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Hypocrisy and Delusion

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In response to my “Kingsbury Going For It” article, ROTB member and avid Cardinals’ fan mattybuckets posted these thoughts:

  • This article along with just about every other take I’ve seen are completely missing the point.
  • The problem was not the decision to kick the FG. That I can totally live with, and was even pumped for at the time.
  • The problem was the terrible game management that led to the FG including the decision to run the ball with about 10 seconds left when Kliff could easily have schemed up a 10 yard pass over the middle of the field which would have gained the necessary yardage to make that kick good.
  • Kliff’s inability to scheme up drives in “must” situations is a recurring issue. I believe Kliff is a very good play designer and a mediocre to poor play caller.
  • Have we all forgotten his decision last year to punt the ball away with less than 5 minutes to go against the Rams when he was down 2 scores?
  • Kliff is what he is at this point, and that’s not the type of head coach that is going to be able to win games in the playoffs, if even get there at all.
  • This was clear as day after the 2 losses to end the season last year, and now everyone has forgotten because Kyler is playing out of his mind and the Cardinals are sitting at 3-0.
  • By the end of the year, it will again be clear as day what’s holding this team back.
  • I’m not suggesting coaches can’t get better. I’m only suggesting that Kliff hasn’t, at least in the areas that he was the worst at.
  • I gave one example of the game management before the long FG. There are several other examples just this year along that indicate Kliff doesn’t know how to scheme up plays when the game is on the line.
  • Go back to the Vikings game and the Cardinals couldn’t convert a touchdown from the goal line that would have sealed the game. Then they couldn’t engineer a first down to keep the ball away from the Vikings to end it.
  • Like I said, this was all clear and obvious after the last 2 games of last year. Walter knew it and so did every fan with half a brain. Everyone was calling for K2’s head.
  • The biggest difference this year is Kyler has clearly gotten a lot better and the Cardinals are 3-0. Winning masks a lot of shortcomings. But they will be obvious by the end of the season when more than likely the Cards won’t be in the playoffs.
  • And they will more than likely be very obvious after this next game against the Rams.

My reaction in the comments was:

Kliff is a “mediocre to poor play caller”?

Have you considered it might be you who is “missing the point”?

#6 top offense in the NFL in 2020.

#2 top offense in NFL thus far in 2021.

The facts do not support your bias.

Mattybuckets’s counter:

I found this article quite comical after reading through most of the discourse here:

https://www.revengeofthebirds.com/2021/1/4/22212910/lar-18-ari-7-cards-in-disarray

Anyone defending KK and especially Walter should find it very enlightening. In the article, Walter (justifiably) eviscerates Kliff, calls him a poor play caller multiple times, and also for his job. I couldn’t read the comments but I’m sure 99% of them were nodding in agreement to Walters viewpoint.

Now just 3 weeks into a new NFL season, one in which some issues in previous seasons seem to have been improved but many still remain, people are treating Kliff like gods gift to coaching.

Always amazes me the blinders fans have for their teams. I’m an Arizona native and want Cardinals to win as bad as anybody, but doesn’t mean I’m going to pretend like our coach is something that he isn’t.

Is it possible Kliff has completely turned a corner? Ya, maybe. But we already have plenty of examples this year why that probably isn’t the case. Rather than live in la la land, I’ll sit on the fence until more evidence arises.

To the rest of you, enjoy your delusion.

Today’s commentary:

Thank you, Mattybuckets, for going back into the ROTB archives to dig this article up. I truly appreciate this.

On the surface, that January 4th article, in light of my “Kingsbury Going For It” article yesterday, paints me as a a hypocrite. A situation that you find “comical.”

However, I am glad that you took me and ROTB back to that January 4th article, because, I would like to explain all of the principal reasons why I went back to giving my full support to Kliff Kingsbury.

If you have traced my articles since that one on January 4th, then you will see how and why my allegiance shifted back to Kliff Kingsbury.

Points:

  • The January 4th article was a highly emotional and visceral reaction to the Cardinals’ season-ending meltdown. Every word of it was true to what I was feeling at that moment.
  • However, whenever I write a rant like that, I feel the urge and sense of responsibility to backtrack in order to check whether my emotions were fully justified, or not.
  • The first mitigating factor was seeing in week one of the playoffs how Russell Wilson had a more difficult time handling the Rams’ #1 defense than an injured Kyler Murray and Chris Streveler’s, while Strev got his first extended game action of the season under extreme duress.
  • Second —- hearing captain D.J. Humphries defend Kliff Kingsbury, Vance Joseph and the Cardinals’ coaching staff, when he said, “If you are against them, then you are against us.”
  • Third —- hearing captain Budda Baker candidly say, “some players weren’t doing their jobs.”
  • Fourth —- hearing Kyler Murray confess after the season that his shoulder ailment was worse and more inhibitive than he, the coaches and the team were letting on —- how he essentially had to alter his throwing motion in order to adapt to the tightness, soreness and discomfort he was experiencing.
  • Fifth —- when I looked back at Kliff Kingsbury’s two seasons as head coach, what was very impressive to me was the fact that in 29 of Kingsbury’s 32 games —- after inheriting the worst team in the NFL —- the games were highly competitive for 60 minutes. When I compared those numbers to other Cardinals’ head coaches, Kingsbury’s 29/32 percentage of competitive games was tops.
  • Sixth —- when I considered how much Kingsbury was handicapped by some of the inherently dysfunctional aspects of the Cardinals’ team culture, particularly in the ways in which Cardinals’ veterans were given special treatment and were held to different standards, I was convinced that Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim were most responsible for that level of dysfunction.
  • Seventh —- to then see how Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim overtly changed their modus operandi during the off-season in a full-scale attempt to change the team culture by redefining the veteran leadership in all three phases (signing J.J. Watt and Matt Prater and trading for Rodney Hudson, in particular) while also going full-bore on a mission to improve the team’s strength and physicality on both sides of the ball —- while letting go of veterans who were not showing the proper leadership or physicality —- was highly encouraging.
  • Eighth —- to realize and acknowledge that despite the Cardinals’ struggles on offense after Kyler Murray incurred his shoulder injury, that Kingbsury’s offense ended the season #6 in the NFL in yards per game. and #14 in points per game (2nd best in NFC West), it was a confirmation of Kingsbury’s ability to generate a high quality offense.
  • Ninth —- to hear J.J. Watt express his belief and utter confidence in Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray and Vance Joseph felt especially auspicious.
  • Tenth —- came the realization of how critically important it is for NFL to try to maintain as much coaching continuity as possible, year to year. The teams that continue to create a revolving door of coaches tend to be the teams that struggle more often. I think that with the Cardinals being the only NFC West team to not have a coordinator change this year, it gives them a better chance to improve in the division.

