Sean Payton, Top Options as Cardinals HC for Future of Kyler Murray

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 9, 2023

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 25: Sean Payton former head coach of the New Orleans Saints looks on during the third quarter of an NBA game between the Dallas Mavericks and the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center on October 25, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Cardinals fired head coach Kliff Kingsbury on Monday less than a year after signing him to an extension through the 2027 season.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Kingsbury's dismissal after the Cardinals closed the 2022 season at 4-13, including a run of seven straight losses to end the year.

Kingsbury went 28-37-1 in four seasons in Arizona. He previously spent six years at Texas Tech, going 35-40 before parting ways after the 2018 season.

The Cardinals will likely join the ever-growing list of potential suitors for former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who is expected to make a return to the sidelines in 2023.

It wouldn't be a surprise if Arizona management prioritizes candidates with head coaching experience like Payton, given this critical period in Kyler Murray's development. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has also been toying with the idea of returning to the NFL and could be a candidate. Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich and former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores could also be worth interviewing.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported current Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will also garner serious consideration. Joseph previously coached the Denver Broncos for two seasons, going 11-21 before being fired after the 2018 campaign.

Any of those aforementioned candidates would be a likely upgrade over Kingsbury, who has a decade of head coaching experience but has had little tangible success. Last year's 11-6 season, which landed Kingsbury that contract extension, was just the third winning season of his head coaching career. He never won more than eight games in a season at Texas Tech, despite having Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback for the better part of three seasons.

A reputation as an offensive and quarterback guru followed Kingsbury to the pros, but Murray has not seen much positive development since entering the pros. He averaged the fewest passing yards per game and had the worst touchdown percentage rate of his career before suffering a torn ACL that will likely keep him out until midway through the 2023 season.

The lack of clarity regarding Murray's status may wind up impacting the Cardinals' coaching search. A name like Payton may prefer a more settled situation, though his partnership with Drew Brees began at a time when Brees' medical status was equally uncertain.

The Cardinals also announced Monday that Steve Keim stepped down as GM to focus on his health. His absence could potentially lead to Arizona handing over final football say over to Payton or Harbaugh, both of whom hold significant leverage.