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Evaluating the current 2019 Arizona Cardinals—Should Steve Keim keep his job?

SB Nation logo SB Nation 11/30/2018 Blake Murphy
a man wearing a suit and tie © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals have been depleted in talent. Is that on the General Manager? Or does he need his shot to fix this team?

Outside of a contract extension, Steve Keim’s 2018 year couldn’t have possibly been worse so far.

  • His quality head coach in Bruce Arians retired to begin the year along with his starting quarterback
  • He was arrested and spent time in jail for being pulled over for a DUI, and barely missed out on an extreme DUI, leading to a 5-week suspension and large fines from the team President Michael Bidwill
  • His big free agent acquisitions in Sam Bradford, Justin Pugh, Andre Smith and the restructuring of Mike Iupati all tanked as hard as possible and the offensive line grew worse from 2017
  • The team fired the offensive coordinator Mike McCoy less than 12 way through the year (a guy who Keim and the Organization reportedly had wanted to bring alongside the first-time head coach in Steve Wilks
  • Wilks has left the organization in disarray, ending in a loss to the tanking Oakland Raiders and multiple 45-10 blowout losses (one on national television) and a lack of discipline or stopping opposing offenses on defense
  • Team Captain and superstar cornerback Patrick Peterson admitted to requesting for a trade from the team, despite the Cardinals’ desire to keep him and probable desire to extend him
  • The Cardinals are carrying a 2-9 record heading into a game against the Green Bay Packers and aren’t favored in any game the rest of the season, and have fluctuated between the 2nd and 3rd overall pick.

Keim has had about as bad a year as you could have.

Does that mean he should be fired? It depends on two things:

  1. The talent Keim has currently on the roster in determining “fault” (how much of the blame falls on him vs. players vs. coaching, etc.)
  2. The team’s placement and trust in him to be able to rebuild for next year.

Looking at the first option, the talent and current holes on the roster ain’t pretty...

In short as far as talent goes, Keim has missed on adding in cornerstone/elite talent.

The building blocks outside of Rosen right now are: Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson, Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and Budda Baker.

Fitzgerald’s status for 2019 is tenuous at best, while Peterson as mentioned had asked for a trade.

The offensive line has been addressed but hasn’t worked, as it might need 4-5 new starters and what’s even crazier is how despite multiple investments into the linebacking room early in the draft, 2-3 new linebackers are in dire need.

The other standout area is the wide receiver and cornerback room. It’s bare and Keim has struggled or not addressed it properly for the last two years (and if he counted Brice Butler and Greg Little....that says a lot)

The biggest plus for Keim keeping his tenure right now is that we aren’t seeing a back and forth between Mike Glennon and Charles Kanoff every week like we did under Ken Whisenhunt....Rosen was acquired without giving up the farm and that’s to Keim’s credit.

In short, Steve Keim let a lot of the players acquired through the Arians era walk (either due to money or time) or they grew older and retired/moved on.

That’s not a problem if you can replace them—he hasn’t. What he HAS done in the last few years is bring in a young QB and some quality talent in Jones/Baker and kept David Johnson around.

But the lack of depth elsewhere speaks for itself...ooh boy does it.

So is that plus the coaching debacle a fireable offense, even in spite of the positives and what Keim did to turn the program around?

Certainly would look that way.

My belief is that Steve Keim’s biggest talent is the ability to evaluate VALUE. And his moves suggest that so, so well.

-The Chandler Jones trade, obviously.

-Trading up for Budda Baker, who was a 1st rounder

-Taking David Johnson, John Brown & Tyrann Mathieu in the 3rd round

-Trading a 6th round pick to acquire Carson Palmer

-Solid 1-year deals for guys like Karlos Dansby, Antonio Cromartie, Dwight Freeney, Marcus Cooper and other veterans like Matt Shaughnessy or Frostee Rucker on inexpensive deals

Where Steve Keim has been most inconsistent has been with the big things.

He did VERY well in adding Mike Iupati and Jared Veldheer with big deals to solidify the offensive line. And got a QB when Arizona needed one...But both were quality veterans on the market who had proven track records and their pay reflected that. And Rosen was as pro-ready as they come and it was such a cheap deal.

Where he’s struggled has been in the BIG items such as the draft in 1st round picks (taking a S to play linebacker, moving a DE to inside linebacker, taking a guard in the top 10 and in finding a quarterback and OL post-Arians) as well as not seeing the value in departing veterans such as Tony Jefferson, Calais Campbell, Karlos Dansby and more.

Keim’s idea of value and how he drafts is currently under fire and it’s caused a lot of doubt moving forward:

-Can he evaluate the offensive line, corners outside Patrick Peterson and wide receivers long-term?

-Can he find quality linebackers again to make it to a 2nd contract?

And perhaps the most interesting point....

-If Steve Keim is all about finding “value” especially on a tight budget and he has struggled with the big things and when he has cap to spend, what in the world will he do with draft picks and cap room galore?

Some are positive, looking at Les Snead and the Rams. They had some BAD drafts and issues with talent, but they kept him through the post-Fisher years and the Rams are now super bowl contenders adding talent and making solid trades and picks.

Thing is...while picks like Greg Robinson and Tavon Austin were made, Snead’s last few top picks included Aaron Donald, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, along with solid depth picks in Gerald Everett, Cooper Kupp and even Josh Reynolds.

Keim’s last few drafts haven’t found any studs like that to fix the broken offense.

In short, I think it’s time we answer this question....

Should Steve Keim be fired & let go from his position?

...Eh, Sure.

If they think they can find an upgrade from him.

And that’s the rub. Keim’s been a good GM, even was good enough under Arians with a veteran team to rebuild and replenish the talent. But in the rebuild area, he’s proven outside of Arians that he struggles to evaluate and see issues in the important areas, and there’s not a “we don’t have the cap space” complaint to hold off for a year or two.

Arizona had less cap space in years past and he still brought in and found talent...so it’s no surprise that many fans are putting the entire situation, including the Wilks/McCoy debacle, on him.

And perhaps that’s the way to go—in finding a new General Manager to go with a new offensive head coach to develop Josh Rosen and tying the two together. It certainly avoids painful questions if there’s issues with the talent on next year’s team as well despite having Keim as a veteran GM and then you won’t have to be looking at keeping or moving on from ANOTHER head coach a year after the likely move-on from Wilks.

But given Keim’s work in the past, if he can learn from the mistakes (a big if) his past track record probably means he could get a mulligan.

And it might not be a bad thing. We’ve seen how sometimes a new coach revitalizes an entire organization to make the most of the present talent and Keim’s a veteran general manager who’s done it before.

But the fact that this year went SO BAD calls all of that into question, unsurprisingly, and the concern most Arizona Cardinals fans would have is that if Keim stays and little improves, it could doom Rosen and whomever Arizona looks to post-Wilks to fix this broken team.

You can follow @blakemurphy7 on Twitter.

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