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Report: Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury 'Increasingly Distant' amid Cardinals Season

Adam WellsDecember 23, 2022

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 03: Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals and head coach Kliff Kingsbury wait along the sidelines during a 37-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

If it has seemed like Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury were on different pages for most of this season, there's a reason for that.

Per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Josh Weinfuss, the Arizona Cardinals head coach and franchise quarterback have grown "increasingly distant" over the course of a lost year for the team.

Among the issues that have divided the two men are Murray's desire for "wanting more freedom at the line of scrimmage, particularly with running plays," but plays designed to get the ball into the hands of Arizona's playmakers didn't come to fruition "either due to miscommunication, a play breaking down or Murray improvising, and the disjointed attack created unpredictability for some of the team's pass-catchers."

Fowler and Weinfuss also noted the clashing personalities between Kingsbury and Murray trickled down to the rest of the locker room as they stumbled to the finish line last season and has continued into 2022.

The report also noted Kingsbury and Murray have both struggled with direct communication that would have helped calm the tension that had "become obvious" to people in the Cardinals locker room.

"Before Murray's injury, Kingsbury was described as 'extremely frustrated' with the quarterback per a team source, believing that his negativity, if not toxic, was 'starting to get to people' around the building," Fowler and Weinfuss wrote.

Cardinals passing game coordinator Cam Turner has been "forced to serve as a buffer" between Murray and Kingsbury this season.

It had become obvious to anyone watching Cardinals games this season that Kingsbury and Murray weren't on the same page. They were involved in a shouting match on the sidelines during an Oct. 20 win over the New Orleans Saints.

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This Kyler Murray-Kliff Kingsbury exchange 👀 <a href="https://t.co/ofIQbSK1xd">pic.twitter.com/ofIQbSK1xd</a>

"He's real animated over there on the sideline sometimes," Murray told reporters the day after the sideline incident. "It's … 'Calm down, we're good. We're going to make it right.' We ended up scoring, so that was good, but that's all I was saying. Just chill out."

Kingsbury said at the time the team was "working through as an offense where we want to be and what we want to do, and you have competitors that have a level of intensity like that, I think it will keep pushing us forward."

The Cardinals have completely collapsed over the past 12 months. They are 5-15 in their last 20 games, including the playoffs, after winning 10 of their first 12 games during the 2021 season.

Despite the team's rough finish last season, Arizona signed Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim to extensions in March that run through the 2027 campaign. The Cardinals announced on Dec. 14 that Keim was taking an indefinite hiatus due to health-related reasons.

The Cardinals should have also had a celebratory moment when Murray signed a five-year extension in July, but even that was marred because of a clause that required him to do four hours of independent film study each week during the season.

Amid blowback from the clause, the Cardinals removed it from the contract.

Murray's season came to an end on Dec. 12 when he tore the ACL early in the first quarter of the Cardinals' 27-13 loss to the New England Patriots. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the 25-year-old is on track to be ready for the start of the 2023 regular season.

The Cardinals (4-10) are tied with the Los Angeles Rams for the second-worst record in the NFC with three games left to play. They have just one winning season since 2016.