The Cardinals are in the midst of a difficult 2022 NFL season that has seen the team fail to live up to expectations amid injuries and offensive inefficiencies.
And amid these struggles, it appears that the relationship between coach Kliff Kingsbury and starting quarterback Kyler Murray has soured.
Kingsbury and Murray have been together in Arizona since Kingsbury’s first season in 2019. The Cardinals spent the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Murray in the hopes that he could run a version of Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense at the NFL level.
That system worked during the early stages of Kingsbury’s tenure and amid their 10-2 surge to start the 2021 NFL season.
But as things have gone downhill in 2022, frustrations have evidently emerged on both sides. That has caused the two to butt heads throughout the season and ahead of Murray’s injury.
What has led to the deterioration of the relationship between Murray and Kingsbury? Here’s what has been reported about it as the Cardinals face a reckoning to end the 2022 NFL season.
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Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray’s relationship
Kingsbury and Murray have known one another long-term. The veteran coach first recruited Murray to Texas Tech when he was in charge of the program there 10 years ago.
However, as a recent ESPN story outlines, that connection has done little to help their relationship overcome some bumpy patches in 2022.
“It’s not good,” a team source said of the duo’s relationship last month, per ESPN. “It seems particularly bad this year.”
“They’re cordial,” another team source added about the duo. “It’s not the relationship you want from your quarterback and coach.”
What has led to tension between the two parties? In part, it has been due to the team’s offensive struggles.
The Cardinals rank 21st in total yards and 18th in scoring this season, both of which are the worst marks of Kingsbury’s coaching career. Murray posted a passer rating of 87.2 before suffering a season-ending torn ACL. That’s the lowest rating of his four-year career.
|Year||Total yards rank||Points per game rank||Murray’s passer rating|
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Part of the issue is that Arizona’s offense dealt with many injury issues during the 2022 NFL season. Another part of the issue, however, falls on Murray, who wanted to run the offense differently than Kingsbury. That has led to a muddled mess of an offense at times, as ESPN detailed.
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.
Meanwhile, things off the field have been problematic as well. The reason? The two once-close leaders haven’t been able to effectively communicate with one another.
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.
As ESPN’s story explained, Kingsbury isn’t one to call out his players, but his inability to get through to Murray certainly seems to be playing a big role in the disjointed nature of the Cardinals.
And that leads them to a crossroads.
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What’s next for the Cardinals?
Clearly, the Cardinals need to do one of two things: fix the relationship between Murray and Kingsbury or remove the problem altogether.
The Cardinals won’t be able to do the latter with Murray; he signed a five-year, $230.5 million mega-deal to remain in Arizona after some offseason drama. He then tore his ACL in Week 14 against the Patriots, so it’s hard to imagine any team being willing to take on that contract while giving up significant draft pick compensation.
As such, the attention will turn to Kingsbury’s status with the team. He signed an extension with the Cardinals during the 2022 offseason as well that was set to tie him to Arizona until 2027; the Cardinals can get out of that deal easier than that of Murray, though they will have to pay a hefty buyout to Kingsbury.
That said, if Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell wants to save some money — or if he still believes that Kingsbury is the right man for the job — then the focus will be on rebuilding the trust and line of communication between the two key team leaders.
As ESPN mentioned, the two are “cordial.” So, perhaps not all hope is lost in getting the two back on the same page, especially as Murray looks to recover from a major injury.
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