Arizona Cardinals: Kliff Kingsbury set himself up to fail

Dec 18, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury calls out in the second half against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury calls out in the second half against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

There is one story circulating that the Arizona Cardinals set up head coach Kliff Kingsbury to fail, but you really have to question that narrative. 

The narrative states that it wasn’t Kliff, but Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim were ultimately responsible for the failure of the 2022 Arizona Cardinals. While the Steve Wilks situation may have been different (and it was), Kliff’s was not. Or at least not entirely.

Sure, there were bad offseason moves, but general manager Steve Keim set Kliff up with the following players in 2022 through either trades, re-signings, or extensions on offense:

  • Kyler Murray
  • James Conner
  • Zach Ertz
  • Marquise Brown
  • D.J. Humphries
  • Rodney Hudson
  • Justin Pugh

Unfortunately, injuries wiped out most of Humphries’, Hudson’s, and Pugh’s seasons. They also affected Ertz’s, Murray’s, Conner’s, and Brown’s. But there was also a time when most if not all of the above took the field at the same time, and the Arizona Cardinals offense was still stagnant.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury should have made better decisions

While I concede that injuries would have derailed this season, Kliff’s issues date back further than 2022, given his unbelievably bad second-half tenure in each of his four years as the Redbirds coach.

Here are a few issues Kingsbury had control of, yet did nothing to fix:

  • In-game management
  • Penalties
  • Play-calling
  • Tailoring the offense to suit Murray’s strengths

Kliff had four seasons to fix the above issues. Yet his in-game management, much of which included going for it at unnecessary times on fourth down, cost this team how many games between 2019 and 2022? And when haven’t the Arizona Cardinals either led the league or were close to leading the league in offensive penalties over the past four seasons?

How many “what was Kliff thinking?” plays were called over his first four seasons? Also over the last four years, you tried to transition a dual threat quarterback into an Air Raid player. No wonder Murray’s numbers have never been great – despite his two Pro Bowl appearances. If anyone was set up to fail, it was him.

While Keim could have done a far better job bringing in talent via the draft and making more sensible moves in free agency, it’s not like he gave Kliff a bare bones roster to work with. A Super Bowl winner? Far from it.

But the roster should have contended this season. It was good enough until the endless injuries. And still, had Kliff managed the game better, the Cardinals could have beaten the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3, the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5, and even the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6.

The Cardinals were still relatively healthy then. They probably would have played the Minnesota Vikings better in Week 9. Not that they would have won all the above games, but what I’m getting at is, this team would have at least been better than the 4-10 disaster that stagnated on offense earlier in the year.

Kliff’s problems date back several seasons

In 2020, the Arizona Cardinals were leading the division by tiebreaker at 6-3 in Week 11. They finished 2-5, and out of the playoffs. Last season, Kliff led the Redbirds to a 7-0 record, and a 10-2 record, where they were the best team in the NFL and picked by some to make a deep playoff run.

You know what happened. The Cardinals finished 11-6 and were embarrassed on Wildcard Weekend. Case in point, they finished the season 4-7 when you count the playoffs, and that’s on Kliff.

So when others try to tell you that Kliff failed because of Bidwill and Keim, know that there is some truth to it. But ultimately, Kliff did this to himself. He had enough talent on the roster to at least turn the Arizona Cardinals into a contender this season before injuries struck. It didn’t happen.

Through Week 15 of 2022, he is 6-15 in the second half of the last three seasons following the first nine games of the year. Kliff’s issues are nothing new. And had he learned to make a few adjustments regarding in-game management or instilling more discipline in his players, odds are, he would be back next season, guaranteed.

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The 2022 Arizona Cardinals were never going to make the playoffs once the injuries mounted. But at the very least, they would have been competitive throughout most of the season. And that would have saved Kliff’s job. As it stands, he is still the coach of this team, but his seat is ultra-hot.

Article Source: Kingsbury, Like Wilks, Set Up to Fail by Walter Mitchell

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