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An ESPN Exposé Reveals Just How Tense The Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray Dynamic Is, And Implies Kliff May Resign

Not gonna lie, I've gotten quite a bit of blogging mileage out of the shit show that the 2022 Arizona Cardinals have been, but I'll give them this: They're nothing if not bold. Whether it's blowing up the transaction wire in perpetuity for new wide receivers, doubling down on their QB, coach and GM in one offseason or taking such audacious swings at a pint-sized signal-caller and unsuccessful college coach in the first place, the Cardinals are an endless source of intrigue.

Alas umm yeah this is what happens when all that goes completely sideways. Although the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray era in Arizona has featured flashes of brilliance, everything has crashed and burned this year, culminating in Kyler tearing his ACL earlier this month. With the dynamic quarterback's health and efficacy in doubt for the start of next season, Kingsbury's job security is called into question even more.

So the ESPN dot com insider paywall-protected feature I linked to above features some extremely juicy behind-the-scenes details about how much of a struggle Kingsbury has had putting up with Kyler's shit as their decade-long relationship has deteriorated. One of several instances where Kyler vented his frustration to the public was when he said on one particular play the Cardinals were "kinda fucked" schematically. Enter this tidbit from the ESPN piece:

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"While one source close to Murray said the quarterback wanted more freedom at the line of scrimmage, particularly with running plays, multiple sources said plays designed to get certain playmakers the ball often 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.

"In addition to the on-field issues, clashing personalities began to doom the Kingsbury-Murray relationship, trickling down to the rest of the locker room, as 2021 spiraled downward, and continuing into 2022. [...] As multiple sources close to the situation pointed out, both Kingsbury and Murray have struggled with the direct communication necessary to calm the tension that had become obvious to those around them.

"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. Passing game coordinator Cam Turner, who handles the quarterback room, has been forced to serve as a buffer, handling many of the Murray interactions, a team source said."

The article also discusses how Kingsbury has support in the locker room from Cardinals players, yet is reticent to call individuals out for poor performance. That is to say, the coach won't hold his QB accountable in front of the entire team for fear of triggering the wrath of the spoiled brat, entitled-acting face of the franchise. 

Anyone with a brain could've likely guessed things weren't so good between these two key leaders in Arizona once this went down earlier in the 2022 campaign:

Later in the ESPN report, terms used to describe the Kyler-Kliff relationship range from "cordial" to "not good" and "particularly bad this year."

Suboptimal, no? As is the closing line of the exposé in which a source close to the Cardinals head coach said, "Maybe Kliff will just resign…tired of the B.S." For his part, Kingsbury denied such a thing in meeting with the media on Friday:

Writing appears to be on the wall, however.

Here's what team owner Michael Bidwill needs to think about, really: Firing GM Steve Keim. The guy has had personal issues and is currently on a leave of absence for undisclosed reasons. To put it simply and bluntly, Keim has sucked at his job for the most part. One playoff win since he took the reins of the front office in 2013. That ain't good enough.

The fact that Keim and Kingsbury just received extensions through 2027 doesn't make matter easier, but one or both of them is for sure on the chopping block this offseason. You can't move off Kyler nearly as easily, nor would you want to. For as much deserved criticism as he's received, the young man is a phenomenal talent who, in all likelihood, needs a divorce from Kingsbury to prove with certainty that he was, in fact, worth that second contract.

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I could see Kingsbury getting one more year for pure money-related reasons. It's just that, I don't think it'll bring any more clarity to the Kyler Murray situation, nor will it allow the organization to progress toward a non-toxic culture. 

If it's more control over the offense that Kyler wants, fine. Let's see him not operate the Air Raid offense he's basically run since high school, put him in a more traditional pro-style scheme and see if he can fucking hang. I have serious doubts he can, which is not on Kingsbury whatsoever. The coach seems to be bending the knee at Kyler's every whim along with the rest of the franchise. 

In the event Kyler does succeed under a new coach and system, good on him. Worth the big bucks. If not, big problem! Regardless, Kingsbury and the Cardinals stand to gain mutual benefits from a fresh start.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok