Cardinals fire Kliff Kingsbury after 1 playoff berth in 4 seasons

GM Steve Keim stepping away 'to focus on his health'

Less than two weeks after Texas Tech fired head coach Kliff Kingsbury, he agreed to become USC's offensive coordinator. You don't take that job if you have any idea that you're about to become a hot name for NFL head-coaching jobs.

Maybe the Arizona Cardinals shouldn't have tried to get so cute. The New York Jets and Cardinals both suddenly wanted Kingsbury, who had four straight losing seasons at Texas Tech, and four of five, before he was fired by his alma mater. Everyone was desperate for the new offensive mastermind and the Cardinals landed Kingsbury. They even drafted Kyler Murray first overall a few months later to run Kingsbury's offense, a year after using a top-10 pick on quarterback Josh Rosen.

Kingsbury had some moments with the Cardinals, but two straight seasons started well only to have late-season collapses. Then the 2022 season was a nightmare from the start. Kingsbury was fired on Monday after the Cardinals finished the season 4-13. Kingsbury had a 28-37-1 record with the Cardinals, with one playoff trip in four seasons.

In addition Steve Keim is stepping away as the Cardinals' general manager to focus on his health according to the Cardinals. Kingsbury and Keim signed contract extensions last March.

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Kingsbury was one of the most unique coaching hires the NFL has seen. Imagine another coach getting fired for four straight losing seasons in college and immediately being hired as an NFL head coach. It turns out, it's really hard to win in the NFL if you can't win in the Big 12.

Kliff Kingsbury was fired as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Kliff Kingsbury was fired as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Kliff Kingsbury's teams had late-season issues

The Cardinals went 5-10-1 in Kingsbury's first season, but that was with Murray playing quarterback as a rookie. Arizona started Kingsbury's second season very well, going 6-3 before losing five of seven and missing the playoffs. In 2021, the Cardinals were 7-0, faltered at the end of the season and didn't even win the NFC West, then had a blowout playoff loss at the Los Angeles Rams.

Kingsbury was on the hot seat after the season, but strangely he and general manager Steve Keim got contract extensions in March. Everyone who wondered why the Cardinals would do that turned out to be right.

Kingsbury's 2022 season was bad from the start. Arizona didn't win back-to-back games. They lost the regular-season finale 38-13 to the San Francisco 49ers, their seventh straight loss to finish the season. There were questions about Kingsbury's relationship with Murray and whether he was looking to step away. All the while, it was clear his offense wasn't revolutionizing the NFL.

By the end of Kingsbury's fourth season, it was clear he wasn't going to work out.

Cardinals start search for a new coach

The Cardinals' opening isn't a great one.

They have a good young quarterback in Murray, but he has a $230 million contract and is coming off a late-season ACL tear. The rest of the roster isn't stocked with young talent. It's a franchise without much winning history.

What the Cardinals will have is a high draft pick and a quarterback in Murray who was a top overall pick in the draft and has exciting skills. Maybe that will be enough to land a top candidate.

The Cardinals have the longest championship drought in the NFL. Their last title came in 1947 when the franchise was in Chicago. They tried something unconventional to break that drought by hiring Kingsbury. It didn't work, and now they have to regroup.