Back on January 31, 2017, Jess Root of Cards Wire wrote an article titled “Did the Cardinals Want Terry McDonough To Leave?” At the time, Terry McDonough, the Cardinals VP of Player Personnel and right hand man to GM Steve Keim, had interviewed for the 49ers’ GM position and Jennifer Lee Chan, a writer for SB Nations Niners Nation, had theorized the following:
“I am hearing from multiple sources is that McDonough is not well liked in Arizona. In fact, there were no positive reports about McDonough at all.”
“McDonough has been called “hard to deal with” and ‘not a good guy.’ So much so that Arizona started a positive campaign for him over the last season just to get him out of the building.”
As we know, the 49ers surprised the NFL universe by hiring John Lynch out of the broadcast booth to be their new GM.
In Root’s rebuttal to Chan’s theory, he made it clear that everything he had ever heard about McDonough (from Steve Keim to Larry Fitzgerald) was extremely positive. Root concluded: “Perhaps Chan’s sources were not within the Cardinals organization, but within the 49ers, who were slinging a little mud to make the hiring of John Lynch look better.”
Steve Keim has said on numerous occasions that he likes having a difference of opinions in the war room. McDonough is his own man, having been raised by one of the most highly regarded sports reporters of a bygone era, NBC’s Will McDonough.
If one digs a little deeper into the history of Steve Keim’s and Terry McDonough’s relationship (as astutley chronicled by ESPN’s Mike Reiss on September 9, 2016 in his blog “Success has Been in The Cards for New England Native Terry McDonough”) here are some of the highlights:
- In his first year of scouting for the Baltimore Ravens, McDonough liked what he saw in North Carolina State guard Steve Keim, calling Keim a tad undersized, but a “street fighter” with “deceptive athletic ability.”
- When Keim went undrafted, McDonough tried very diligently to get Keim to sign with the Ravens—-Keim signed with Dolphins instead where he roomed with LB Zach Thomas during training camp—-but due a bad knee Keim didn’t stick in Miami—-and after briefly playing in the CFL (Edmonton Eskimos), Keim landed his first job as an area scout with the Cardinals.
- One of Keim’s first moves as area scout was to call Terry McDonough to ask him for advice. Keim said of McDonough, “He took me under his wing. I always felt he had a special talent for evaluating players.”
- The two developed such a rapport that when the Ravens were playing the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, McDonough invited Keim to Tampa to be his guest. At the poolside of the hotel, they had a conversation with Will McDonough, who pointed to Keim and prophetically quipped to his son, “You never know. maybe some day he (Keim) will hire you.”
- It just so happened that in 2013 when Keim was promoted to GM, Terry McDonough was let go by the Jaguars after working 10 years in the organization. Keim immediately called McDonough and reminded him of what Terry’s dad had said by the poolside in 2000. Keim asked, “Do you want to come work for me?”
Since then the most famous interaction between Keim and McDough was caught in the filming of All or Nothing. McDonough can be heard on the phone with Ameer Abdullah assuring the running back that he was their top choice in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft, to which Steve Keim was cheering—-that is until the Lions swooped in and snagged Abdullah before the Cardinals’ pick.
However, it was also McDonough who subsequently suggested drafting David Johnson in the 3rd round instead, lauding Johnson’s size and versatility. McDonough’s call to Johnson was far better, for Johnson assured him that no other teams had been calling him that early in the draft.
So now that Steve Keim is away from the building for the next four and half weeks, it’s Terry Time in Arizona. While one may wonder whether Keim will send messages via little birdies to McDonough during the interim, the odds are that Michael Bidwill has strictly advised Keim to honor the details of his suspension. In essence, that leaves Terry McDonough and Football Administration Director Mike Disner at the helm.
As we know, the Cardinals current roster is precariously thin at tight end, linebacker and safety. The TE situation was recently muddied a little further by Ricky Seals-Jones’ trespassing and aggravated assault arrest. The depth at linebacker is very young and untested. And there are no veteran safety options behind Antoine Bethea and Budda Baker. It could be a coup for Terry McDonough if he could find a way to holster the roster in these areas and to make whatever adjustments need to be made due to early injuries and possible cuts.
What is likely to aid and abet McDonough’s cause is the big board Steve Keim keeps of unsigned plan A, B and C players. One may also expect that Keim and McDonough frequently update and monitor a list of signed players that they would eagerly like to acquire via trade or waivers.
Whatever Terry McDonough accomplishes over the next four week will be a manifestation of loyal teamwork, solid preparation and well deserved quid pro quo.