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3 Reasons Why Steve Keim’s Job Is Safer Than You Think

Is the Cardinals GM really in a make-or-break year? Not so fast.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In all the hullabaloo of the Arizona Cardinals’ hectic offseason from firings and hirings to Kyler Murray, there’s a common thread in many comments:

“Steve Keim needs to hit a home run with this next draft.”

“Steve Keim’s got to have a great draft to keep his job.”

“Keim’s on thin ice as a GM after he kept his job and Wilks got fired.”

Hold up just a minute.

Keim isn’t as likely to be fired as you think. And it goes beyond him and Cardinals President Michael Bidwill being good friends (although I’m sure that might help) but here are three reasons why his job is safer than you’d think:

  1. The survival of the DUI and Steve Wilks

There are GM’s who have had drinking issues in the past (noticably former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan) but Keim was an active GM who was busted and actually spent time in jail, narrowly avoiding a super DUI.

For many, that would be it for their tenure, but Michael Bidwill kept him on after a heavy fee and then a 3-13 season happened.

Some believed that AZ was set on cleaning house, but what they did was actually the opposite in doubling down on Steve Keim and letting him pick the new head coach AND much of his staff.

The Cardinals are less likely to be a “one and done” this upcoming year simply because all of the moves they have made (putting blame more squarely onto the coach) is how several past general managers have kept their jobs even when head coaches were fired.

The Jaguars and Dave Caldwell, the Broncos and John Elway, the Texans with Rick Smith, even the Bucs and Jason Licht and Jets with Mike Maccagnan all let go of their head coaches but kept their GM’s intact. That seems to be a new NFL model unlikely to change.

In short, if a DUI and earning the #1 overall pick through constant losing wasn’t enough to get Keim fired, little else will be.

2. Keim’s drafting and ability as a GM

While Steve Keim’s struggled to land a first-round pick that’s been a star (and might miss again on yet another one if the team trades Josh Rosen to draft Kyler Murray) overall his tenure has seem far more positive than negative moves and value bases for the most part that paint a positive picture.

Keim built around Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald and had a contending team through landing solid picks in Mathieu, Bucannon, David Johnson, Markus Golden and supplemented it with one-year deals for Antonio Cromartie, Dwight Freeney, Marcus Cooper, Tramon Williams, Karlos Dansby and more and built a team. His trade for Chandler Jones for a 2nd was maybe the best acquisition in franchise history and Michael Bidwill still values that.

This last draft was possibly his strongest argument yet: landing a quarterback in the first for only a 3rd and a 5th (in a year with two thirds due to letting Calais Campbell walk) Christian Kirk, Mason Cole, Chase Edmonds and even a surprise in Korey Cunningham. It showed that Keim wasn’t just on the downward slope after a burst with Bruce just didn’t turn into winning or consistency once BA left.

But gave a good picture of the Cardinals and what they could be. The team’s got other general manager candidates out on the market who have been fired before or would be taking on a first time one if they didn’t promote from within (and if Keim goes, the whole department would be reworked).

His experience and his reputation meant he’d be a GM for another team right away and it’s unlikely that Arizona would replace him easily.

3. Michael Bidwill took on much of the ownership of last season from Keim

Picture if you will an accounting manager and his assistant manager.

Both double-check a report that was filed and it turns out a month later that the report had a decimal error and the company is in the red, rather than in the black.

Who’s responsible for it?

Both are, obviously as both were required to check it. And yet, what would you say if the manager blamed his assistant, fired him and brought in someone else?

“That’s not fair if he messed up, too.”

And that’s probably the most important point here.

Michael Bidwill is a very hands-on NFL owner. He doesn’t meddle in terms of sticking in and forcing changes when he might want to like a Robert Sarver was prone to do or a Jerry Jones, but he’s active in decisions and everything runs through him. This included the hiring of Steve Wilks and Mike McCoy by GM Steve Keim.

Keim and Bidwill were in it together and when the team clearly was adrift and lost, it wasn’t all on Steve.

Michael played an integral part of them building it together be it from the head coach hiring itself to the quarterback they selected and even to other decisions during the season and guys they would keep.

It wasn’t Bidwill sitting back in the box like a Robert Kraft, and he even owned up to it, personally, in their end of the year press conference announcing the firing of Coach Wilks.

That, more than anything, is probably why Keim has a lot of leeway. If the team rises, it’s due to him AND Bidwill’s work. If it falls, it’s not just on Keim.

In this fashion, it’s probably good to point out that this means it will take a lot for Keim to get fired—he’d need to probably have several more bad drafts, having a mess on his hands or have Kliff Kingsbury and their staff fall on their face or have another off-field incident.

If Keim takes on individual roles that Bidwill trusted him on, and it blew up in his face, then we might start talking about a leash.

But for now? It seems like they are tied at the hip for the foreseeable future.

I’d guess it’d be at least 2-3 more years, barring an off-field incident or if Arizona should land the #1 pick next year again, it seems like they will need to give more time to build versus creating instability year-upon-year.

Perhaps I’m wrong on that.

But I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that Keim has four years left on his deal and it wouldn’t shock me if he does finish that deal out with the Cardinals.