonton Eskimos, but was hampered by the lingering effects of an ACL tear.

Undeterred, Keim began his NFL career when he was appointed as an east coast scout for the Arizona Cardinals in 1999—seven years later he was promoted to Director of College Scouting—and two years after that he was appointed the Cardinals Director of Player Personnel. On January 8, 2013, Steve Keim’s boyhood ambition because a reality when he was promoted to Vice President and General Manager.

When Keim was appointed VP and GM, the Cardinals were in the midst of a terrible downswing. Due to instability at the QB position and a two year drop from first to worst in the NFC West, the Cardinals were in desperate need of a makeover. In fact, the Cardinals were so desperate for change that Michael Bidwill fired Ken Whisenhunt and his staff and ate all the remaining contracts in order to do so, which included the remaining five million of Whisenhunt’s salary. Bidwill also let go of GM Rod Graves even though Bidwill’s affinity for Graves as a person and friend made the decision extremely difficult.

Bidwill was on a mission—he promised the fans that he was going to put the organization in the best possible hands and that the first step in doing so was to promote Steve Keim to GM.

Now—mind you—-for some avid Cardinals’ fans, the appointment of an unproven, rookie GM at such a precarious time did not make the most sense. The appointment seemed like an act of blind faith. However, the passionate tone that Steve Keim set at his press conference was immediately encouraging. Keim was as direct as could be—he pulled no punches—he was down to earth—and, most of all, he was very specific about what it was going to take to reverse the Cardinals’ fortunes.

Keim said that his first priority was to find the right head coach with whom he could form a dynamic partnership. Then, his priority was to build the depth of the roster so as to create healthy competition at all positions. He said it was a three year plan and that he had a vision as to how it would all take place.

Yet, what endeared me and likely many other Cardinals’ fans to Keim more than anything else was the remark he made about never ever forgetting the emotions he felt after the losing 58-0 to Seattle and his sincere vow to not ever have to feel those emotions again.

Many players and fans were hoping that Keim would promote defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, to head coach. Horton’s work on the defense the past couple of years was the one major bright spot within the organization. To keep the continuity of defense, especially after years of defensive ineptitude, would seem to be a very attractive thing to do at that time—and for a rookie GM, the in-house candidate seemed to be made to order.

Keim interviewed Horton for the job. But there was no immediate hire, which in this case would have been easy because the Cardinals, in interviewing Horton, had already satisfied the Rooney Rule.

Keim wanted to be deliberate in his search. He understood that there needs to be a good marriage between the GM and head coach, and thus he didn’t want to run off and elope with the first candidate in the room.

It took Keim about ten days to find the coach he wanted—and according to some reports, it took about ten minutes into his interview with 2012 NFL Coach of the Year, Bruce Arians, to realize that Arians was Keim’s guy. It could have been their common Pennsylvania roots. It could have been their collective passions for building a champion. It could even have been their collective baldness!

But—whatever it was—on January 17, 2013, Steve Keim introduced Bruce Arians as the new head coach and the kinship in the room between Keim and Arians was readily apparent.

Then when it became clear that Bruce Arians was not interested in retaining Ray Horton as defensive coordinator in favor of bringing in his own guy, Todd Bowles, panic set in for many fans. Todd Bowles had just come off a miserable stint as interim DC in Philly. The brash Arians was touting Bowles as a sure-fire head coach in waiting. Many of the fans were incredulous. Well, we know how that one turned out, didn’t we?

After their first two years as a team, Keim and Arians have turned the Cardinals into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Cardinals, despite a slow start in 2013, won 7 of their last 9 games to finish 10-6. This past year, the Cardinals were sitting atop the entire NFL at 9-1, when a highly efficient Carson Palmer blew out his ACL. They finished the season at 11-5 and lost in the wild card game to Carolina with, alas, their third string QB taking the snaps.

How in the world has Keim been able to reverse the Cardinals’ fortunes so quickly?

When you think about it—Keim has been a godsend to the organization.

The first major move he made was to trade for QB Carson Palmer—giving up almost nothing in return.

That deal in itself was a signal of Keim’s genius—because Keim is not only a mover and a shaker, he spares the organization every dime he can.

Where not too long ago the Cardinals were having trouble attracting good free agents, Keim addressed the yearly shaky left tackle position last year by signing Jared Veldheer. Keim didn’t go overboard on the signing. It was for fair market value.

