TEMPE, Ariz. — The Cardinals on Monday fired coach Kliff Kingsbury 10 months after signing him to a contract extension through the 2027 season.
The team also announced that general manager Steve Keim has decided to “step away from his position in order to focus on his health.” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said during a news conference Monday that Keim offered his resignation last week.
Like Kingsbury, Keim signed an extension in 2022 that took his contract through the 2027 season. Keim, however, has been on a health-related leave of absence since mid-December.
Bidwill said the financial ramifications of Kingsbury’s extension didn’t play into his decision to fire him.
“It didn’t. And, so, when you look at it, nobody here is hitting the easy button and saying, ‘Let’s just keep this thing going.’ Uh, we’ll live with the financial consequences,” he said.
On Keim’s extension, Bidwill said: “I don’t want to get into details, but I didn’t see that coming earlier this year either.”
Bidwill said the search for a new GM and head coach has already started. In the GM search, Bidwill said he has already interviewed two internal candidates — Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson — as well as one external candidate he did not name.
The Cardinals also have requested GM interviews with San Francisco 49ers director of pro personnel Ran Carthon and 49ers assistant GM Adam Peters, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Keim joined the Cardinals in 1999 as a college scout and, after years in the personnel department, was promoted to general manager in 2013.
Kingsbury was hired in January 2019, just two months after he was fired from Texas Tech, to resuscitate a fledgling offense and a struggling organization.
His firing comes a day after the Cardinals lost their season finale 38-13 to the 49ers, completing a 4-13 season. Kingsbury finished his Cardinals career with a record of 28-37-1.
He experienced moderate success, leading Arizona to improved win totals in his first three seasons — from 5-10-1 in 2019 to 8-8 in 2020 and then a 2021 season in which the Cards went 11-6 and reached the playoffs. However, Kingsbury’s tenure with the Cardinals was marred by late-season drop-offs, underachieving and four years of undisciplined football.
That culminated with this past season’s results.
“We all thought over the last three seasons or the prior three seasons that we would take the next step up after having achieved a playoff appearance last year. It didn’t happen,” Bidwill said. “The people in this room and our fans know all the reasons why, dating back to last year, that different factors worked against us. Still not an excuse. And we expected better, I expected better and we deserve better. And that’s what our community wants. It’s what our fans want, it’s what the players want, it’s what everybody in this organization wants.”
Although Kingsbury had to coach a team without DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games, without Kyler Murray for the last five games, without tight end Zach Ertz for the last seven games and without four of the Cardinals’ five starting offensive linemen for stretches this season, he was still relieved of his duties as the Cardinals set out to find their third head coach in the past six years. Despite being in existence for more than 100 years, the Cardinals have never had a head coach last longer than six years on the job.
“Well, I think when, when you look at the totality of the season, there were a lot of things, whether it was Hop’s suspension or injuries or some of the other things that occurred,” Bidwill said. “I think the No. 1 thing is we need to really make sure that we’re getting the most out of those players and that the players are 100% committed to making sure that we do everything we can do. And I’ve been speaking to some of our leaders and we want to make sure that we’ve got the culture of that locker room, the culture of our organization really focused on maximum effort and making sure we do everything we can do to win the NFC West.”
Back-to-back late-season collapses in 2020 and 2021 overshadowed whatever success the Cardinals had built under Kingsbury, but it was also a trend. Dating back to his time at Texas Tech, Kingsbury’s teams had been successful early in seasons only to trend downward in the second half.
Through 2021, Kingsbury’s teams went 42-20-1 in the first seven games and 17-44 after. This season didn’t get off to as impressive a start, but things still fell apart in the backstretch. Arizona went 3-4 in its first seven games, then staggered to a 1-9 run.
Kingsbury believed this season would be a reverse of last. He said multiple times early in the season that 2022 could be the opposite of 2021 — the Cardinals would hopefully finish strong after a slow start due, in part, to not having Hopkins for the first six games because he was suspended for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
Arizona also struggled to win at home, losing six straight at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022.
One consistent issue with Kingsbury’s scheme was its inability to adapt.
After a Week 6 loss to the Seahawks, Murray said teams were playing the Cardinals’ offense soft, making them “methodically move the ball.”