“Companionship” between Bruce Arians and Steve Keim unlike no other in NFL

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Bruce Arians and Steve Keim grew up about 10 miles apart from each other in central Pennsylvania. They even faced each other in the 1994 Peach Bowl, when Keim was playing for N.C. State and Arians was the offensive coordinator at Mississippi State [Keim and the Wolfpack won the game 28-24].

Who would’ve thought growing up that close to each other, and facing each other in a bowl game would be a precursor to what Arians and Keim would do in their first working relationship together with the Arizona Cardinals?

“The minute that we talked, and we had the same philosophy, you could tell that he knew players when we started talking about players, what guys have left, what they don’t have left [and] what you’re looking for,” Arians said.

Arians says it took about four hours after he and Keim first met before they formed the bond that’s practically inseparable three years later.

“We had dinner that night, and I later learned when they walked outside, they said, ‘This is our guy,’ [Keim for general manager],” Arians said. “A lot of things had to be talked about the next day, but it was easy.”

Keim has won multiple Executive of the Year awards from different media outlets over the past couple of seasons. The Associated Press and Pro Football Talk and the Sporting News don’t hand their awards out to just anyone. You have to earn them, which Keim has been able to do with all of his hard work behind the scenes.

“I think he has a vision of what his football team should look like, and we share that,” Arians said. “I think other guys are just as good, but they may not have the companionship.”

What’s made Arians and Keim like “Batman and Robin” is that they “check their ego at the door,” to borrow from Arians. Arians says everything he and Keim do is strictly for the advancement of the Cardinals organization, not for their own personal gain.

“We both were fortunate enough to get some accolades, but you can’t take them. The entire room got you there, [so] don’t think all of a sudden [that] you’re special,” Arians said. “We both laughed, but he [Keim] was embarrassed as hell to go up and get his [Sporting News 2014 NFL Executive of the Year Award] the other day, I said, ‘Dude, you got a cup, we can drink out of that.’”

It’s amazing when three people – Arians, Keim and team president Michael Bidwill – can all meet for the very first time and they’re laser locked in their mindset and their vision for the Cardinals organization. Most head coaches, general managers and team presidents/owners can’t lay claim to that, but the Cardinals’ triumvirate can.

“Michael [Bidwill] wants to win,” Arians said. “It’s very evident just in the amount of resources he’s poured into our facility. $26 million in two years in upgrading our facility, free agency, everything. He wants to win.”

“Steve [Keim] and I share the same vision on how to do that. That culture was married at the first dinner,” Arians said. “I truly believe culture beats talent. I love the culture of our locker room. It’s not a ‘me’ locker room, it’s not a ‘Pro Bowl’ locker room, it’s a ‘Super Bowl’ locker room. There’s an accountability factor between every single player and coach that we all share and [we] feel that that’s our job.”


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