By DAVID BRANDT
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals have fired coach Kliff Kingsbury and parted ways with general manager Steve Keim after a dreadful season that saw constant unwanted headlines, a serious knee injury to star quarterback Kyler Murray and lots of losing.
The team confirmed the changes on Monday.
“We have announced that head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been relieved of his duties,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “In addition, general manager Steve Keim has decided to step away from his position in order to focus on his health. The team wishes them well and thanks both of them for their contributions.”
The 43-year-old Kingsbury — who received a contract extension just last year — finishes his tenure with a 28-37-1 record over four seasons, including a 4-13 mark this year. The Cardinals ended the season on a seven-game losing streak, falling to the San Francisco 49ers 38-13 on Sunday.
The 50-year-old Keim also received a contract extension last season. He’s been with the Cardinals since 1999 and served as the team’s general manager since 2013. He took a medical leave of absence in December, but the team didn’t elaborate on the reason.
Kingsbury joins a long list of names who couldn’t win enough games for one of the NFL’s least-successful franchises. The Cardinals haven’t won a championship since 1947 and have never had a coach last more than six seasons in more than a century of existence.
The low-key Kingsbury was owner Michael Bidwill’s surprise choice to lead the franchise back in 2019, replacing Steve Wilks. A few months later, the franchise selected quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
A former quarterback himself, Kingsbury had developed a reputation for working with young quarterbacks, including Patrick Mahomes, who played for Kingsbury at Texas Tech and went on to lead the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl win.
For a while, the Kingsbury-Murray pairing looked as if it would succeed. The Cardinals went 5-10-1 in 2019 before improving to 8-8 in 2020. The Cardinals started last season with a 10-2 record, emerging as a Super Bowl favorite, but lost four of their final five regular-season games.
They still made the playoffs, but lost to the Los Angeles Rams 34-11 in the wild-card round.
The Cardinals started this season with high expectations, but nothing went as planned. The first bad omen came when three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins was suspended for the season’s first six games after violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers.
Murray signed a $230.5 million contract with the Cardinals before training camp that could keep him with the franchise through 2028. Instead of being a celebratory moment, a strange clause in Murray’s contract that mandated four hours of independent study on game weeks drew criticism.
The clause was eventually removed, but the damage to Murray’s reputation was done.
Hopkins returned after his six-game suspension in October, but the season had already gone sideways. An avalanche of injuries to the offense didn’t help: They lost starting tight end Zach Ertz to a season-ending knee injury and four offensive linemen missed significant time.
Then Murray was lost for the season after tearing ligaments in his knee against the Patriots on Dec. 12.
Kingsbury stayed stoic, even as the season was crumbling. There were plenty of off-the-field issues as well. Assistant coach Sean Kugler was fired after an incident in Mexico City and Keim’s leave of absence was another surprise.
Even so, the Cardinals continued to play hard, just not particularly well. Kingsbury was popular among players in the locker room, but it wasn’t enough to save his job.
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