DAN BICKLEY

Steve Keim’s failures as Cardinals GM costing Kingsbury, Murray

Sep 26, 2019, 6:25 PM | Updated: Sep 27, 2019, 1:28 pm
Arizona Cardinals new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim (R) talk to the med...
Arizona Cardinals new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim (R) talk to the media at the Arizona Cardinals Training Facility on January 9, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

One is the loneliest number. Unless you’re No. 2. Even worse, a rookie NFL head coach stuck with the number zero.

That’s Kliff Kingsbury.

He’s the inexperienced, over-promoted, overly-criticized head coach in danger of leaving his first September without a victory. That will leave a mark. That will bubble the cauldron. A resounding loss to the Seahawks on Sunday means Kingsbury will be 0-3-1 and a target of derision, unlike anything he’s felt before.

Know this:

Someday in the near future, there will be a seismic shift in power. Kingsbury’s failures will be swift and spectacular, celebrated by defensive coordinators and traditionalists who love to scoff at college football. In a worst-case scenario, he will be the first head coach fired in 2020, at the hands of a new general manager in Arizona.

Or a successful tenure will allow Kingsbury to ascend quickly in power inside the Cardinals organization, firing assistants he doesn’t like, placing him on equal ground with general manager Steve Keim, the general manager who made it all possible in the first place.

The mix is combustible. The stew needs to cook. Anything seems possible at the moment. Meanwhile, a loss on Sunday will give Murray as many defeats in his first month in the NFL as he endured his entire high school/college career. And the longer a zero lingers, the harder it is to move.

Old-school types would love to see Kingsbury go 0-15-1. It’s not presentable or profitable, but it is possible. Just imagine how loud it will get if Miami’s Brian Flores wins a football game with Josh Rosen before Kingsbury gets his first game ball in Arizona. At their current rate of progress, the Cardinals will not be favored to win many games moving forward.

In times like this, it’s important to focus on what’s actually going wrong. I solemnly swear it’s not Kingsbury and it’s not Murray.

Both are rookies, young in dog years. Both need to get a lot better. Both need a little seasoning. Together, they represent an astounding gamble on the highest level of professional football, where the Cardinals bet the house on a rookie head coach, a rookie quarterback and an offense that’s never been proven in the NFL.

Alas, it was one of Keim’s few good moves.

But the GM has failed on most other platforms. He allowed his defense to switch philosophies in successive years, stopping nobody in the process. He still can’t assemble a functioning, healthy offensive line, continuing to sign and draft the wrong players, banking on injury-prone players to stay healthy. He still hasn’t fixed the wide receiver room, and this recent whiff on Michael Crabtree is extremely perplexing.

Reportedly, Crabtree was an ill fit in the locker room. But Crabtree played with Suggs last year in Baltimore. He’s a veteran of the Air Raid offense, playing under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. He joined a position group led by Larry Fitzgerald, one of the most affable, approachable teammates in the NFL. How could it possibly fail? Especially with the recurring lack of talent in the room?

Even worse, Crabtree was unapologetic on his way out, taking a good chunk of money for very little production in Arizona. Clearly, he thinks the problem is us, and that’s most troubling.

It’s also the current trend.

Under Keim’s recent watch, the best cornerback in football has grown extremely unhappy; a large percentage of the budget has been squandered on incapable players; offensive lines are mushy and delusional; former players have roasted the Cardinals on social media, claiming a darker side to the in-house culture; and the GM has grown increasingly paranoid, from the veil of secrecy surrounding the treatment of Josh Rosen nearing the NFL Draft to the handling of Kingsbury’s top-secret offense in the preseason.

These are weather-worn signs of an organization in a downward spiral, along with a GM desperately trying to get his career back on the rails. It rarely ends well.

Unless you have lucked into the right quarterback. Like Kurt Warner. Or maybe Kyler Murray. The kind who can save a team and a franchise from itself.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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