Kliff Kingsbury

Cardinals Extend Kliff Kingsbury, Steve Keim

The Cardinals have agreed to brand new deals with head coach Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Per the team’s official announcement Keim and Kingsbury are now signed through the 2027 season. 

[RELATED: Latest On Cardinals, Murray]

The leadership of both Steve and Kliff have been key factors in the team’s turnaround over the last three seasons,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said. “We are all looking forward to continuing that progress and recognize these two individuals will be a big part of achieving our long-term goals as an organization.”

Under their leadership, the Cardinals reached the postseason for the first time since 2015. Of course, it wasn’t all roses in 2021 either. The Cardinals went 9-2 in the first eleven games of the season, but went on to lose five of its final seven contests, including the playoffs. For what it’s worth, Kingsbury’s collegiate and pro teams have gone a combined 42-20-1 record in the first seven games of a season, and 17-45 from Game 8 onward.

For his part, Bidwill believes that DeAndre Hopkins‘ late-season absence played a huge role in the Cardinals’ collapse.

I think [the struggles are] a combination of things, certainly (Hopkins’) impact on the field and off the field is huge,” Bidwill said (via Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network). “And losing him from not only a football Xs and Os standpoint, but also from an emotional standpoint was big.”

Now, the Cardinals can turn their attention to other offseason matters, including the future of quarterback Kyler Murray. The former No. 1 overall pick missed three games due to a high ankle sprain and didn’t look the same afterwards. Then came the playoff game against the Rams, his worst showing of the season.

“The window has just opened for a contract extension. Certainly he’s part of our long-term plan,” Bidwill said recently. “Most of the big ones are done further down the road, I think Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen were done in the summer time. Others were done in the summer time. So we’ve got time, but they’re complicated.”

Cardinals Owner Michael Bidwill On HC Kliff Kingsbury

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill touched on a number of key topics during a Friday radio interview, including rumors of acrimony between the team and QB Kyler Murray. In addition to his affirmation that Murray remains in the Cards’ long-term plans and that he has had “good conversations non-stop” with his star signal-caller, Bidwill also discussed head coach Kliff Kingsbury‘s future in the desert.

“I look at the college coaches who have made the transition from college to the pros and the ones that are successful, and Kliff is [successful],” Bidwill said (via Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network). Throughout the interview, Bidwill reiterated that Kingsbury has a “bright future” and gave no indication that he is on a short leash.

Wilson, though, says that the 42-year-old HC is on “something of a hot seat” heading into 2022. If true, that would be due to Arizona’s late-season swoon that culminated in an ugly wildcard round loss to the eventual-Super Bowl champion Rams.

Indeed, we heard in early December that an extension for Kingsbury was one of the Cardinals’ top offseason priorities, but that report surfaced at a time when Arizona was sitting at 9-2. The team would go on to lose five of its final seven games, including the playoff defeat, which added to the narrative that Kingsbury is unable to make necessary in-season adjustments. As Wilson notes, Kingsbury’s teams at both the collegiate and professional levels have a 42-20-1 record in the first seven games of a season but are just 17-45 from the eighth game forward.

Bidwill ascribed the Cardinals’ stumbles down the stretch of the 2021 campaign primarily to the injuries sustained by Murray and top wideout DeAndre Hopkins. “I think [the struggles are] a combination of things, certainly (Hopkins’) impact on the field and off the field is huge,” Bidwill said. “And losing him from not only a football Xs and Os standpoint, but also from an emotional standpoint was big.”

He added, “Kyler got injured for three games. He certainly, before the injury, was playing at the top of his game, and then he came back. I think having a healthy Kyler Murray is always better than Kyler coming off of an injury. This team has a bright future and I’m excited about it, especially knowing those guys are coming back 100 percent.”

Kingsbury’s contract expires at the end of the 2022 season, though Arizona holds a team option for 2023. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals will explore an extension in the coming months, or if they wait to see if Kingsbury can overcome his reputation as a fast starter but slow finisher (as well as the concerns that have been expressed about his play-calling acumen).

