As he moved toward a general manager position he had long dreamed of, Steve Keim was left with two moments from a Cardinals’ career dating back to 1999 that drive him in a quest to reboot a team that struggled this season.
The first was the exhilaration of standing on the turf of University of Phoenix Stadium after the Cardinals had won the 2008 NFC championship, “and all that confetti was sticking to my sweaty head.” The second came in December, as Keim stood on the field at Centurylink Field in Seattle as the Cardinals were getting hammered, 58-0, and “making a pact with myself that that will never happen again.”
Keim’s rise from the ranks of regional scout to the highest spot on the football side of the building was completed Tuesday when team president Michael Bidwill promoted Keim from vice president of player personnel. Now he’ll take over a roster that needs work and a team that still needs to hire a head coach.
“I truly believe this is a retool and not a rebuild,” Keim said.
The search for a coach takes precedent for now. Bidwill confirmed the interview with Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden takes place Thursday, following talks with Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. There has not been anything, beyond permission granted, to emerge yet on an interview with Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Bidwill reiterated there is no set timeline for naming a coach.
But Bidwill and his organization do now have a general manager. The team also interviewed Redskins director of player personnel Morocco Brown, but Keim’s ascension made a lot of sense for both sides.
“As I went through the process of evaluating the candidates and speaking with people both inside the facility and outside, I became more and more convinced Steve Keim was the right man to become general manager for the Arizona Cardinals.”
Keim interviewed for the Rams’ GM job last year – it went to Les Snead – and was a finalist for the Jacksonville job this
“I realized this is my home and I am a Cardinal at heart,” Keim said.
Bidwill said he believes the most successful teams have a collaborative situation between general manager and head coach, and he sees the power resting between both with “Cardinal decisions.” Keim has already been part of head coaching interviews.
Both Keim and Bidwill expect director of player personnel Jason Licht to remain and work closely with Keim. The two already have a close working relationship.
There were no specifics on the difference between Keim and the man he replaced, Rod Graves. “Steve’s approach will be his own unique approach.”
One specific Keim did offer was an offshoot of former Packers general manager Ron Wolf – a belief in quarterback supply-and-demand, and the mindset to go out and get a QB every year because it’s so important to have one and it’s impossible to know how each will turn out on the NFL level.
While Keim doesn’t see the need to rebuild, he acknowledged he wasn’t “naïve” to the roster’s issues. The focus there is the offense. Keim again talked of consistency at quarterback and needs on the offensive line.
“I think we have some pieces in place,” Keim said. “But the ability to run the ball consistently and the level of physicality, that’s a huge issue and that needs to be fixed.”
Finding the quarterback, though, “is the million-dollar question,” Keim acknowledged.
“There are what, seven or eight very good quarterbacks in this league and then every other team is doing the same thing, with a revolving door where they are searching like we are,” Keim said.
Keim has spent the last 14 seasons with the Cardinals. Originally a regional scout when he was hired in 1999, his rise through the organization started with a promotion to director of college scouting in 2006, then director of player personnel in 2008 and then a jump to vice president last season.
Keim was a two-time all-ACC guard for North Carolina State and briefly spent some time with the Miami Dolphins before returning to N.C. State as an assistant strength and conditioning coach and recruiting assistant. He was then hired by the Cardinals, and has been a long-time part of the team’s draft process.
“We want to make sure that this community, this organization, we buy in and we will make sure this team is as competitive as we can be,” Keim said.