How the Kliff Kingsbury Era Fell Into Ruin

Kliff Kingsbury

It has recently surfaced that Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury is considering stepping down after the season. The news comes after the Cardinals were eliminated from the playoff race following a 25-14 loss to the Denver Broncos. The team is now 4-9, primed for a top-10 draft pick.

Kliff Kingsbury Expected to Leave Cardinals – How It Went Wrong

The rumor comes as no surprise given the embarrassing status of the team currently. It was always the expectation that the Cardinals would be competitive this year but, instead, they have massively underwhelmed. Contrast this to last season when the Cardinals made the playoffs, despite being beaten down by the Los Angeles Rams in the first round.

Kingsbury was appointed by GM Steve Keim in 2019, following the sacking of Steve Wilkes. It marked a new era for Arizona, as they also drafted Kyler Murray with the first overall pick. Thus, Kingsbury’s and Keim’s futures are intrinsically intertwined. Following some heavy criticism of Keim this season, the team’s long-term GM has taken an indefinite leave from the team for ‘health’ reasons. Many have questioned whether the decision was purely health related, however, given the pressure that Keim was under.

With Keim unlikely to return, Kingsbury’s exit makes perfect sense. While both signed five-year extensions recently, owner Michael Bidwill’s patience has run thin. It is believed that Bidwill’s relationship with both has soured over the season. Kingsbury is also said to have a more strained relationship with Murray, the face of the franchise who recently received a mega extension.

Given Kingsbury’s popularity, or lack thereof, within the organization, his culling seems inevitable. The recent news only affirms the fact that the Cardinals are expected to part ways with Kingsbury. His departure would also make sense if Bidwill is considering a new face at GM.

Kingsbury’s Role in Cardinals Demise

The highs of 7-0 in 2021 were truly short lived. Kingsbury was declared an ‘offensive mastermind’, ‘passing offense guru’ and ‘creative playcaller’ just one year ago. The NFL is a relentless machine that takes no prisoners, however. Its latest victim? The dysfunctional Cardinals.

Kingsbury has been under fire ever since the second half of the 2021 season. The team showed its ugly side with a lack of discipline, inept playcalling and frustrating clock management. These were all put down to Kingsbury.

Critics will say that they are not surprised. Kingsbury was never qualified for the NFL. He demonstrated little success even at college level. However, prior to 2022, Kingsbury had constructed a strong foundation in Arizona. Each year was better than the last, peaking in the first weeks of 2021 when Murray was an MVP candidate and Kingsbury was a favorite for coach of the year.

That hope and promise is gone, however, with the team currently sitting bottom of the NFC West. Kingsbury has been the target of a lot of the criticism. His playcalling has been suspect this year, and many defensive coordinators have been two or three steps ahead of Kingsbury. The team has talent, but Kingsbury failed to put them in a position to succeed. Indeed, when the team followed a script, they looked sluggish and unconvincing. Their lack of first quarter output demonstrates that.

It is for these reasons that the Cardinals are expected to part ways with Kingsbury. Even though he has served the Cardinals well in years past, the Cardinals cannot afford to have another season like 2022.

There is no doubt that the team’s lack of success has also been part of the reason why Kingsbury’s relationship to Murray and Bidwill has soured.

Was Kliff Kingsbury Dealt a Bad Hand?

Even though the Cardinals are expected to part ways with Kliff Kingsbury, there is a case to be made that the former Texas Tech Head Coach was dealt a bad hand this year. Arizona’s off-field drama has been relentless, and it has been magnified by Hard Knocks.

In just this season, the Cardinals’ on-field performances were directly impacted by DeAndre Hopkins’ six-week suspension, Jeff Gladney’s tragic passing, Rodney Hudson’s retirement drama and two coach dismissals on disciplinary grounds. Keim is also said to have had much less of a presence in the organisation this year, which could be part of the reason for the team’s quiet off-season.

Injuries have also ravaged the Cardinals. They are currently one of the most banged-up teams and have used the highest number of offensive line combinations across the NFL. The only player on the offensive line that has been available every game is Kelvin Beachum. The following key players are some of the contributors that have missed multiple weeks for the Cardinals this season through injury: Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore, Zach Ertz, James Conner, D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh, Zach Allen, Byron Murphy Jr. and Antonio Hamilton. The cherry on top is Murray’s torn ACL. His recovery is expected to take up to a year, ruling him out for the rest of 2022 and perhaps some of 2023.

None of these factors have been in Kingsbury’s control, making many believe that Bidwill could spare him for another year. However, the expectation now is that Kingsbury will also want out. It is clear that this season has taken its toll on him, and the calm and coolness of Kingsbury’s image has descended into fatigue and stress.