Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim had no apprehension about admitting he has evolved over his three seasons in that role with the team.
“To say that I haven’t changed some thoughts in the past three years,” he mused to Doug and Wolf as part of Newsmakers Week on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday morning. “You know, I think the key in any job in life, to me, is humility — you have to be humble.
“And when I go back and say, ‘Why is humility important’ it’s because you’re not able to self-evaluate without humility. You have to be honest with yourself, you’ve got to look in the mirror and say, ‘What did I do wrong, what did I do right? And the things that I did wrong, how am I going to fix them?'”
Keim said he’s done that, and over his time as the general manager has made his share of mistakes. What he’s trying to do, he added, is try to continually get better.
Of course, the Cardinals have posted a 34-14 record since Keim took over, and last season the team made 182 total transactions en route to a 13-3 season that saw Arizona reach the NFC Championship Game. So while he may not be perfect, many would have a difficult time finding any real fault with the way Keim has gone about building the roster.
But while maybe not a weakness per say, one area specifically Keim said he has undergone a shift in is the draft, and more specifically the types of players he is willing to select.
You can thank Tyrann Mathieu for that.
“Going into my first draft as a general manager, there’s no way that I thought a player like Tyrann Mathieu should get a second chance,” Keim said. “Now that we gave Tyrann that chance and he’s turned out to be the player and the person that he has, he’s changed my thinking a little bit that some, some players deserve second chances.”
Mathieu, of course, was kicked off of the LSU football team due to off-the-field issues, and though a dynamic talent, was not someone who was guaranteed to get drafted. Though it seems a bit silly now, there were some respected NFL analysts and writers who believed the Cardinals would ultimately regret using the 69th overall selection on the defensive back.
To be fair, taking a chance on a player with a questionable track record cannot be an easy thing for a general manager to do. For every player like Mathieu who is able to turn their life around and be productive, there are countless stories of excellent athletes who just could not stay out of trouble and thus, on the field.
It does not matter how talented you are if you cannot play, and simply hoping a player will do what it takes to get on the right path does not really accomplish much.
So the question becomes, at least for Keim and the Cardinals, how do they know if a troubled player they are interested in will become the next Mathieu and not, say, Johnny Manziel or Justin Blackmon?
On one hand, landing a player of Mathieu’s caliber as late in the draft as Keim did is the type of move that can change a franchise and lead to recognition, which Keim has received with multiple Executive of the Year Awards.
On the other hand, using a pick on someone who not only does not produce, but has non-football issues can set a franchise back and lead to the unemployment line.
The key, Keim said, is making sure the player is serious about doing things the right way.
“In the interview process I think one of the things you look at is how genuinely are they embarrassed, are they embarrassed about what’s occurred, what’s happened,” he said. “And then, getting right down to what is your passion and love for the game? You can see a little bit of that on tape, the way a guy plays the game.
“But when you talk to them, the kind of feel you get about the work ethic, the intangibles, the toughness — what drives them.”
Keim said the pre-draft time they spent with Mathieu showed them enough to believe he was serious about turning his life around and making an impact in the NFL.
“You saw that little sparkle in his eye, like, you know what, if there’s a guy who’s been through a lot and a guy that you can point in the right direction, it’s this guy because he loves it so much and he knows that this is his last chance and if football’s taken away from him, where is he going to end up,” Keim said. “Most likely back on the streets in New Orleans, and I knew he didn’t want that.”
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