After a 5-11-1 season, some may wonder if Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury should be on the hot seat. He should not, at least not yet.
The Arizona Cardinals were 5-11-1 in 2019. If you recall, and fans will, the preseason debut of both rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury was as bad as it could be. NFL pundits from sea to shining sea were quick to pan both, with much of the extra attention saved for Kingsbury.
In today’s NFL, the leash is considerably short. For Murray, it’s almost expected he’s getting more time than the guy calling plays. For Kingsbury, an absolute laughing stock when the season began, the hot seat was already burning when Week 1 commenced.
In 2020, the question can still be asked whether the now second-year head coach is already under the gun. It is, by today’s standards, a fair question. However, it can also be premature. Last season, Arizona finished well behind the third-place team, the Los Angeles Rams, who concluded their campaign with a 9-7 record. This season, it’s hard to see 5-11-1 an acceptable win/lose total in the desert.
Even with a 2-3 finish last December, Arizona was extremely competitive. They did lose 34-7 to the Rams to open the month, but managed to lose by a touchdown to the Pittsburgh Steeler 23-17, and beat the Cleveland Browns handily 38-24. They would follow-up that win by handling the Seattle Seahawks on the road 27-13, before losing their last game of the season 31-24 in Los Angeles.
Kingsbury has to add to the five games the Cardinals won in 2019. Murray, being better and more field aware in 2020, will be a big part of the improvement. Having said all of that, the margin for error will be small. Kingsbury has weapons on offense, especially with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. With Arizona slated to have the eighth pick in the first round, talent won’t be a suitable excuse if they underachieve.
There is a lot to like about the Cardinals this season. They are talented, have an exciting quarterback, and Kingsbury has a lot to work with. How GM Steve Keim measures progress will be an interesting watch. It’s fair to say five wins don’t help Kingsbury. But as close as they were in a lot of games last season, winning more than five games should be a foregone conclusion this year.