- Louis Riddick (ESPN) on “The Three Qualities of a Good NFL Head Coach”
1 —- Credibility: Can you be trusted? Do you back up what you say?
2 —- Competency: Can you make players better? Can you develop them?
3 —- Positivity: Can you make a positive impact not just inside the building, but outside the building?
Riddick’s exemplar of the three qualities: Mike Tomlin.
After three years, how would you assess Kliff Kingsbury’s performance with regard to Riddick’s three qualities?
Here are my assessments:
1 —- Credibility. Thus far, I would give Kliff a B+ here. With the media, Kliff is terse and often self-deferential. Kliff praises the players and his coaches when the team wins. When the team loses, he accepts the blame and gives kudos the other team.
With Ken Whisenhunt, his echoing refrain after losses was “the system works.”
With BA, after losses it was never about him or his coaches whom he described as “brilliant.” It was more about the players being “knee deep” or “failures in progress.”
The most important question to ask is how credible Kliff is to his players. By all indications, his players respect him and his football acumen, which are some of the reasons why they like playing for him.
2 —- Competency. Developing players is not easy and there will always be the case where some players grow and prosper in the system, while other players fade and falter. Kliff’s main job is to develop Kyler Murray. Even though Kyler finished the season on a down note, Kliff deserves kudos for Kyler’s yearly growth.
Because Kliff is a master delegator, he leaves it up to his assistant coaches to develop the players under their watch. As we know, the development of younger players on the OL, DL, WR and most alarmingly at LB has been slower than what most of us have hoped.
I believe that to give Kliff the best possible chance to succeed, he needs a defense that he can count on. Otherwise, he’s right back to where he was at Texas Tech. My fear is that if major coaching changes are not made this year to the current defensive staff, then Kliff could be the next in a long line of fired or “retired” head coaches.
Did you know that no Cardinals’ head coach during the St. Louis and Arizona days has been under contract for more than 5 years?
There is no doubt in my mind that Kliff’s offense will consistently post scores in the high 20s to high 30s and possibly at times into the 40s —- the question is whether the defense can keep the opponents consistently in the low 20s.
Kliff has gone into each off-season with improvement goals —- this past year he focused on improving the offense’s intermediate passing game efficiency, which was a glaring issue down the stretch in 2020. There was marked improvement in that area in 2021 as Kyler Murray finished 4th in the NFL in intermediate passing efficiency.
This off-season, Kliff is focused on how the team and all three phases can finish stronger.
No one will outwork Kliff. He is very goal oriented. He is going to turn over every rock to see what lies underneath and his is going to put thousands of hours into studying game film.
3 —- Positivity. I believe that this is one of Kliff’s most impressive character traits. He seeks out the best qualities in everyone around him and tries to build a team culture of positive energy. Kliff has been largely successful in doing so.
Coming in, I was concerned that his “Coach Bro” perception might be an issue amongst professionals. That concern has been erased. Kliff treats his players like professionals —- he treats them like men. He shows proper respect for his coaches, Best of all, Kliff ascribes to the sage philosophy of “praise publicly and criticize privately.”
Not only do Kliff’s players hold him in high regard, they play hard on a consistent basis. Over the course of Kliff’s 49 games, only a handful of those games were lopsided losses. As Cardinals fans, we have endured years where the team suffered a handful of lopsided losses in just one season, like we did in Bruce Arians’ final season in 2018 and in Steve Wilks’ one and only season in 2018.
Kliff has helped to foster his players’ belief that the Cardinals can beat any team in the league, if they play well. This past season, not only did his team make a historic 8-1 run on the road, the team went 5-3 versus 2021 playoff teams with wins over TEN, LAR, SF-2 and DAL and losses to GB and LAR-2. Without his and the team’s positive mindset, those accomplishments would have never happened.
I think there is a lot to appreciate about Kliff Kingsbury. Yes, there are aspects of his coaching that need improvement. This was only his third season as a head coach. But, I admire the fact that no one is more cognizant of the improvements he needs to make than he is. And, what gives me great hope is Kliff’s insatiable work ethic.
I know that some of you want to see Kliff fired asap. Just please understand, that the Cardinals’ head coaching position is not considered by NFL coaches and pundits as one of the plum jobs in the league. In fact, if you go back to look at the coaches Michael Bidwill has tried to hire, some of the more recent ones like Mike McCarthy and Mike Munchak —- they wouldn’t even accept an invitation to come to Arizona for an interview.
Back in 2013, the Cardinals wanted so badly to hire Andy Reid. Reid was never interested.
Thus in 2013 when the Cardinals hired Bruce Arians, Arians was the last coach standing. There were 8 new head coaches in 2013. Arians was the last to sign. Here is how SB Nation’s Ryan Van Bibber ranked them:
Did you read what Ryan Van Bibber said about Arians and the Cardinals?
Do you think the nation-wide perception of the Cardinals’ head coaching job has changed all that much since 2013?
The truth is that the only head coaches the Cardinals have ever been able to hire are older, once or twice former head coaches who were desperate to get another chance (Buddy Ryan, Dennis Green), younger coaches who felt like this may be their only chance to get one of the 32 NFL head coaching jobs (Jim Hanifan, Joe Bugel, Dave McGinnis, Vince Tobin, Ken Whisenhunt, Bruce Arians, Steve Wilks) or college coaches who jumped at the opportunity to be an NFL head coach (Don Coryell, Bud Wilkinson, Larry Stallings, Kliff Kingsbury).