At least publicly, Bidwill is confident in his HC’s abilities. “I feel like (Kingsbury’s) had an adjustment period. Had a few years to adjust and I feel like he’s going to get better and better because I feel like he understands the pro rules and the pro game and the pro speed and everything else much better than he did a couple of years ago,” Bidwill said. “[W]e’ve got a bright future together. Kliff, Kyler, [general manager] Steve [Keim], all of us have to make great contributions as we go forward. I know they have a great relationship.”

Acrimony Between Cardinals, Kyler Murray?

In a surprising development, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen suggests that there is acrimony between the Cardinals and QB Kyler Murray. The veteran reporter says that “sources” have described Murray as a self-centered, immature finger-pointer, and that Murray himself is frustrated with the franchise. Mortensen adds that Murray was embarrassed by Arizona’s playoff loss to the Rams in this year’s wildcard round and that the former Heisman winner believes he has been unfairly scapegoated for the loss (Twitter link).

Other prominent industry names take issue with the report. Pro Football Talk denounces the claims of Mortensen’s sources as a “bizarre hit job” and suggests that those claims represent an unfair characterization of Murray (Twitter link). Longtime NFL writer Gregg Rosenthal also calls the credibility of those sources into question (Twitter link).

Troy Renck of Denver 7, however, believes Murray does indeed have work to do as a leader, saying that Murray needs to do a better job of sharing credit when the Cardinals win and shouldering blame when they lose (Twitter link). Renck does say that head coach Kliff Kingsbury needs to improve as a play-caller — which is hardly an uncommon opinion — and that Murray’s frustration with the offense is understandable.

Regardless, it would be a shock if the Cardinals even considered moving on from Murray. Mortensen acknowledges (via Twitter) that the organization is committed to their two-time Pro Bowler, and that Kingsbury plans to do some “self-scouting” in an effort to provide Murray with “better alternatives” (though Arizona was eighth in the league in total offense in 2021). Furthermore, Mortensen says “select veterans” plan to reach out to Murray to help him improve on how he handles adversity.

The Cardinals, of course, jumped out to a 7-0 start in 2021 but won just four of their final 10 games. Murray missed three games due to a high ankle sprain and was generally not as effective upon his return as he was prior to the injury. His playoff performance against Los Angeles was his worst showing of the season, as he completed just 19-of-34 passes for 137 yards and two interceptions.

With three years of service time under his belt, Murray is now extension-eligible, and it will be interesting to see if player and team are willing to commence extension talks at this point. The Cardinals will have to make a decision on Murray’s fifth-year option for the 2023 season by May 2 of this year, and because he has earned multiple Pro Bowl nods, his fifth-year option salary would be roughly $28.5MM (fully-guaranteed).

In response to Mortensen’s report, the Cardinals have released the following statement (Twitter links via Pro Football Talk):

“Nothing has changed regarding our opinion and high regard for Kyler Murray. We as a team and Kyler individually have improved each year he’s been in the league. We are excited to continue that improvement in 2022 and are excited that Kyler Murray is the quarterback leading us.”

Cardinals GM Steve Keim On FAs, McCoy, Kingsbury

The 9-2 Cardinals are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and a great deal of their success this season can be attributed to players ticketed for free agency in 2022. That includes running backs Chase Edmonds and James Conner, wide receivers A.J. Green and Christian Kirk, tight end Zach Ertz, outside linebacker Chandler Jones, and quarterback Colt McCoy.

Although the club is obviously focused on making a championship run right now, GM Steve Keim will be tasked with making sure Arizona’s window of contention doesn’t close after one year. However, it does not sound as though there will be any extensions between now and the end of the season.

In speaking about the difficulty of striking an in-season extension, Keim, during a recent appearance on 98.7 KMVP, said that such a move is possible, “[i]f we identify the guys we see as core players, and there are a lot of them with the success we’ve had, but it really is tough. A lot of times, guys want to test the market or it’s just not the appropriate time because they are so focused on football” (via Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official website).

Keim added, “[t]here are so many moving parts to it, but there are a lot of guys we want to re-sign and make sure they remain Cardinals.”