I have been thinking a lot in recent days of how far Kliff Kingsbury has taken the Cardinals in his 35 game tenure as head coach. I think that in a number of ways, Urban Meyer inherited a more talented team with the Jaguars, plus Meyer was able to draft every pundit’s choice the past three years for a franchise QB in Trevor Lawrence.

Do you recall my study of how well #1 draft pick QBs have fared over the past 20 years?

For Kyler Murray to be tied for #2 in first two year wins on this prestigious list of #1 pick QBs, that speaks very positively to Kyler’s and Kliff Kingsbury’s efforts.

When the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury and drafted Kyler Murray, a vast majority of the pundits questioned Kingsbury’s ability to take the Cardinals out of the doldrums, particularly with a diminutive QB whom so many doubted could be effective at the NFL level.

Think of this —- Kyler Murray wasn’t gifted with an offensive line as solid at the Jaguars’, nor was he given a prolific trio of WRs as the Jags have with D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault and Marvin Jones Jr. Nor did Kyler start out having two RBs who have had 1,000 yard seasons as the Jags have in James Robinson and Carlos Hyde.

Yet, from the get-go, the Cardinals under Kingsbury and Murray were much more dynamic on offense than the Jags have been thus far with Meyer and Lawrence. That’s not to say the Jags won’t eventually find their groove —- but it is a testament to how instantly competitive the Cardinals were with the arrival of Kingsbury and Murray. Plus, the Jags have way more athleticism and young talent on the defensive side of the ball than what Vance Joseph inherited in 2019.

* * * * *

The truth about the Rams under Sean McVay s that they have a habit of leaving their opponents in a state of disarray —- you know, Sean McVay is now 50-0 when his Rams lead at halftime. That is a phenomenal record for a first time head coach that will never be broken. Look at how the Rams handled Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Bucs in all three phases of the game, especially now that McVay has a bromance going with QB Matthew Stafford.

Thus, obviously the Cardinals face their sternest test in Los Angeles this Sunday.

What encourages me about this game is:

  • How Kyler Murray is now playing like he did at Oklahoma where he was distribution the ball to an array of receivers.
  • How the Cardinals now have an anchor at center in Rodney Hudson who could make a huge difference in helping to thwart the likes of Aaron Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Philip Gaines.
  • How the Cardinals have their own high-motor, impactful defensive interior dynamo in J.J. Watt, to go with what I believe is a more talented set of edge rushers in Chandler Jones and Markus Golden. Might we even get Dennis Gardeck back this week?
  • How it looks like Vance Joseph has spent the off-season tailoring his defense to be able to challenge the Rams’ offense (for the first time in 5 games) by teaching his edges to be right in the QB’s face on potential bootlegs and by developing a more talented and more physical set of athletes to play the kind of man and zone combinations that can challenge the Rams’ skill at WR and TE.
  • How with Matt Prater on board, with Rondale Moore as return man and and with Andy Lee currently #2 in the NFL in punting average, perhaps the Cardinals may have the edge on special teams.

The Cardinals may struggle like so many teams do versus the Rams. But, until teams figure out how to come up with the answers versus this Rams’ team, Sean McVay and the Rams look like Jeopardy’s current 30 day champion Matt Amodio who has amassed $1,107,401 and has been a runaway winner all but twice. Matt Amodio has yet tolose a game where he was ahead after the first Jeopardy round.

The key is —- to extend the metaphor —- can the Cardinals come up with an ample amount of correct answers in order to gain enough control of the board to cash in on the Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy?

Therefore, Mattybuckets, thank you for pointing out my alleged hypocrisy and “delusion” and thereby providing me with the opportunity to explain why I went back to supporting Kliff Kingsbury as the Cardinals’ head coach.

While I fervently hope your gloomy, self-assured predications about the inevitability of Kingsbury’s demise are in error, at least you sort of left the door ajar when you wrote:

Is it possible Kliff has completely turned a corner? Ya, maybe. But we already have plenty of examples this year why that probably isn’t the case. Rather than live in la la land, I’ll sit on the fence until more evidence arises. To the rest of you, enjoy your delusion.

The fact that you said “maybe” Matty —- is significant.

It reminds me in a symbolic way of one of my favorite scenes from “Dead Poets Society”:

This is what can happen when doors in the hallway are left ajar!