GM Steve Keim doesn’t deserve blame for Cardinals collapse

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Steve Keim
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Steve Keim /

Much-maligned general manager Steve Keim handed the Arizona Cardinals a plethora of talented players to work with in 2021.

Over the past several years, Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has been strongly criticized by the team’s fan base.

The ire of the “Red Sea” has been completely understandable when you take into consideration that the Cards went five consecutive campaigns without a postseason appearance. That ugly streak was finally broken in 2021, but Keim’s critics are now placing blame on him for the squad’s late-season collapse.

In reality, Keim deserves kudos for handing Arizona a roster that had compiled a 10-2 record by the first week of December. The fact that the Redbirds lost five out of their last six matchups is more of a reflection on both the coaching staff and the players, as opposed to the GM, who gave them many quality tools to work with.

Steve Keim acquired several productive players for the 2021 Arizona Cardinals

Keim got the Cardinals’ productive offseason rolling back in March when he somehow convinced defensive end J.J. Watt to come to the desert. Say what you will about the acquisition, but the “Big Red” defensive unit was performing at an incredibly high level before the five-time Pro Bowler totally wrecked his shoulder back in October.

A couple of weeks after significantly improving the defensive line with Watt, Keim turned around and orchestrated a similar upgrade for the Cards’ offensive line. The two-time “Executive of the Year” yanked Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson away from the Las Vegas Raiders, providing stability for a blocking unit that was in dire need of the experienced lineman’s leadership.

In October, Keim went out and pulled off a trade for the high-profile tight end that the Cards had been missing for many years. Three-time Pro Bowler Zach Ertz provided the offense with a weapon in the middle of the field and was targeted an eye-popping 81 times in just 11 contests for the franchise.

Another superb acquisition by Keim, running back James Conner, led Arizona with 752 rushing yards and an outstanding 18 total touchdowns in just 15 appearances. Wide receiver A.J. Green tallied 848 receiving yards and averaged 15.7 yards per catch. Veteran placekicker Matt Prater banged home 81.1 percent of his field-goal attempts, including a phenomenal 62-yarder during a week-two victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The much-maligned Keim has been lambasted for many of his draft selections, but a pair of Cards rookies made ample contributions in 2021. Wideout Rondale Moore hauled in 54 passes, tying him with Green for third-most on the team. Cornerback Marco Wilson totaled 48 tackles, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles in 14 games (13 starts) for the Cardinals.

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Arizona’s season ended in utter disappointment, but it would be unfair to say it was Keim’s fault. In fact, the 49-year-old executive did one heck of a job over the past year. Perhaps a stronger performance down the stretch from head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his squad would’ve yielded better results.