Let's start this conversation with what we already know: Michael Bidwill is not firing anybody.
But just because they aren’t doing it, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be doing it.
The early narrative emerging from many corners of the Arizona Cardinals fan and media landscape is that yes, while Kingsbury’s coaching is frustrating and there are deep concerns, he deserves a third year.
Kliff may get a third year, but he doesn’t deserve a third year.
Hell, Kliff never earned a first year. He was gifted a rare, valuable opportunity to become an NFL head coach and a leader of men inside a locker room despite failing in college. Kingsbury shouldn't be afforded MORE leeway because of his background, he should be granted even less.
While it's true, as DJ Humphries and many others have said, the Cardinals have shown tangible improvement in the wins column in two years, this is in spite of - not because of - Kliff Kingsbury.
In his season wrap up press conference Kingsbury used the word progress to describe the season. And it's true, the Cardinals did show progress this year - on the defensive side of the ball.
In 2020, the Arizona Cardinals defense had more sacks than 2019 despite being without Chandler Jones for the majority of the season. The defense forced more turnovers and improved the turnover margin despite seeing the offense give the ball away more in 2020. Additionally, the Cardinals allowed more than a touchdown fewer points to be scored per game in 2020, more than 50 fewer total yards per game and nearly 60 yards per game fewer in the air.
Offensively, where did this team improve? Kyler regressed as a passer. The scheme sputtered all season. No secondary receiver was developed opposite DeAndre Hopkins, who’s statistical prowess this season had nothing to do with Kliff Kingsbury. In fact, Kingsbury might've pushed Hopkins into diva WR territory with his mind boggling usage of DHop. The interior of the offensive line was a debacle down the stretch. Kenyan Drake and the running game were worse.
And I thought the offense was supposed to be Kingsbury's strength?
He gets zero credit for the defensive improvement. He probably knows more hair care product names than defensive players names. If anything, Vance Joseph and Kliff should swap roles based on what we saw this year.
Additionally, the Cardinals consistently confounded everyone with their situational play calling and timeout usage which was never more prominently displayed than late in the 4th quarter in the biggest sequence of the season against the Rams..
Trailing by 11, five minutes left in the game, the Cardinals called a timeout on third down off of an incomplete pass. Facing 3rd and 18 with a gimpy Kyler Murray, OUT OF A TIMEOUT and with only 1 TO left, Kliff called a speed option that lost three yards. Then, he decided to punt with just one timeout trailing by two scores at midfield.
How does a third year fix that?
How does a third year fix playing four quarters of flat football in Week 16 at home against a third string QB?
How does a third year fix a head coach incapable and unwilling to discipline a star WR who flipped off an official Week 17?
How does a third year make any of this better for the Cardinals?
Time doesn’t heal these wounds, only action.
Kingsbury has been play acting as an NFL head coach for two years. It's time to stop indulging the fantasy that the Cardinals outsmarted everyone by hiring a failed college head coach/ college offensive coordinator for a job that you can’t fake leadership.
The division is still brutal. Carroll, Shanahan and McVay still give their teams huge advantages over the Cardinals. It's time to take the training wheels off and become a full fledged NFL franchise with real leadership.
Kent Somers recently laid out the only justifiable reason for keeping Kliff around; by keeping Kliff, you’re actually more likely to hold the real culprits accountable for the Cardinals struggles in Steve Keim and to a lesser extent Michael Bidwill.
Even that well thought out argument has a Death Star sized flaw: If the Cardinals are just good enough to keep both around beyond next year, it could doom the franchise to several more years of tolerable mediocrity.
It's time to want more. To demand more. To reject just good enough and strive for greatness.
You know, something new for this Cardinals franchise.