Terry McDonough comes from a family with an incredibly strong background: His father, Will McDonough, was a legendary writer for the Boston Globe and was one of the first newspaper guys to transition into TV work when he would report on the NFL on NBC back in the early 1980s. Terry’s brother, Sean, is a play-by-play announcer for the Boston Red Sox and ESPN. His brother Ryan is in town as general manager of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. You don’t get into those jobs, usually, without a strong personality.
McDonough has that. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim used to say that one of the reasons he liked having Jason Licht with him in the front office was that Licht would battle him if he believed in something strongly enough. McDonough, who said Thursday that he won’t be afraid to tell Keim the truth “based on how I see it,” seems to be a natural replacement as VP of player personnel now that Licht is the Buccaneers’ GM.
It helps to have someone in-house to turn to when there is a vacancy. McDonough had a pretty loaded résumé when he was hired as a regional scout last year. The fact Licht seemed destined to leave sooner rather than later for a GM job could’ve played a role. Now, the Cards should be able to transition fairly easily as the draft process ramps up. And there usually is nothing that causes death to an NFL team’s path than an inability to tell the higher-ups a differing opinion, so McDonough’s willingness to speak up will be important.
McDonough joked Thursday he might fight Keim, but it would only be verbally. Maybe. But Will McDonough, while an excellent journalist, is almost as famous in NFL circles for punching Patriots cornerback Raymond Clayborn in a locker room once upon a time. You never know what might stir from that DNA.
Tags: Jason Licht, Steve Keim, Terry McDonough
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There will be change for the Cardinals this offseason in the front office. It turns out Jason Licht, vice president of player personnel and right-hand man to General Manager Steve Keim, will be named to the vacant GM job in Tampa Bay, according to Jay Glazer (and now, many national other reporters as well.) It’s a blow to the Cards because Keim and Licht are close. Keim worked hard to bring Licht back from the Patriots after Licht’s first stint in Arizona for the 2008 season. But Licht’s ambition was always to be a GM — he was a finalist for the Bears job in 2012 — and Keim wanted that for Licht as well.
UPDATE: The Cardinals have addressed the move.
“Jason did a tremendous job in two different stints with the Cardinals and we knew it was only a matter of time before he would become a GM,” team president Michael Bidwill said. “We know that he will do a great job in Tampa. At the same time Steve (Keim) has developed a very deep bench in our personnel department to prepare for this event and will continue to make that area a strength of the organization.”
Said Keim, “Anyone that knows Jason recognizes not only what an outstanding evaluator he is but also a high-quality person. His reputation is well-deserved and speaks for itself. There’s no doubt his talent and experience will be a tremendous asset for the Buccaneers and all of us here wish him nothing but the best.”
The Buccaneers have already hired a new coach in Lovie Smith, and there was a lot of talk about the new GM having little true power because it would be wielded by Smith. But Glazer was the latest to report the new GM will indeed control the draft and other personnel decisions. For an up-and-comer like Licht, there would have been no reason to settle for a toothless GM job. Adam Schefter reported Licht will sign a four-year contract.
What does this mean for Keim (below left, with Licht in the middle and scout Terry McDonough)? The Cardinals will have to fill that void. I’m sure, since Licht was also interviewing for the Dolphins GM job, that Keim is prepared for a Licht departure. I don’t know if they would go outside the organization or promote from within. But these are the things you deal with when you hire good people.
Tags: Buccaneers, Jason Licht, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim, Terry McDonough
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There is often change this time of year for any coaching staff and front office. Coming off a 10-6 season, it wouldn’t have been surprising if anyone was poached from 8701 S. Hardy. But it sure looks like — barring something unforeseen — that the band will stay together for another season.
