I know, I know, that’s a helluva title to hang on someone but if you are willing to think about it for longer than a few seconds, you’ll realize it’s true.
What defined the lowest lows of Robert Sarver when he was the biggest sports villain in Phoenix?
An unshakeable feeling that every hire would fail. An unshakeable feeling that every draft pick would fail. An unshakeable feeling that no matter what good came to the Suns, it would be undone by his meddling. And finally, losing and lots of it.
Now do Steve Keim.
We just watched Steve Keim wrap up his 9th NFL Draft as the general manager of the team with the second longest playoff drought in the NFL.
During this most recent draft, Steve Keim took the virtually unprecedented step of drafting an ILB with his first round pick for the second consecutive season. Plenty of teams value LB play but no one in the league has placed the enormous value on ILB that the Cardinals have.
Consider that of the most successful 3-4 base defense teams in the league, none of them have two first round picks starting at ILB. Not Bill Belichick and NE, the Ravens, Packers or even the Super Bowl champ Buccaneers.
The Cardinals have invested unprecedented resources into the inside linebacker position. In addition to the two 1st round picks in consecutive years, Keim handed out over $27 million dollars in cash to the ILB position in 2020, by far the most money spent on the position in the NFL.
Recently, Darren Urban of the Arizona Cardinals team website made the case that the Cardinals were perhaps influenced by great linebacker duos from the NFC West past in Patrick Willis/Navarro Bowman of the 49ers and Bobby Wagner/KJ Wright of the Seahawks. However, not only are neither of those duos comprised of 1st round picks, neither of those duos contain two ILB that are both 6’4 or taller.
Succinctly put, either Steve Keim has unearthed the biggest market inefficiency in the NFL and is in the process of redefining the ILB position or the rest of the NFL has it right. Are you betting on Keim or the field?
Its not just his unprecedented spending on ILB’s. Keim consistently builds top heavy rosters that have glaring weaknesses visible to all. This year it’s the cornerback position. Last year it was the WR room. The year before it was the offensive line. Every team’s roster has vulnerabilities but only the Cardinals seem content to try and fix them with the enthusiasm of a teenager told to clean their room.
His overall draft failures are well documented. Not only does Keim rank at the bottom of the list for all GM’s draft record since he entered the league, he’s also proven completely incapable of unearthing late round gems. Since 2013, the Arizona Cardinals have not drafted a single player in the 5th round or later that has started consecutive seasons. Not a single player.
His first round draft track record is obvious: only one first round pick has received a second contract to date in DJ Humphries. That will change with Kyler Murray but so far, it’s still an accurate indictment.
And Keim treats many draft picks like they are free drink tickets in the last hour of a company holiday party, handing them out in trades to anyone who wants them.
Keim has mastered the “art” of filling one hole by digging another. Pass on a 1st or 2nd round CB in this year’s draft? No problem, he’ll just trade a future pick in a loaded draft to try and move up to make up for it.
The Cardinals have some real talent on the roster. Kyler Murray is the Devin Booker of the Cardinals franchise. The DeAndre Hopkins trade ranks as one of the best in NFL history. And JJ Watt dazzled us all when he chose the Cardinals.
But it’s hard to separate the roster from the GM.
Keim has collected ILB's like the Suns collected PG's. He hired Kliff Kingsbury, who is the Earl Watson of Cardinals coaches. He's squandered more first round picks than Ryan McDonough. He's ignored vital positions like the Suns starting Mike James at point guard. The comparisons between Keim and Sarver are eerie, other than their official titles.
This year, the Suns have been the biggest story of the NBA but you know who hasn’t been a part of that public story? Robert Sarver, which is the best news of the season for the Suns.
When Robert Sarver lorded over the darkest moments of the Suns franchise like a super villain from a comic book movie, it felt like no matter the draft position, the cap space, the coach hired or the free agents landed, the Suns were still going to come up short.
Looking at the NFC West does that sound familiar, Cardinals fans?