Why Exactly Did the Arizona Cardinals Extend Losing Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury Through 2027?

After going 35-40 in six seasons at Texas Tech, Kingsbury has gone 24-24-1 with the Cardinals and lost his lone playoff game

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals sends in a play against the Seahawks
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals sends in a play against the Seahawks.
Norm Hall/Getty Images

With star quarterback Kyler Murray publicly demanding a new deal earlier this week through his agent Erik Burkhardt, many expected that the Arizona Cardinals would be announcing a contract extension sooner rather than later.

On Wednesday the team did announce an extension — but it wasn’t for Murray. The Cardinals, who made the playoffs for the first time since 2015 but were decimated in the first round of the postseason by the LA Rams, extended head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim through the 2027 season, the team announced on social media.

“The leadership of both Steve and Kliff have been key factors in the team’s turnaround over the last three seasons,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said in a statement released by the team. “We are all looking forward to continuing that progress and recognize these two individuals will be a big part of achieving our long-term goals as an organization.”

Given Kingsbury’s record as a head coach, it’s up for debate whether those long-term goals include winning a Super Bowl.

Considered one of the top offensive minds in football after going 35-40 in six seasons as the head coach at Texas Tech, Kingsbury has gone 24-24-1 in his three seasons with the Cardinals and lost his lone playoff game, which gives him a losing record as a coach in both college and the NFL.

In the pros, Kingsbury has overseen an Arizona team that went 5-10-1 in his first season, before improving to an 8-8 record in 2020 followed by a jump to 11-6 in 2021, including a playoff berth. But, the Cardinals also suffered a second consecutive late-season meltdown and finished the 2021 season 4-6 after going 3-6 down the stretch in 2020.

The late-season failings can’t all be blamed on Kingsbury, and he deserves credit for keeping the team afloat and playing reasonably well when Murray was injured in the middle of the season, but the logic to extend the 42-year-old instead of seeing how the team does during the final year of his initial four-year deal with Arizona seems curious, especially with Murray’s future unsettled. However, it also shouldn’t be overlooked that Erik Burkhardt represents both Murray and Kingsbury and the team likely would not make long-term decisions to keep either without the blessing of the other.

In the recent past, Arizona has not been shy about admitting mistakes and cutting losses, as Kingsbury’s predecessor Steve Wilks was fired after a single season on the job when the Cardinals sputtered to a 3-13 record with first-round rookie quarterback Josh Rosen as the team’s primary starter. That failure led to Arizona getting the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, which the team used to replace Rosen with Murray while also hiring Kingsbury as Wilks’s replacement.

One-half of that pairing is now under contract with Arizona through ’27. Whether Kingsbury is actually part of a combination that has the capacity to win games in the NFL for the next six seasons is far less certain.

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