The NFL Cardinals yesterday announced the promotion of VP/Player Personnel Steve Keim to GM. Keim was named Dir of College Scouting in '06, promoted to Dir of Player Personnel in '08 and promoted to VP/Player Personnel in '12 (Cardinals). In Phoenix, Kent Somers notes Keim "replaces one of his mentors" in Rod Graves, who was fired Dec. 31. Keim last year interviewed for the Rams GM job, and Cardinals President Michael Bidwill estimated that "between a quarter and a third of the teams in the league have been interested in hiring Keim." Keim said that he "realized Arizona was home when he returned recently from job interviews." Finding someone to replace fired coach Ken Whisenhunt is Keim's "first order of business." Bidwill said that the final decision on roster decisions would "be a collaborative effort." Bidwill said of who will have the final say over the roster, "We’ll make Cardinal decisions and we’ll be a better team for it. I think Steve’s got ideas that are a little bit different than Rod (Graves). Obviously, they are different people" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/9). Also in Phoenix, Dan Bickley writes of Keim, "He's not [former Bills, Panthers and Colts GM] Bill Polian, but he is a solid choice to replace Graves." Keim is "well-respected in NFL circles." However, there "won't be much of a honeymoon" for him. Keim has "been with the organization for 14 years," and was part of a "draft process that has passed on two Hall of Fame players in the past decade" in Vikings RB Adrian Peterson and Ravens LB Terrell Suggs. He is "remotely attached to the ongoing quarterback debacle" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/9). The REPUBLIC's Somers in a separate piece wrote Keim as a scout "might have often felt he lived on an island." But as GM, Keim is "going to feel like he lives in a display case: still alone, but plenty of people outside peering in, judging" (AZCENTRAL.com, 1/8).
Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan “completed his nine-day search for a new general manager Tuesday by hiring Atlanta Falcons director of player personnel Dave Caldwell,” according to Ryan O’Halloran of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Caldwell has “17 years of pro football experience” and has worked for the Panthers, Colts and Falcons. He said, “There are no bad GM opportunities in the NFL, but to work on behalf of a dynamic owner in a rabid football city like Jacksonville is truly special. This is where I wanted to be, and I could not be happier.” Caldwell’s first “big decision” will be the future of coach Mike Mularkey, who has been with the team for one season. The two worked together with the Falcons from '08-11, but a source said that their history together "won’t be a major factor in Caldwell’s call.” A source said that Falcons scout Chris Polian "would likely join the Jaguars as director of pro personnel" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/9). In N.Y., Brian Costello cites a source as saying that it was “known Caldwell preferred the Jaguars," and that he used an interview with the Jets "for leverage” (N.Y. POST, 1/9). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes of Caldwell, “The things you need to do to bring relevancy to this franchise might be the biggest plate of any NFL executive. ... Nobody is expecting the Jaguars to be a playoff team in 2013, so there’s a grace period.” The Jaguars have “nowhere to go but up.” Frenette: “If you make them a consistent playoff team with shrewd personnel moves, nobody is going to care which quarterback led the way. But they’ll fondly remember who the architect was” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/9). The AP’s Mark Long wrote, "Coming off the worst season in franchise history, it won't take much to show improvement” (AP, 1/8).
Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien recently discussed several issues surrounding the Grizzlies, including the team’s "unprecedented start, ownership’s new plans for business and basketball operations, and just how important it is" for team Owner Robert Pera to have a high profile in Memphis, according to Michael Sheffield of the MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Below are excerpts from the Q&A:
Q: How will you address the challenges of being in a small market like Memphis, as far as sponsorships and ticket sales? Do you have any plans on how to increase corporate partnerships locally?
Levien: One of the advantages we have is we’re the only professional sports league in town. ... Right now, we’re trying to figure out the right relationships and how the Grizzlies can help other businesses grow. We’re figuring out everything from food service to the concerts we’re going to promote to parking. We want to create a better experience from the moment a ticket holder leaves their house to the moment they get home.
Q: How long will the ownership group be prepared to lose money, and how will you supplement losses?
Levien: There’s a lot of pressure on us and a lot of focus on making this a viable business that is breaking even, if not profitable. A big path to doing that is growing the pie with more revenue, more season ticket holders and more suite holders.
Q: You recently initiated several personnel moves with DC United that included the departure of long-term employees. Can you explain the reasoning behind those moves? Will you take a similar approach in Memphis?
Levien: I always say with DC United, the reasoning was about optimizing the growth of the business and pivoting to a new way of doing things. We wanted to bring in some fresh ideas and some new people. There’s not really a correlation here.
Q: NBA owners range in visibility from (Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban, who is everywhere, to (San Antonio Spurs owner) Peter Holt, who is pretty low-key. How important do you think visibility is for ownership?
Levien: Robert and I agreed that the visibility would be much more me than him. We also agreed that we wanted local ownership to be a big part of that in strategizing how to do business in Memphis the right way. You’ll see Robert here and engaged, and he’s very involved in the organization (MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/4 issue).
In N.Y., Gary Myers notes Jets coach Rex Ryan has two years left on his contract and Owner Woody Johnson “knows he would face a complete PSL insurrection from Jets fans if he extended Ryan’s contract now or keeps him if the Jets stink again next season.” NFL coaches "almost never go into the final year of their contracts, so Johnson will have to make a decision after next season to either fire Ryan or give him more years” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/9). Also in N.Y., Brian Costello notes Johnson yesterday “would not address whether he would take legal action against fans" who refused to pay their PSL fees. Johnson: “You can talk to the legal department on that. We work for our fans. They’re frustrated and I feel very confident we’re going to change this thing” (N.Y. POST, 1/9).
CIRCLING THE WAGONS: In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan wrote Bills President & CEO Russ Brandon by hiring Doug Marrone as head coach is “putting his reputation on the line.” It would be “easy to dismiss him as a salesman who is out of his depth on football matters,” but the hire "represents a fresh idea, a refusal to simply reach for the tried-and-true.” Sullivan: “This is on Brandon now” (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/7). Also in Buffalo, Tim O’Shei writes under the subheader, “Russ Brandon Spent A Lifetime Preparing For His New Job With The Bills.” Former Sabres Managing Partner & Minority Owner Larry Quinn said Brandon is a "progressive guy and a guy who has guts." Quinn: "He’s not afraid to make decisions that aren’t mainstream: doing a game in Toronto, building a training camp in Rochester. The things he’s done are somewhat unorthodox, and it shows a guy who’s got some guts, which is what it takes” (BUFFALO BUSINESS FIRST, 1/4 issue).
SKIN DEEP: In DC, Sally Jenkins writes of Redskins QB Robert Griffin III's injury during Sunday's loss to the Seahawks, "Somehow the Redskins allowed their top draft choice, their best quarterback in a generation, to hurt his knee three times without adequately protecting their investment.” There is “plenty of blame to spread for this state of affairs," including Griffin himself, who “hasn’t yet learned to play with discretion and to protect others’ investment in him.” But Redskins coach Mike Shanahan “had more responsibility than anyone else.” He wanted “institutional control of the Redskins, prized a CEO-like role, and he got it.” There is “no taking the burden of this decision off him” (WASHINGTON POST, 1/9).