Bruce Arians already said he was hoping his coaching staff would stay intact. There were rumblings Alabama might want quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens for their offensive coordinator spot, but it was clear quickly Kitchens didn’t want to leave the NFL and the Tide went with Lane Kiffin. When Ken Whisenhunt was hired to be the Titans’ new head coach, there was a chance he might seek a reunion with Cardinals strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott — but then came the news that the Titans would be retaining their own strength coach, Steve Watterson. (Now, some assistant coaches are sometimes retained in the wake of a head coaching change only to be let go soon after. That happened with the Cards just last season, when the defensive coaches were kept after Whisenhunt was fired, only to have them let go in the wake of the Bruce Arians hire.)
Vice president of player personnel Jason Licht has interviewed for the vacant general manager jobs in both Miami and Tampa Bay, but the Dolphins keep bringing in new candidates and the Bucs apparently are leaning elsewhere.
And of course, the biggest news for the Cardinals is that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will be sticking around. The Vikings hired Mike Zimmer to be their head coach, meaning Bowles wouldn’t be getting that job, and he had already withdrawn his name from consideration for the Browns’ vacant head coaching job. Having Bowles around for another season to build on a defense that ended up sixth in the NFL (and No. 1) against the run should put the Cardinals in good defensive shape for 2014. Continuity is always a good thing.
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, Freddie Kitchens, Jason Licht, John Lott, Ken Whisenhunt, Titans, Todd Bowles
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For the third year in a row, former Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams has been selected as one of the 15 modern-day finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Getting to that point is important. The group will be shaved to 10 and then the final group will be selected, up to five (plus the two senior nominees, punter Ray Guy and defensive lineman Claude Humphrey.)
Does Williams have a chance? Sure, but again, with only up to five others getting it, it’s tough sledding. (I wrote a post last year whether Williams or Kurt Warner would be the first to get into the Hall of Fame. Warner’s first year of eligibility after next season, and the voting will be held at the Super Bowl in Arizona.) Among the other finalists: Seahawks tackle Walter Jones, Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Cowboys/49ers defensive end Charles Haley and Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
The vote will be Feb. 1, the day before the Super Bowl. Kent Somers, the Arizona Republic’s beat writer covering the Cardinals, is the Arizona voter in the room and will present Williams’ case as he has the past two years.
— The news came out this afternoon that the Dolphins, who are searching for a new general manager after firing Jeff Ireland, have asked permission to interview Cardinals vice president of player personnel Jason Licht. Licht was a finalist for the Bears GM job in 2012. Even if Licht doesn’t get the job, it won’t be the last time teams seek him out as at least a candidate for a GM job.
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, Jason Licht, Kurt Warner
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A year ago today, the Cardinals hired Steve Keim to be their general manager.
It turned out to be a pretty good first year on the job.
Churning the roster quite a bit — there were 193 roster moves in that span — Keim orchestrated an overhaul that produced five more wins in 2013 than 2012, and while the playoffs didn’t work out, it was a remarkable turnaround. He got a solid starting quarterback for basically a sixth-round draft pick. He got a guy who looks like a viable long-term running back, a dynamic playmaker both running and receiving, with a sixth-round pick. He won the waiting game with what looked like would be high-priced veteran free agents, getting Karlos Dansby, Eric Winston and John Abraham at his price and then watching them produce. There are others, of course. You needed a lot of quality changes to get to where the Cards went.
Honestly, it’s hard to see many misses this first year out of the box. You wonder what second-round pick Kevin Minter will be, but it’s not like the linebacker flopped, he just didn’t get a chance to play because Dansby — a spectacular post-draft free agent signing, again, on the Cards’ terms — was so good. Yes, the Cards committed to left tackle Levi Brown last season (make no mistake, had their been a left tackle there at No. 7 last draft they would have taken him) but Keim was smart enough to cut ties relatively quickly when it wasn’t working out. You move on when you need to move on.
In many ways, Keim’s second offseason is going to be more difficult than his first. The bar was set low. This offseason, expectations are much higher, but the Cardinals face many of the same issues — unknowns at many positions because of impending free agency, a tight salary cap, and some nasty cap numbers on existing contracts. (And that doesn’t include the possibility of signing cornerback Patrick Peterson to a long-term and no d0ubt hefty contract extension.)
