The Arizona Cardinals are out of the 2021 NFL Playoffs after a blazing hot start to the 2021 season. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s team faded down the stretch and got boat raced by the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card Round. This is becoming a pattern for Kingsbury’s teams and led to media personality Pat McAfee making the (unflattering) comparison between Kingsbury’s tenure and Andy Reid’s time with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The season started great for Kliff Kingsbury and the Arizona Cardinals, but they faded again
The 2021 NFL season started off so promising for Kliff Kingsbury and the Arizona Cardinals. The team went 7-0 out of the gate and notched big wins vs. the Tennessee Titans, LA Rams, and San Francisco 49ers.
A Week 8 loss to the Green Bay Packers started the team down a bad path, though. Kingsbury’s Cardinals finished the season 4-6, which included losing four of their last five games.
Injuries to quarterback Kyler Murray, wider receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and defensive end J.J. Watt all contributed to the second-half struggles. However, it also fits a pattern that is developing under the team’s third-year head coach.
In his first season at the helm, the former Texas Tech QB and coach started 0-3-1 but righted the ship with three consecutive wins to get the Cardinals’ record to 3-3-1. From Week 8 on, though, the team went 2-7 to finish 5-10-1.
Season No. 2 followed a similar pattern. Arizona started even better, going 5-2 through the first eight weeks. In 2020, however, the Cardinals folded again, going 3-6 in the second half.
James Bond author Ian Fleming once wrote, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” For the Arizona Cardinals, it seems like the enemy action may be coming from within.
Pat McAfee and Dan Orlovsky compared Kingsbury to Andy Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles
After the Arizona Cardinals’ inept 34-11 loss to the division-rival LA Rams in the Monday night Wild Card game, former-QB-turned-ESPN-analyst Dan Orlovsky joined the Pat McAfee Show to discuss what went wrong.
As McAfee, Orlovsky, and co-host A.J. Hawk searched for answers, McAfee made a comparison between Kliff Kingsbury and the now-revered coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, Andy Reid. The former NFL punter ran down Kingsbury’s less-than-impressive record in the back half of seasons. Then, he noted that this performance was reminiscent of Reid’s tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles:
This kind of happened with Any Reid back in the day, right? Where there was Andy Reid season. Where the beginning of the year, he would win, and then it would fizzle out. And it would ultimately lead to them kind of getting kicked out of the playoffs and him not winning the Super Bowl.Pat McAfee on the similarities between Kliff Kingsbury and Andy Reid
While McAfee’s comparison isn’t perfect — Reid’s problems on Philly mostly came in the playoff as opposed to the second half of the season — the overall premise makes sense.
What worked for Reid in the regular season didn’t play as well in the biggest games of the playoffs. Similarly, Kingsbury’s early-season success seems to fade once teams get a book on his game plans. This begs the question, is Kingsbury capable of breaking this pattern next season?
What’s next for the Arizona Cardinals?
After failing to live up to the promise of their early-season success, the Arizona Cardinals must figure out where to go from here in 2022.
The organization has plenty of issues moving forward. The team is stocked with aging veterans, and several of the most important (Chandler Jones, A.J. Green, James Conner) are free agents this offseason.
Also, neither the team’s last two first-round draft picks, Isaiah Simmons (No. 8, 2020) or Zaven Collins (No. 16, 2021), have become the defensive difference-makers that general manager Steve Keim had hoped.
The biggest issue is what to do with QB Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury. With Murray’s small stature and style of play and Kingsbury’s inability to win late in seasons, the Cardinals might be at their ceiling as a Wild Card playoff team.
Owner Michael Bidwell will likely give the pair at least one more season. But if the same fate awaits in 2022, Bidwell should take a lesson that Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffery Laurie never learned during the 14-year tenure of Any Reid and 10-year stint with QB Donovan McNabb.
If the coach and quarterback can’t get the job done together, you need to move on from one or the other. And you need to do it sooner rather than later.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference