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Keim Time: 2016 season will be used as a learning tool

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) leaves the field after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Saints won 48-41. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Cardinals general manager

And with that, the Arizona Cardinals are officially eliminated from playoff contention.

The team’s 48-41 home loss to the New Orleans Saints Sunday not only wrapped up the home part of their schedule, but any chance the team had to make a surprise run to the postseason.

The defense offered little resistance to a Saints team that had struggled the previous two weeks, while the offense just couldn’t quite keep up.

There was some good in the game, with David Johnson setting an NFL record for consecutive games with 100 yards from scrimmage to start a season, but there was also some bad. That has really been the story of the Cardinals’ season, in which they are now 5-8-1.

As he does every Monday, Cardinals GM Steve Keim joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM to talk about the game and his team going forward.

What drives you crazy the most with this year’s team?

“I would say underachieved, and it gets back to the little things. The one thing I will say about this football team is I’m extremely proud of their effort. They haven’t quit, and there have been some times where they’ve been put in situations where I know it’s tough, but the mental mistakes and the miscues have certainly been a major concern. It’s disappointing as we all know, but I think that this group will continue to fight and try to finish strong.”

Has this season changed your perspective on how to build the roster going forward?

“I think you use every experience as a learning tool, and there’s no doubt that it continues to show me not only just evaluating players but continuing to build the right kind of locker room. I don’t want to point fingers towards our locker room, but going back to the piece of evaluating talent, where as a scout you get so enamored with the size and the speed and the movement skills, and some of the things at times you can overlook is the smarts, the ability to process information, to think fast on your feet. And those are things that are hardest to see, as an evaluator, the heart and the mind. Those are things that we’ve got to continue to challenge ourselves moving forward to try to create the best roster we can.”

How do you do that? 

“That’s a great question, because it really is a balance. There are times where you have really smart players that aren’t quite good enough athletically, that can’t come to balance in space, can’t make tackles in space, but at the same time, there’s a value that they bring to the table, which is the ability to key and diagnose, the ability to get other players lined up. So, that’s one of those things moving forward that we have to address and I know we’ll sit down as a scouting and coaching staff and put our best foot forward. I will say this: I would have never imagined that with our defense, we’d put up 41 points and still lose the game. But I’ll credit Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Drew continues to play at a high level and is really, in my opinion, one of the smarter players in the National Football League.”

What was your thinking with regards to Michael Floyd?

“It’s an unfortunate situation for both sides, and the one thing I’ll just say is Michael has moved on and we’ve moved on, and I wish him nothing but the best.”

What happened that day as you found out Floyd had been arrested?

“I just got a call from our head of security letting me know. Like I said, this season’s been tough as it is, and to get news like that is something you never want to here, not only for the player but for the organization. And again, I wish him the best and hopefully things play out well for him.”

Did you discuss the Floyd situation with the leaders in the locker room?

“No. I think that the one thing, as players, you never can tell what they’re thinking. There’s no doubt that there’s a tremendous amount of loyalty from player to player, which you have to respect. These guys are in the locker room and they’re fighting and they’re competing, so there’s a natural love. Listen, it’s no different as an organization, you get emotionally attached to these players, so when you have to make tough decisions it’s extremely difficult, because you don’t just think of guys as football players — you also care about the person.”

How are you approaching Calais Campbell’s contract situation?

“I’ll say this, Calais played excellent yesterday. He was extremely disruptive and made some big plays. The one thing the public does not generally know is we have spoken to many agents regarding players whose contracts expire after the season, some whose contracts do not expire after the season that we would just like to try to extend. So it takes two sides, but those are conversations that I’ll keep to myself and we don’t generally talk about through the media. But there are several players that we’d like to have back, and it takes two sides.”

Who are some players that jumped out on tape from the Saints game?

“I thought Carson (Palmer) played excellent; I thought it was one of his better games and showed tremendous accuracy and touch, particularly behind an offensive line who we know has been put together, so to speak, with patchwork. And they actually held up fairly well, I thought, for the circumstances they were in. I thought John Brown stepped up and looked a little bit like himself from 2015, which was great to see. Defensively, Calais played well, I thought Tony Jefferson had one of his better games. So it’s nice to see, even in a loss, some of the guys stepping up moving forward. That’s what I talked about last week, using these last three games as somewhat of a litmus test to see which guys are competing, which guys are fighting, and it gives you a little better of an understanding of where you want to go in 2017.”

As you look back, do you think the team had enough urgency to begin the year?

“I don’t disagree with that, from the standpoint we went through training camp, I didn’t think we looked particularly well in the preseason. And I said this early on, we had some guys who stood out individually, but I didn’t think we came together as a team. There were very few games this year where we played well in all three phases, which is disappointing and you know that you can’t win many football games when there’s one side of the ball that lets you down. But, that’s the hard part of moving forward, is trying to figure out the locker room, the pieces that you put in place. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success the last three years, but that shouldn’t be a reason to feel overconfident or feel like this year is just going to fall into place. Every year is different, every roster is different. So on paper, where I may have thought that this was our best roster in the last four years, you still have to come together and play as a team and unite together, and that’s something I don’t think we did very well. There’s no doubt that’s something that when Coach and myself and Michael sit down after the season, we’ll certainly concentrate on.”

How do you feel your young guys played against New Orleans?

“Scooby (Wright) made a really good block on special teams, and the one thing you get out of him is toughness, passion. That’s one of the things that we liked about Scooby coming out and one of the reasons why we signed him. Some of the other guys — Taylor (Boggs) got beat early in the game in the pass protection one time, but I thought he held up OK. Sio Moore was really active. Got a little gassed late in the game, but made a lot of tackles and gave us his all. Then Brandon (Williams) and Robert (Nkemdiche) I thought made some strides. Brandon has all the physical tools, just has to continue to grow and learn how to play with anticipation, to play with leverage on routes, and he’ll continue to grow and get better. I have a lot of high hopes for him. Robert, yesterday, I thought really flashed. There were times where he created a little bit of pressure; he showed some leverage in the run game and made a tackle or two. Two young guys that hopefully will continue to compete and get better and we’ll see that in 2017 as well.”

With playoffs no longer possible, do you talk to Arians about playing younger players over the final two weeks?

“I don’t even have to say that, that’s something that he and I discuss openly. He’s all for it. He’s not the kind of guy that’s going to be selfish or hard-headed. He wants to see these young guys as well, but at the same time, you don’t want to sacrifice that — we still want to win these football games. There’s a pride factor to play for, there’s a commitment to the organization to try to win football games at all costs, and our fan base. That’s the one thing you look back and you think about the expectations for this year and how excited our fans were, the way they came week in and week out to the University of Phoenix Stadium — yesterday they were still a full house — and the way they traveled with us this year was really exciting. So I really do want to thank our fans, as I said last week, the way they came in droves to Miami, and their enthusiasm and support throughout the year.”

What, if anything, can be done about roughing the passer penalties when the QB’s head changes on the defender?

“I certainly don’t want to criticize the officials, but I will say this: I am all for protecting the quarterback in certain situations, but then there are some plays that, to me, are just flat out football plays. It’s tough to teach a defensive player how to be aggressive or how to attack an offense when they’re trying to play either conservative or worry about making a mistake.”

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