The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Kliff Kingsbury is the Cardinals Biggest Question Mark

After watching Kyler Murray during OTA’s, I have fewer questions about him than I do Kliff Kingsbury.

Murray’s natural abilities jump off the field, even in a light practice situation.

The ball explodes out of his hand. He throws frozen ropes with as much effort as someone tossing a balled up piece of paper into a trash can.

Teammates have already, predictably, raved about his athleticism and speed.

His size still bothers some but after standing 6 inches from away while interviewing Murray, I can in fact confirm he is not a tiny human being that can fit in a shirt pocket. His height is unconventional by NFL standards but he’s close to 6 feet tall in football spikes.

He has questions, just like all rookie QB’s face questions.

Can he take a hit? Can he process the complexities of NFL defenses in real time and make quick, accurate decisions with even quicker and more accurate throws? We will find out.

Kliff Kingsbury though has largely avoided any real scrutiny since the initial wave after he was hired.

Kingsbury has done nothing in his official capacity as head coach to appear unfit for the job. He isn’t overwhelmed, doesn’t appear to be struggling to tread water and hasn’t made any public rookie mistakes that would invite skepticism.

In fact, he already sounds like a seasoned vet answering questions without actually answering questions and deftly employing cliched answers with the best of them.

Though, there have been a few unusual developments since he was hired.

Kingsbury basically admitted publicly that Steve Keim picked his coaching staff for him. In portions of practice the media is able to attend and report on, Kingsbury works almost exclusively with the quarterbacks, allowing his assistants to run just about everything else.

Combined with his resume, I think Kliff Kingsbury is the bigger question mark for the Cardinals than Kyler Murray.

You can make a real, convincing case that Kingsbury was hired with the weakest resume of any NFL Head Coach in history.

You know the story, he was fired at his alma mater Texas Tech after finishing his 6 years with a 35-40 record. When the Cardinals hired him, he was working (technically) as OC for Clay Helton at USC, one of the most maligned major program coaches in college football.

He appeared in one game in his NFL career.

He has zero NFL coaching experience of any kind.

And that is unprecedented in modern NFL head coaching history.

There’s never been an NFL head coach hired who was fired from his college gig with a losing record AND had zero NFL coaching experience.

Al Groh, Dennis Green and Steve Mariucci were all hired as NFL head coaches without winning college records but all three also had significant NFL assistant coaching experience prior to being hired as a head coach.

The closest was when the San Diego Chargers hired Mike Riley in 1999. He had a losing record in two years at Oregon State and zero NFL experience. But he was the active Oregon State head coach when he was hired and had 4 years of CFL head coaching experience on his resume, which included 2 Grey Cups.

Now, there have been plenty of NFL lifers who have failed miserably as head coaches. There is no magic formula for predicting NFL success.

But instead of focusing so much time, attention and energy on whether Kyler Murray is the right QB for the Cardinals, shouldn’t we be asking if Kingsbury was the right hire?

He very well may prove to be a great hire, defying the historical standards that have been set and giving him something common with Kyler Murray who’s attempting to do the same at quarterback.

The Cardinals clearly believe in his abilities to transform their offense and catch up with the rest of the league. The question is, can he do everything else required to succeed as an NFL head coach?

Narratives for a team can be lazy and the byproduct of groupthink. Repeated because that’s just what everyone else is saying.

But in my opinion based on what we know right now, the narrative about the 2019 Arizona Cardinals is misleading. It’s not Kyler Murray who faces the biggest obstacles to NFL success, it’s his head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

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