All Eyes on Kingsbury, Arizona in 2021
The Arizona Cardinals appeared to have significantly improved upon their 5-10-1 record in 2019 at the conclusion of their 2020 season by going 8-8, even. The Cardinals went from 1-5 within their division (swept by both the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams) to a division record of just 2-4 in 2020 (once again swept by the Los Angeles Rams).
The Cardinals were 5-2, and coming off three straight wins, including an overtime thriller at home against the division rival Seahawks, to deliver Pete Carrol’s squad their first loss of the 2020 season. This Arizona team looked as though it would finally be in the playoff hunt for a legitimate chance at playing postseason football. The Cardinals would stumble out of their bye week however, losing 4 of their next 5 games with only a hail Mary final throw handing them the win over Buffalo in week 10; to even their record at 6-6, keeping the Chicago Bears, who were also in their own free fall, in the playoff hunt as well. Looking at the remaining schedule for Arizona, The Cardinals should have had the #7 seed in the NFC Playoffs locked up. The Bears had just lost to the Detroit Lions in embarrassing fashion in week 14 as the Cardinals finally turned their luck around and got back into the win column. It would ultimately be a 20-12 loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers in week 16, in what my opinion, sealed Arizona’s fate, as the Cardinals lost star quarterback Kyler Murray to injury on the team’s last offensive play.
Josh Weinfuss of ESPN writes, “Kingsbury was hired to kickstart a foundering offense, and, for the most part, he has. Arizona’s offense finished sixth in total offense in 2020 after finishing 21st in 2019 and 32nd (last) in 2018.” Not only has Kingsbury come in and changed the culture surrounding this Cardinals team, but he has also brought the team back into the postseason hunt conversation. What ultimately falls on Kingsbury was an offense that was considered to be among the league’s best for the majority of the season fell flat towards the end, and unfortunately, this included going winless in the four divisional games after the bye week.
To a lot of fans, improving from five wins and a top 10 pick to eight wins and the playoff conversation is a great enough improvement for one season, and it should be enough for Kingsbury to have job security this offseason. For a lot of fans though, it cannot be looked over that this team started 5-2 and failed to make the postseason in favor of a team that still lost its week 17 matchup and made the postseason over them. There is no doubt in my mind that Arizona has a significantly much better offense than Chicago, but of course the injury to Kyler Murray in week 16 and lack of playing time due to nagging injury in week 17 did not help their chances.
The Arizona Cardinals’ window of opportunity IS open. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. “We’ve made strides and that’s in the right direction. We have to continue to get pieces around Kyler, continue to build it the right way, but a couple games here or there, we’re right where we’re wanting to be. We just have to learn from these and keep moving forward,” Kingsbury told ESPN. The Arizona Cardinals will need those games to fall in their favor in 2021 if Kingsbury wishes to return in 2022.