Kliff Kingsbury fired as Cardinals HC; Steve Keim steps down as GM after 4-13 season | News, results, highlights, stats and rumours

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - AUGUST 27: Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury watches his team warm up before a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Titans defeated the Cardinals 26-23.  (Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals have fired head coach Kliff Kingsbury after four seasons and general manager Steve Keim announced his decision to retire from the team.

Arizona Cardinals @AZCardinals

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Per ESPN Adam Schefterthe Cardinals made the move Monday just 10 months after he signed a contract extension through the 2027 season.

The NFL Network Ian Rapoport noted that this feels more like a mutual parting because the relationship “didn’t work out for either side.”

Arizona went 28-37-1 in his four years on the sidelines. His dismissal comes after the team failed to live up to expectations in 2022. The degree to which ownership soured on the 43-year-old is evident by his signing a contract extension in March 2022.

The Washington Post‘s Jason La Canfora reported on December 6 that executives around the NFL “expect Arizona to have a new coach next season.”

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported Sunday that the Cardinals had not made a final decision on Kingsbury, but were “preparing in recent weeks for a potential coaching search.”

Even if no action had been determined up until that point, it certainly sends a message when ownership is already mulling a coaching search before the current coach is even out the door.

In December, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Josh Weinfuss provided insight into the drama inside the Cardinals, describing how Kingsbury’s relationship with team owner Michael Bidwill, general manager Steve Keim and star quarterback Kyler Murray “has deteriorated over the past two years.”

A source was quoted in the piece as saying that Kingsbury may resign because he was “tired of the BS”

Arizona took a big leap of faith with Kingsbury when they hired him in 2019. He had never coached at the NFL level before and had a losing record (35-40) during his six years in charge of his alma mater, Texas Tech.

At least there was a method to the madness. Targeting a young, offensive-minded head coach made sense for a franchise that was turning Murray into the quarterback of the future. Kingsbury, a disciple of spread offense specialist Mike Leach, could theoretically utilize the 2019 No. 1 pick’s special skills to great effect.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Kingsbury’s tenure followed a similar arc to his time at Texas Tech; they steadily faded over the course of a season.

Arizona opened 3-3-1 in 2019 and lost seven of its last nine games. It wasn’t too worrying since no one was looking for him to deliver results right away.

An overtime win in Week 7 of the 2020 campaign looked to be a defining moment for an up-and-coming team. The Cardinals were 5-2 heading into the bye, finished 8-8 and missed the postseason.

Although they reached the playoffs in 2021, dropping four of the final five games of the regular season took the wind out of their sails. They went on to gain 183 yards in an NFC Wild Card Round loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Arizona’s second-half collapses happened too often to be a fluke.

Thor Nystrom @thorku

Kliff Kingsbury career as HC

Games 1-7: 45-24-1 (57.0%)
Rest of the year: 17-45 (27.4%)

Kingsbury also hasn’t succeeded in turning the Cardinals into a dynamic offensive team. In 2022, they finished 30th in offensive efficiency at Football Outsiders.

That’s partly because Murray’s development has stagnated even before he suffered a season-ending torn ACL.

As a freshman, the 5’10” signal caller threw for 3,722 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while finishing with a 57.7 QBR, per Pro Football Reference.

In his fourth season, the 25-year-old threw for 2,368 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 51.1 QBR before suffering a torn ACL in Week 14.

Murray is a two-time Pro Bowler, so it’s not like he’s been a complete flop. But he hasn’t had the kind of breakthrough that, for example, Josh Allen enjoyed in 2020.

But the blame for that shouldn’t fall solely on Kingsbury.

The hastily dropped “homework” clause in Murray’s five-year, $230.5 million extension raised some obvious questions about the level of commitment off the court.

Patrick Peterson offered a withering assessment of his former Cardinals teammate on All things covered podcast in November:

All things covered @AT CoveredPod

“Kyler Murray doesn’t care about anyone but Kyler Murray”

Patrick Peterson comments on what’s going on with his former team, the Cardinals, since they’re always in the news.

Full discussion 👇https://t.co/imFgoT1fgs pic.twitter.com/1XYkBTJKzT

Consensus on Kingsbury could evolve over time if the same general problems with the Cardinals continue under a new coach.

For now, though, it’s hard to argue that he got the most out of the roster, and there was little to suggest from his career to this point that a transformation was on the horizon.

Whoever succeeds Kingsbury will face a serious challenge. Murray’s ACL injury will presumably force him to miss time in 2023, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that he can maintain his same explosiveness when he recovers.

If eventually Murray isn’t the guy for the Cardinals, it will have serious long-term consequences. They own the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NFL draft to determine which direction they want to go.

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