Another expected move has taken place to add to the league’s number of head coaching vacancies. The Cardinals have fired Kliff Kingsbury, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Ian Rapoport of NFL Network adds that general manager Steve Keim will also not be returning (Twitter link). A team announcement confirms that Keim has stepped away to focus on his health.
The 43-year-old was the subject of increasing speculation during the season that a change would be coming. That, in its own regard, was something of a surprise considering the long-term extensions he and Keim signed this past offseason. However, as the 2022 campaign progressed, signs increasingly pointed to a parting of ways.
Kingsbury established himself as a quarterback guru during his time in college. That span included work with, among others, Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes. Still, eyebrows were raised at the Cardinals’ decision to hire him in 2019 given his overall record of 35-40 at Texas Tech. The move signalled an all-in approach on Arizona’s part with Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray.
From a big-picture perspective, the first three seasons of Kingsbury’s tenure could be categorized as generally successful. The Cardinals showed improvement from 5-10-1 to 8-8 across their first two years with him at the helm, though the latter campaign did not result in a postseason appearance. In 2021, Arizona got off to a hot start, posting a 10-2 record early on in a season where Murray found himself in the MVP conversation. As had been the case the year prior, however, the team nosedived down the stretch and ended up 11-6. The season came to an underwhelming end with a blowout loss in the Wild Card round.
Another playoff appearance was expected given the faith shown by the organization to Keim, Kingsbury and (by virtue of his own monster extension) Murray. Instead, nothing has gone according to plan in the desert, with the team struggling at all times to find consistency on offense. Injuries and suspensions in the receiving corps are partially to blame, of course, but Kingsbury drew increasing criticism for his inability to put together consecutive weeks of good showings on offense or defense.
A rift was reported to be growing between Kingsbury and Murray, something which fueled the fire of this dismissal taking place. Overall, the Cardinals finished the year with a 4-13 record, marking their first regression in the win-loss column during Kingsbury’s time. Murray’s ACL tear certainly hurt the team’s late-season prospects, but his return in 2023 with a new voice on the sidelines and in the front office will not be considered a surprise given everything which has transpired over the course of the past few months.
Indeed, it was reported to be an “open secret” last week that Kingsbury would be on his way out upon the conclusion of the regular season. As for Keim, his departure seemed to be confirmed in December after his decision to take an indefinite leave of absence for health-related reasons. His tenure as GM began in 2013, and included an 80-80-2 record and three playoff appearances.
Both he and Kingsbury will now be on the books as the team looks for their respective replacements. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was named as a candidate to take on the HC role in the event Kingsbury was let go, despite the team’s struggles on that side of the ball during his time in Arizona. In any event, Kingsbury will head into the 2023 coaching market with uncertain prospects given his inability to close out seasons across the previous two years, as well as the disastrous performance of his team in 2022. Keim’s future is likewise in the air considering his health status and underwhelming track record at the head of the team’s front office.