Potential Steve Keim Replacements for Cardinals

Steve Keim Replacements

The Arizona Cardinals are expected to part ways with their GM, Steve Keim. The decision comes as no surprise due to Arizona’s underwhelming season. The team’s recent loss to the Denver Broncos was only the nail in the coffin, eliminating them from playoff contention.

The news surrounding Keim’s long-term future has surfaced during the 50-year-old’s indefinite leave from the team. His absence was originally cited as health-related, but many have questioned whether this truly is the reason. With Keim out, Arizona has split interim GM duties between Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson. They are both strong candidates to take over from Keim long-term.

Regardless of who takes over from Keim, they have a tall task ahead of them. The GM role in Arizona seems an impossible job given how the roster currently looks. One concern is the number of aging veterans and impending free agents. Stars such as J.J. Watt, Byron Murphy, Zach Allen, D.J. Humphries, and Marquise Brown are all in contract years. The likes of Rodney Hudson, Justin Pugh, and Colt McCoy are all nearing retirement.

The team does, however, have the foundation of a future with Kyler Murray. Murray’s ACL tear has ruled him out of the rest of the season, but his huge extension in the off-season keeps him in Arizona for the foreseeable future.

It is likeliest that owner Michael Bidwill will go for an in-house promotion. This was how Keim got his job in 2013. However, Bidwill might opt to inject his franchise with a breath of fresh air and new ideas. Part of this will hinge on how comfortable Harris and Wilson are during their trial period.

Seven Potential Steve Keim Replacements

Quentin Harris

Harris is a former safety for the Cardinals. He is currently the team’s VP of Player Personnel, a role he has held since 2021, and is executing interim GM duties alongside Wilson. Harris has been an Arizona executive for 14 years now. He started his executive career in 2008 as a scout and has slowly worked his way up through the ranks. He is well respected within the organisation. Bidwill could do much worse than hiring Harris. He would certainly be the safest option on this list but is a good ambassador for the team’s culture.

Adrian Wilson

Wilson is another former Cardinals safety and, during his playing career, was considered one of the best safeties in the league. He is Arizona’s VP of Pro Scouting as well as co-executing interim GM duties. The 43-year-old has made it very clear that his ambition is to GM the Cardinals and bring a championship to the desert. Like Harris, he is well respected within the organisation and has been an executive since 2015. He also began his executive career as a scout.

Wilson is considered one of the league’s top up-and-coming executives. Many had pointed to him as Keim’s heir apparent given his visibility in recent seasons. Indeed, his success had drawn the attention of the entire league and he was close to becoming the GM of the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. Wilson would be a fan-favourite pick as GM, but some would be critical of the appointment as it feels like an extension of Keim’s reign.

Joe Hortiz

Joe Hortiz is the Baltimore Ravens Director of Player Personnel and a top candidate to be an NFL GM in the next recruitment cycle. Baltimore’s robust and deep roster is no secret. They have one of the slickest front offices in the league and part of that is down to their good drafting and long-term planning. Hortiz has been a big part of that and has been drilled in Baltimore’s approach for nearly 20 years.

Last season, Hortiz was interviewed by the Pittsburgh Steelers and was also a candidate for the GM vacancy with the New York Giants. It seems that his appointment as a GM is imminent. If Bidwill opts to appoint Hortiz, he would be making a strong commitment to rebuilding the culture and strategy of the Cardinals. The Ravens have an admirable and consistent recruitment system, something the Cardinals could look to implement.

Mike Borgonzi

Mike Borgonzi is another strong GM candidate. Borgonzi is currently the Assistant GM for the Kansas City Chiefs and was a top GM candidate in the 2022 cycle. Borgonzi is one of the most respected executives in the league and the Cardinals would do an excellent job by landing him. He has been an NFL executive since 2009 and was described by NFL insider Peter Schrager as the Chiefs’ ‘secret weapon’ in their recent success.

The Chiefs’ aggressive recruitment strategy would certainly suit Arizona. The Cardinals have been known to make splashy moves before but had a dormant off-season most recently. With plenty of cap space in 2023, Borgonzi would be given a lot of freed to make his mark.

Another reason Borgonzi suits Arizona is due to his experience with Patrick Mahomes’ mega contract. Murray’s recent extension limits the team’s spending power, but this is something that Borgonzi has already dealt with in Kansas City.

Jon Robinson

The Tennessee Titans fired GM Jon Robinson midway through the 2022 season. This was done despite the team being 7-5 at the time. Fans generally considered Robinson a good GM. He managed to instill a winning culture in Tennessee over his 6 years as GM, though some of his decisions have caused controversy. It is still unclear why the Titans decided to move on from Robinson. If it was performance-related, it seemed harsh.

The Cardinals could look to bring Robinson into the fold if they like the fit. The main concern surrounds why he was fired by the Titans this season. He also has some concerning deficiencies as a GM, such as a poor track record in drafting in the first round. He is, however, one of the only names on this list with experience of being a successful GM.

Sean Payton (HC-GM)

Appointing Sean Payton as head coach and GM would certainly be surprising. The history of the coach-GM role has been turbulent. Bill Belichick and Vince Lombardi are among the success stories, but there are also the likes of Bill O’Brien. If the Cardinals choose to appoint Payton as a coach-GM, that would be testament to the faith they have in the former New Orleans Saints coach. It could also be a way to lure Payton to Arizona, though he is said to be interested in the Cardinals anyway.

Would this be likely? For Payton’s appointment to happen at all, the Cardinals would need to sack Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury’s appalling season warrants it, but his extension in the off-season could ultimately prevent his culling. To appoint Payton, the Cardinals would also need to trade for his rights from the Saints and pay him a mega contract. And, on top of all of this, Bidiwill would still need to make the grand decision to give the franchise’s keys to Payton.

If the Cardinals do opt for the Payton coach-GM route, there is a good chance that they would try to keep Harris and Wilson to support Payton. It would be an interesting setup that would undoubtedly change the Cardinals’ recruitment strategy.

Jeff Ireland

Jeff Ireland is the only other name on this list who has had experience as an NFL GM. His appointment could certainly be interesting if the Cardinals are set on acquiring Payton as their next coach.

Ireland is currently the Assistant GM of the Saints and has been an NFL executive since 1997. He started his career as a scout for the Chiefs and was the GM for the Miami Dolphins between 2008 and 2014. His tenure with the Dolphins was highly controversial but he has slowly rebuilt his reputation over the last few years. Indeed, in 2017, Payton sang Ireland’s praises for overhauling the draft process in New Orleans. It is clear that Ireland and Payton have a strong relationship and so appointing them in tandem would be a smart move.

In Ireland, the Cardinals would be bringing in an experienced NFL executive. However, it would be a risk given how his stint in Miami went. One another concern would be whether the Cardinals can overlook Ireland’s controversial non-footballing scandals during his time with Miami.