Kliff doesn’t boost Cards in ESPN’s way-too-early NFL power rankings
Replacing since-unretired head coach Bruce Arians with Steve Wilks didn’t generate much optimism around the Arizona Cardinals a year ago.
After an 8-8 season in 2017 and Arians calling it a coaching career, Arizona knew it needed to also replace quarterback Carson Palmer and rework the offensive line. By the day after the Super Bowl, the Cardinals didn’t even know whether receiver Larry Fitzgerald would return for 2018.
Add all that up, and a panel of more than 80 ESPN writers, editors and TV folks collectively rated Arizona as the 26th best team in the 2018 way-too-early power rankings.
Expectations are even lower this year. A day after the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LIII, the Cardinals are power-ranked dead last. Yeah, 3-13 will do that to a team.
A potential reason for optimism? Their second new coach in two years, Kliff Kingsbury.
While the Cardinals rode the wave that most other teams jumped on in hiring an offensive mind, Kingsbury comes to the NFL without a lick of NFL coaching experience and a 35-40 record as a college head coach at Texas Tech. Of the eight head coaching changes for the NFL this offseason, six new coaches with offensive backgrounds were hired.
Maybe the panel wasn’t as optimistic about Kingsbury. Or quite possibly, the panel just knows that any coach of the Cardinals enters a tough situation as it stands.
The offseason will no doubt be a test for general manager Steve Keim, who must give second-year quarterback Josh Rosen the offensive line and the skill positions weapons to succeed. There are also holes to fill along the defensive line, at linebacker and at the second cornerback position.
Keim has done some of the necessary gruntwork just by hiring Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, the latter of whom joins the Cardinals after serving as the Denver Broncos head coach the last two years. But both coaches need talent.
After the draft and free agency periods pass, it will become more clear whether the myriad roster holes look like the Cardinals’ biggest challenge, or if the lack of faith in them is all about their peculiar coaching hire.