Back in March, Cardinals owner and president Michael Bidwill signed head coach Kliff Kingsbury to a five-year extension. Many fans and most observers around the league were incredulous—this was a coach who was exactly .500 with three straight second-half collapses and not a single playoff win under his belt in three seasons.
Yes, the team stormed to a 7-0 and then 10-2 start in 2021, but there were still myriad questions about Kliff’s leadership, playcalling, and game management. Plus—and this is critical—he still had a year left on his deal. There was no need to ink that extension.
Many thought that Kliff (and GM Steve Keim) would play out the last years of their deals and earn their extensions—much like the “prove-it” deals that Keim is noted for signing players to.
Instead, Bidwill freely offered the extensions in the name of “progress” and continuity—only for those same questions about Kliff’s leadership, playcalling, and game management to rear their ugly heads again and again this season.
Bidwill has lauded the progress the team has made in Kliff’s tenure, and that progress does look good on paper. We went from 3 wins during the disastrous 2018 Steve Wilks season to 5, 8, and then 11 wins last season, which included the team’s first playoff appearance since 2015. (Which of course ended in a 34-11 drubbing against the Rams.)
That progress was good enough for Bidwill, and has been good enough for many Cardinals fans up until now. But it can’t be good enough any longer, not with this team poised to take a massive step back in wins and with an unbearably stagnant offense this season. (Remember when Kliff was heralded as an offensive guru?)
The frustrations of fans and media alike with Kliff are at an all-time high (98.7 has been especially harsh on him lately)—and things may have reached a boiling point with the loss against the Vikings last Sunday.
This was another winnable game against an NFC contender, but the Cardinals just couldn’t get out of their own way. They had yet another slow offensive start, were flagged for 10 penalties, and failed to convert yet another critical 4th down conversion.
Obviously, the loss wasn’t all on Kliff—we had plenty of injuries, and Kyler had two awful picks and executed about as badly as a QB can execute on the final few plays from scrimmage. But due to a little thing called the salary cap, we’re likely stuck with Kyler for the immediate future.
I say “stuck with,” but I’m still a Kyler believer. I don’t know if there is another QB in the league with his combination of arm talent and scrambling ability. There are questions about his ability to read defenses/go through progressions and see downfield, yes, but it’s becoming pretty clear that he’s being held back by his coach. Why does it always look like it’s the first time Kliff and Kyler are playing a game together when it’s been nearly four years?
Meanwhile, look at Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni in Philadelphia. Does anyone in the league think Hurts is a more talented player than Kyler? Doubtful. But Sirianni his coaching staff have crafted an offense that takes full advantage of Hurts’s skillset. Meanwhile Kliff is still scheming up new ways to throw the ball to Rondale Moore behind the line of scrimmage and not use Kyler’s legs on 3rd/4th and short. I truly would love to see what Kyler could do with an NFL-caliber offensive designer and playcaller.
But—and this has become incredibly clear in 2022—Kliff ain’t it. He seems like a genuinely likeable guy, and the players seem to like playing for him, but it’s become increasingly clear that he runs an amateur operation.
We struggle even with the basics of getting plays called, he seems to think the football field runs horizontally instead of vertically (we’re the only team in the league without a 40+ yard pass completion), and we consistently look unprepared when we take the football field (we average a league-low 1.1 points in the 1st quarter and are the only team in the league without a 1st-quarter TD). We’ve also been top-5 in the league in penalties every year during his tenure. (Although we’re actually only 8th this season. Progress!)
Plenty of people are calling for Kliff to be fired already. You can count me in on that—he’s just not the right man for the job. I don’t think it will happen midseason. That just doesn’t seem to be Bidwill’s style, and we’re technically not out of it yet. We could be just one game out of 1st place in the NFC West with a win over the Seahawks on Sunday.
But I’m just tired of the penalties, the horizontal offense, the slow starts and collapses. The unpreparedness. The failure to utilize Kyler’s considerable talents. The deer in the headlights look in big moments.
But mostly I’m just tired of the mediocrity. Two games under .500 after 3+ years just can’t be good enough. Being within a score in the 4th quarter just can’t be good enough anymore. We can’t keep losing those games, but we will as long as Kliff Kingsbury is on the sidelines.
Enough already. I’m not ready for another 9 games of this, much less 5 years.
How about you?