Keim has surrounded himself with quality guys, like vice president of player personnel Jason Licht (who figures to be a GM himself someday) and director of football administration/salary cap guru Mike Disner (who, if you missed it, was just named to the Forbes 30 rising stars under age 30 in sports list). The front office is strong right now. It starts at the top.
Tags: Jason Licht, Mike Disner, Roster, salary cap, Steve Keim
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New general manager Steve Keim made it clear when he got his new post that he wanted to continue to work with Jason Licht. So it wasn’t a stretch to think Licht too would end up with a promotion — assuming he didn’t go somewhere else with a bigger title in the meantime, which could have happened after Licht was named a finalist for the Bears’ GM job last year — and that’s exactly what happened.
Licht was bumped up to vice president of player personnel Tuesday, the job title previously held by Keim. Not only will Licht have a greater say in personnel decisions, but he will also take part in contract negotiations — more groundwork for Licht too to eventually get his own general manager spot.
Licht and Keim work well together and Licht has already put together his own long impressive resume, working in the front office of the Eagles and Patriots. Now he and Keim must find a way to upgrade the Cardinals’ roster. I’d expect someone to eventually get Licht’s old job, so you’d figure the Cards will add at least one more body in the front office, somewhere.
Tags: Jason Licht, Steve Keim
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Before the end of the regular season, it wasn’t just Steve Keim in the Cardinals’ personnel department that found his way into the rumormill of potential general manager hires around the league. It was also Jason Licht (pronounced “light”, so you see what I did in the headline there). Licht is the Cardinals’ director of player personnel. It was Licht, after all, who was a finalist for the Bears’ general manager job last year (it went to Phil Emery) before returning to the Cards’ front office after three seasons in New England.
Licht worked in Philadephia before the Cardinals hired him for the 2008 season, and after he made an impact and took the Super Bowl ride with the organization, he got the job with the Patriots. Keim loved the chemistry he had working with Licht that one season, however, and worked to find a way to get Licht back in Arizona. The way the jobs are filling up, it doesn’t look — despite that end-of-the-season conjecture — that Licht (below, left, with Keim) will be getting a general manager promotion anywhere. That means he will continue to work with the Cards’ new GM, Keim (perhaps, and this is conjecture too, with a promotion of his own) and that makes the Cards’ new boss very happy.
“I think if we have our say so he will be here,” Keim said. “Jason is a huge asset for us. Obviously we all know that he was the runner-up for the Bears GM job last year. I see him as a GM in his own right. I lean on Jason daily on a lot of different things. He is a talented, talented evaluator. He has got strong opinions.
“Sometimes he and I get in his office, we look at our roster, we look at our board and we don’t quite get into a full MMA match, but we have some disagreements. But I think that is a good thing, he is not afraid to tell me his opinion and I am not afraid to tell him mine. I think it is good to have some variances in grades and, like I said, at the end of the day when you have variances of opinion, it helps shake things out in the end and it is productive.”
Jason isn’t a small man, but I don’t know if I’d want to get into an MMA match with Keim. That said, it’s a good relationship that should benefit the Cardinals as they embark in this new version of the front office.
Tags: Bears, Jason Licht, Steve Keim
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When Steve Keim was 9 years old, he was already fascinated by watching games and figuring out which players were better — so much so that he told his mom he wanted to be an NFL general manager one day. She “sort of snickered,” Keim said Tuesday — the day he was named the Cardinals’ general manager.
“If you only worked on your math and science as hard as you did knowing these players, you may end up being successful,” his mother told him.
“I heeded my mother’s advice,” Keim said.
Now, I can’t speak to Keim’s ability in either, but the math would have come in handy all those years on the road as a scout (lot of expense reports to tally as well as numbers to crunch on potential draftees). As for science, well, there’s always a thought that finding and developing a quarterback is a science. Wait, that’s as much art as science, right? And some luck.
