General manager Steve Keim’s resurgence could have the Arizona Cardinals contending for a playoff spot this coming season
Just about five years ago, Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals was on top of the world. The general manager had built a squad that had won 21 regular-season games during the 2013 and 2014 campaigns. Pro Football Focus rewarded his efforts with two consecutive “NFL Executive of the Year” awards, and the sky appeared to be the limit for the Cardinals with Keim at the helm.
After an NFC Championship Game appearance following the 2015 schedule, the Cards emerged victorious just 15 times in 2016 and 2017 combined. Things got even worse in July of 2018 when an extreme DUI conviction got Keim suspended by the franchise for five weeks. The GM’s newest coaching hire, Steve Wilks, didn’t help the dire situation any by losing 13 contests during his first year with Arizona that fall.
Many fans of the Cardinals were understandably outraged and called for both Keim and Wilks to be relieved of their duties. The organization’s loyalists were granted one of their two wishes. Wilks was fired immediately after one of the worst campaigns in Cards history, but Keim would be given an opportunity to fix the mess that he was largely responsible for.
On January 8th, 2019, Keim began to repair the damage that he had done. The club took a huge gamble by hiring Kliff Kingsbury, a head coach who was fresh out of the college ranks. The Cardinals won just five of their matchups in ’19, but most of their followers would have to agree that the squad is in much better hands with the 40-year old Kingsbury leading the way.
Three months after Kingsbury came aboard, Keim took another chance with the NFL Draft’s first-overall selection. Many people who follow the Cards, including yours truly, had doubts about whether Kyler Murray could succeed at the professional level. While it’s still a small sample size, the tiny quarterback out of the University of Oklahoma played extremely well as a 22-year old rookie.
Keim’s reshuffling of the Arizona roster was only beginning with the acquisition of Murray. Inside linebacker Jordan Hicks, who flocked to the desert as a free agent, recorded the third-most tackles (150) in the league last season. In October, Keim pried talented running back Kenyan Drake away from the Miami Dolphins for the bargain-basement price of a fifth-round draft choice.
What Keim has accomplished thus far this offseason has been nothing short of phenomenal. The deal that brought wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals could go down as one of the greatest steals in pro football history. The addition of Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons during the first round of last week’s draft should also earn Keim high praise.
After a few years of disappointing decisions, Keim appears to be on the comeback trail. Suddenly, the Arizona Cardinals are working their way up various power ranking lists. If everything goes right, perhaps another “Executive of the Year” honor will be heading Keim’s way at the end of the 2020 campaign.