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How safe is Kliff Kingsbury?

With Kyler Murray struggling and Kliff Kingsbury on the hot seat, Mike Florio and Chris Simms assess if Sean Payton could come into Arizona and turn things around next year.

He seemed to be in trouble after a 10-2 start in 2021 became a one-and-out playoff run. Then, amid conflicting reports as to whether the shit did or didn’t hit the fan between Kingsbury and owner Michael Bidwill, Kingbsury and G.M. Steve Keim got new contracts.

The team announced that the contracts last through 2027. No one ever reported (i.e., no agent ever leaked) the value of the contracts. Even then, there’s a chance that not all (or even not most) of the two contracts are guaranteed.

At the time, it seemed like an effort to neutralize the perception that the franchise was teetering toward dysfunction, especially in light of the fact that Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray have the same agent. Now that dysfunction has indeed arrived, with an eight-game home losing streak and an overall record of 3-9 (including postseason) since starting 10-2 a year ago, it’s fair to wonder whether Kingsbury could be on the outs.

He played briefly in the NFL, but he never coached in the NFL. From 2008 through 2018, Kingsbury coached exclusively at the college level. As Chris Simms and I have discussed on PFT Live in the context of failed college coaches like Urban Meyer and Matt Rhule, most of them simply can’t make the transition from success premised on a system that thrives on superior talent. In the NFL, game planning is crucial. Studying the nuances of the opponent’s offense and defense are indispensable. Self-scouting to eliminate tendencies and tells is critical.

How much time do college coaches truly spend studying their own film in order to ensure that they’re staying ahead of any trends that may emerge from their own plays? Kingsbury’s coaching career didn’t include extensive (or any) training on how to crack the other team’s code -- or how to avoid having their own code cracked. It was line it up, spread them out, and get the ball in the hands of players who were fast enough to run the route, catch the pass, gain the yards, score the points.

The Kingsbury system isn’t working. The longer he coaches, the more it struggles. And it’s not an issue of calling plays. It’s an issue of play design. The menu is as limited as the three options at the diner in My Cousin Vinny. Other teams have figured it out.

Bidwill will, too. Eventually. If not sooner.