Sean Kugler situation yet another distraction for Arizona Cardinals in 2022
TEMPE — The defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football wasn’t the only loss the team walked out of Mexico City with in Week 11.
Another, however, had nothing to do with football.
Reportedly groping a woman the Sunday before the 38-10 loss, run game coordinator and offensive line coach Sean Kugler was relieved of his duties by the team and sent home Monday.
By Tuesday, he had already been wiped from the team’s website.
“Out of respect for the ongoing process, it’s really limited on what I can say,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
#AZCardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury when asked about the Sean Kugler situation by @LWashingtonTV said he is going to “respect the ongoing process” and is really limited in what he can say at this time. pic.twitter.com/jno2G6DOmG
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) November 23, 2022
“I had a chance to talk to (Kugler) yesterday. He’s devastated by it,” offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum added on the matter. “I think it shocked the room, shocked this team, but we got to move on. … We know we got a lot going on among the roster right now, so we got to find a way to put some pieces together and find a way to get a win this weekend.”
In yet another distraction to the team in 2022, Kugler joins running backs coach James Saxon as Cardinals coaches to either be fired by the organization or issue a resignation due to off-the-field issues this year.
Arizona also opted to go in a different direction from assistant RBs coach Don Shumpert, who took over the room when Saxon first went on paid administrative leave during training camp. The position group has seen better times.
“It’s certainly not ideal for a team and focus and things of that nature,” Kingsbury said when asked the team’s numerous off-the-field distractions. “You wish it wouldn’t have occurred, but it’s something that did.
“I think our team’s done a great job at adjusting and so has our staff. Being down some numbers, guys have had to step up and answer the call.”
Two of those guys Kingsbury mentioned are co-pass game coordinator Spencer Whipple and tight ends coach Steve Heiden. Assistant offensive line coach Brian Natkin will also have a bigger presence with the OL.
Whipple has taken over coaching duties at running back in place of Shumpert, while Heiden is leading the offensive line room and having a big impact in planning the run game in the wake of Kugler’s departure.
They’ll have their work cut out for them over the next seven weeks given the current state of the team’s rushing attack.
Over the past two weeks, Arizona has averaged no more than three yards per carry on the ground, highlighted by a 2.8-yard mark last week against San Francisco.
Despite handing over the bulk of the carries to James Conner, he’s struggled to find that explosive next gear and is averaging just over three yards a rushing attempt.
The room will largely go as Conner goes the rest of the way, too, after the team phased out Eno Benjamin in Week 10 before cutting him the following Monday due to reported displeasure over his playing time.
Darrel Williams could be closing in on his return from a hip injury, but until the RB is activated off injured reserve, rookie Keaontay Ingram is the next in line behind Conner.
“It’s adversity,” Beachum said about all the distractions the team has faced this season. “You have things that happen in the National Football League, it’s always something different, something you’ve never seen before, but I’ve never been a part of anything like this. You just got to find a way to battle, find a way to rectify and find a way to just right the ship.
“We’re at a point in the season where there’s still hope. We got to find a way to make sure that we keep providing hope to not only ourselves but to the fans out there as well.”
– Beachum when asked how tough it is to see a coach like Kugler fired:
“Although he’s no longer apart of this roster and this team, the relationship will still stay the same. I have respect for him, this is the guy who drafted me, so I have an affinity to him. But at the same time, this is a business. We’re professionals, we’re called to do certain things and act in a way that’s becoming of being an Arizona Cardinal.”