During one of his 22 years scouting in the NFL, Terry McDonough had a chance to write a report on a big offensive lineman at North Carolina State named Steve Keim.
In it, one of the phrases McDonough used to describe the future general manager of the Arizona Cardinals was “street fighter.”
Thursday, when Keim promoted McDonough to vice president of player personnel – replacing Jason Licht, now the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – McDonough couldn’t help but remember that as he described how he would mesh with Keim as a man with strong opinions.
“My strength is, I’m a team player but I am also very true to how I feel about evaluations, situations,” McDonough said on a conference call from his current home Florida, from where he will soon move. “You’re going to get Terry McDonough’s opinion. I tell you how I feel.”
When McDonough was told Keim often told of butting heads with Licht at times, McDonough said there would be fights again.
But, McDonough added, “he is the only player I ever referred to as a street fighter. I know he walks around Phoenix with a big smile but I watched him play at N.C. State and I promise you one thing: There will be no physical contact between me and him.”
Keim wants a right-hand man that won’t be a ‘yes’ man. That’s what he had in Licht, and a reason he wanted to move McDonough up. McDonough has a lengthy résumé, including a four-year stint as the director of player personnel for Jacksonville before being hired by Arizona.
McDonough made sense as an in-house candidate, and given the fact Licht figured to be in line to be hired as a GM sooner rather than later, the Cardinals had a good plan in place.
“Last offseason (team president) Michael Bidwill and I talked at length about strengthening our personnel department and implementing a sustainable structure," Keim said. "Terry is a highly regarded talent evaluator and I have the utmost confidence in his opinion. He was a key component to building a Super Bowl roster in Baltimore drafting players like Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed. His knowledge and experience will be a huge asset in our neverending quest to improve the roster.”
McDonough said Keim kept his intentions close to the vest even as Licht was interviewing in Tampa. The call from Keim didn’t come until Licht was leaving.
Now he comes to Arizona full-time, looking to work with a front-office staff that had found a good groove with Licht. McDonough awaits clarification from Keim over specific duties, but he said he expects to work hand-in-hand with Keim and have the job be similar to his time as director in Jacksonville.
“Director of player personnel, vice president, you can word it any way you want, usually that role is second-in-command in the personnel department,” McDonough said. “We’ll hit the ground running.”
That will include strong opinions.
“I am not afraid to tell Steve the truth based on how I see it,” McDonough said. “A lot of times, people, when they work with someone, might be a little hesitant to say how they really feel because they want to go along with the bosses. I think that’s a natural thing for a lot of human beings, but that’s not who I am.”
Prior to being hired by the Cardinals as the Eastern regional scout, McDonough had spent 10 years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, including those four seasons in the front office. He began his work in the NFL as a scouting intern with the 49ers in 1989, and has worked in the World League of American Football along with stints with the Cleveland Browns and, when that franchise moved to Baltimore, the Ravens.
McDonough was part of the Ravens’ staff when they won the Super Bowl following the 2000 season.
The Boston native is the brother of Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and ESPN baseball announcer Sean McDonough and the son of the late Boston Globe NFL writer/NBC reporter Will McDonough.
Also Thursday, Licht was introduced to the Tampa Bay media. Licht, who also worked with the Patriots and Eagles, called the vice president job he left with the Cardinals “the favorite job I’ve had in my career.”
“That experience was probably one of the best experiences I could have had to put me in this (Tampa GM) role today, working for Steve Keim,” Licht said.