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Keim Time: ‘We’ve let our fans down’

Cardinals GM Steve Keim watches training camp Aug. 2. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Cardinals general manager

The Arizona Cardinals’ playoff aspirations took a shot on Sunday as they lost to the Minnesota Vikings 30-24.

In a game where David Johnson had 160 total yards (103 rushing, 57 receiving) and two touchdowns for his 10th consecutive game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage, it was not enough to get a critical win.

A couple of costly turnovers and poor special teams play nipped the Cardinals during the game. In the end though when the Cards had an opportunity, the offensive line buckled and couldn’t protect Carson Palmer on their final two drives, thwarting any hopes of a comeback. The game’s last meaningful play fittingly ended on a 15-yard sack from defensive end Danielle Hunter.

Not many people envisioned the Cardinals only having four wins through the first 11 weeks of the season, but that’s where they currently stand. Arizona is currently three games behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West and is two games out of the Wild Card hunt with six games remaining. General manager Steve Keim talked about the disappointing season and what he saw against the Vikings when he joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Monday.

When you look at the Arizona Cardinals vs. the Minnesota Vikings, what do you see?

“Broken record. Another game where statistically you look at the sheet and it says one thing and the loss column tells you another. And it’s getting old and we’ve got to fix that and that comes down to making plays, minimizing mistakes, particularly mental mistakes, and stepping up when it’s time to make that play in the game from your playmakers, the guys who you’re counting on, and we haven’t done that and that’s no secret.”

What has been the biggest issue for not being able to win games?

“It’s hard for me to put my finger on it, but you get something going and again like yesterday, I felt like we just kept trying to play catch up. We got into a situation where we started to run the ball really well, I thought David (Johnson) got into a groove and then explosive plays hurt us. Being in the red zone and throwing an interception for a 100-yard touchdown and then obviously the start of the third quarter with the kickoff return for a touchdown. Again you keep getting put in a hole. We did a nice job in the third and fourth quarter taking away the run and then in passing situations we were down to our third guard and they started running a lot of games and stunts and we had a lot of trouble picking those up.”

What is the biggest issue with special teams?

“You know I think it’s playing with cohesiveness, and when I watched the return yesterday it comes down to the guys running down field and having the will to make a play. Wolf knows this better than anybody, half the special teams is the mentality and the effort that you put forth. There were three or four guys that got caved on that play and they got to stay in their lanes and stay physical at the point of attack and they didn’t.”

How did Carson Palmer play?

“I think it takes 11 men for a quarterback to play well. There were times where guys weren’t getting open and separating in the passing game, there were times where the protection wasn’t good. So it was hard for him to get in a rhythm, but he did make some excellent throws as he always does, but again, he made some critical mistakes as well and we got to try and get that cleaned up. We got a huge game ahead of us with Atlanta who obviously has an explosive offense and it’s going to be a big test for us in a road game away.”

What can a general manager do after the trade deadline to try and turn it around?

“When you’re in a leadership position it’s several things. No. 1, it’s the motto I’ve had since the day I was hired here 19 years ago, and that’s be a part of the solution not part of the problem and you have to be a positive leader and you have to continue to try to instill that in your organization from owner to GM to head coach. And these are the tough times, this is when you face adversity, no one anticipated this start but we’ve got to continue to battle, nobody’s going to throw the white flag in. There are times when you got to bring in players and shuffle the back end of your roster and see if you can find some guys, particularly on special teams who can run down the field and make plays.”

What happened to Earl Watford?

“He had some stingers, so he was dealing with those issues and so we had to bring in, again, a guy who came off the street a few weeks ago. And (he) didn’t play terrible, there was just things when they started running those games and stunts as you know Wolf, you got to be on the same page as the player beside you and that lack of experience showed up.”

Will Watford miss any time?

“No, I have no clue yet. We’ll find out the next couple days.”

Is leadership on this team a strength or a weakness?

“I think we have a core of leaders in the locker room. There are certain guys, you know like a Tyrann Mathieu who is a leader for us, who’s injured right now. It’s hard for him to be out on the field and be a leader, but I still think we have a core of guys that love it and care like Larry (Fitzgerald) and Carson (Palmer) and Calais (Campbell) and Frostee Rucker, so it hurts these guys and I know that. The effort hasn’t been the problem, it’s more about execution and playing smart and that’s been a reoccurring theme, like I said, which is the more frustrating point.”

Do you expect Mathieu to be ready for Atlanta? 

“You know I thought he was close last week, and then just didn’t feel 100 percent confident in the shoulder at that time so, I think moving forward I think there’s a good chance. You never can tell with injuries like that, but again, knowing Tyrann, if anybody’s going to be out there with that type of injury it’ll be him.”

Bruce Arians dismissed the notion of the special teams woes being coach Amos Jones’ fault. How do you evaluate that it’s a player issue and not a coaching issue?

“Well we’ll certainly sit down and discuss that stuff after the season. But the thing that, again, is the reoccurring theme is not just special teams but offensively and defensively we’ve played extremely inconsistent. And really at the end of the day it comes down to the 53 men in the locker room. I can tell you, I’m out at practice every day and I can hear the way our staff coaches these young men up, and at some point in time it comes down to those guys executing and doing the right things on the field. And again, I take ownership in that as well, because these are the players I supplied to our coaching staff. So it starts at the top and it’s certainly something we all have to look in the mirror and it starts with me.”

Where is your level of frustration right now?

“Wow, a 10. There’s nothing I care more about with this organization than winning and putting a product on the field for our fans to be proud of, and we haven’t done that this year. Missed opportunities is certainly the thing I would say is the thing I would think about this season so far, and that’s the fine line and the difference between winning and losing in the NFL and we got to continue to keep working and the season is not over. I know that’s not what fans and the people that are supporting us want to hear, but we’re certainly not going to quit.”

Do you look back when trying to identify the problem with the season?

“No, we’re self-evaluating every day and again, that’s both on the coaching side, from the schematical standpoint and the personnel side on the decisions we’ve made on this end. It’s one of those things that it’s a tough business, but that’s what we get paid for, is to produce, and we’ve let our fans down, especially when our expectations were so high. But like I said, the one thing is is that I think we have a great organizational structure in place to withstand this and to move forward to continue to put a product on the field that our fans are proud of.”

Is there something wrong with John Brown?

“Well he’s a guy who’s got all the ability in the world, I mean we know from the past that he’s been a playmaker for us. So hopefully John can step up and make the plays when they’re out there. Guys like John and Michael Floyd, guys who’ve been critical pieces to our offense in the past, you know unfortunately Michael was dealing with an illness yesterday. He got sick and he was trying to play through that, which showed a lot to me about his mental and physical toughness. But there’s no doubt, it comes down to making plays in this game and we just haven’t made enough of them.”

Were there effort issues with Floyd on Sunday?

“No I mean listen, when I got (to U.S. Bank Stadium) in the morning he was with our trainers and I know he’d been up most of the night. So I’ll give Michael a pass on how he was feeling yesterday, because he really did battle through it.”

 

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