Then Keim started attracting veteran free agents by signing them to one-year “prove-it” deals. Enter LB Karlos Dansby and CB Antonio Cromartie.

Think of what a selling point this strategy has become for Keim—because he can look the free agents and their agents straight in the eyes and say this one year deal could be the springboard to your last big money deal, either with us or some other team.

The culture that Keim and Arians has created in Arizona is free-agent friendly. Look at the number of free agents who turned down more money to come to Arizona and be a part of the new culture that Bald Brothers have crafted.

But, most central to the Cardinals’ recent success, has been Keim’s three year plan vision of creating healthy competition at every position.

This year’s roster is by far the deepest and most talented roster the Cardinals have ever had. Carson Palmer, Sean Weatherspoon and many of the veterans are saying that this roster is a deep and good and any they’ve seen.

Keim has even managed to create healthy and productive competition amongst the second and third stringers—look, for example, of how adding relatively unknown UDFA QB Phillip Sims did for helping to challenge and push QB Logan Thomas.

How is this for a test of depth?—Bobby Massie gets suspended, Bradley Sowell and D.J. Humphries struggle to fill the void, and 2013 4th round draft pick Earl Watford is carpe-ing the diem and has looked surprisingly solid.

Keim has done a masterful job of giving Arians what he wants and needs. Together they saw the need to become faster and more athletic at the offensive skill positions—and look at what Keim has been able to accomplish in adding speedsters Andre Ellington, David Johnson, Chris Johnson, Smokey Brown, and J.J. Nelson. And get this—right now all five of those players combined count less than $3M against the cap.

Look at the defensive line—Keim conceded that he wasn’t going to be able to re-sign UFA NT Dan Williams this off-season—that is, not at the salary figure Keim had in mind. So Keim goes and signs UFA DT Corey Peters to a reasonable three year deal. Peters is having a great camp and, alas, tears up his knee and is gone for the season. So, Keim and Arians turn to Rodney Gunter, the relatively unknown rookie from Delaware State whom they traded up in the 4th round of this year’s draft to acquire, and Gunter looks good. Not only that, UDFA gem NT Xavier Williams has looked just as solid and stout at the point of attack as Gunter, albeit not quite as slippery.

Kiem has shown that he has the chutzpah to move on from players who don’t quite fit into the plans anymore. Like Adrian Wilson—who is most likely the player above all others whom Keim admires and appreciates. Like Darnell Dockett. As tough as that decision was because of Dockett’s loyalty to the Bird Gang, Keim no longer felt Dockett could have the impact that would warrant his salary. Like the vastly lethargic and under-achieving Ted Ginn, Jr. who even admitted after Keim released him that he went to Arizona for the money.

Keim won’t get fooled that easily again the way he did with Ginn—you can count on that.

But making the tough decisions is precisely how a good GM build the culture of a football team—he measures each player’s value to the team and how well the player fits into the vision of the franchise and he acts accordingly.

What a surprise it was to see Keim make a deal for QB Matt Barkley, just when it appeared Logan Thomas was showing signs that he could be a factor at QB down the line. But, when you think about it, Keim is still reeling over that happened at QB last year—he and Arians loved the interview they had with Barkley at the scouting combine in 2013 and see Barkley as being the gym rat, cerebral-type QB Arians covets. Keim and Arians have kept an eye on Barkley since 2013 and they had a golden opportunity to go and get him.

Whether you are a fan of Matt Barkley or not, the important thing to note is that Keim and Arians see the potential in him and the price was right for them to pounce on him. With Drew Stanton in his contract year this year, adding Barkley now could be especially auspicious if he could step in as the number two QB next year. So the now part of this deal was to try to add a QB whom they think could hold his own in a pinch if need be (unlike last year), and the later part of this deal is what it could mean next year when Stanton hits the FA market.

Keim is not one for making excuses. One can just imagine that his drafts have not lived up to his own expectations—at least not just yet. Keim, like any good GM, is trying his best to understand what the reasons are—so that moving forward he can narrow in on aspects of the draft evaluations that he and the scouts need to improve. And while T D.J. Humphries has been a disappointment thus far in terms of work ethic and consistency, not only does it look like Markus Golden, David Johnson, Rodney Gunter, J.J. Nelson, Shaq Riiddick and Gerald Christian have been proving themselves worthy of their selections, it is important to note that LB Alani Fua, NT Xavier Williams, LB Gabe Martin, CB Cariel Brooks, S Harold Jones-Quartey, WR Jaxson Shipley and QB Phillip Sims have been making strong cases as to why they were worthy of been drafted—in fact, the way NT Williams has been playing, one could argue he could have easily been a top 100 pick in the draft.

