DAN BICKLEY

Kliff Kingsbury showed poise during introduction as Cardinals HC

Jan 9, 2019, 7:08 PM | Updated: Jan 10, 2019, 6:21 am
The Arizona Cardinals new head coach Kliff Kingsbury addresses the media, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, ...

The Arizona Cardinals new head coach Kliff Kingsbury addresses the media, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. The Arizona Cardinals introduced Kliff Kingsbury as their new coach a day after hiring the former Texas Tech coach in a bid to revitalize the worst offense in the NFL. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Kliff Kingsbury is as cool as he looks. His voice is deeper than you expect. He showed a great deal of poise in his first press conference as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

He was:

In control of himself. Not that worried about controlling 53 grown men. Thankful but not awestruck by this outrageous twist of fortune. Comfortable in his new surroundings, acting big enough for the job. But smart enough to admit he doesn’t know anything about playing defense in the NFL.

The hiring of Kingsbury is exciting for a lot of reasons, including the obvious potential for a five-alarm dumpster fire.

It’s exciting because it represents the unprecedented, the kind that have spawned our best memories. Like when the Diamondbacks won a World Series in their fourth year of existence. Or when the 9-7 Cardinals reached the Super Bowl after a 40-point loss near the end of the regular season. Or when Mike D’Antoni threw size and caution to the wind, starting his five best offensive players and telling them to shoot the basketball within seven seconds.

Kingsbury is something we’ve never seen before. Some of college football’s greatest innovators have tried the NFL and failed, from Chip Kelly to Steve Spurrier. Even Nick Saban whiffed on the professional level, flaming out badly with the Dolphins.

Kingsbury? He isn’t even considered a top coach in his former profession. He’s a college coach fired for a losing record at his alma mater. And yet his skill set is in such demand that he was forced to resign as offensive coordinator at USC, where he was just hired, just so he could interview for two different NFL head coaching vacancies.

This is insane.

“People get doubted every day,” Kingsbury said. “I understand what I am and who I am, and I’m very secure in that, what I bring to an organization, a football team and an offense.

“More and more, you see a lot of successful teams having a younger play caller, an innovative-type offensive mind that can work with a young quarterback and develop him. And that’s something we’re hoping we can do here.”

Kingsbury understands the skepticism. He spent much of Wednesday’s press conference deferring to general manager Steve Keim, who is taking on a bigger role and big brother persona. The two men have clearly bonded on the mantra of defying all critics and conventional wisdom.

It’s also clear that Kingsbury represents Keim’s last swing of the bat, and he’s swinging for the fences.

Keim didn’t hesitate to announce the team is reverting a 3-4 defense in 2019. That’s his call, not Kingsbury’s. During a radio interview with 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, team president Michael Bidwill continued the steady criticisms of the former head coach, saying he was shocked how Steve Wilks refused to play Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick early in the season, two of Keim’s signature draft picks.

It sounds like the team not only made an egregious error in judgment. They discovered Wilks was as inflexible as he was overmatched.

So now it’s the Keim Show, and the GM is almost copying the ASU model of CEO football. Kingsbury is in charge of the offense, the play-calling and the grooming of a franchise quarterback. Keim take care of the rest.

“That’s how I wanted it,” Kingsbury said. “Steve is the guy who is very well-respected in this league. He’s done a tremendous job here in this organization, GM of the Year several times and (he) has a huge net. That’s what I wanted to use. So I definitely have leaned on him and will continue to lean on him to get the best coaches in here for the organization.”

Kingsbury comes with some heavy testimonials. But so did Wilks. He said he’s misunderstood and miscast as “Coach Bro,” where our fixation on his appearance detracts from his football achievements.

He could be a master stroke for Keim. He could be Keim’s final failure. Either way, the GM is going down his way. With a mentor who knows how to serve and protect Josh Rosen. With coaches he trusts, appoints and ultimately controls.

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