San Antonio Express-News
The quarterback whisperer whispered and his intended target screamed back. Less than a year after extending Kliff Kingsbury through the 2027 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals have fired the fourth-year head coach following a 4-13 season that included a widening rift with once (and, perhaps future; anything is possible) star quarterback Kyler Murray.
In four seasons, Kingsbury took Arizona to the playoffs once, in 2021, where the Los Angeles Rams demolished the Cardinals in the NFC Wild Card Game, 34-11, and held the once-vaunted Kingsbury offense to 183 total yards. The former Texas Tech coach finished with a 28-37-1 record with the Cardinals.
The writing was on the wall just before Christmas when the young head coach was asked a question about his time at the helm of football teams. He spent six years leading Texas Tech and was amid his fourth year in Arizona at the time.
“It feels like 100,” he said. This man is only 43.
The comment followed a weird year for the Cardinals and Kingsbury. After Murray’s dud of a game against the Rams last January, questions abounded about the Heisman Trophy winner’s ability to win the big one. All that would have been fine — many among us cannot, simply, win the Super Bowl — except that Murray had recently inked a five-year, $230.5 million contract that, as of this writing, has yet to even kick in.
The pressure was on for the Texas-raised coach — Kingsbury starred at New Braunfels High School — to surround his talented but embattled quarterback from Allen, in North Texas, with the weapons he needed to succeed. Missing All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games of the season due to suspension, the Cardinals traded a 2022 first-round pick for Murray’s former Oklahoma teammate Marquise Brown and in the second round, drafted a tight end with the most terrifying Wikipedia image imaginable.
The hype led to HBO selecting the Cardinals for its now-annual Hard Knocks In Season series. It was the latest in regrettable decisions for the struggling media company, as the Cardinals still flopped, dropping seven straight to close the season and losing Murray in Week 14 to an ACL injury. Before that, the coach and his star quarterback publicly quarrelled, which is now the most memorable moment of a forgettable 2022 season.
Even the circumstances surrounding Kingsbury’s hiring were strange. Following his firing from Texas Tech in 2018, USC hired Kingsbury as its next offensive coordinator. A month later, he was head coach of the Cardinals, effectively transforming his axing by a middling Big 12 team into an NFL head coaching position.
If Kingsbury is some sort of offensive wizard, that’s the greatest magic he ever unveiled.
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