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.

Life Changer Loans

Dan Bickley

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Marquise Brown catches a pass ahead of Carolina Carolina Panthers c...
Dan Bickley

Arizona Cardinals no worse for the wear after win over Panthers

Some rules are sacred in the NFL. Like never complaining about a road victory. That includes the Cardinals’ win over the Panthers on Sunday.
1 day ago
Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns talks with Deandre Ayton #22 in the second half of ga...
Dan Bickley

Silence between Deandre Ayton, Monty Williams defies all expectations

The indifference of Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams is stunning. So much that it must be the entire point, writes Dan Bickley.
6 days ago
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) runs back for the winning touchdown after a fumbl...
Dan Bickley

Cardinals save season with all-time comeback win over Raiders

The Cardinals’ 29-23 victory over the Raiders was breathtaking, unbelievable and saved the franchise from last place and fan-based mutiny.
15 days ago
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver sits during the first half of the NBA game against the Golden Stat...
Dan Bickley

NBA punishment to Suns owner Robert Sarver is slap on the wrist

A slap on the wrist. That’s what most NBA people think about Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver’s punishment.
20 days ago
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals paces the sidelines during the second half of t...
Dan Bickley

Cardinals organization top-down responsible for embarrassing Week 1 loss

The Cardinals lost 44-21 to the Chiefs, but the game wasn’t as close as the final score, and that’s saying something.
22 days ago
Arizona Cardinals mascot, "Big Red" leads teammates onto the field before the NFL preseason game ag...
Dan Bickley

Can Arizona Cardinals rebuild home-field advantage by beating Chiefs?

The Arizona Cardinals haven't had much of a home-field advantage lately, something they must recapture in 2022.
25 days ago
Do Kliff Kingsbury’s unorthodox offseasons help or hurt Cardinals?