ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals GM Steve Keim’s ‘big swing’ of Kyler Murray, Kingsbury paying off

Oct 31, 2020, 12:45 PM | Updated: 8:33 pm
General manager Steve Keim introduces quarterback Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals during a pr...
General manager Steve Keim introduces quarterback Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals during a press conference at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center on April 26, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. Murray was the first pick overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 NFL Draft. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It’s not farfetched to say Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim took some massive risks bringing in both Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury to the organization.

Just a year removed from selecting a QB in the first round of an NFL Draft to replace a retiring Carson Palmer and hiring a new head coach to take over for the then-retired Brice Arians, Keim took a major swing for the fences with a signal-caller who hasn’t played a ton of games and a coach with an unproven coaching record.

Now a season and a half in from those decisions, it appears Keim has hit a long ball. But even he knows he took a pitch not many would have in his shoes.

“I really do look back on it now and think to myself as an outsider, and you said, ‘You’re hiring a college coach who had a losing record at the college level and you’re drafting a 5-foot-10 quarterback with the first pick in the draft?’ You might question the job that I’m doing,” the GM told ESPN’s Freddie and Fitzsimmons on Thursday. “I get it, but sometimes in life you have to trust your instincts and you have to be able to take a swing.

“Like [Tin Cup] with Kevin Costner, you can’t lay it up all the time, you gotta take shots. In this case, it’s certainly paying dividends.”

Keim’s comments come after inarguably the greatest stretch the Cardinals have seen under Kingsbury and Co.

The offense has begun to click more than ever under Kingsbury, highlighted by Murray’s dual-threat ability and two NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in the last three weeks of action. Through seven games, the Cardinals are second in the NFL in total yards per game (419.1), second in rushing yards per game (160.7) and third in total points scored (203).

It also doesn’t hurt to have a consignment pro in Larry Fitzgerald adding another influence to the offense with the way he holds himself on and off the field.

“Larry Fitzgerald could be sitting beside Kyler Murray on the training room benches side by side, both getting work done to their knees or ankles, and Larry Fitzgerald’s looking at his stock portfolio and Kyler Murray’s on YouTube watching guys play video games. That right there in itself tells you a little something about where those two are in their careers.

“But Kyler has done a good job of paying attention to the little things, the details, and that’s really going to be the difference in his career is attention to detail. That’s what made Larry Fitzgerald such a great pro.”

The defensive side has taken a large step forward as well, with safety Budda Baker taking over the leadership role from injured outside linebacker Chandler Jones. If he wasn’t already, Baker has quickly jumped on people’s radars, especially after the NFL named the fourth-year pro the NFC Defensive Player of the Month on Thursday. That’s with playing just three of the four games in October, by the way.

But make no mistake, the GM knows the other route this thing could have taken.

“If this doesn’t work, you’re fried,” Keim said laughing about his moves. “I get it, I am one GM that, I promise you, it’s a results-based business. My first five years, we won over 50 games, all was looking pretty good. Bruce [Arians] retires, Carson [Palmer] retires and then we’re back at square one.”

At 5-2, the Cardinals have put the rest of the league on notice as an up-and-coming team that has the firepower to play with the best of them. It’s still early, but stringing together five wins through seven weeks is an accomplishment in itself. But until it’s the last week of the season, there’s always work to be done.

“The Arizona Cardinals are in my blood, it’s not a job, it’s a life,” Keim said. “It’s something I’m awfully proud of. To see us get back on track, we have a lot of work to do, it’s early in the season still.

“A lot of things can happen, but just to see where we’re at right now. To see Kyler pan out, see Kliff having success, it just makes me awfully proud and I certainly want to make [Cardinals owner and president] Michael [Bidwill] proud.”

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