ESPN: Wilks’ job security at risk with GM Steve Keim on hot seat

Nov 15, 2018, 1:51 PM
Newly appointed Arizona Cardinals football head coach Steve Wilks, center, poses for photographers ...
Newly appointed Arizona Cardinals football head coach Steve Wilks, center, poses for photographers with general manager Steve Keim, right, and team president Michael Bidwill, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, after being introduced at the teams' training facility in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

Through 10 weeks, the playoffs are all but out of the question for the Arizona Cardinals for the third year in a row.

Organizational precedent suggests that first-year head coach Steve Wilks could be back next season. The only head coach since the team moved to the Valley that didn’t see a second season was Hank Kuhlmann, who served on an interim basis in 1989.

But Wilks’ job could depend on the job security of general manager Steve Keim. If the Cardinals decide to let Keim go, the new general manager may want to hire his own coaching staff.

ESPN writer Bill Barnwell lists Arizona as one of 10 teams that could have openings at the head coach position by the start of next season.

The job would be the ‘least desirable,’ said Barnwell.

If the Cardinals hire a new GM, it will be tough to justify keeping Wilks. The Cardinals’ defense has remained effective on his watch, ranking sixth in DVOA through 10 weeks, but the future of the organization hinges on developing new quarterback Josh Rosen. If a new GM wants to hire an offense-minded coach to take over, I’m not sure Wilks has done enough to stand in the way.

After signing an extension through 2022, Keim kept busy over the summer as he tried to forestall a rebuild after former head coach Bruce Arians and 38-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer retired.

The Cardinals signed Sam Bradford to a $15 million guaranteed deal over two years to fill the void at quarterback, not knowing Rosen would be available on the draft board with the tenth overall pick. The Bradford experiment turned out to be short-lived after he was benched for Rosen after three starts and later released on Nov. 3.

Other mishaps have largely been related to draft picks since Keim took over in 2013. His build-through-the-draft philosophy has lacked specifically on the offensive line, the most glaring problem for the Cardinals.

Arizona’s line ranked last through Week 10 according to Pro Football Focus.

Since Keim’s first year, he has drafted offensive linemen Jonathan Cooper, Earl Watford, D.J. Humphries, Cole Toner, Evan Boehm, Will Holden, Dorian Johnson, Korey Cunningham and Mason Cole.

Humphries, Cunningham and Cole are the only three remaining linemen on the roster.

Linebacker Deone Bucannon is the only player left from Keim’s 2014 draft picks, while there are none from 2013.

Coaching changes and injuries have deterred defensive players like Bucannon, as well as Haason Reddick and Robert Nkemdiche from playing up to first-rounder expectations.

Bucannon, drafted 27th overall in 2014 has played 33.4 percent on defense so far this season as he has tried to find his way into Wilks’ scheme.

Reddick played only 30 defensive snaps through the first four games while Nkemdiche has yet to play a full season since Keim drafted him 29th overall in 2016.

The Cardinals success seen from 2013-15 has been on the decline under Keim, and if the organization decides to go in a new direction, Wilks’ era in Arizona could be over as well.

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ESPN: Wilks’ job security at risk with GM Steve Keim on hot seat