Everything was going smooth for a quiet Cardinals bye week until Adam Schefter decided to drop this bomb:
Immediately, it felt like this was a planted leak by Kliff Kingsbury's agent to make sure the Cardinals knew they weren't the only ones interested in his client.
And to be clear, I'm not going to make the case for taking this leak that seriously. The odds of Kingsbury bailing MIDSEASON to take over a college program destined to crash into an SEC iceberg in a few years remains remote.
However, after Kingsbury passed on several opportunities to emphatically deny the alleged interest during his Monday media availability, we have to at least consider the possibility.
Its still much more likely that the always player friendly Coach Kliff has let the team know or some team leaders know about his interest in maximizing his bag haul for his next deal as opposed to letting them twist in the wind with the rest of us but we can't assume anything.
A year ago, the idea of Kingsbury coaching in the SEC would've probably meant as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator now we're talking about Super Bowls and college football blue blood head coaching leverage in the same breath. Life and sports are crazy as we are reminded on a daily basis.
If Kliff were to be seriously interested, here's the only scenario where it makes sense:
- Oklahoma makes a godfather offer - Think a Mel Tucker sized deal in the 8-10 year range between $8-10 million dollars per year, the new blockbuster precedent for in demand college head coaches. Why would Oklahoma make this offer to Kingsbury? Because their soon to be SEC membership works against them. Imagine having Oklahoma expectations but being the 3rd or 4th or 5th best program in the conference. It's a job for suckers. Oklahoma sold their soul for the SEC and it could cost them everything. In this hypothetical, a desperate, humiliated Oklahoma tries to save face losing Lincoln Riley by hiring what they hope is a reasonable facsimile who has one upped Sean McVay, Pete Carroll and Kyle Shanahan this year.
- Kingsbury prioritizes financial security - This is a tale as old as time in sports. If the Sooners offer a guaranteed deal that stretches for a decade and pays him $75 million dollars or more, it might be too tempting for the one time USC offensive coordinator to turn down. Many people are vastly underestimating the rate of turnover in the NFL at the head coaching position. Kingsbury may be the betting favorite now to win the NFL Coach of the Year but that doesn't mean much. Matt Nagy won the award three years ago and can't be fired soon enough according to Bears fans. Jason Garrett, Ron Rivera, Bruce Arians and Marvin Lewis are all recent examples of NFL head coaches with playoff success under their belt, a coach of the year award on their mantle and a pink slip within a few years of winning that award. Kingsbury could weigh the chance at life changing money and job security now understanding that the opportunity may never present itself again. Oklahoma could likely trump the Cardinals extension offer by $40 million or more. How many times in sports does someone turn that down? And spare me the lecture on avoiding recruiting being worth it. Kliff is single with no kids, now is the perfect time to take the money and not look back.
- Steve Keim gets jealous eyes - Keim hired Kliff and his staff, drafted Kyler Murray, traded for Deandre Hopkins, traded for Rodney Hudson, drafted Rondale Moore and signed AJ Green and JJ Watt. You think Michael Bidwill has the stomach for blockbuster deals for both his GM and head coach? Maybe Keim wants his cut first before endorsing a mega deal that puts Kingsbury into the realm of Super Bowl winning king makers like Bill Belichick and Sean Payton.
- Michael Bidwill drags his feet - It's pretty hard to stomach being bullied into a new contract by a college program. What if Bidwill wants to see how this season finishes? There's a huge difference between a Cardinals team that wins 13 games and a couple of playoff games and a Cardinals team that peters out at 11 wins and gets bounced in the Wild Card round. Kingsbury is getting an extension either way but your money is made in December and January. Maybe Bidwill wants to do this deal on his terms instead of Oklahoma's. He could call Kliff's agent's bluff and let the action on the field do all the negotiating he needs over the next two months.
- Vance Joseph raises his hand - Should the Cardinals spend $7 million a year or more on Kliff Kingsbury before he wins a playoff game or let him walk and replace him with Vance Joseph? Joseph already runs a bigger part of the team than most coordinators. In fact, the unique structure of the Cardinals coaching staff makes it easier than most teams to absorb the loss of a head coach. If the Cardinals could keep Vance Joseph, Brenston Buckner, Sean Kugler, Spencer Whipple and Shawn Jefferson on staff, how much leadership would they actually lose?
That's the only way Kliff ends up in Norman. A Texas kid, he wouldn't be fazed by the small town life of Norman, Oklahoma. It might actually make more sense than anyone originally thought.
Still, the odds are stacked against it. Coaching in the NFL at the highest level is the pinnacle of the profession. Kingsbury has Kyler, leverage and a chance to do something truly incredible this season and beyond.
It is extremely likely he's the head coach of the Cardinals this year and several years beyond. Losing Kliff Kingsbury would be as shocking as hiring Kliff Kingsbury.