Kliff Kingsbury becomes a success

At the end of the third quarter, with the Cardinals maintaining a 10-point lead in Seattle and quarterback Colt McCoy snapped photos with quarterback coach Cam Turner, Kliff Kingsbury had something to look forward to. to say.

He canceled the remainder of the attack, which had reached a lull after half-time. Kingsbury was animated as he forcefully delivered a message: Stop waiting for the game to end and go finish it.

“The way he brought us together on the sidelines was something I don’t think he would have done when he first got here,” said tackle DJ Humphries.

The Cardinals ended it with two solid practices (one ended with a missed field goal, the other with a decisive touchdown) as they knocked down the Seahawks.

Kingsbury’s side were 6-0 on the road before the pass. They were 9-2, locked in the top spot in the NFL. They maneuvered through three games – winning two – without their quarterback and top wide receiver. Le won yet another match in Cleveland with Kingsbury’s game plan as he had to sit at home with Covid. Another victory came with Kingsbury on the sidelines only after missing the entire week of training, again with Covid protocols.

The Cardinals are assured of their first winning season since 2015 with six games to go. They have increased their winning streak from five to eight to nine and more in each of Kingsbury’s seasons.

He was hired to rehabilitate a team and an attack that was by far the worst in the NFL of 2018. Two and a half years later, his team has the best record and one of the best attacks. He is a candidate for Coach of the Year in a season where some were ready to put him on the hot seat before the start of the year.

“It’s just fun to watch him succeed,” said defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who became a key part of the staff when Kingsbury arrived, after two seasons on his own as head coach in Denver. “It’s hard work, it’s public work and you are constantly criticized on so many levels, even when you win.

“For him to put up with that, ignore that and work on that stuff, that part that I enjoy for all coaches. When you win and you build a special team, and you can feel it’s special, it is a joy. “

Kingsbury, at least publicly, won’t flaunt everything he could have accomplished. He was keenly aware of the people who doubted he could be successful in the NFL when the Cardinals hired him; he made self-deprecating jokes about it.

So no, Kingsbury said, with the Cardinals’ bye position at 9-2, he gets no particular personal satisfaction from proving otherwise. Even if he sees an advantage.

“The only thing I love is my family and the people who have believed in me forever, who actually don’t need to hear me call me a fool all the time,” said Kingsbury.

Photo by Arizona Cardinals

Kingsbury is admittedly an introvert, but this season, whether it’s a natural evolution or the collateral vibe he’s felt with the victories piling up, the 42-year-old has made his personality both on the sidelines and in front of the cameras. .

After Los Angeles win over the Rams, at the height of the hype for Apple TV’s second season “Ted Lasso” – about an American football coach who travels to London to coach football despite no experience in sports – Kingsbury compared himself to Ted.

“There are real parallels between Ted Lasso and myself,” Kingsbury said. Like the epic dance video on YouTube. (And) you were at my (introductory) press conference, it was basically the same one Ted Lasso had, where everyone was like, ‘Is this some kind of joke? “And then he’s weirdly positive all the time.”

Joseph smiled at the idea that Kingsbury showed some personality. Kingsbury is really funny, Joseph said, and it’s been apparent to him since 2019. But in front of the world? “First-time NFL head coach and not having won much the first two years, it’s hard to share who you really are,” Joseph said.

His players, however, know what they have.

In the Cardinals’ first game without Kyler Murray this season, tension may have increased in San Francisco with substitute Colt McCoy in the roster, Kingsbury was the most visibly emotional he had been since arriving in Arizona.

He wandered a few yards from the sideline on several occasions arguing and once started grumbling with 49ers cornerback Josh Norman. “You have to choose your seats,” Kingsbury said later, but it was to his team’s delight.

“It’s that guy,” said running back James Conner. “I love playing for Coach King. He’s got this booty of his own, like we have this booty.”

Kingsbury has been called a player coach. That doesn’t mean he’s necessarily gentle with them. Defensive line veteran Corey Peters has said Kingsbury – like good coaches – will listen to commentary. Sometimes they use it, sometimes not, but professional players want to be heard.

Peters said he’s on teams where players never feel comfortable doing everything that is asked of them, and that’s no way to win games.

But Kingsbury has always known how he wanted his team to function. It was Kingsbury’s game plan that won the game in Cleveland, even though he was at home and watching the video of the next opponent rather than yearning to be in Ohio while watching the game in live on television.

“One of the things I respect the most about Kliff is that he’s going to do it his way,” said veteran quarterback Colt McCoy. “He’s going to listen to feedback from the guys on the pitch and his coaches, but Kliff has a clear understanding of what he wants this attack to look like, and we all have confidence in that.

“I want to perform it the way he sees it, because he sees it the right way, and it works.”

Kingsbury has a better team than their first two years, and as Peters pointed out, the NFL is all about having players. But while Joseph has said that “training is training” when it comes to Kingsbury’s jump between college and NFL, there is no doubt that Kingsbury has grown up as well.

“I’m a very observant person,” Humphries said. “I love people-watching – it’s one of my favorite things to do. It’s something I noticed about him. Little by little, every year, he develops what he does.

“It was fun watching him.”

Photo by Arizona Cardinals

Kingsbury wouldn’t be where he is without Murray, of course. Coaches don’t have success in the NFL without a quarterback – Joseph would surely love another head coach chance with this case, having had no QBs in Denver – and he had known from the day the Cardinals drafted Murray as it would be his opportunity.

“We signed up together and as much as any duo in NFL history, the way this thing turned out,” Kingsbury said. “We know that we are linked to each other forever.”

Murray’s own development over his two-plus years is almost directly proportional to Kingsbury’s improvement as a coach.

“If we do what we’re capable of doing, I guess we’ll (both) be here for a while,” Murray said.

Kingsbury wants the gimpy Murray back on the pitch, of course, but the month of November without Murray and DeAndre Hopkins also showed what Kingsbury has become as a coach. Winning two out of three in such a situation in 2020 or 2019 would have been dismissed as unrealistic.

After the Seattle game, Kingsbury said he was tired and ready for the weekend off to spend time on his couch. Linebacker Chandler Jones could only smile at the idea, as by now all players know Kingsbury’s ridiculous schedule – arriving at the squad’s facility around 4am for a practice session. practice and work on a movie before the team shows up.

Why would Bye and Thanksgiving be so different?

“Let me tell you, Kliff is working overtime,” Jones said. “I don’t know how he’s going to sit on the couch. There have been times I’ve stepped into Kliff and he’s watching the teams we’re going to play in three weeks.”

It’s no different than what Kingsbury was doing in 2019. It just took a while to see the results.

“Every coach and general manager faces challenges early in their career,” said general manager Steve Keim. “At 9 and 2 in his third year, I think it’s pretty obvious that his leadership, skills and footballing acumen have been a big part of our success.”

Kingsbury dismisses the idea that he is a better coach compared to when he arrived, but admits “I think I’m more comfortable.”

He said that once he became a coach he knew he would have to struggle to some extent with his introverted tendencies. At the university, with 120 kids around, lots of freshmen and extras, it was important to contact them, call them by name, say hello. He remembered what it was like as a player if Bill Belichick said, “Hey Kliff, how are you?

“Everyone wants affirmations,” Kingsbury said.

This would include Kingsbury, who will receive more praise as the season goes on if his team continues to win, and very few people will call him “an idiot”.

He’s likely to put his offense aside in a game or two on the sidelines, just at the right time, like he did in Seattle. And maybe he’ll finally become completely comfortable at press conferences. May be.

“It’s not bad,” Kingsbury said with a chuckle. “You are all a good group. But yes, I would rather do something different. “

Like training.

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