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Friday, January 6, 2012
On the Rams interviewing division rivals

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton isn't the only Arizona Cardinals employee expected to interview with the St. Louis Rams this offseason. Steve Keim, director of player personnel, has surfaced as a candidate on the general manager front, according to Mike Jurecki of XTRA Sports 910 in Phoenix.

This is good strategy by the Rams even if they're still focusing primarily on hiring Jeff Fisher as head coach and a Fisher-vetted candidate for GM. The team gets a chance to learn more about its rivals in the division -- rivals that went 6-0 against St. Louis this season and 20-4 against the Rams since 2007.

Keim's name has surfaced previously in media speculation surrounding jobs in the division. That was the case back before the Seattle Seahawks hired John Schneider as general manager. Keim never interviewed with Seattle. His standing took a hit when the Cardinals went 5-11 last season and 1-6 to open 2011. But with the Cardinals rallying to 8-8, the overall success Arizona has enjoyed since 2007 comes back into focus.

The Rams would be wise to check out other candidates in the division as well. San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley are two assistants I would investigate. Both have overseen units that have gone young over the last few seasons. The 49ers' overall success under Jim Harbaugh should make Roman appealing. Seattle's defensive improvement has been striking.

The fact that current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll retained Bradley from Jim Mora's staff and kept him in place as coordinator also speaks well of Bradley. How many defensive-minded head coaches retain the defensive coordinators they inherit from previous regimes? That is highly unusual.

Seattle's assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable also stands out as a candidate to consider. Cable's history with Oakland included some controversial moments, but the Rams would have to like the way Seattle's ground game kept getting strong production despite suffering injuries similar to the ones that undermined the Rams' offense.

The Seahawks' ability to identify and acquire young talent through the draft and off the street should make members of their personnel department appealing to the Rams. Vice president of football operations Will Lewis and senior personnel executive Scot McCloughan are the most experienced high-ranking members of Schneider's staff. Both were with the Green Bay Packers with Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson in the 1990s; McCloughan helped to acquire much of the 49ers' current talent while serving in senior positions with the team.

The 49ers' more recent success in the draft and free agency reflects well on Tom Gamble, the team's director of player personnel.