So —- sure —- if you think the Cardinals can do better than Kliff Kingsbury, please tell us who that coach is?
Fact —- in the history of the Cardinals since the Super Bowl I, Kliff Kingsbury’s 2021 team was the 9th Cardinals’ team to make the playoffs.
The other coaches to make the playoffs were Don Coryell (2 times), Jim Hanifan, Vince Tobin, Ken Whisenhunt (2 times), Bruce Arians (2 times) and Kliff Kingsbury.
Don Coryell —- 0-2
Jim Hanifan —- 0-1
Vince Tobin —- 1-1
Ken Whisenhunt —- 4-2
Bruce Arians —- 1-2
Kliff Kingsbury —- 0-1
For those of you old enough to know all or most of these Cardinals’ head coaches, apply Louis Riddick’s Credibility, Competency, Positivity to them. The only one I have graded higher than Kliff Kingsbury is Don Coryell, who like Kliff, was an offensive pioneer.
Please, for those of you who want another coach, give us a name and we can discuss how realistic it would be for that coach to sign with the Cardinals.
By the way, it is important to note that since the beginning of the Super Bowl era, 15 of the Cardinals’ 17 head coaches were first-time head coaches (save for Buddy Ryan and Dennis Green). And, as previously mentioned, none of the 17 head coaches lasted for more than 5 years. The average years for Cardinals’ head coaches has been 3, where Kingsbury is now.
Some fans have recently been saying the Cardinals should sign Sean Payton. Sure, but it would likely take at least one 1st round draft pick and Michael Bidwill giving Payton a Bill Belichickean type of GM/HC authority over the entire organization. Given the Cardinals’ history of hiring practices, can you envision the Cardinals making a move for Sean Payton?
Or. furthermore, can you envision Sean Payton wanting to coach for the Cardinals?
In my opinion, the only way the Cardinals will ever change this perception is if the team becomes a consistent Super Bowl contender.
In my opinion, putting a halt to the head coaching carousel should give the Cardinals the best chance. The Cardinals should try holding onto a coach —- for once.
Bill Belichick on the two most important qualities of a great NFL QB has to have:
1 —- accuracy.
2 —- decision making.
I think that Bill Belichick is right on the money. If a QB is strong in these two areas, the chances are excellent that he will be remarkably successful.
1 —- Accuracy. The good news for the Cardinals is that Kyler Murray is already one of the most accurate passers in the NFL. In 2021 the top three QBs in completion percentage:
- Joe Burrow (CIN) —- 70,7%
- Aaron Rodgers (GB) —- 68.9%
- Kyler Murray (ARI) —- 68.3%
Note: Borrow and Rodgers had more talent at WR this year.
Per the NFL Power Index, Kyler climbed in the QB rankings from #10 in 2020 to #7 in 2021.
2 —- Decision Making. Kyler’s decision-making was excellent prior to his high ankle injury, but declined to a discernable degree after his return. To be fair, part of Kyler’s struggles can be attributed to losing DeAndre Hopkins (for 5 games) , Rodney Hudson (for 3 games), Rondale Moore (for 3 games), James Conner (2 games) and Chase Edmonds (5 games) and some weekly OL shuffling.
It would be unrealistic to think that a 3rd year QB who only started less than 20 college games would be thoroughly adept at decision-making at this point. K1’s reading of defenses has improved each year. However, Kyler can do a better job of studying the opposing CBs, Ss and LBs to know which ones to target and exploit. Plus, he needs to establish a stronger chemistry with all of his WRs and TEs, like Kurt Warner did so assiduously, even with WR4s, WR5s and WR6s.
The Cardinals have the makings of a potentially elite QB in Kyler Murray.
J.J. Watt on his advice to his teammates going into the Wild Card playoff game versus the Rams:
1 —- control what you can control.
2 —- do your job.
By the time J.J. Watt was able to return to the field, the Cardinals as a whole had lost confidence and were out of sync on both sides of the ball. Add that to the fact that for 31 of the Cardinals 53 players, this was their first playoff game.
Even though the Cardinals lost badly to the Rams, the experience was valuable, particularly if going into next season, the players continue to heed J.J. Watt’s savvy advice. Essentially what every player needs to do is hold himself to the highest standards, to trust in the process and to hold himself accountable. When 53 men on a team do this, it is the formula for winning.
There is perhaps no more important person on the Cardinals heading into the new season than J.J. Watt. When Matt Prater had that rare off-game without having Andy Lee as his holder, who was on the sidelines making sure that the kicker was not getting too discouraged or down on himself?
This off-season, not only will J.J. Watt help to try to attract free agents to Arizona, ones whom he trusts and believes in, but he his going to spread his wings and help his teammates form a steely bond and a keen understanding of how to turn last season’s disappointments into a new season of triumphs. I would bet that J.J. has already reached out to Kyler Murray. Would you?
Budda Baker on what it takes to win in the NFL:
1 —- focus only on going 1-0 this week.
The 2021 Cardinals were able to accomplish that disciplined goal 11 times. It was only the 4th time since 1950 that a Cardinals won 11 or more regular season games (Coryell in 1975, Arians in 2014, Arians in 2015 and Kingsbury in 2021).
The Cardinals spent the 2021 off-season looking to improve their physicality and their veteran leadership.
It worked, quite brilliantly early on.
This year, the mantra is, like DeAndre Hopkins said to J.J. Watt:
“Let’s finish what we started.”