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History helped Cardinals GM Keim fall in love with Kyler Murray

General manager Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at State Farm Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 18-15. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Cardinals general manager Steve Keim spent some time Thursday night backing up his big decision by spelling out research.

In the past three seasons, Keim found that 19 starting quarterbacks missed at least three games. Of those 19 players, 14 of their teams missed the postseason.

Arizona didn’t need to pull a sales job to back their selection of Kyler Murray with the No. 1 pick, making it a rare consecutive NFL Draft of a team taking a quarterback in the first round. It’s a risky proposition any way it’s examined.

Keim knows the weight of this draft anyway.

After trading up to take Josh Rosen as the potential franchise quarterback at No. 10 last season, selecting Murray this year might be a waving of the white flag on his 2018 first-round choice. But at the end of the day, the Cardinals felt they couldn’t not take Murray.

“Just approaching the NFL Draft, I wanted to be organic,” Keim said. “The way I looked at it was — I don’t want to lie to you, I was reluctant. I did not want to watch the tape, I didn’t want to fall in love with the player.”

He couldn’t take his eyes off the tape.

Keim did end up falling for Murray, who at Oklahoma threw for 4,361 yards and 42 scores while rushing for 1,001 yards and 12 more touchdowns on way to a Heisman.

“I’ve been doing this over 20 years. I’ve seen guys who have thrown it like him. I’ve seen guys who have run it like him,” the GM said. “But I can tell you that I haven’t seen anybody that can do the combination that he brings to the table: the ability to throw the football with timing, accuracy and touch, and to be able to run the football, extend plays and create outside of the pocket.”

The tone coming from Keim and first-year Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury all but said out loud that Murray is the franchise face, not Rosen. Arizona isn’t going to trade Rosen for pennies on the dollar, however, and it at least views quarterback depth as valuable.

Keim admitted the Cardinals took calls for Rosen but said he wasn’t going to let a good quarterback walk.

Kingsbury deflected a question about whether Murray is the presumed starting quarterback, adding that he spoke to Rosen on the phone about Arizona’s decision before the draft.

By the end of the first round, Rosen remained on Arizona’s roster. Maybe it stays that way, maybe not.

“For me, my job is to come in every day and work hard and get better each and every day to do what I can to make this team better,” Murray said. “I knew Josh in high school. Me and him were cool, we got along really well. Us being teammates now, I can’t control anything but going in and working hard.”

Maybe Keim really believes that there can never be enough quarterback depth. There’s reason to believe it.

He has a haunting personal experience that would make carrying two young signal-callers and veteran Brett Hundley a believable proposition.

Remember 2014, when Arizona bulled its way through the regular season to an 8-1 start before quarterback Carson Palmer went down? The Cardinals were 11-3 by the time backup Drew Stanton suffered his own season-ending injury, leaving Ryan Lindley to lose the last two regular-season games and the NFC Wild Card game against the Carolina Panthers.

Keim cited history again in comparing his quarterback-heavy drafting to former Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf, who in 1992 traded a first-round pick for a young Falcons quarterback named Brett Favre after Favre’s rookie season in which he threw four incomplete passes.

In more recent history, Keim saw the success from the Seattle Seahawks under quarterback Russell Wilson, who this offseason earned an extension to become the highest-paid NFL player.

Keim was unafraid to make the comparison to the sub-6-foot Murray.

“(Murray) was the funnest guy I watched on tape. If I wrote ‘wow’ a hundred times, that probably wasn’t enough,” Keim said. “And today’s day and age, you have to extend with your feet and make plays out of the pocket, and (I) certainly have gotten tired of facing a guy that has similar skills over and and over, and unfortunately usually on the losing end of it.”

The Cardinals can only hope past history and past personal experience hasn’t skewed Keim’s perspective into compounding past mistakes.

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