One such player is McCoy, who has performed well this year in relief of the injured Kyler Murray. The Cards have gone 2-1 in McCoy’s three starts, thereby managing to stay atop the NFC standings, and the 31-year-old has completed over 75% of his passes for three TDs and one pick. Keim said that it is “highly important” to keep McCoy in the fold.

Meanwhile, head coach Kliff Kingsbury attracted the attention of the University of Oklahoma, and while the blue-blood collegiate program has now gone in a different direction, Keim knows what he has in Kingsbury.

“To me, it’s a compliment to our organization,” Keim said of OU’s interest in his head coach. “The guy has done a tremendous job. He and our organization have grown together. We’re really excited about the future when you look at the work he’s put in, the improvements he’s made, the improvements we’ve made with the roster.”

Urban says that, just as the Cardinals do not anticipate new deals for their top FAs before the end of the 2021 campaign, they are not presently working on an extension for Kingsbury. However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports hears that a Kingsbury extension is a major offseason priority, and that the 42-year-old may end up with a salary near the top of the head coaching pay scale.

Cardinals Kliff Kingsbury On Oklahoma Rumors

With Lincoln Riley’s departure from the University of Oklahoma to become the head coach at the University of Southern California, Oklahoma has expressed interest in Cardinals’ head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

In a Monday afternoon press conference, Kingsbury emphasized his focus on the Cardinals’ upcoming game against the Bears, as Darren Urban of the team website tweets.

[I] don’t get into those things,” Kingsbury said. “We’re in-season, we’re 9-and-2, just not a topic I want to touch right now.”

Kingsbury does have experience as a head coach at the college level, having spending six years with the Texas Tech University Red Raiders. His combined of 35-40 wasn’t stellar, but he did groom several current NFL players in Lubbock, including Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, DeAndre Washington, and Jakeem Grant.

It does seem a bit unusual that an NFL coach in the midst of an NFC-leading season would even be thinking about moving back to the college ranks. Kingsbury’s lack of a denial is curious, but, in reality, it’s probably a play for extra leverage. With one more year to go on his contract, Kingsbury use OU’s interest to drive his next deal even higher.

Oklahoma Eyeing Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury

University of Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has agreed to become the next head coach of the USC Trojans, according to sources who spoke with Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. In turn, the Sooners’ own search is underway, and they’re targeting Cardinals HC Kliff Kingsbury (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). 

Kingsbury still has one full year remaining on his deal and it’s not clear if he’d consider a return to the college ranks. Given his recent success, it’d be nothing short of shocking. At 9-2, the Cardinals are bonafide contenders for the first time in a long time.

Kingsbury made his name at Texas Tech, even though his teams went just 35-40 during his time there. In an era where new bowls continue to spawn, the Red Raiders only qualified for bowl games in three of those six seasons. There was also a noticeable drop from the final Patrick Mahomes season (fifth in scoring) to the post-Mahomes teams — 23rd in points in 2017, 100th in 2018 — for the Red Raiders’ offense.

Despite the hiccups, Kingsbury’s quarterback-whispering skills scored him the Cardinals’ job, ahead of several big-name candidates with pro experience. Now, in Year 3, there’s no questioning that the Cardinals made the right pick. Even with Kyler Murray sidelined and Colt McCoy under center, Kingsbury’s Cardinals have managed to go 2-1 in their last three games.

The Cardinals will look to pad their NFC lead next Sunday when they face the Bears in Chicago.

Cardinals HC Kliff Kingsbury Clears COVID Protocols

Oct. 24: Kingsbury has cleared COVID-19 protocols and will be on the sidelines for today’s game against Houston, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Cards are in search of a 7-0 start, and they are heavily favored to defeat the one-win Texans.

Oct. 16: The Cardinals are looking to improve to 6-0 tomorrow, but they won’t have their head coach on the sideline. Kliff Kingsbury has tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t coach tomorrow’s game against the Browns, per NFL.com.

[RELATED: Chandler Jones Land On Reserve/COVID-19 List]

According to the team, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers will share head coaching duties during tomorrow’s contest. Per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (via Twitter), Kingsbury will “script as much as he can” prior to the game, but the organization will be relying on a collaborative approach when the script inevitably goes awry. Garafolo notes that QBs Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy will even have a say on offensive play calling.

