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Vance Joseph ‘lead candidate’ to replace Kliff Kingsbury as Arizona Cardinals coach

Arizona Cardinals, Vance Joseph

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t officially joined the growing list of NFL coaches fired, but his days in the desert could be numbered.

Less than a year after Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim signed contract extensions through 2027, both are now squarely on the hot seat following a disappointing season. Arizona is on the brink of its second four-win season in the Kingsbury era, sparking rumors about sweeping changes inside the organization.

Related: Arizona Cardinals coaching candidates

While owner Michael Bidwill hasn’t made an official decision and there are a number of options on the table, it seems increasingly likely that changes will happen in Arizona. If Kingsbury is fired, there is reportedly an emerging threat to replace him.

According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is the lead candidate to take over as the Cardinals’ head coach in 2023 if Kingsbury isn’t brought back.

  • Vance Joseph coaching record: 11-21

Related: Kliff Kingsbury won’t resign as Arizona Cardinals coach

After becoming one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, Joseph was hired as the Denver Broncos’ head coach in 2017. The Colorado Buffaloes alum only lasted two seasons, being fired after consecutive losing seasons.

Joseph joined Arizona in 2019, becoming one of the first hires made by Kingsbury after he accepted the job. The past four seasons have strengthened Joseph’s resume, with the 50-year-old coordinator proving himself as a leader and defensive play-caller.

Why the Arizona Cardinals might promote Vance Joseph

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

If Joseph is Arizona’s leading candidate to replace Kingsbury, it’s a telling indicator of the organization’s plans for the 2023 offseason. The decision to extend Kingsbury and Keim cost the team during the regular season and it may now have a financial effect on the organization’s moves this spring.

Cardinals’ owner Michael Bidwill has developed a reputation around the league for being very cautious with his spending. It’s why many were reportedly surprised when he signed Kingsbury, Keim and Kyler Murray to lucrative extensions last offseason.

Assuming Bidwill fires his coach and general manager months after giving them raises, it would have a significant impact on the process to replace them. If Keim is replaced vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris and vice president of pro personnel Adrian Wilson could take over as general manager, potentially splitting the duties.

Replacing Keim and Kingsbury with internal promotions would save money for Bidwill and it would maintain continuity within the organization. While it wouldn’t be the flashiest of moves, it’s a reasonable outcome if Bidwill is trying to save money at a time when salaries for head coaches are skyrocketing.