Cardinals GM Steve Keim thinks Kliff Kingsbury is NFL Coach of the Year

Jan 7, 2022, 5:01 PM
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The list of NFL Coach of the Year favorites has shifted drastically in a span of a few weeks.

On Dec. 13, SportsBetting.Ag had New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as the odds favorite to win the award at +100.

That very week, Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, a former Patriots quarterback, deflected praise at himself toward his former coach. Kingsbury said Belichick deserved to win the award for as long as he was in the game.

Belichick then tossed the compliment right back at Kingsbury, saying it was he who deserved the 2021 award.

Oddsmakers agreed about that debate back in mid-December. Kingsbury was second (+300) to take home the award.

Then Arizona (11-5) lost three straight, ending that skid Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. But it hasn’t changed how Cardinals general manager Steve Keim views the race for NFL Coach of the Year.

“I think you take a step back and you say we have one of the best records in the National Football League,” Keim told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Friday. “And you have to put things in perspective. In my opinion, I think Kliff Kingsbury has not only done a phenomenal job, I think he’s the coach of the year. People say, ‘Why, why would you say (that)?’ Kliff Kingsbury won two of three games without our starting quarterback, with a number of players missing. And I know other people miss players.

“We won two games with (quarterback) Colt McCoy and Colt McCoy played at a high level. I can’t say enough good things about Kliff. Really happy with him and I know (owner Michael Bidwill) is happy with him as well.”

Kingsbury could do himself a favor in the NFL Coach of the Year conversation by winning game No. 12 on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks to end a four-game skid at State Farm Stadium.

That would cool off the narrative about Kingsbury’s teams tanking as a season goes on. Since 2019, his Cardinals have gone 15-5-1 in Weeks 1-7 of the season and 9-18 in Weeks 8-17.

Notably, Belichick’s crew hasn’t fared as well down the stretch of 2021 either, with the Patriots stumbling in two of their last three.

So with that, the conversation around who deserves the yearly honor has done a flip-turn as Arizona and New England petered off.

The under-the-radar Cincinnati Bengals forced head coach Zac Taylor into the spotlight as the Week 18 slate of games nears thanks to their seal on the AFC North crown.

Taylor leads the pack of favorites to win coach of the year, with Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur and Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel behind him.

Belichick has fallen to fourth (+1600) in terms of favorites, while Kingsbury is down to sixth (+5000), according to’s latest odds.

2021 NFL Coach of the Year odds

Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor +135
Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur +185
Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel +190
New England’s Bill Belichick +1800
Philadelphia’s Nick Sirianni +4000
Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury +5000
Dallas’ Mike McCarthy +5000
Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay +5000


Expectations not tempered for Watt’s return

Keim believes it’s entirely realistic for defensive end J.J. Watt to make a return from serious shoulder surgery for Arizona’s first playoff game since 2015.

“Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t rule it out and I wouldn’t bet against J.J. Watt,” Keim said Friday. “What I’ve seen from him internally in the building, his work ethic, the things he has done out on the field making sure he has stayed in shape, his nutrition, his preparation, is second-to-none. There is nobody who works like J.J. Watt.

“Certainly think he’s got an opportunity here moving forward.”

Asked if Watt would have to return in a reduced role because of his faster-than-expected comeback, Keim added:

“I think that would be a better question for the medical staff and for J.J. I know this: If you ask J.J., he probably wouldn’t want to be limited.”

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