The Arizona Cardinals have built their long-term future around quarterback Kyler Murray. However, the former Heisman Trophy winner might also have some significant input regarding the franchise’s short-term outlook.
Although the Cardinals didn’t reach the postseason in either of Murray’s first two seasons, the team certainly improved in the second year. However, Year 3 looks to be a pivotal one, especially if their talented quarterback doesn’t like what he sees in the coming months.
Murray could hold the key to Kliff Kingsbury’s future in Arizona
The Cardinals surprised the sports world when the team hired Kliff Kingsbury, the Southern California offensive coordinator, after the 2018 season. Texas Tech fired Kingsbury in November 2018 after three straight losing campaigns.
After drafting Murray first overall in 2019, the Cardinals went 13-18-1 in Kingsbury’s first two seasons. Arizona won six of its first nine games in 2020 but ended the year at 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
Could Kingsbury be on the hot seat? ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio recently raised the question and pointed out that the idea isn’t exactly unrealistic. Additionally, Florio also suggested Murray could hold substantial power regarding his head coach’s future.
“Whether and to what extent Murray vouches for Kingsbury could help him. But Murray also could decide after three seasons that, for Murray to get to the next level, he’ll need a next-level coach.”Mike Florio
Kingsbury is entering the third year of a four-year contract that he signed in January 2019. As of publication, the Cardinals had not extended his contract.
The odds are against Kingsbury and the Cardinals
With the notable exception of Aaron Rodgers, most starting quarterbacks have considerable power when it comes to the front office and the decisions made.
If Murray doesn’t like the Cardinals’ progression under Kingsbury in the third year of their marriage, it won’t be difficult to arrange a divorce. The Cardinals are immensely talented and have a young franchise quarterback eager to play in the postseason.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they’re at best the second-most talented team in the NFC West Division. The Rams are far more balanced, and the Seahawks have Russell Wilson and a dangerous offense. As for the 49ers, they’ve struggled to stay healthy and could turn the quarterback reins over to Trey Lance this fall.
According to Odds Shark, the Cardinals have the worst odds of any team in the NFC West to win Super Bowl 56. At +4000 odds (bet $100 and win $4,100), the Cardinals have the 18th-highest odds (or the 15th-worst odds) of capturing a Lombardi Trophy in February 2021.
If Kingsbury hopes to keep his job, the Cardinals may need to win double-digit games and finally record a postseason victory. But, even then, that may not be enough if Murray wants the team to consider moving in another direction.
Who should the Cardinals hire if they fire Kingsbury?
For the sake of brainstorming, let’s assume that even another excellent season from Murray can’t help the Cardinals reach the postseason. So the Cardinals decide at that point to part ways with Kingsbury and find a new head coach.
If the Cardinals are smart, they’ll stick with the idea of having an offensive-minded head coach team up with Murray. Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has spent several years working with Dak Prescott and turning him into one of the league’s top quarterbacks. Moore interviewed for the Eagles’ coaching vacancy after the 2020 season.
Similarly, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has done wonders with Josh Allen. Daboll interviewed with the Chargers and Jets after the 2020 season. Jim Caldwell, the former Colts and Lions head coach, is also an intriguing option if he wants to return to the sidelines in 2022.
In Kingsbury’s ideal world, he’ll likely be the one coaching Murray and the Cardinals in 2022 and beyond. But his future could come down to nothing more than what his quarterback thinks of the team’s outlook.