Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians (left) and General Manager Steve Keim smile Tuesday as they talk about their new contracts.
Recently, Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim got off a plane and heard someone say, "Look, there's Coach (Bruce) Arians!"
Given the 20 years between their ages, Keim admitted with a smile, "I wasn't sure how to take that."
But there are similarities between Keim and Arians, beyond just their bald heads and Pennsylvania upbringings. There are reasons why the two work so well together, fashioning a duo that has guided the Cardinals to a 21-11 record in their first two years together. There are reasons why they have done their jobs well enough that team president Michael Bidwill surprised them with new contracts over the weekend, complete with big raises – a gesture that Keim said speaks "volumes about this organization and in particular Michael Bidwill."
Keim and Arians respect each other. That's what anchors the relationship, Keim said. More than that, "it's having clearly
defined roles," Keim added.
"When I say clearly defined roles, we stay in our lane," Keim said. "He does his job and I do mine. When you don't cross those lines, they don't get blurred. Around the league, when you see those lines get blurred, internal dysfunction follows."
The two have avoided the clashes of egos that derail bad situations.
"They know what we don't have and what we do have, and they're always searching to help us get better," Arians said. "You'll never hear a coach say, 'We lost a game because we didn't have this player.' That's not how we do business. It's a very easy thing when everybody does their job."
Arians and his staff coach the players. Keim and his staff get the players. Those are the lanes in which each have remained these first two years. To this point, Keim said, the only real butting of the heads between the two comes when Arians talks about retiring in three years and Keim thinks it should be longer.
In fact, Arians said the Cardinals' situation has revitalized him, and he's far removed from the assistant coach nearly forced into retirement when the Steelers declined to bring him back after the 2011 season. The story is near legend for Arians now, having been called by friend and new Colts coach Chuck Pagano for the offensive coordinator job in Indianapolis, which led to the Cardinals' job a year later.
Arians said now it'll be health that will dictate when he steps away from coaching. He'll reassess at the end of every year, but he won't rule out continuing on past the new contract – Arians will be 67 at its end, assuming the Cards invoke the 2019 team option.
"You would have to run me out of here with a stick now," Arians said. "It's too much fun."
Keim emphasized neither he or Arians is satisfied with an 11-win season when it resulted in a one-and-done playoff scenario. Keeping the roster healthier can go a long way in aiding improvement, both men said.
Now they'll do it with even more stability at the top. Both said they were not expecting new contracts, not with multiple years remaining on their deals. Arians especially, since he still had three years (including a team option), although he acknowledged once it was offered it wasn't like he was going to turn it down.
"You thank Michael, because he didn't have to do it, but thank the players for showing up for work every day and making something like this possible for me," Arians said. "Obviously, (you) thank Steve and the entire organization, because everybody in the building helped get us a raise.
"The first round is on me."
DOCKETT NEGOTIATIONS ONGOING
Keim said talks are ongoing with Drew Rosenhaus, agent of defensive lineman Darnell Dockett. Dockett has one year left on his contract and a salary cap number of $9.8 million.
"Hopefully we will come to a happy agreement on both sides," Keim said.
Images of coach Bruce Arians, who received a contract extension on Monday