Steve Keim played the NFL offseason game with Rosen vs. Murray

Arizona Cardinals, NFL, NFL Draft

Cardinals GM Steve Keim wasn’t lying when he committed to quarterback Josh Rosen earlier this offseason. But he wasn’t telling the truth, either.

When Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim was asked at February’s Scouting Combine whether Josh Rosen, the team’s 2018 Round 1 draft pick, is Arizona’s quarterback, he responded affirmatively. It led many many to believe that the links between the team, who held the No 1-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and quarterback Kyler Murray were mostly manufactured and not rooted in reality.

But what everyone seemed to miss was Keim’s caveat. “He is,” said Keim when asked the question. “Right now,” he added.

It’s the “right now,” that matters most, now that the Cardinals have indeed used the top pick in the draft on the Oklahoma State quarterback, putting Rosen’s status in Arizona in question. It was a non-committal committal by the Cardinals’ top decision-maker, once that was all-too-appropriate for the setting and for the time of year.

The period that spans from the end of the Super Bowl until the end of the draft is one of smoke-and-mirrors, strategically-placed nuggets of information that may or may not be true and straight-up lies. Keim’s comment was an open-ended statement, able to be both scrutinized and interpreted as the listener or reader saw fit. At the time, of course Rosen was “a,” if not “the” Cardinals’ quarterback; the draft was still months away, Arizona was going to field numerous offers from teams looking to move up and there’s no strategic reason for Keim to say anything concrete.

The choice of Murray is, nonetheless, confounding. While it is typical for teams that undergo coaching overhauls to move on from the previous regime’s players, Steve Wilks and his staff had only one year on the job, and Keim was not relieved of his general manager duties. Keim was the man to, presumably, make the final call on Rosen and again, for Murray. Yes, new Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said last year that were he in possession of the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, Murray would be his guy, but it cannot only be Kingsbury’s influence that resulted in Keim’s decision on Thursday night.

Whatever forced Keim’s hand, it still lays bare just how grain-of-salt we must take NFL decision-makers’ public comments during the league’s business season. Teams, even those with the No. 1 overall pick, are rarely going to tip their hands despite having months to make their decision. Strategy and competitive advantage rules all during this time of year, and folks in power like Keim are going to do or say whatever they need to in order to keep or build whatever leverage they have.

Next: 2019 NFL Draft tracker: Instant grades and reaction

So, no, Keim wasn’t a liar when he took to the podium in Indianapolis in February. But he wasn’t telling the truth, either. That should be the lesson everyone learns about this time of year. To borrow a term from pro wrestling, we’re all being worked. And thus, Rosen was the Cardinals’ quarterback — until he wasn’t.

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