How to fix the Cardinals in 2022: Make a bold move on Kliff Kingsbury, pay Chandler Jones and more

When the Arizona Cardinals began the post-Bruce Arians era, they were hoping for great fortune as they eventually ushered in both Kliff Kingsbury as head coach and Kyler Murray as the first-round pick. quarterback in 2019. Both have had an increasing amount of success over the past three seasons, but something is not quite right in the wilderness. Although general manager Steve Keim also threw a ton of roster talent on both sides of the ball, including All-Pro wide DeAndre Hopkins, a hot start to the 2021 season was met with an icy finish that arguably should have been overcome despite losing Hopkins to injury.

That wasn’t the case, however, and the Cardinals are now thrust into their offseason well ahead of their own projected schedule after being beaten by the Los Angeles Rams on NFL Super Wild Card weekend, and in a list of important questions to answer if they are to reach their first Super Bowl since the 2008 season, when they also failed to do so.

It’s time to act boldly in Arizona, if they want to finally fix what ails them for good.

Jump off the Kliff

What happens with Kliff Kingsbury will define the organization for the next decade or more. It’s not because they’d sign him to a 10-year extension, but because he’ll either manage to get a Super Bowl win that will reshape everything in the organization for the better, or he’ll continue to drop the ball when it matters most, and an overtime could potentially cost them Kyler Murray down the road and the opportunity to land big-ticket free agents who aren’t interested in just getting paid to lose. It’s such a strange situation with Kingsbury, who are regularly praised in the first half of seasons but often struggle in the second half.

For context, Kingsbury is 15-5-1 in Weeks 1-7 since taking the reins as Cardinals head coach in 2019, but that record drops to 9-20 when the calendar jumps to week 8 and later. It’s also a trend that’s not exclusive to the NFL, instead dating back to his days at Texas Tech, when he never posted a winning record in the final six games of any season. You can rightly say that injuries have an impact on this as well, but it’s a glaring trend that doesn’t seem close to being resolved – something that has now happened in each of the nine Kingsbury’s last training seasons.

It worked in the Cardinals favor that they didn’t sign him to a massive deal when the team were No. 1 in the league because now that they’ve seen another late season slump they may have a more in-depth discussion of the future of Kingsbury, who have only one winning season in three tries and even ended in five defeats in the last six games played; including being embarrassed during Super Wild Card Weekend. That said, let’s put it in baseball terms, which Murray would appreciate:

Kingsbury is a fantastic starting pitcher, but he’s been a terrible closer every year.

Locate an additional WR1 for Murray

It’s fair to say that Kyler Murray has earned the right to be called the future of the franchise at quarterback in Arizona, which means there will soon (hint: now) be a moment for the Cardinals. to start trying to figure out how to handle his contractual situation. Much of the attempt to woo him to stay with the club after obvious triggers were pulled – eg fifth-year option, franchise tag in potential no-deal afterwards – will not only be who drives the club and success or lack thereof, but also who they put around it.

The Cardinals did a fantastic job scamming the Houston Texans to land perennial All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but they found out what happens on offense when Hopkins is unavailable through injury. Christian Kirk is talented but streaky, Larry Fitzgerald no longer comes out of the tunnel, and trying to turn a declining AJ Green into a second coming of himself hasn’t worked well – Green sometimes coming from the roses but being savagely unable to carry the team at the position where Hopkins was sidelined.

Murray is going to want assurances that he won’t continue to have disappointing seasons because he’s not used to losing. It’s undeniable that there’s a good relationship between Murray and Kingsbury – the latter displacing Josh Rosen just a year after the team used a 10th overall pick on him to select the former – but losing will wear down Murray and make things even crazier. difficult for general manager Steve Keim. So figure it out at the head coach, give Murray more firepower in the passing game and then avoid allowing the defense to take a massive step in the wrong direction.

Pay Chandler Jones, period

Find the closest gif of someone rubbing their temples and insert it here, because it’s utter nonsense that things have come to this point between Jones and the Cardinals. The lack of contract talks prompted Jones to consider a 2021 exit from the wilderness before picking up his sixth double-digit sack season in his last seven attempts – his 2020 season an anomaly as he only played five games . through injury.

Still one of the best pass rushers in all of football and with plenty of tread on his tires, as seen time and time again in 2021, the All-Pro should generate plenty of interest in his free agency with no restrictions ahead, but most of it has to come from the organization he’s been playing for since 2016. Losing Jones can’t be an option for a Cardinals team that’s also just been surgically dissected by Matthew Stafford and the Rams of Los Angeles on Super Wild Card weekend, and especially with JJ Watt’s age and injury history working against him in a massive way.

More pieces are definitely needed on defense to build around Budda Baker, Isaiah Simmons and Markus Golden (extend him), but Jones is a key piece, and a void will be created in the pass rush if he is allowed to walk .

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