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Arizona Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury, Steve Keim ‘probably’ safe in 2022 barring disaster

Arizona Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury, Steve Keim
Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Arizona Cardinals have typically got off to a fast start in every NFL season since Kliff Kingsbury became the head coach. Notorious for strong first-half performances only to crash in the second half, Kingsbury’s Cardinals are coming off a brutal Week 1 performance.

Playing without DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona trailed 37-7 in the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs before garbage time made it a 44-21 defeat. While it’s only an 0-1 start to the season, the upcoming schedule for the Cardinals is brutal and there are fears in Arizona that things will only get worse for the franchise.

Related: Arizona Cardinals schedule

It’s an awkward position for an organization to be in just a few months after it signed Kingsbury, quarterback Kyler Murray and general manager Steve Keim to extensions. Both the coach and general manager were on the hot seat at the end of the 2021 season with their fate decided by a meeting with owner Michael Bidwell.

The outlook for the Cardinals already looks bleak. Arizona faces three 2021 playoff teams from Week 2 through Week 5. It must also battle the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings in October before a daunting slate of opponents in November. With projections for the team extremely unfavorable, it’s led to questions about the future for Kingsbury and Keim in Arizona.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated addressed a question about Kingsbury and Keim’s job security, explaining why he believes the coach and general manager duo are likely safe for the 2022 season.

“I think so long as the season’s not a disaster, Keim and Kingsbury are probably safe. They’re signed up through 2027, so firing them would mean eating five seasons of money. The team doubled down on Kyler Murray, and Kingsbury’s an ideal offensive coach for who he is, stylistically, as a player.”

Albert Breer on why Arizona Cardinals likely won’t fire Kliff Kingsbury, Steve Keim

The money owed to Kingsbury and Keim through 2027 is a strong financial element to consider. Few NFL owners have ever viewed Bidwell as one of the most free-spending franchise holders in the league and firing a coach and general manager less than a year after extending them would prove costly.

However, certain factors could play a significant role in pushing either one or both of the men out the door when the 2022 season concludes.

Why Arizona Cardinals could fire Steve Keim or Kliff Kingsbury

Syndication: Arizona Republic

Recent team history must play a role in the organization’s decisions moving forward. Missing the NFL playoffs in 2022 might not be enough for both the head coach and general manager to be shown the door. Arizona could point to injuries and Hopkins’ suspension as the causes if it falls just short.

However, there is already ample evidence that suggests neither Keim nor Kingsbury are the right fit for their current roles. Keim’s recent draft history has a few bright spots, but there are a significant number of draft busts that look worse with each passing year.

Arizona Cardinals’ recent draft misses

  • 2017 – Haason Reddick, 13th overall pick: Left after four seasons
  • 2018 – Josh Rosen, 10th overall: Traded in 2019 for a second-round pick
  • 2018 – Mason Cole, 97th overall pick: Traded in March 2021 for a sixth-round pick
  • 2019 – Andy Isabella, 62nd overall pick: 32 receptions in 37 games
  • 2020 – Isaiah Simmons, 8th overall pick:49.7 PFF grade in 2021, 37th among linebackers
  • 2020 – Josh Jones, 72nd overall pick: 12 starts in three seasons

While the Cardinals landed Murray, they have largely failed to build a roster of young talent on rookie contracts around him. It’s put the team in the position it finds itself in right now.

As for Kingsbury, Arizona went into its bye week in 2020 with a 5-2 record then finished 8-8 with losses in five of its last seven games. After a 9-2 start heading into its Week 1 bye last season, the Cardinals finished with an 11-6 record and then were decimated by the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Murray is the face of the franchise, the most important figure in the organization. If the Cardinals truly want to take a step forward and this team doesn’t meet Bidwell’s expectations, a change at head coach and general manager should happen.