When Kliff Kingsbury was announced as the Arizona Cardinals next head coach, there were some who found the hire uninspiring.
Having never been an NFL coach and posting a sub .500 record at Texas Tech, the naysayers made their case that Arizona’s new man would flop.
But since his arrival, the Cardinals have shown steady progress year-over-year.
After being handed the reins following the one-year experiment of former head coach Steve Wilks that led to a 3-13 finish, Kingsbury improved the team’s win total by two in 2019 before upping it even more to 8-8 in 2020.
Last season wasn’t without its head-scratching moments, however.
After starting out 6-3 and with a head of steam, Arizona fell flat in the second half of it schedule, dropping five of their last seven contests and narrowly missing the postseason.
Improvement was evident, but there’s still more to be done on and off the field.
“I’m always trying to evolve each year. Trying to learn, trying to study, trying to pick guys’ brains at how you can get better so that won’t change this season,” Kingsbury said via Zoom on Thursday. “We know we need to take another step in the right direction.
“We feel like we have a great opportunity to do that, so we’ll continue to work hard. I think we’re all highly motivated with how the season ended and knowing that we were close but we still have a ways to go.”
Mirrored with Kingsbury’s success is the emergence of quarterback Kyler Murray, who enters Year 3 after taking another step as an NFL signal caller.
Without a proper offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic, Murray managed to improve his numbers across the board, recording 3,971 yards and 26 touchdowns on 67.2% passing (375-of-558).
He also made opposing defenses pay with his legs, adding 819 yards and 11 touchdowns on 133 rushes (5.2 yards per carry). His elevated play didn’t go unnoticed, either, as he was named a Pro Bowler in just his second NFL season.
“With Kyler, just continue to master your craft,” Kingsbury said of Murray’s evolution. “That’s a position that you’re never reach perfection but you’re going to work towards that and it’s just the little things each and every day, consistency every single day. Like I said before, huge strides from Year 1 to Year 2 and expecting to make the same strides this next season.
“I think as a team we need to be more consistent. I think when you look at the season, there were times where we played at a very high level and there were times where we let some games slip away that we can’t let slip away. There was definitely progress made from Year 1 to Year 2 and we’re hoping to have that progress heading into the season.”