DAN BICKLEY

Do Kliff Kingsbury’s unorthodox offseasons help or hurt Cardinals?

Sep 6, 2022, 4:24 PM | Updated: 4:25 pm

The Cardinals should excel at kicking the football in 2022. They’ve spent the last few months punting away a good chunk of the offseason.

They were strangely silent in the talent acquisition market. They withheld most key players from meaningless preseason games. They canceled one of two joint practices with the Titans. They rarely practiced together as a full group, even under friendly conditions, a team compromised by injury and illness.

If it works, Kliff Kingsbury will have effectively thumbed his nose at the old guard and the grind-them-into-a-pulp mentality that dominated professional football for decades. He will become the industry leader among player-friendly head coaches in the NFL.

Who wouldn’t want to play for a coach who treats his players as consummate professionals, fully trusting in their ability to prepare themselves for opening day?

Kingsbury clearly believes his unorthodox methodology helps foster fast starts, and the numbers back him up. The Cardinals started 5-2 in 2020 and 7-0 in 2021. A year ago, they shocked the NFL community with a raucous road victory in Nashville, complete with hardhats and nasty attitudes.

But what if the fast starts are an illusion? It’s very possible they are mostly the result of a fresh and twitchy Kyler Murray, who produced seven touchdown passes in the first two weeks of 2021 and rushed for a touchdown in each of the first three games.

There is little doubt Murray will shoulder an immense load in the coming months. He must carry the offense through DeAndre Hopkins’ six-game suspension. Given the shaky state of the Arizona defense, he will have to perform at an MVP level for the Cardinals to reach the playoffs. He must prove he can sustain his ability and availability in the closing laps of a season.

I feel good about his chances.

But what if the Camp Marshmallow atmosphere in Arizona is partially to blame for ghastly collapses in each of the past two seasons, second-half fades that are an undeniable part of Kingsbury’s history dating all the way back to his years at Texas Tech?

Maybe you don’t need grueling training camp and exhibition game reps to start a football season on time and in sync. Maybe you don’t need six weeks of rigorous training to win regular season games in September. But maybe the hard days and the hard bargains of conventional football preparation pay off on the back end of the season, providing a foundation of camaraderie and toughness. Maybe that’s what a team needs to build cinderblock toughness, the stuff they can draw on when facing late-season adversity, the stuff that keeps the bottom from falling out of the tub.

Ultimately, that is what has been missing in Kingsbury’s program.

The Cardinals enter the season with many questions and mysteries. But this much is certain: They face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs Sunday at State Farm Stadium. They face Chandler Jones and the Raiders on the road in Week 2, in a building that will surely test their nerves. They host the Super Bowl champion Rams in Week 3, a division rival that blew their doors off in a January playoff game.

We’re going to find out real soon if the Cardinals are ready to play high-stakes, high-speed football.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6–10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Presented By
Western Governors University

Dan Bickley

The Coyotes brought out a whiteout for the franchise's last home game in Phoenix. (Jeremy Schnell/A...

Dan Bickley

Coyotes fans turn relocation funeral into party with 1 last whiteout

Diehards had one parting wish. They wanted one final whiteout. They wanted the Coyotes’ last NHL game in the Valley to be a party. 

8 hours ago

Rory McIlroy looks on...

Dan Bickley

Golf once again at a crossroads with LIV Golf, PGA Tour still at odds

There are heavy consequences to the gold rush mentality currently infecting the sport of golf, writes Dan Bickley.

2 days ago

The Arizona Coyotes...

Dan Bickley

Arizona Coyotes relocation not our fault, it’s on the owner and local politics

Arizona is a very good hockey market and Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo and local politicians should be blamed for their relocation.

4 days ago

...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Something feels very different with Devin Booker and the Suns

On the latest Bickley Blast, Dan Bickley asks if a Devin Booker trade request is in the near future.

6 days ago

...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Can a Phoenix Suns playoff run can force this team to reconcile its issues?

Despite the bad vibes surrounding the Phoenix Suns, Dan Bickley debates if an NBA playoff run can be the determining factor in what makes or breaks this team's underlying issues.

7 days ago

...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Is a Devin Booker trade request near after Suns fall flat vs. the Clippers?

After Phoenix's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday with a poor performance from Devin Booker and the Suns' Big 3, Dan Bickley can't help but ponder the possibilities of what could be ahead for this franchise moving forward.

8 days ago

Do Kliff Kingsbury’s unorthodox offseasons help or hurt Cardinals?