Anyway, many are asking what exactly has changed with Keim at the helm, since he was already here and already had a hand in decisions that were being made. Obviously there is a belief by Michael Bidwill that Keim can get the job done. And before, there were two people above Keim swaying choices — Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves. Like anyone, the freedom given once someone ascends to the top job can change — at least somewhat — how he makes a choice. I’m not saying it will change Keim, and I don’t know exactly how much power he had before. Bidwill made it clear Keim and the head coach will “have a collaborative relationship.” With a strong GM and a strong coach, “what they tend to do is they improve each other.”
— When it came to the draft, Keim was the one absorbing all the input from the scouts and coaches to give a player a final grade. But the decisions on who to pick was a group effort. Bidwill said that will stay the same. It doesn’t look like director of player personnel Jason Licht is going anywhere else. I’d expect him to remain Keim’s right-hand man, perhaps with a promotion at some point. I do expect the Cards to consider adding more bodies to the player personnel department too.
— It was interesting to hear that Keim believes in the Ron Wolf line of thinking in terms of gathering QBs. Once upon a time, Wolf, with the Packers, had Brett Favre and still collected Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Brooks and Ty Detmer. All were used as backups and/or trade bait. The Cards will take one solid prospect right now, but maybe they can get there, QB-wise.
— I do expect, with a new GM and new O-line coach — no matter who it is — to have a new approach to building that group, although Keim did say he thought some pieces were in place.
Tags: Jason Licht, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals have made some scouting department changes, adding a extra body to their previous group by hiring Zac Canty — who most recently spent the last two seasons as a pro personnel assistant with the Bears — as the team representative for the National Football Scouting Service, and also bringing in former Dolphins scouting assistant John Richter to scout the northeast region of the country.
The team parted ways with scout Don Corzine.
The team reassigned some current scouts, putting Mike Boni on the near East, Kyle Johnson in the Midwest and Luke Palko in the Southeast. Malik Boyd remains a cross checker for the western half of the country, Chris Culmer remains in the West and Dru Grigson as a cross checker for the eastern half of the country.
Also officially announced was the addition of former running back Josh Scobey as a scouting assistant, although Scobey has been on board for a while now.
The personnel department also saw the return of Jason Licht recently as director of player personnel.
Tags: Chris Culmer, Dru Grigson, Jason Licht, John Richter, Josh Scobey, Luke Palko, Malik Boyd, Mike Boni, scouts, Zac Canty
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With everything going on today with the death of former NFL star Junior Seau, talking about football-related matters seems trivial (especially when I saw the story about a shooting tragedy locally here near where I used to live.) Indeed, before the Seau news broke, even the Saints bounty player suspension news wasn’t exactly uplifting. Interesting in that case that the league said part of the evidence against linebacker Jonathan Vilma was that he offered a $10,000 bounty to knock Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of their playoff game in January of 2010. Not that we have to rehash all of that again.
— Great and heartfelt anecdote from Saints offensive lineman Eric Olsen about going up against Seau at a football camp when Olsen was a kid. A must-read.
— It was painful to see Seau’s mother trying to deal with this. If you ever think it might be time to give up, always remember there are people close to you that don’t want you to give up.
— I thought Chargers.com did a great job handling the situation.
— Congrats to Steve Keim for his front-office promotion. I’d guess this would help in the future when teams sniff around him for GM work (although it won’t stop it). And it’s a big deal getting Jason Licht back. They liked his work during his first tenure. It never hurts to have someone coming in who already knows how everything operates.
— For those wondering, the Cards had about $2.5 million of salary cap space as of Monday. With the news they have about $4.5 million to use in the rookie pool, they
will still need to find more room they should be OK for now. (As Adamjt13 points out in the comments, the Cards actually should already have enough room with the offseason top 51 rule. My bad. He explains it well here, even if I may have been the media guy getting it wrong he was forced to update the article.)
— Finally, this is a great story written by former NFL defensive lineman Trevor Pryce. The next time you wonder why a player wants to “hang on” — or even why they’d subject themselves to an often brutal lifestyle, this is the answer.
Tags: Jason Licht, Junior Seau, Kurt Warner, Saints, Steve Keim
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