Here we go, again.
Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury both met with the media in Indianapolis last week, for Keim it being his first actual press conference in nearly a year.
The last time he was at the podium, his comments about how Josh Rosen was their guy “right now” made national headlines. And as we know now, that was when the seeds of Kyler were essentially watered and started to grow.
So what about the 2020 version, after a 5-10-1 improvement from their 2019 1st pick in the draft counter parts? Let’s take a look:
#LIVE: Coach Kingsbury addresses the media at the 2020 #NFLCombine in Indianapolis. https://t.co/PsJA9MUnK7— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) February 25, 2020
Kliff’s demeanor was definitely a bit more relaxed and comfortable and honestly...felt more honest itself. Part of the reason he was likely so guarded last year was the tension over Kyler Murray and as a first-time coach not only trying to conceal his offense (which went poorly) but having to set up himself as essentially the head of an organization despite having never coached at that level before, period.
He said that their personnel department knew more of their fit and what pieces to look into in adding to their team. (I’d be curious if this held true for their offense but also for their DEFENSE under Vance Joseph as the changes that happened later in the season seemed to definitely be a philosophical shift).
The biggest takeaways Kingsbury had from Season 1 in the NFL?
- Need to do a better job prepping the team coming out of the bye week
- Mistake “disguising” his offense from the Lions as they prepped, batted down balls and read routes despite AZ not putting anything on film in the preseason (the college tape here and level of prep the NFL puts in is on a whole new level)
Fortunately for Kliff, his failure wasn’t fatal as he tied one game and bounced back in the 2nd game against the Rams even though it ended as a loss...it was the first time the Cardinals had been COMPETITIVE against LAR since the 2016 season. Seriously.
He also was on Ryen Russillo’s podcast (below) and had some VERY interesting insights about his thought process during the Lions game:
He felt enough pressure that he thought he was gonna be fired after week two?
Kliff’s comments on the Wide Receivers was also of note to anyone who wants to see the team add to their corp after they took 3 previously in the 2019 draft who...didn’t produce according to expectations:
“There’s some great ones in this draft. I think through Round 4 there’s some top, top guys will still be left so we’ll do our due diligence if one of those guys will be there for us.”
(Note: this might be Kliff tipping his pitch—and it might mean Arizona, who has no 5th round pick currently, isn’t looking away from taking a receiver this year as a flyer late but likely with one of their top 120 picks at the least). Doesn’t mean at 8, though. Or does it?
The biggest takeaway when Kliff was asked about the tackles...did he say that they were good? Seems like it when he defended Justin Murray’s play at the position last year.
“We’ll look at all our options but he took some ease, some pressure off of that need.”
For Kenyan Drake, Kliff was abrupt and talked about how they’d like to have him back but wasn’t as committal or raving as we’ve heard from Keim or from even Michael Bidwill.
#LIVE: GM Steve Keim addresses the media at the 2020 #NFLCombine in Indianapolis. https://t.co/4X5Gejm8qQ— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) February 25, 2020
Keim’s biggest takeaway, for me, was that last year he seemed a bit...forced. There were some smiles and winks, but overall a LOT of the tension seemed to be gone. There was more joking.
And it’s no wonder—the team had the top overall pick and Keim’s job was VERY likely on the line with some controversial decisions and he ended up with a rookie head coach who nearly doubled their win total and a QB who won the rookie of the year award.
Fans’ comments on the live streams? Brutal to say the least, but it won’t matter if the GM’s learned from his mistakes and improves. Should he not, it’ll be seen as cocky vs. confident.
One of the takeaways Keim had?
He hinted that he probably wouldn’t be looking at trading back on their Cards Cover 2 video podcast:
Keim also talked about how trading back was an option, but the emphasis was more on not just moving back because of depth at a position in the draft for depth’s sake.
The first thought that came to my mind after reading this:
- “Scheme fit, locker room and falling in love with a player” could describe a lot of players, but right now the obvious one to spot would be CeeDee Lamb due to the air raid offense and his relationship with Kyler (and despite depth, Keim already defending staying put is interesting
- “Tackles, Corners, D-Line, quarterbacks”—the Cardinals only have 1 of the 4, with at least 4 tackles, 1 top corner and (at least) one top DL that might be available at the 8th pick.
In short, the Cardinals might very well like a receiver like Lamb BUT select a different position due to simply the positional value. And that makes sense, as Keim’s likely learned from the team passing on Adrian Peterson and also Russell Wilson in the 3rd round due to his size and an overall need.
In short, nothing was “resolved” outside of the fact that it really will come down to how the Cardinals value and rank their players. If they see a Jeff Okudah fall to 8, for example, it doesn’t matter how much you love CeeDee Lamb or Isaiah Simmons if both are there.
And I think that’s the struggle of the NFL. Easy to fall in love and miss out on something better like a horse with blinders. And Keim knows just because you can lead a horse to water, you can’t nail 100% of those first round picks.
He’s under quite a bit of pressure with his first pick of the Kyler Murray era to build the team up into a competitor while he’s on a rookie deal.
Because the clock is ticking.
Hopefully his new level of comfort and confidence helps him make the right decision.