Steve Keim is an old-school scout at heart, most comfortable using tape and in-person observation to guide his decisions as the Cardinals’ general manager.
He also knows football is evolving, with data playing a more essential role every season. Keim and team president Michael Bidwill took a notable step in tapping into that market this offseason, creating a three-person analytics team to assist in a wide variety of decision-making.
“Michael and I talked it through, and for two middle-aged guys, I feel we are both forward-thinkers that aren’t so proud to think you can’t learn something new,” Keim said.
While scouting remains Keim’s bread and butter, he wants to know if the analytical research coincides or disagrees with his views.
“When you start out in the scouting business, you don’t want to hear the word analytics because you know (scouting) is something that is an instinctive thing, something you were born to do as a scout, evaluate talent,” Keim said. “Analytics generally scares the old-school mentality because you think it’s put in position to do your job for you, which is not the case. For me, it’s a great tool to either back up the theories you have or to maybe put into question some of your theories and create a checks and balances system.”
Purposeful or not, the Cardinals’ decisions this offseason seem to be in lockstep with analytical philosophies. They hired coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is expected to orchestrate the type of pass-heavy offense favored by the number-crunchers.
Their draft was praised by Pro Football Focus, as the data-based site approved of selections ranging from quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick to tight end Caleb Wilson as Mr. Irrelevant.
Kingsbury, 40, is one of the youngest coaches in the NFL and known for his innovative offensive ideas. Unsurprisingly, he stays in close contact with analytics and research coordinator Charlie Adkins, assistant Meredith Manley and assistant Kevin Jordan.
“They have a plethora of information every day – really, whatever you want,” Kingsbury said. “However deep into that wormhole you want to dive, you can get there. I’m big on collecting information and trying to make better decisions from it, whether it’s fourth-and-1 calls or what plays to run in the red zone. They are going to have some information that can help you curtail your game plan.”