Jack McKessy of The Draft Network is claiming that the first NFL head coach to be fired in 2023 will not be the Panthers’ Matt Rhule, it will be the Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury.
Here is McKessy’s argument:
First of all, Jack McKessy is already assuming that the Cardinals are going to fail miserably this season.
Based on how tumultuous the Cardinals’ off-season has been, one can hardly blame McKessy for not drinking the Cardinals’ Kool Aid (that is if the glass is even half full these days).
If the 2022 Cardinals fail miserably —- you can count one thing:
Kliff will take the blame.
He will fall on his sword for the front office and his players.
Just as he always does.
But —- Kliff ain’t getting fired.
When Michael Bidwill gave Kliff and Steve Keim five year contract extension beyond this season, Bidwill gave them the primary credit for the team’s 3 year improvement.
I believe that Bidwill’s decision to extend Kliff and Keim was a statement to the Cardinals’ players —- that the Cardinals’ late season struggles were more on the players, than on the head coach or GM.
Now —- you may disagree with this —- or you may not.
It’s a moot point.
The crux is —- Michael Bidwill is very keen on Kliff.
To this point in his 3 plus years of employment, Kliff has made Bidwill look good.
Let’s not forget that Bidwill’s hiring of Kliff Kingsbury in the aftermath of the Steve Wilks firing was met with immediate scorn and lol tweets by the local and national media.
Bidwill loves Kliff’s modesty and his insatiable work ethic.
Bidwill loves that the coaches and the players like and respect Kliff.
But, most of all, Bidwill loves that Kliff has his back and will shield the owner’s own culpabilities whenever failures crop up.
All the same, something seems awfully awry about the way in which Michael Bidwill is conducting his business this off-season.
By now, you’ve all seen this:
According to OTC, #AZCardinals rank 30th in active cash spending ($202M), total cash spending ($202.4M) and cash to cap ratio (.9348). Only the Falcons and Bears have spent less.— Chuck Harris (@chuckh3) June 22, 2022
NFC West compare (+/-):
Rams $293.0M (-$91M)
49ers $233.7M (-$31.7M)
Seahawks: $218.6M (-$16.6M)
The Super Bowl is in Arizona this year and good things can happen in threes if the Cardinals do what the Bucs and Rams did the last two years, by winning the Super Bowl on their own home turf.
Thus, why hasn’t Bidwill been investing the cash in trying to aid and abet the Cardinals’ cause this season?
It makes no sense —- other than he’s cash strapped.
This is why Bidwill has allowed the Kyler Murray drama to fester on the back burner —-
Langston Hughes wrote about what can happen when something (like a dream or promise) is put on the back burner:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Either one way or the other Bidwill could have nipped all of this drama in the bud, by either making it clear the team wants wait another year to negotiate Kyler’s contract —- or, at the very least, by working out a verbal agreement on Kyler’s extension.
My theory is this —- when Bidwill extended Kliff’s and Keim’s contracts he told them that this off-season was going to be difficult for him and the team financially, particularly after he bought the Cardinals their own jet —- and that the best he could do for now is to re-sign the top in-house free agents and a few highly affordable outside free agents.
Remember the $10M line that Bidwill drew in the sand (figuratively) on one his Flight Plan episodes?
Financial limitations are the main reason why there is no way that Bidwill is going to fire Kliff or Keim after this upcoming season.
It’s similar tho the reason why Bidwill did not fire Steve Keim along with Steve Wilks.
Keim wanted James Bettcher to be BA’s successor, per BA’s recommendation.
Wilks was Bidwill’s guy.
In good faith, how then could Bidwill fire Wilks and fire his GM who was opposed to Wilks’ hire in the first place?
When Bidwill hired Kliff Kingsbury it was with Ernie Accorsi’s blessings. Keim already had a good rapport with Kliff, having visited him in Lubbock on scouting trips for a few years.
This time around, in very short order, once the new head coach was announced, both Bidwill and Keim were all-in on Kliff.
But, right now, Bidwill knows he’s asking a lot of Kliff and Keim in asking them to be patient while the cash trickles in.
With Bidwill having raised ticket prices coming off a 3-5 home record (0-3 down the stretch) , and in light of all of the off-season turbulence, rumors are circulating that the Cardinals’ season ticket sales have not been as brisk as expected.
How Bidwill’s cash situation might affect the Kyler Murray extension negotiations is anyone’s guess at this point.
One might imagine that Bidwill will be forced to try to spread the guaranteed money over the length of the contract, so as not to have to write Kyler a huge signing bonus up front.
One might imagine that if Kyler wants the Cardinals to act in good faith by extending him earlier than they have to, that Bidwill would want Kyler, in return, to be reasonable in his contract demands.
Erik Burkhardt, Kyler’s agent, via a scathing tweet back in early April after the Raiders traded for Devante Adams and then signed Derek Carr to a three year $121.5M contract extension with a $7.5M signing bonus and $65.3M guaranteed, insinuated that the Cardinals (aka Bidwill) are cheap.
Burkhardt subsequently took his contract offer off the table after Deshaun Watson was signed by the Browns to a 5 year $230M contract and a $45M signing bonus, with all of the $230M fully guaranteed.
Kliff Kingsbury left mandatory mini-camp saying that he was praying for Kyler to have his contract extension worked out by the start of training camp.
Steve Keim, on the Pat McAfee Show, claimed that he and Erik Burkhardt are good friends and that a contract for Kyler should be worked out when most of the QB deals are concluded, which is sometime “in the middle to late summer.”
For those keeping score, Patrick Mahomes signed his 10 year extension with the Chiefs on July 6, 2020 ($63M signing bonus with $143M guaranteed).
Josh Allen signed his 6 year contract expansion ($16.5M signing bonus with $150M guaranteed for injury and $100M fully guaranteed, plus a number of lucrative incentives) with the Bills on August 6, 2021.
Dak Prescott signed his 4 year $160M contract extension ($66M signing bonus with $126M guaranteed) with the Cowboys on March 8, 2021 after an injury marred 5th season in which he played on the franchise tag.
Back in early May, Cardinals’ fans may have been on to something based on the results of this poll:
Hey fans, which contract do you believe the team should model for Kyler Murray?— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) May 5, 2022
The key figures:
- 6 years
- $16.5M signing bonus (affordable for Bidwill —- Mahomes and Prescott got $60+M up front, but their owners are Clark Hunt and Jerry Jones)
- $150M guaranteed for injury
- $100M fully guaranteed
- Chock-full of performance and accolades incentives.
The question is —- just how amenable will Erik Burkhardt be to accepting similar figures?
Michael Bidwill is hoping that by retaining the majority of the core players from last year’s 11-7 team, the 2022 team, if it can stay healthy, will continue to build off of that success.
But, in light of being what very much appears to be limited finances this off-season, Michael Bidwill is not going to fire Kliff Kingsbury, regardless of what happens this season.
Most of Kliff’s assistant coaches are in contract years, so those jobs could be up in the air.
But, not Kliff’s.
Plus, how idiotic would Bidwill look if he fired Kliff in 2023, one season after extending him through 2027?