We heard earlier this week that edge rusher Chandler Jones had tested positive, and he’s unlikely to play tomorrow after showing symptoms. The team will also be without GM Steve Keim, who tested positive and won’t make the trip to Cleveland. QB coach Cam Turner and defensive tackle Zach Allen also tested positive and won’t travel with the team.

As a result of the positive tests, the Cardinals are now dealing with “enhanced COVID-19 protocols,” but the NFL doesn’t have any intention of rescheduling or postponing tomorrow’s game.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

Jets Shopped Before Firing Bowles, Maccagnan

The Jets started their hunt for a new head coach and GM before firing Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan, according to Manish Mehta of the Daily News and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). 

[RELATED: Jets To Interview Joe Douglas This Weekend]

Maccagnan, exec Brian Heimerdinger, and agent Erik Burkhardt huddled up with Christopher Johnson at his Manhattan condo in late November and early December to discuss the possibility of hiring former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, Mehta hears. Bowles, meanwhile, was not dismissed until Dec. 30.

During that same four-week window, Johnson also had back-channel conversations with at least two established coaching candidates without the knowledge of Maccagnan. Those coaches would have had the power to either keep Maccagnan or fire him in favor of their preferred GM.

Eventually, Maccagnan got his turn in the barrel. The Jets sacked Maccagnan in May, but they reached out to at least one potential GM candidate a week before he was handed his pink slip, according to Volin.

This latest example of the Jets’ dysfunction may give pause to the team’s current group of GM candidates.

West Rumors: Fitz, Raiders, Broncos, Brown

After the Cardinals trudged through their worst season in 18 years, Larry Fitzgerald‘s latest retire-or-not decision now features another new coach and offensive system in the equation — this one with no NFL coaching experience. But the future Hall of Fame receiver has not distanced himself from the process that brought Kliff Kingsbury to Arizona. Fitz has exchanged text messages with his new coach, the 35-year-old wideout told TMZ recently (via the Arizona Republic).

Hell of a coach. … Look at his resume,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s innovative offensively. That’s the wave of the future right now, so I’m excited for the chance to meet him.”

Fitzgerald played out his contract and is a free agent. While it would seemingly be tempting for the 15-year veteran to see if he could land with a team better positioned to compete for a championship, the career-long Cardinal has said multiple times he will only play for the Cards. Fitz continues to deliberate about the possibility of retiring or coming back for a 16th season.

Here is more from the West-division teams that have been working on their offseason strategies.

  • Former Broncos offensive lineman Chris Kuper will return to Denver as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. Kuper spent the previous three seasons coaching under Adam Gase in Miami. He retired following the 2013 season with the Broncos, who deployed him as a starter for most of his career. Kuper will work under Mike Munchak.
  • The 49ers are the Las Vegas frontrunners to land Antonio Brown, and The Athletic (subscription required) agrees with that assessment. San Francisco should be viewed as the clubhouse leaders to acquire the disgruntled Steelers wideout, per The Athletic’s Matt Barrows. Kyle Shanahan balked at paying high prices for this past year’s UFA crop, and Barrows writes the 49ers will not be giving up their No. 2 overall pick for a soon-to-be 31-year-old wideout. However, he cautions a team picking in the late first round may be able to outflank a San Francisco trade offer, regardless of the 49ers’ need at this position.
  • Brentson Buckner‘s position with the Raiders will be defensive line coach, Jon Gruden said Tuesday (via ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez). Buckner, who coached the Buccaneers’ defensive linemen last season, will replace Mike Trgovac. The latter, however, will be promoted in some capacity, per Gruden. As for the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach position — vacated by Brian Callahan‘s move to become the Bengals’ OC Tuesday — the team might wait until the Combine to fill that position.
  • Gruden believes Daryl Worley underwent shoulder surgery recently after ending his season with a torn labrum, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets. Worley, a starter this season prior to landing on IR, is expected to receive an RFA tender from the Raiders.