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Report: Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury could part ways at end of 2022 season

The Cardinals have been through a disastrous season. Their head coach might not survive it.

Arizona Cardinals v Denver Broncos
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during the fourth quarter in the game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on December 18, 2022 in Denver, Colorado.
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals are set to undergo some significant change over the offseason but the biggest focus will be on the head coaching position. Kliff Kingsbury has guided the team to a 4-10 mark heading into Week 16 of the 2022 NFL season, which is simply an unacceptable record given the trajectory he had this franchise on. There have always been signs of cracks in the foundation with Kingsbury, although the team had made the playoffs in 2021 and was likely a Kyler Murray injury away from being the No. 1 seed that year. The Cardinals lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams in the first round of the playoffs.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Josh Weinfuss, the Cardinals could be entering their final lap with Kingsbury at the helm. Murray is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL and could be out at the beginning of next season. It’s hard to see Arizona winning out to close the season, and that alone might be enough to send Kingsbury out. The article offers up the usual, maybe he leaves, maybe he stays, but he’s at least on the hot seat.

Why Kingsbury should stay

The only argument for Kingsbury staying would be that he hasn’t been able to get his offense installed with a full group. This is somewhat true. DeAndre Hopkins was out the first six games due to a PED suspension. Newly acquired Marquise Brown played six games and then missed a month with a foot injury. Rondale Moore missed three games with a hamstring injury, played for seven and then injured his groin on the first play of a Monday game against the 49ers. He hasn’t played since then. However, Kyler Murray and James Conner have been largely healthy for this team. And the results have not been good.

Why Kingsbury should go

Let’s start with the most obvious reason; he simply hasn’t won enough games this year. The Cardinals have won four games after winning 11 in the previous season and handing their franchise quarterback $230 million. Kingsbury’s offense ranks 21st in yards per game and 18th in points per game. That’s not good enough when your franchise quarterback is healthy, even if the players around him are going in and out. Murray’s numbers are down across the board and his impact as a runner has been minimal over the last two seasons now.

The secondary reason for letting Kingsbury go is his inability to win in key stretches. Every season under him, the Cardinals have had a key moment to impact their season. And every time, they’ve failed.

2019: 3-3-1 after Week 8 before losing six straight games
2020: 6-3 after Week 10 before losing three straight, 8-6 after Week 15 before losing last two games
2021: 10-2 after Week 13, finished 11-6
2022: 4-6 after Week 10 before losing four straight

These collapses are not specific to Kingsbury’s time in the NFL. Here’s a look at his time at Texas Tech, where he never finished a season with more than eight wins.

2013: Started 7-0 before losing five straight
2014: 3-4 after seven games before losing three straight
2015: 5-2 after seven games before losing three straight
2016: 3-1 after four games before losing three straight and six out of seven
2017: 4-1 after five games before losing four straight
2018: 5-2 after seven games before losing out to close the season

Once is a mistake. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a habit. 10 times? That’s the rule. There are 17 games in a NFL season, and teams want to be playing their best football ahead of the playoffs. Kingsbury’s teams at Texas Tech and Arizona have done the opposite. It doesn’t matter how fun your offense can potentially be on paper if you’re not winning games. There were plenty of critics when Kingsbury initially made the jump without doing much at Texas Tech and they’ve largely been proven right. The results on the field simply haven’t been good enough and the evidence suggests things will largely stay the same even with a healthy roster.

Potential replacement candidates

The Cardinals ranked 17th, 13th, 11th and 18th (so far) in scoring offense over Kingsbury’s tenure. The elements are there for an explosive offense but the new orchestrator will need to be more effective at deploying those elements.

Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan has done a good job with that unit and could fit in Arizona. Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman has experience with a dual-threat quarterback and if the team doesn’t retain Lamar Jackson, he might seek a new destination. Former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is reportedly open to coaching in 2023 and has tons of offensive success.

If the Cardinals did want to go to the defensive side of the ball, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is probably the top candidate there. Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is also an option and has previous head coaching experience.