DAN BICKLEY

Kliff Kingsbury’s house latest example of coach’s cool demeanor, vibe

Apr 28, 2020, 6:28 AM
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury at his home during the NFL Draft on April 23, 2019. (T...
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury at his home during the NFL Draft on April 23, 2019. (Twitter photo/@AZCardinals)
(Twitter photo/@AZCardinals)

Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t brag. He doesn’t flaunt. He understands celebrity culture and the destructive forces accompanying jealousy and hate.

That’s why his house matters.

It’s more than a cliché/meme/contemporary $4.5 million masterpiece in Paradise Valley. More than the newly-minted star of the NFL draft, so swank that it inspired Lego replicas.

It also offered a clean look into how much life has changed for the Cardinals head coach.

“I just wanted to have some fun with it,” Kingsbury said on Monday. “Show off the Chamber of Commerce weather we have here in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area. Just enjoy it all.”

When Kingsbury was hired in Jan. 2019, the NFL’s old guard recoiled in horror. Sean Payton eviscerated the hiring without naming names. Kingsbury absorbed those verbal grenades, using the platform to pay homage to the Saints head coach.

But the biggest dogs never bark, and it was hardly an accident when Kingsbury called for a successful trick play against Payton when they finally met in late October, on the second play from the scrimmage.

Former head coach Rex Ryan wasn’t nearly as discreet, personally attacking Kingsbury in the middle of training camp.

“C’mon, college football,” Ryan said. “I hope it gets smoked. I really do, because I think it’s so boring. Kingsbury says, ‘Wait until Week 1.’ Oh, I can’t wait to see Week 1. They’re going to get whipped Week 1. Look, this guy … everyone talks about this great offense and all that. Yeah, if it’s fantasy football and you want points and yardage, that’s great. How about wins?

“Kingsbury, let’s face it, had the best player in our league (at Texas Tech). He was 13-16 with Pat Mahomes at quarterback. How about you worry about wins.”

Ryan is full of bad takes. He was 61-66 as NFL head coach, occasionally inspiring football players, mostly those on the other team. Kingsbury never makes that mistake.

But after two quarters as a NFL head coach, at halftime of a Week 1 home game against the lowly Lions, Ryan was more right than wrong. Kingsbury was anxious, his offense floundering, a head coach wondering if he really belonged.

And you know what else he was wondering about?

That house. One of the newest stars in the NFL.

“I’m not exaggerating,” Kingsbury said during The Ryen Russillo Podcast. “I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe just bought that house. I’m gonna be here two games and they’re gonna fire me.”

Kingsbury’s house is a powerful symbol in other ways. It’s like the trophies propped up behind Kurt Warner during stay-at-home television interviews. Or Bill Belichick wearing his Super Bowl rings to the NFL Combine. They are trinkets of success and credibility. They speak to the audience, especially resonant among young players.

It’s way more than money. Every player drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft could’ve paid for Kingsbury’s house with their signing bonus, from the $23.9 million slotted for Joe Burrow to the $5.4 million awarded to the 32nd pick in the draft.

It’s the swag. It’s the Kingsbury vibe. The Cardinals head coach is stylish and single, with three cellphones on the table. Cool enough to rarely buy socks and rarely wear hats. Young enough to have recruited a lot of players when they were coming out of high school.

When asked if his soaring brand was a tangible advantage for the Cardinals, Kingsbury instantly deferred to Larry Fitzgerald (“He’s done it better than anybody ever”); Kyler Murray (“two-sport athlete, has a lot of buzz about him”); Patrick Peterson (“always one of the coolest DBs, can play offense, can play defense and punt return); DeAndre Hopkins (“brings a lot of swagger … one of the top wide receivers in the game”); and Chandler Jones (“who’s up there in sacks.”)

As for Kingsbury’s house?

“I think people were just bored,” Kingsbury said.

Not now. Not anymore.

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