Members of the Arizona Cardinals came to Kliff Kingsbury's defense after the team's second-half swoon led to some scrutiny of the head coach.
Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz called Kingsbury "one of the best offensive minds in this league" and said he has a quarterback in Kyler Murray who's "perfect for him and his system."
"I think you've seen the progress the past three years, going from three wins before he got here to five wins, to eight wins to 11 wins," Ertz said, per the Arizona Republic's Dana Scott. "He's so, so smart offensively, and I think he's just continuing to get better, from what I've heard, in terms of leadership and just managing this football team. Each and every year it's improved."
Jordan Hicks also discussed how much Kingsbury helped him when the arrival of first-round draft pick Zaven Collins threw his status as a starter into doubt.
"He's been really good for me through that whole process, so it's been a pleasure working for him and working with him," Hicks said. "He's a great coach. I love being around him, his intensity, his ability to lead. I've had nothing but awesome experiences with him."
Those endorsements might not matter much to fans who watched Arizona fade badly for the second year in a row.
The Cardinals were sitting at 10-2 following a Week 13 victory over the Chicago Bears. They proceeded to lose four of their final five regular-season games and were outclassed in a 34-11 NFC Wild Card Round loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The offense gained just 183 yards.
PICK-6. TO THE HOUSE. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RAMSHOUSE?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RAMSHOUSE</a>.<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AZvsLAR?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AZvsLAR</a> on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/AlWNM7Zm1B">pic.twitter.com/AlWNM7Zm1B</a>
To quote Yogi Berra, it was deja vu all over again.
In 2020, an overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks improved Arizona's record to 5-2 and seemed to cement the team as a contender. Instead, the Cardinals finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
The trend extended to Kingsbury's time at Texas Tech. Scott noted the Red Raiders posted a 19-30 record in the second half of his six years at the helm.
The Action Network @ActionNetworkHQ
Kliff Kingsbury's end to the season as a head coach...<br><br>Texas Tech:<br>• '13: lost 5 of 6<br>• '14: lost 4 of 6<br>• '15: lost 4 of 6<br>• '16: lost 6 of 8<br>• '17: lost 6 of 8<br>• '18: lost 5 of 5<br><br>Cardinals:<br>• '19: lost 7 of 9<br>• '20: lost 5 of 7<br>• ‘21: lost 5 of 6 <a href="https://t.co/t7e0C1rWC7">pic.twitter.com/t7e0C1rWC7</a>
At a certain point, it's fair to question whether something Kingsbury is doing is leading to this problem. Maybe his uptempo approach is unsustainable over an entire season.
Chierstin Susel @ChierstinSusel
"I'm not sure, I haven't done the research on that exactly."<br><br>- Kliff Kingsbury on his history of late season plummets throughout his coaching career.<br><br>We debated this topic on <a href="https://twitter.com/PHNX_Cardinals?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@phnx_cardinals</a> after the game 👇 <br><br> <a href="https://t.co/NtKbLvIBSI">https://t.co/NtKbLvIBSI</a> <a href="https://t.co/1q5KeLQm4W">pic.twitter.com/1q5KeLQm4W</a>
Considering he was under some pressure entering the 2021 season, qualifying for the playoffs might be enough for Kingsbury to stay on for 2022.
But the four-year contract he signed with Arizona is due to expire after next season. It seems unlikely the 42-year-old will get an extension now, so yet another slide in the final weeks might be enough justification for the Cardinals to let him walk this time next winter.