Malik Boyd, who recently left the Cardinals to become the Bills' director of pro personnel, accepts his award at from the Fritz Pollard Alliance in 2014.
Three years ago, Malik Boyd was a Cardinals scout based in Houston, when he got a call from team president Michael Bidwill.
"It was one of those deals where we talked about how you have to grow to move on," Boyd said.
Boyd recalled the conversation while sitting in his soon-to-be-vacant office this week, having gone from the team's assistant director of pro scouting to accepting the job as the Buffalo Bills' director of pro personnel. For Boyd, it was an important personal step in his career. But it also means something to the Cardinals on multiple levels – not the least of which is that other organizations see the team as a breeding ground for decision-makers.
"Losing Malik is a blow, but at the same time, it gives you a sense of pride that you have guys that you work with that other people covet," General Manager Steve Keim said.
Jason Licht was plucked from the Cardinals' front office to become GM of the Buccaneers. Todd Bowles went from defensive
coordinator to Jets' head coach. Vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough got deep into the process for the 49ers' GM job. Now Boyd moves upward.
Boyd's ascension is meaningful to Bidwill in part because of Bidwill's spot on the NFL's diversity committee and interactions with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which is dedicated to increasing minority opportunities in the NFL.
(Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill won the Fitz Pollard Tank Younger award in 2010 as an NFL executive who has made an impact on minority hiring, and Boyd won the Pollard NFC Scout of the Year award in 2014.)
Back during their 2014 conversation, Bidwill asked Boyd a simple question: Did he eventually want to be a team's general manager. Boyd said yes.
"I said, 'The best way to do that is not to be a regional scout out on the road and living in Houston,' " Bidwill said. " 'It's to come back to the mother ship, come back and have an office in the training facility and really be exposed to life in the office and the day-to-day operations. We'll give you more assignments and you'll get a breadth of experience that you've got to have.' "
Said Boyd, "He was like, 'We see the talent, we see the skillset, and we want to be able to assist in it.' "
Keim had made a similar move under former GM Rod Graves, leaving the "comfortable" life he and his family had in North Carolina as a scout to move to Arizona and work higher up the food chain in Tempe. That allowed Keim to be interviewed for multiple GM
openings before ultimately replacing Graves with the Cardinals.
One shift the Cardinals and Keim made in the transition was to increase the manpower in the front office, much like Arians did with the coaching staff. And Keim also said it has been important for the organization to groom those in the front office for better things down the road.
"I don't think it's a secret that for so many years we were not only understaffed, but we didn't have the right structure in place in the front office," Keim said. "It's something Michael and I have worked hard on. We have always put a lot of stock in coaching and players, and in some ways the front office has been underappreciated."
That's no longer. Keim has praised multiple front-office types, like director of football administration Mike Disner, who have helped reshape the culture. It's why Licht and Boyd got the jobs they have.
"It speaks volumes for the structure we have put in place and the people we have identified for these positions," Keim said.
Bidwill said Boyd's promotion also will allow for the Cardinals to identify someone else in the organization to make strides forward in that person's career.
"I feel like, if you are a good organization, that's what happens," Bidwill said. "And you have to be able to keep developing football talent, not just players and coaches, but also in personnel."
Images of the current offensive players on the roster