Cardinals are ‘all in’ – and Kliff Kingsbury needs them to be

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The Arizona Cardinals have almost exclusively added veterans in free agency thus far, acquiring former All-Pros by signing A.J. Green and J.J. Watt and trading for Rodney Hudson in a deal with the Raiders. All three players are over 30, though they each should have productive years left.

On NFL Network, insider Ian Rapoport mentioned that “it feels like the Arizona Cardinals are going all in.”

“Usually, these are the kind of guys who are the final pieces to a championship roster,” Rapoport said. “At least from the outside looking in, that’s what they seem to be doing.”

But is this team anywhere near a championship contender? In two seasons under quarterback Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals have gone 13-18-1, missing the playoffs both seasons. It’s fair to discount the first season, as it was Murray’s first as an NFL quarterback and Kingsbury’s as an NFL coach. But in the second season, despite Arizona getting off to a hot start, they collapsed down the stretch, losing five of their final seven games.

Defenses adjusted to Kingsbury’s offense, as they averaged just 20.5 points per game in that span after averaging 29.3 in the first nine games. Injuries Murray suffered didn’t help, but the passing game fell off a cliff, culminating with an 18-7 loss to a John Wolford-led Rams team that eliminated them from playoff contention.

Kingsbury’s game management was heavily scrutinized in 2020. Two separate losses – one to Seattle and one to Miami – came after the second-year coach settled for long field goals on fourth-and-short, down by three points in the final moments. Kingsbury was supposed to build a modern offense, but modern analytics said to go for it on both occasions.

Is this Cardinals team building a contender, or is this the result of a front office and coach that are desperate for the sake of keeping their jobs? Kingsbury has never had overwhelming success as a head coach. At Texas Tech, he had a losing record (35-40) over six seasons. He had Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback for three seasons, but still had a losing record in games he started (13-19).

If Kingsbury has another losing season, it could spell trouble. So maybe these deals are not ones of luxury, but of desperation.

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