clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

With the Arizona Cardinals staff put together, the pressure is now on Steve Keim

New, comments

The Arizona Cardinals GM now comes into the crosshairs, as his new staff will be put to the test.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Press Conference Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Cardinals have signed OC Mike McCoy under the auspices that the Cardinals will be “very aggressive” through free agency or via a trade (as HC Steve Wilks avows) to acquire their QB, a great deal of weight falls on Steve Keim’s broad shoulders.

What is so curious about the hiring of McCoy is that he finds himself this year in a nearly identical situation he was in last year with the Broncos---becoming the veteran OC under a newly appointed first-time defensive oriented HC (Vance Joseph) who came to the job with one year of DC experience.

The only major difference this time around for McCoy is that he inherited a trio of QB with the Broncos (2016 starter Trevor Siemian, 2016 1st round draft pick Paxton Lynch and 2012 2nd round pick Brock Osweiler), whereas in Arizona the QB cupboard is bare.

Word is that McCoy likes Osweiler and wants to sign him as a free agent. If that’s the case, Osweiler should not command top money this time around and could be the bridge QB for a 1st or 2nd round draft pick. But, is the signing of Osweiler going to excite and raise the confidence of the players and fan base? Could Osweiler, with a vote of confidence from McCoy, suddenly become a diamond in the rough?

McCoy favors an offense that is very similar to Josh McDaniels’ offense in New England. It’s an offense predicated on creating a strong balance between the running and passing games, one that takes full advantage of the RBs and TEs in the passing game and one that tries to lure the safeties up to the second level so as to take some deep shots over their heads.

In Denver last year, Vance Joseph made it clear to McCoy in training camp to “put the players first, the scheme second.” The way Joseph demanded this from McCoy it sounded very much like a warning, and in retrospect, it was indeed a warning due to the fact that McCoy was fired in mid-season for what seemed to be putting his sophisticated scheme first and the players second. One Broncos’ beat reporter described McCoy’s voluminous playbook as a tome that “would make the Cheesecake Factory menu blush.”

There was a great deal of frustration that McCoy was not focusing the offense enough around their prolific trio of RBs, C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and Jamal Charles. The running game never quite got on track and the RBs were not being utilized nearly enough in the passing game.

So, let’s get back to the QB conundrum. If Steve Wilks is correct that the Cardinals are going to be “very aggressive” in FA or via trade and the draft to address the QB position---could the signing of castoff UFA QB Brock Osweiler be considered a “very aggressive” move? Hardly, right?

The most aggressive move Keim could make would be to try to reunite McCoy with his QB in San Diego, Philip Rivers. Keim, a fellow NC State alum, loves Rivers. Who doesn’t? Rivers is 36, he has two years left on his contract @ $15M (2018) and $16M (2019) ...which, in terms of today’s QB salaries is a flat-out bargain. Rivers passed for over 4,000 yards again last season at 62.6%, 28 TDs, 10 ints., a QBR of 96.0.

The Chargers have been focusing a great deal of their attention on drafting Rivers’ successor this year. One of the QBs they reportedly are enamored with is Wyoming’s Josh Allen. The Chargers, however, pick 16th in the first round, and would likely have to trade up to select Allen.

What if Keim offered the Chargers the Cardinals’ 1st round pick, #15, to the Chargers for QB Philip Rivers? What that would do for the Chargers is give them a back-to-back package of picks which could enable them to move up to take their QBOF. But would they be willing to move on from Rivers in favor of a rookie when their defense is starting to dominate? No. But, who knows? I couldn’t hurt to ask.

In Denver, the word is that they are going to try to do everything they can to sign QB Kirk Cousins. Whether they are able to do that or not, they apparently are not happy with Paxton Lynch and would like to trade him. Lynch, per the Broncos’ beat reporters, is not well liked in the locker room. His play in 2 starts this year was up and down. Before injuring his knee, he passed for 295 yards, @ 66.7%, with 2 TDs, 3 ints. and a QBR of 72.0.

Lynch did not start any of the games while McCoy was OC. Word in training camp was that Lynch was having trouble picking up the playbook. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But, just the same, it would be interesting to know Mike McCoy’s thoughts on Lynch, because chances are Lynch could be had for a 3rd or 4th round pick. And he has three years left on his rookie contract.

In free agency, the absolute best fit for McCoy’s offense, is Kirk Cousins, because of his pinpoint accuracy on short and intermediate passes. Which begs the questions, is McCoy and his style of offense enough of a lure for Cousins? And, could Steve Keim win the bidding war for Cousins over the likes of the Broncos, Browns and Jaguars? All this, assuming the Redskins back out of the picture.

If the Bills release Tyrod Taylor, he could be a very good fit. His TD to INT ratio is superb, and with a very good defense similar to or possibly stronger than the one he had in Buffalo, he could win a lot of games.

If the Vikings choose to move on from Case Keenum, as there appears to be growing sentiment that the Vikings would like to re-sign Teddy Bridgewater, there could be a natural fit for Keenum in McCoy’s offense. Sam Bradford is a potential match as well, if he can finally stay out of the tub. But, if you sign Bradford to be the bridge to a 1st round rookie QBOF and he gets injured again, well, then the clock starts early for the QBOF. So, be it, right?

In the draft, at #15, the Cardinals could have the opportunity to trade up to snatch Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, or they could find matches for McCoy in Oklahoma St.’s Mason Rudolph or Washington St.’s Luke Falk. Even though some draft gurus feel that Rudolph and Falk could slide to round 2, the odds are they will be off the board by the 47th pick.

The wild card at #15 remains Lamar Jackson, if he is on the board. At first glance it wouldn’t appear that Jackson would be a match for Mike McCoy’s offense, but, in light of how creative McCoy was in helping Tim Tebow get on a roll as far as to win a playoff game over the Steelers, maybe the drafting of Jackson is a possibility.

Whatever the case may be, if there ever was “Keim Time” ---that time is now. Keim gift wrapped the arrival of Carson Palmer to BA. Now Keim needs to hook up Steve Wilks and Mike McCoy with a starting QB who can go head to head and toe to toe with Wilson, Goff and Garoppolo.

In the Shawshank Redemption, when Red describes Andy Dufresne’s remarkable escape, he talks about Andy’s fascination with geology and Andy’s true understanding that geology is a study of “pressure” and “time.”

Well, in relating this to the 2018 Arizona Cardinals and their potential escape from the cellar of the NFC West---in terms of passing “the rock” this off-season---should prove to be---a study of “pressure” and “Keim.”