The Arizona Cardinals had a disappointing end to the 2021 season, getting blown out by the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. It was a 34-11 defeat, where they were dominated from start to finish. Kyler Murray struggled in his first playoff game, and the Cardinals have work to do in the offseason to get better.
The Cardinals have a history of crumbling down the stretch under coach Kliff Kingsbury. Arizona lost seven of its last nine games in 2019, five of its last seven games a season ago and five of its last six games in 2021. While this is not a good track record, firing Kingsbury would be a terrible decision. His scheme is built around rising star quarterback Kyler Murray, and getting rid of Kingsbury could spell trouble for the trajectory of his career. Kingsbury is a gifted young coach, but hasn’t figured out how to get Arizona over the hump.
Here are two reasons the Cardinals must give Kliff Kingsbury another chance despite another late-season collapse.
Reasons Cardinals must give Kliff Kingsbury another chance
2. Arizona had successful season despite disappointing finish
Although the Cardinals suffered a blowout loss in the first round of the playoffs, they still had a successful season. Kingsbury’s group was not expected to make it to the postseason but started out on fire. Arizona did not lose a game until Week 8 against the Green Bay Packers.
It was far from an ideal finish to the campaign, but making noise in the NFC was a good building point for the Cardinals. This was their first playoff appearance since 2015. The recent rebuild of the roster has been promising; Arizona is ahead of schedule in that respect. Next season will be the true test for Kingsbury and the young Cardinals to see how they build upon a solid 2021 season.
1. Kingsbury is the perfect coach for Murray
The biggest reason to keep Kingsbury is for their young quarterback, Murray. He’s continued to grow each season under Kingsbury, guiding a lethal Caridinals offense. He earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl nod this season and has more room to grow.
Murray missed a few games in 2021 due to injury, but was elite when healthy enough to take the field. In 14 appearances, Murray threw for 3,787 yards along with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. What makes him special is his dual-threat ability, as Murray is a major contributor to the Cardinals run game, rushing for 423 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Firing Kingsbury could stunt Murray’s growth as a quarterback, as continuity is crucial for developing signal-callers. He’s already close to maximizing his potential and just needs to work on closing out the season stronger.
This all comes with gaining experience, and the playoff appearance this season will help him in that respect.
“I think experience is a big part of it. There’s only one way to experience playoff football, and that’s to go through it,” Kinsbury said after Arizona’s loss to Los Angeles, per NFL.com’s Kevin Patra. “And unfortunately, we didn’t play our best game, and I thought L.A. played a great game, had a great plan, and outplayed us, and outcoached us. But I think you just got to go through these moments and learn from it and grow from it and use it as motivation.”
While it didn’t go how they wanted, this loss will add fuel to the Cardinals’ fire for next season. The roster now has some playoff experience, which will make them an even bigger threat in the NFC come 2022. Kingsbury deserves another shot to lead Arizona to a deep playoff run.