Arizona Cardinals: Will The Kyler Murray Injury Grant Kliff Kingsbury Another Season As Head Coach?

Aug 20, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks with quarterback Kyler Murray (1) prior to facing the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 20, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks with quarterback Kyler Murray (1) prior to facing the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The talks surrounding the temperature of Kliff Kingsbury’s seat have been rampant throughout the 2022 season. Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray have seemingly been on different pages this year, but could Murray’s injury grant the polarizing head coach another chance with the Arizona Cardinals in 2023?

The Arizona Cardinals won 13 total games in Kingsbury’s first two seasons at the helm. In 2021, the team opened the campaign by winning 10 of its first 12 contests. Unfortunately, they dropped four of their final five games, limping into the playoffs before being bounced by the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card.

Even after an abysmal December, Kingsbury claimed his first winning season as a head coach since 2015 with Texas Tech. Yes, the 43-year-old secured an NFL coaching gig after being fired from the Red Raiders. This is why so many NFL pundits claim Kingsbury “failed upward”.

The 2022 season brought some renewed optimism following the acquisition of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown from the Baltimore Ravens. However, top receiver DeAndre Hopkins was hit with a six-game suspension to open the season, dampening the excitement substantially.

Furthermore, the Cardinals inked Kyler Murray to a lucrative five-year, $230.5 million mega-deal. After some drama regarding the language in his contract, including a “practice clause”, Arizona eventually reworked the deal and removed it. Still, the fact that the organization felt they needed to force film-watching on Murray is a major red flag.

Kyler Murray was not the only one to get a five-year extension, as Kliff Kingsbury also earned a new pact from the front office this offseason. The contract extensions were supposed to keep the two paired together until the 2027 season. That was the plan, at least…

The Cardinals have been an unmitigated disaster in 2022. The offense looked disjointed without DeAndre Hopkins, and although it improved when the veteran returned, the holes on the offensive line have become too much to hide. The same can be said about the play-calling and overall decision-making by the coaching staff.

Coaching in the NFL is impossibly difficult, and that cannot be denied. But, the Cardinals are in jeopardy of wasting their franchise quarterback by allowing a subpar head coach to continue leading the organization to perennial mediocrity. Sooner or later, it will become a “him or me” situation.

Recently on an episode of Hard Knocks, Kliff Kingsbury gave a postgame speech begging for accountability from his football team. He addressed the fact that he is labeled as a “players coach” and relayed to the locker room that things would start to change on that front.

The players that love Kingsbury, really love Kingsbury. I have no doubts that he is a fun guy to be around, and his youthful exuberance toward football is something that the sport needs more of. However, when looking at his overall coaching record in college and the NFL — and seeing how undisciplined his teams have been in the NFL — it is fair to question if the script can be flipped this late in the process.

To be fair, Kingsbury is not the one that put this roster together. General manager Steve Keim might deserve more blame than the head coach. Earlier in the week, Keim took a leave of absence from the Cardinals due to health-related concerns. We wish Keim the best and hope that he can overcome whatever is troubling him.

Steve Keim, similar to Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, received an extension after 2021. Coming off of an 11-6 campaign, and looking like one of the best teams in the NFL for the first two months, resulted in a lot of money being thrown around by ownership. Less than 12 months later, there is undoubtedly buyer’s remorse permeating through the organization.

It is always easy to say that a team should move on from a stale regime, but watching the Cardinals in 2022, it is hard to see any other outcome. As stated, there is a chunk of the locker room that believes in and loves their head coach. The hardest part about winning in the NFL is prioritizing it over the human relationships part of the equation. It is a challenge, but also necessary to reach the Promised Land.

A new general manager and head coach tandem make sense. Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury have underachieved during their time together in Arizona. The organization finally put together a winning season in 2021, and that one successful campaign resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in the GM-HC-QB trio.

The roster needs some work, but there are several foundational pieces on both sides of the ball. Kyler Murray will potentially miss the first month of the 2023 season as he recovers from a torn ACL. Will Kliff Kingsbury be granted another year in Arizona because of this? Would a new head coach be eager to take over the Cardinals, knowing that Murray’s future is clouded?

The Cardinals currently sit at 4-9 and hold the No. 6 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. That positioning should put them in a spot to grab the best offensive lineman or best defensive back in the class. The pass-rushing group is loaded in 2023 as well, so there are many different ways to upgrade the roster via the draft.

Monetarily, the Cardinals lack deep pockets but have the flexibility to sign any free agent that they want to. Additionally, some pieces on the roster would fetch a decent return if they were made available for trade. The temptation to run things back will be tough to fight, but the Cardinals must put a stop to the mediocre play.

It might be challenging to convince a prospective head coach/general manager to sign on with the Cardinals. Kyler Murray and his exciting brand of football could be a thing of the past following his ACL tear; there is uncertainty everywhere you look on the roster.

Perhaps Kliff Kingsbury is misunderstood and unfairly judged. Perhaps the yearly injuries are to blame for his shortcomings. Perhaps the players are letting him down with their effort.

Or, perhaps, Kliff Kingsbury is an under .500 head coach everywhere he has ever been. Perhaps Kingsbury is more suited to be an offensive coordinator, rather than the voice of the locker room. Perhaps, the team is undisciplined because Kingsbury is too friendly?

I will let you be the judge of that. From the outside looking in, a breath of fresh air feels necessary for the franchise. An overhaul at general manager and head coach will be pricy on the buyouts, but the quickest way to fix a poor decision is by cutting the head off now, rather than allowing things to go even further in the wrong direction.

A likely top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, a franchise QB that we all hope returns to the field the same way he left it, and a slew of young talent provides promise for Arizona Cardinals fans. This offseason is the turning point for the Cardinals organization. Will they accept mediocrity? Or will they aspire to be great?