Kliff vs. Kyler: Who is to blame for the Arizona Cardinals woes?
By Sion Fawkes
It has been clear that neither Kliff Kingsbury nor Kyler Murray have been the answer in remedying a downtrodden Arizona Cardinals franchise.
The Arizona Cardinals have been one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments, and there is no arguing it. At 3-5, this team is barely clinging to its playoff lives, and a loss to the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday could make it nearly impossible for the Cardinals to scratch and claw their way into serious playoff contention.
While football is considered to be the ultimate team game, most of your best teams in the NFL have two key fixtures:
- Good coach
- Good quarterback
Unfortunately, neither Kliff Kingsbury nor Kyler Murray fit the bill. Kingsbury has proven to be an awful play-caller and game manager while Kyler has done nothing more than win a couple of popularity contests. As for picking up the slack, it has, twice in as many seasons, been too much of a hassle. So who do you blame here? Let’s take a closer look at who should shoulder most of it.
Why Kliff is to blame?
The NFL Network once ran a special that went something like, Top Ten Coaches That Belonged in College – feel free to correct me on the likely misquote, but you know which episode I’m talking about. Had that episode been made in 2025, odds are, Kliff would find a spot on that list.
He tried to give us an “Air Raid” offense, and instead, we ended up with what former Arizona Cardinals head coach Buddy Ryan referred to as “chuck and duck.” Kliff has shown time and again that he cannot call a good game, often forced to go for it on fourth down just to give his offense a chance to convert and keep the game within reach.
This is also a first-time head coach who stubbornly held onto his “second job” as an offensive coordinator. I say second job because Kliff’s job title says head coach on just about every source. And while he has yet to see his offense perform consistently in any of his first 3.5 seasons, he continues to hold the OC moniker, though he did imply he could end up hiring one.
Then there are the endless penalties, something that has been an issue since Kingsbury first took over. And you would think that, four seasons later, he’d have figured out a way to remedy the issue. Turns out, that’s not the case, and the Cardinals once again rank among the league’s worst in the category.
Some fans have even said Kingsbury is the wrong choice to help develop quarterback Kyler Murray. But Murray has done few favors to help himself. And great quarterbacks, especially those drafted first overall that are being paid as such, should shoulder some responsibility. Let’s take a closer look.
Why Kyler is to blame?
Kyler Murray won Offensive Rookie of the Year and has been to two Pro Bowls. But at the end of the day, they are popularity contests. As a dual-threat quarterback, Murray is one of the most exciting players to watch when he is on, right up there with fellow dual-threats Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen.
But from a maturity standpoint, Jackson and Allen have him beaten and it’s not even close. For example, Murray made a spectacle out of his contract situation this past offseason. Jackson calmly negotiated until Week 1, then turned his focus to football. One quarterback temporarily removed anything and everything that had to do with his pro team on social media, the other didn’t.
That quarterback was Murray. Then there was the entire contract clause that has long since been removed for Murray to commit to four measly hours of independent study per week. Seriously, if you can’t study on your own for four hours to play a kid’s game, that’s pretty sad. Especially since there are many players out there that workout and study on their own. It’s called love for the game.
Murray has also shown immaturity throughout his career. He has pointed fingers, the media questioned his overall body language, and of course, there was the entire sideline spat with Kingsbury. Overall, Murray has shown about as much maturity on the field as Ty Gibbs has on a NASCAR track.
He can also barely function without DeAndre Hopkins. Sure, his Week 2 comeback win was great, but how many quarterbacks in their fourth season took over games regardless of who they had around them? Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are two quarterbacks that come to mind.
Murray has been unable to elevate the talent of others, and it shows over his first four seasons. Contrast this with Joe Burrow, who picked up a wobbly Cincinnati Bengals team and led them to a Super Bowl in just his second season. Even Baker Mayfield won a playoff game in his third year. Both quarterbacks were first overall picks before and after Murray.
Kliff may be calling the plays, but he’s not throwing the football. He’s not making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. That’s Murray, and so far, Murray looks more like a young Carson Palmer. A good player who can’t cut it with their initial team. While Palmer was lights out for the Arizona Cardinals, many had him labeled as a borderline bust given his failures with the Bengals.
Will the Arizona Cardinals win under either?
Honestly, no. Murray continues to lack maturity, as he kindly reminded us in the Cardinals win over the New Orleans Saints. Kingsbury has proven time and again he can’t manage the game. They are in their fourth season, and they have done what exactly?
While it’s true the Arizona Cardinals have improved from 3-13 (under Wilks) to 5-10-1, to 8-8, and finally, 11-6, Year 4 looks as though the duo have taken an infamous step back. And it never should have happened.
Even without Hopkins, Murray still had Marquise Brown. He had Zach Ertz. He has a decent offensive line blocking for him and enough mobility to escape the rush when the blocking broke down. Early in the season, minus Week 1, coordinator Vance Joseph put together a remarkable defense that held opponents to 23 points or less from Weeks 2 to 6.
Yet this odd couple couldn’t cut it, even if they had every chance in the NFL universe to. They had a stout defense that is now breaking down, and they had a plethora of talent at the skill position units. It shows me that the Arizona Cardinals won’t win anything but a neverending carousel of perpetual mediocrity.
Article Source: Self-inflicted mistakes ‘killing’ Cardinals ahead of crucial stretch by Josh Weinfuss
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