Why both Kingsbury, Edwards will remain the Valley’s football coaches
Silly season has arrived for football coaches. It’s a wonderful time to be Kliff Kingsbury and Herm Edwards.
Once in the firing line, both men will keep their jobs after this season. One of them is getting his second mulligan in two seasons. The other might be getting a chunky pay raise.
Eleven games into his season of redemption in Arizona, Kingsbury’s name has surfaced as a figure of interest in Oklahoma’s head coaching search. The news felt like a looming threat to many Cardinals fans, which symbolizes a stunning shift in perception. The news was surely leaked by Kingsbury’s agent, a ploy to capitalize on his client’s surging popularity before the heavy lifting begins in December.
It’s another crazy twist of good fortune for a head coach who was fired by his alma mater at Texas Tech and somehow became a hot commodity in the NFL; who underperformed in his first two seasons, earning the hottest seat in the league, only to be the favorite for NFL Coach of the Year.
Kingsbury may ultimately prove worthy of his good fortune. But his luck and survival skills are Hall of Fame caliber.
There was also a time when agents knew better than to try such a maneuver with the Bidwill family, and how it would make Michael’s contrarian father dig in his heels and fight to the bitter end on principle alone. And if I were running the organization, I would not be swayed by the Oklahoma rumors.
Kingsbury has done a tremendous job in 2021. No argument there. He gets a slice of credit for the team’s stellar camaraderie; two slices for orchestrating two crucial victories with Colt McCoy; and another three slices for staying true to himself while reinventing the entire offense. There is very little Air Raid happening in Arizona.
Kingsbury’s performance has been buoyed by General Manager Steve Keim, who shot at all the right targets in the offseason, seeking physicality, internal leadership and veteran playmakers. He shrewdly filled in many of Kingsbury’s blind spots. He’s the guy who deserves a contract extension after the season.
The head coach also benefitted from the ascendance and maturity of Kyler Murray, who looks like a perennial MVP candidate. And for my money, Kingsbury still must prove he can finish the job on a good season in progress.
Over the past eight seasons, Kingsbury’s teams have finished 2-5 (2020, Arizona); 2-7 (2019, Arizona); 0-5 (2018, Texas Tech); 2-6, (2017, Texas Tech); 2-6 (2016, Texas Tech); 2-4 (2015, Texas Tech); 2-8 (2014 Texas Tech); and 1-5 (2013, Texas Tech). I need to see how much things have really changed when the temperature gets really hot.
There’s no rush. In college football, there are only a handful of great jobs and programs on autopilot. Oklahoma isn’t one of them, and now they’re joining the SEC gauntlet. That means Kingsbury would have to leave and replace the best recruiter he’s ever had (Keim), dealing with a new world of NILs and transfer portals while competing against the most maniacal head coaches in the industry.
Bottom line: Kingsbury is not leaving his Paradise Valley mansion and a franchise quarterback on the ground floor for a paper windfall in Norman, Oklahoma. The Cardinals can wait this one out.
As for Arizona State:
The announced return of Herm Edwards will not make fans or boosters happy. The timing of the declaration seems farcically attached to the temporary glow of the Territorial Cup victory. Their 8-4 record is little consolation for a season that once seemed liked their big shot, when ASU had everything it needed to make the College Football Playoff. It was their window of opportunity to change the calculus before USC finally did something smart, like hiring Lincoln Riley. And they failed.
Edwards did little in 2021 to warrant extended patience. It’s an admission that ASU President Dr. Michael Crow believes that Edwards wasn’t fully aware of the alleged transgressions of illegally hosting recruits during a pandemic; or that he doesn’t believe the NCAA; or that he doesn’t care about a toothless entity losing its grip on college athletics.
More likely, Edwards is being retained for reasons other than taking ASU to the top of the Pac-12 standings. He’s being retained to guide ASU through a bottom that happened on his watch; to serve out his contract; to endure what the NCAA decrees and help get his school out of their current recruiting jail; and of course, to save costs at a time when it would be very expensive to buy out Edwards and his staff while hiring an impact coach and a brand new legion of assistants.
Seriously, who wants to take the ASU job now, with all the lingering clouds and red flags?
Only a man on a hot seat, the incumbent who will be hoping for his own Kingsbury redemption story in 2022.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta Mornings weekdays from 6 – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.