On Keim’s dime—think of the value he is bringing to the Cardinals and the organization—an organization that now is fully committed to making good on every penny.

The tremendous irony is—the Cardinals’ front office was once the laughing stock of the league for being ultra-conservative and preposterously parsimonious—yet—now with Michel Bidwill, Steve Keim and Mike Disner (cap wizard) tending the till, the current Cardinals’ front office personnel are earning recognition around the NFL as high-gain business exemplars!
 

THESMEL

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preposterously parsimonious - please define? I like Keim a lot- he does good risk reduction but aint ascared to risk or cut risk. My only beef is not valuing a bell cow back over other positions. does 9ers or hawks go to superbowl without their top back? Does Cards go to superbowl without edge or playoffs without Beanie? I think not.

Chris Johnson and Elly can get us there in talent but need both and a power back- David Johnson may suffice. But hyde or Hill was top talent that dropped to the 3rd round and we passed with a definite need. We have speed but no engine on offense to make 3rd dimension hum at at anytime- at our will like Hawks - Patriots never won superbowl with great QB and so so RB.

As NFL defenses get lighter and faster for pass protection, The pendulum swings back to a bell cow back and a meat and taters run scheme, preseason fears keep most from tuning up their run game - but we need to master one run attack we can perform well at will and wear down defenses- so the magic happens like the 08 playoffs.
 

Dr. Jones

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Does Cards go to superbowl without edge or playoffs without Beanie? I think not.

:lmao:

Fitz, & Warner, combined with some unique play calls by Haley & Wiz dragged us to the Super Bowl.
 

WisconsinCard

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preposterously parsimonious - please define? I like Keim a lot- he does good risk reduction but aint ascared to risk or cut risk. My only beef is not valuing a bell cow back over other positions. does 9ers or hawks go to superbowl without their top back? Does Cards go to superbowl without edge or playoffs without Beanie? I think not.

Chris Johnson and Elly can get us there in talent but need both and a power back- David Johnson may suffice. But hyde or Hill was top talent that dropped to the 3rd round and we passed with a definite need. We have speed but no engine on offense to make 3rd dimension hum at at anytime- at our will like Hawks - Patriots never won superbowl with great QB and so so RB.

As NFL defenses get lighter and faster for pass protection, The pendulum swings back to a bell cow back and a meat and taters run scheme, preseason fears keep most from tuning up their run game - but we need to master one run attack we can perform well at will and wear down defenses- so the magic happens like the 08 playoffs.

Here we go.... every thread just cut and paste this post.

Signed The Smelly One
 

seesred

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enjoyed your article. We are very lucky to have a coach and GM that know what they are doing and not afraid to make moves. Backed by Micheal Bidwill. it's a great time to be a Cardinal fan, jump aboard the bandwagon fans we have plenty of room.

Thanks to all the folks in the front office.
GBR
40
 

Redneck Voodoo

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Wow, when I was eight, I still thought I was going to be a cowboy (not a Dallas Cowboy).
 

PACardsFan

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preposterously parsimonious - please define? I like Keim a lot- he does good risk reduction but aint ascared to risk or cut risk. My only beef is not valuing a bell cow back over other positions. does 9ers or hawks go to superbowl without their top back? Does Cards go to superbowl without edge or playoffs without Beanie? I think not.

Chris Johnson and Elly can get us there in talent but need both and a power back- David Johnson may suffice. But hyde or Hill was top talent that dropped to the 3rd round and we passed with a definite need. We have speed but no engine on offense to make 3rd dimension hum at at anytime- at our will like Hawks - Patriots never won superbowl with great QB and so so RB.

As NFL defenses get lighter and faster for pass protection, The pendulum swings back to a bell cow back and a meat and taters run scheme, preseason fears keep most from tuning up their run game - but we need to master one run attack we can perform well at will and wear down defenses- so the magic happens like the 08 playoffs.

Ascared????
 
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