TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals chose a path of familiarity in selecting their new general manager, bumping Steve Keim up to the position from his previous post as vice president of player personnel.
“Steve has earned this position,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said at an introductory press conference Tuesday. “As I went through the process over the last week or so of evaluating the field of candidates and speaking to people, both inside our training facility and outside, I became more and more convinced that Steve Keim was the right man to be the general manager for the Arizona Cardinals.”
For Keim, the promotion is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream — he said Tuesday he told his mother at the age of 9 that he would one day be an NFL GM — and the next chapter in a successful relationship with the organization.
Keim, 40, came to the Cardinals in 1999 as a regional scout and moved into various roles during his 14 years with the team, during most of which he worked remotely from North Carolina, where he was a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference guard at North Carolina State. He moved to Arizona with his family before the 2011 season.
Keim has drawn outside interest from other organizations — most recently he’d been identified as one of two finalists for general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars — but he stuck around, and the wait paid off Tuesday when he took over the role held by Rod Graves until last week.
“I cannot tell you how excited I am about this job moving forward,” Keim said. “This is where I wanted to be all along.”
Before even taking questions from gathered media Tuesday, Keim stressed that he had a lot of work to do and would have to get to it right after his introduction. His first task will be helping the Cardinals select a new coach. Bidwill confirmed that the Cardinals have an interview scheduled Thursday with Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Beyond that, no new information was provided about the coaching search. The Cardinals have interviewed two other candidates: Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Bidwill indicated the division of power between Keim and the new coach will likely be different than it was under Graves and former coach Ken Whisenhunt, though no indication was given of who has “final say.” Over the course of Whisenhunt’s six seasons with the Cardinals, his influence in player personnel decisions grew.
“Steve’s got different ideas that are a little bit different from Rod,” Bidwill said. “Obviously they are different people, and so Steve’s approach is going to be his own unique approach and I think it’s going to be a little different.”
That approach will come with a vast collection of knowledge gained from years on the road as a scout. After starting as a scout with the Cardinals, he became director of college scouting in 2006. He has been recognized for his work in helping the team put together strong draft classes including Pro Bowl players Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson Darnell Dockett, Adrian Wilson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Keim’s player evaluation experience will also be put to use quickly as he tackles the tall task of fixing the worst offense in the NFL. He indicated Tuesday he knows exactly where to start.
“I think the easy question is quarterback, obviously, and the bottom line is getting some consistency out of that position,” Keim said. “I think with the offensive line, we have some pieces in place. The level of physicality, the ability to run the football consistently — that’s a huge issue and that’s got to be fixed.”
Keim said he believes in former NFL executive Ron Wolf’s “supply and demand” model of finding a quarterback.
“It’s a tough position to find,” Keim said. “Ron Wolf always had that mind-set that it’s always good to go out and try to get a quarterback every year. You never know how those guys are going to pan out.”
So what will he do at the position where the Cardinals used four different players this season?
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Keim said. “Kevin (Kolb) has done some good things, he has shown some flashes, but with that being said, the consistency and the durability are questions. So that is something we are going to address with the new head coach, and that is something that is obviously on the top of our list.”
Elsewhere, Keim likes the pieces he has to work with and mentioned a few by name Tuesday including Peterson, defensive end Calais Campbell and linebacker Daryl Washington — players he said coaching candidates have gushed about during interviews. He also mentioned the presence of talented offensive players like Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Rob Housler.
“One of the appealing things about this team is I truly believe it’s a retool, not a rebuild,” Keim said. “We have a ton of core talent in place.”
Bidwill said he suspected he wouldn’t need to look for to find Graves’ replacement but had no regrets in casting a wide net.
“I think it’s important to look at the entire field to make sure that we can make the best decision,” Bidwill said. “I still felt I owed it to the team and to myself to look at the entire field of candidates. … My initial impression was that Steve was going to be a natural fit, but to go out and look at the rest of the candidates (made it clear) we had a great one here.”