ARIZONA CARDINALS

Report: Kliff Kingsbury ‘miserable’ with Cardinals, has fractured relationships

Dec 23, 2022, 8:33 AM | Updated: 11:49 am

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals shakes hands with owner/president Michael Bidwi...

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals shakes hands with owner/president Michael Bidwill following the NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons at State Farm Stadium on October 13, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Falcons 34-33. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure leading the Arizona Cardinals certainly appears to be a boiling point, but it’s not only the team’s 4-10 record putting pressure on owner Michael Bidwill to consider making a hard reset, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Josh Weinfuss.

Their report published Friday before Arizona hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Christmas adds deeper layers to understanding why Kingsbury’s tenure is in doubt.

People close to him believe he has been stressed and frustrated over the lack of institutional support. The question might not be about whether he is out after this 2023 season, but whether he is fired or walks off on his own accord.

“Maybe Kliff will just resign,” a source close to Kingsbury speculated, “tired of the B.S.”

One team source in the story said Kingsbury has been “miserable.”

Kingsbury was asked about the long-form story published and said he had not thought about stepping down.

“No, I haven’t seen that, but no,” the head coach said.

An anonymous source close to Kingsbury called the situation in Arizona “not sustainable,” while another close to quarterback Kyler Murray suggested that “changes need to be made.”

Beyond that, Kingsbury, while well-liked by most players, collaborated less with front-office leader Steve Keim before the general manager took a health-related leave of absence last week. That was because Keim was notably less available at the team facility this year, according to the story.

The head coach, as previously reported, also developed tensions this season with Murray, who by QBR and passer rating put together his worst season on the job before tearing his ACL.

And then there’s the relationship between Kingsbury and Bidwill. Per ESPN:

The decision about Kingsbury’s future, and the direction of the organization, will fall to Bidwill. Multiple sources inside and outside the Cardinals organization said the relationship between Kingsbury and Bidwill has not been without its own share of tension, though the two men, along with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, regularly meet for film sessions and one-on-one postgame meetings.

There is still a possibility Kingsbury could sell Bidwill on sticking around, given the injury situation hitting this year’s team among other things.

But there are other indicators of tensions.

The Cardinals fired offensive line coach and run game coordinator Sean Kugler for allegedly groping a woman while the team was in Mexico City in November. Kugler, through his lawyers, said he was fired without cause, and the team responded by saying the facts support the reasoning.

But a source close to Kugler told ESPN that offensive planning duties were taken away from the Cardinals assistant before that. Another source close to Kingsbury told ESPN that the head coach wanted to fire Kugler prior to his dismissal but Bidwill did not want to pay for a contract buyout.

Some of that presumably lends itself to a poor working environment from the head coach’s perspective.

“He knows that it’s not a situation that lends itself to him being happy and successful and at his best for that organization, which he wants to be,” a source close to Kingsbury said. “They won’t let him. They won’t let him be great.”

Kingsbury is 28-35-1 in almost four years as Cardinals head coach. This season will be the first where his team did not improve compared to the previous season.

With three games left, Arizona ranks 30th in offensive Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) out of 32 teams this year. It is 27th in defensive DVOA.

The ESPN report supports what the eye test has seen: The offense has become predictable, according to opposing players.

While Kingsbury is the play-caller, those close to him who commented in the story claim it is a roster not built to his system that is hurting the team.

That’s where Murray’s role in all this is mentioned.

While one source close to Murray said the quarterback wanted more freedom at the line of scrimmage, particularly with running plays, multiple sources said plays designed to get certain playmakers the ball often didn’t come to fruition, either due to miscommunication, a play breaking down or Murray improvising, and the disjointed attack created unpredictability for some of the team’s pass-catchers.

The bye week this season included a report that Murray and Kingsbury, amid a salty relationship, had hashed things out after numerous in-game back-and-forths between the two were caught on cameras. An Oct. 20 game against the New Orleans Saints stood out.

Still, the story says Kingsbury was “extremely frustrated” with Murray at some point this year, and the head coach believed the quarterback’s attitude was becoming worrisome to his teammates.

Players, however, believe Kingsbury does not have the personality to call players out and hold them accountable.

Murray, according to the story, was late for a practice leading into a game against the New England Patriots on Dec. 12, the same game he attempted one pass and tore his ACL three offensive plays in.

Buried in the story by Weinfuss and Fowler is one detail on Keim’s future. While he and Bidwill have been close, that has “soured” this season.

To summarize things, decisions loom for Bidwill. And with the rehabbing Murray under a contract extension that could reach $230 million, he could be the only one out of the trio of key faces back next season.

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