Everybody starts out a knockoff. We copy our parents growing up, and then our professional role models as we maneuver through adulthood. Hell, when I started in radio, I'd listen to back to my shows to make sure I sounded similar enough to my radio idol. It was a good starting point, but a terrible habit. Your true value in radio, and in life, is accentuating the best parts of yourself, not somebody else. In Kliff Kingsbury's case, I'm not sure he ever wanted to be anybody else, but the Cardinals sure did.
Kingsbury's hire was always a byproduct of Sean McVay's success in LA. If it wasn't, that's about as big of an indictment as there could be on general manager Steve Keim and owner Michael Bidwill. I mean, Kingsbury had a losing record as head coach of Texas Tech, and was about to be a college offensive coordinator before the Cardinals brought him in. Nobody else in the NFL was seriously considering him as a head coach.
And so, the worry about Kingsbury has always been: He smells, looks, and feels like Sean McVay, but does he have any of the intangibles that enabled McVay to turn around the Rams?
Even after today's win in Seattle, we don't know. It's still year one. But there's more hope than there has been at any point thus far. The Cardinals played a complete four quarters for the second straight week. This time, it wasn't the broken Browns. It was the stubborn Seahawks, fighting to keep the number one seed in the NFC, desperate to maintain a first round playoff bye. And, it was in Seattle, where the 12th man lives.
The odds weren't in Arizona's favor. It was Pete Carroll, the Super Bowl winning, 68-year-old veteran against "cute Kliff". It was desperation versus desperate-to-get-to-vacation. It was potential MVP Russell Wilson versus the new short quarterback on the block. Kyler, by the way, pulled a hammy in the third quarter, and was taken out of the game.
There's also the nagging narrative that Kingsbury's more of a pretty boy than an NFL head coach. Wonder who started that?
But, Kingsbury showed today that stereotypes don't have to matter.
Yes, the dude had abs very recently and was also rumored to be dating Holly Sonders. No, he doesn't look as tired, fat and miserable as most great NFL head coaches.
But Kingsbury had a Cardinals team with no playoff hopes more prepared than Pete Carroll's Seahawks, who had every reason to be inspired in front of their home crowd. Both coaches, by the way, lost starters. Kingsbury his quarterback, Carroll his running back. Kliff flat out-coached Pete.
Is Kliff going to be great? We won't know for years. Pete Carroll didn't pop in the NFL until his late 50's. Sean McVay is still being questioned in Los Angeles. Chip Kelly, another offensive innovator, went 10-6 each of his first two years in Philadelphia, but then proved too one dimensional to work long term. Most of what makes coaches great is their ability to adapt, which has a lot do with the kind of work ethic they have.
Today, Kliff Kingsbury proved he's not just a pretty boy. He's got some grit. He's not just some knock off Sean McVay.