The Arizona Cardinals have made their first hiring since firing their general manager and most of their offensive coaching staff, promoting Steve Keim to general manager. The promotion was not particularly surprising, given that the other candidate named—Morocco Brown—was a virtual unknown interviewed seemingly only to fulfill Rooney's rule. Keim was well known to be on a path to a GM's job, and was reportedly in the running for several other positions had the Cardinals not made him the offer. Keim had, according to president Michael Bidwell, always felt like a natural fit, and had even sat in on head coaching interviews in advance of his promotion.
Nonetheless, naming Keim as general manager before announcing a head coach, or even the completion of all interviews, may indicate that the organization have already zeroed in on a candidate who is already familiar with Keim, and whom he is comfortable with. Though outside interest in Keim may have forced the Cardinals hand, both the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars—with whom Keim had been linked—hired others for their GM positions implying that, perhaps, the Cardinals needn't have rushed.
Certainly, the Bidwell family are familiar with Keim and confident in his abilities. However, with the chances of losing him to another team significantly reduced, many owners would have held off hiring anyone as GM until they were confident that their head coach felt comfortable with him. Indeed, several higher profile coaching candidates reportedly came as part of a package deal with a GM in tow.
The team's decision to name Keim as GM then, likely implies that they already know, or at least believe, that their head coaching candidate will be comfortable working with Keim. This was furthermore implied by all of the talk of creating a collaborative working environment between head coach and general manager during Keim's introduction press conference.
Two head coaching candidates fit the bill as having an existing working relationship with Keim, current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton—who interviewed with the team twice early in the process—and Todd Haley—who worked with Keim while offensive coordinator with the Cardinals in 2007 and 2008, and who may have already traveled to Arizona to interview with the Cardinals, though reports are conflicting.
Both of these men would be comfortable with Keim in a way that other candidates simply could not be. Keim helped build a successful offense with Haley culminating in a heartbreakin Super Bowl loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in what would be Haley's last game as a Cardinal, and has buily similarly impressive young defense with Ray Horton in recent years.
Both of these men are considered top targets for the team, and neither would likely be put off by the hiring of Keim ahead of them. The same may not be so clear cut for the other known candidates, Mike McCoy, the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator who interviewed during the Broncos bye weekend and Jay Gruden, offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, who the Cardinals intend to interview on Thursday.
None of these coaches have any kind of relationship with Keim, nor do any know the Bidwell's well enough to trust their decision to hire him implicitly. "Final say" on various aspects of the decision making process is a huge bargaining chip in any negotiation with a head coach, yet, with Keim's contract already written and signed, the team have seemingly reduced their ability to offer this to their coaching candidates.
Horton has already interviewed with the Cardinals twice. The second interview would have given the team more than enough time to work out the specifics of his contract and, as Keim was involved in that interview, would have allowed Keim to work out his own contract with that in mind.
Similarly though Haley has yet to be even confirmed as a candidate, and there remains confusion about if he is even interviewing with the team, the fact remains, Michael Bidwell and Todd Haley are friends, and Haley reportedly kept close contact with many within the Cardinals organization, including key players like Larry Fitzgerald. News about Haley has been patchy, with solid sources both confirming and denying an interview, but this is understandable.
He is apparently on thin ice with the Steelers to begin with. While people within the organization are likely to understand his desire to move back up the coaching ladder, fans may not be so accommodating.
Professing anything but his love for the team, and his commitment to their future would have been enough to lose what few remaining fans he had. It would be understandable that Haley would wish to remain quiet about the interview until the deal is done. Indeed, Bidwell is a qualified pilot and can travel under the radar and Haley keeps a home in Arizona, meaning his visiting the area is not uncommon. It is entirely possible that both parties could have met and agreed terms in principal well in advance of this reported interview, which may be a mere formality.
In either case, the hiring of Keim may well be a sign that the Cardinals have their sights set on a candidate with whom the new general manager has an existing relationship. If this is the case, expect the hiring of a head coach to follow quickly.