The Arizona Cardinals have chosen to stay in-house with the promotion of Steve Keim to general manager as the search for a new head coach goes on.
The 40-year-old Keim has worked for the franchise for 14 years. He joined the Cardinals in 1999 as a scout, became director of college scouting in 2006 and director of player personnel in 2008 before being named vice-president for player personnel last year.
At a news conference on Tuesday, the hulking Keim, with his trademark shaved head, said he is driven by two specific memories of his time with Arizona.
"One is obviously the day that I stood on the field in 2008 when we won the NFC championship and all that confetti was sticking to my sweaty head. That thought drives me," he said. "The other thought that drives me is when I was sitting at our game against Seattle this year and we lost 58-0 and making a pact with myself that that will never happen again."
Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said the fact that other teams were interested in Keim shows his value.
Bidwill said he felt he owed it to the organization to conduct other interviews even though his "initial impression was that Steve was going to be a natural fit."
With his wife and three young children — the youngest sound asleep in a stroller — on hand, Keim said that although he interviewed for other GM jobs, staying in Arizona was always his first choice.
A two-time all-ACC guard at North Carolina State, Keim had a brief stint as a player in the NFL with Miami in 1996 and with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League in 1997. After that, he returned to North Carolina State as strength and conditioning coach as well as doing player evaluations and serving as a liaison to NFL representatives who were evaluating players at the school.
"I told my mother when I was nine I wanted to be an NFL general manager and she sort of snickered," Keim said. "She said 'If you only worked on your math and your science as hard as you did on knowing these players, you may end up being successful."'
Keim replaces Rod Graves, who was fired along with coach Ken Whisenhunt the day after the season ended.
Bidwill, son of team owner Bill Bidwill, said that Keim's duties will "be a little bit different" from those of Graves.
"What they tend to do is they improve each other and make the team better," Bidwill said. "They make each other better, as well. And they come to team decisions. And that's the view that I have, which is we're going to have that here. We'll make Cardinal decisions and we'll be a better team for it."
Keim was a part of Bidwill's two interviews of head coaching candidates — Cardinals defensive co-ordinator Ray Horton and Denver Broncos offensive co-ordinator Mike McCoy. An interview is scheduled on Thursday with Jay Gruden, offensive co-ordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Keim said he believes that the Cardinals have "a ton of talent" on their roster and that the task at hand is "a re-tool, not a rebuild."
What to do at quarterback, Keim said, "is the million-dollar question."
Jaguars hire Caldwell, will decide fate of coach
The Jacksonville Jaguars have agreed to hire Atlanta director of player personnel David Caldwell as general manager, charging him with turning around one of the league's worst teams.
His first move will be deciding the fate of coach Mike Mularkey.
Owner Shad Khan tabbed Caldwell on Tuesday, a day after a third interview. FoxSports.com first reported the hire, saying the two sides are negotiating financial terms.
Caldwell is now expected to make a decision on Mularkey, who went 2-14 in his first season in Jacksonville and has lost 20 of his last 23 games as a head coach.
Khan gave Mularkey's assistants permission to search for other jobs last week, an indication that he doesn't expect to retain Mularkey or his staff.
Then again, Caldwell and Mularkey have a relationship stemming from their time in Atlanta.
Before becoming the Falcons' director of player personnel in 2012, Caldwell spent four seasons as Atlanta's director of college scouting — the same four years Mularkey served as offensive co-ordinator. Caldwell replaced Les Snead, who was hired as St. Louis' general manager last off-season.
"He's a great guy, a great family man, does a good job," Mularkey said of Caldwell last month. "He had some experience in Indy before he got to Atlanta, and I thought he did a good job up there. … I thought that [he would become a GM] when I worked with him, that he was heading in that direction."
Caldwell was part of an Atlanta front office that drafted quarterback Matt Ryan, linebackers Curtis Lofton and Sean Witherspoon, offensive tackle Sam Baker, safety William Moore, receiver Julio Jones and running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
He doesn't inherit as much talent in Jacksonville, but the Jaguars have the No. 2 pick in April's draft and plenty of room under the salary cap to make moves. And coming off the worst season in franchise history, it won't take much to show improvement.
Khan fired general manager Gene Smith last week, parting ways with the guy who built a team that failed to make the playoffs the last four seasons.
Cowboys defensive co-ordinator Rob Ryan axed
Dallas defensive co-ordinator Rob Ryan was fired Tuesday after his injury-depleted unit struggled in a pair of season-ending losses that kept the Cowboys out of the playoffs for a third straight year.
Ryan was let go a day after running backs coach Skip Peete was fired, and less than a week after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said things were going to get "uncomfortable" at team headquarters in nearby Irving.
"At this time, the decision has been made to move forward in a different direction philosophically on defence," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said in a statement. "I have an immense amount of respect for Rob as a person and as a football coach."
Ryan spent two seasons with the Cowboys after he was fired two years into the same job in Cleveland. He didn't hide his displeasure over being let go by the Browns before the Cowboys played them this season. He struck a different tone Tuesday.
"I enjoyed my time here," Ryan told The Dallas Morning News. "I have no hard feelings. But it doesn't matter if I coach here or not. I will find another spot."
The Cowboys finished with four defensive starters on injured reserve, including both Sean Lee and Bruce Carter at inside linebacker — a critical position for Ryan's 3-4 scheme. A fifth starter, nose tackle Jay Ratliff, missed all but six games with ankle and groin injuries. Nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick was sidelined the last five games with a wrist injury.
Several Dallas players reacted with surprise on Twitter.
"It was a privilege to play under Coach Rob Ryan! One of the greatest," defensive end Jason Hatcher wrote. "Sad day. I'm hurting right now."
The Cowboys finished 14th in total defence this season under Ryan, the twin brother of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, but couldn't stop the New Orleans passing game or the Washington rushing attack when they still controlled their playoff fate in the last two weeks of the regular season.
Drew Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-31 overtime win for New Orleans. Dallas still had playoff hopes in the finale against Washington, but rookie Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards despite quarterback Robert Griffin being limited by a right knee injury in the Redskins' 28-18 win.
The Cowboys were 19th in total defence in Ryan's first year but had one of the worst pass defences in team history.
Following consecutive 8-8 seasons, Dallas is 128-128 since the start of 1997 season. The Cowboys have just one playoff win in that span.