Kingsbury better than people think


Recently, during a conversation with a Cardinals fan on Twitter about Kyler Murray, the fan tweeted: “Murray is the real deal, but Kingsbury is junk.”

In early December last year, although the Cardinals were at the heart of the playoff hunt, some in the Arizona media were campaigning for the Cardinals to hire “an experienced offensive coordinator” who would be an upgrade. of Kliff Kingsbury as game caller.

As players, media and Cardinals fans know full well now, when the Cardinals lose, Kliff Kingsbury is the first to blame himself. How often, he says, even after big wins, “we left a lot of games out there”.

Kingsbury and his QB Kyler Murray look a lot like never satisfied golfers – even when they shoot a 67, well, dang, that could have been a 63.

In light of Kingsbury’s own meticulous soul-searching and willingness to take responsibility for the Cardinals’ shortcomings, he’s allowed Chair QBs and OC Lazy-Boys to consistently question his calls.

Before I provide you with some critical data that would shed light on just how promising Kliff Kingsbury is as an NFL game caller, if you’ve never called any football games before, let me explain to what point it’s hard to call games that work. in games more than half the time.

Prior to becoming a high school head coach who called plays on game days, I was an offensive assistant at Avon Old Farms School (outside Hartford, CT) under the direction of iconic head coach Kevin Driscoll.

We had really good teams at Avon and we could not only recruit subclasses but under our league rules we were able to offer full scholarships to three graduate students / athletes.

Year after year we have had a host of very talented players and generally our three PGs were men among the boys.

What the PGs have told me over and over again is that they have never seen a head coach prepare them so well for games. Kevin Driscoll’s philosophy was to pick eight key games from the playbook he intended to consistently call in this week’s game.

For three consecutive days, Coach Driscoll would perform each of the eight games over and over again (playing according to a “noise” tackle rule – which is a modified approach to the two-handed touch, the bear hug) and would have the defensive coordinator toss the kitchen sink to each room giving a different look, cover, and flash appeal.

Driscoll’s philosophy was so successful that he often performed the same play in a match three or more times in a row – until the defense found a way to stop him.

The thing is, by playing the game against all types of defensive front, cover and blitz, there weren’t any surprises. And in the process, for all of you who have played offensive online before, the standard blocking priorities of “playside-gap, head-up, backside-gap” were so ingrained in linemen that they were rarely wrong.

The design of the game and the appeal of the game is an art that is carefully crafted during daily practice.

You can call the perfect game at the perfect time and if one of your 11 players gets it wrong, the game can blow up in your face and make the caller look like a delusional idiot.

Conversely, the same well-executed game can make the caller of the game seem like a genius.

My Weston MA Rivers School team lost a game when on a 4th and 2nd key at the end of the 4th quarter, we executed a perfectly timed screen pass that probably would have been an easy TD, but the RB did took a look at the defense as the ball was in the air and sure enough he dropped the pass. A parent in the stands exclaimed, “What kind of play appeal is that? Why the hell didn’t you throw the ball? “

Funny, but that same parent was jumping for joy two weeks later when that same screen pass was caught this time and the linemen made three precision blocks and our RB galloped for a winning touchdown of 75 yards.

When Kliff Kingsbury and the coaches tell us after the game that they have to watch the tape to be able to accurately comment on why some plays failed, it’s amazing what you see when you watch the tape. So often it’s a player who messed up his mission. Sometimes two. And against the right teams, all 11 players must click.

One of the biggest challenges of the play call is getting the plays to the group on time. So often after calling a game you will find that the defense is lined up in the perfect formation to stop the game you have called – which then falls to you to have your QB competent enough to call an audible pre-snap – and even then, after hearing the audible, the most knowledgeable defensive coordinators will then change their formations to counter it.

Classic chess match —- and the old cat and mouse.

That’s why so many collegiate infractions these days are not group infractions where coaches see defensive formations and then call play from the sidelines. It is very difficult to have to rely on QBs to make the right audibles.

As much as Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray have created a good understanding of their audibles, we’ve seen Kliff’s frustration on many occasions when Kyler’s audible is not the right call – like hearing in a WR bubble screen. the 3rd and 7 against a fairly stacked box.

If the media and fans knew what the right choices were, you might be amazed at how correct Kliff Kingsbury is the vast majority of the time. But, at the end of the day, when the pieces fail, the media and fans will blame Kliff – which Kliff then readily accepts after the game.

The other big challenge in the play call is to provide perfect timing, especially on the passing. Many media and fans seem set to give up on WR Andy Isabella, but when you watch how he creates a separation from his breaks and how many times Kyler’s passes to him are a second too late, you can see that such duds are exactly. what Kliff and Kyler are talking about when they say after the game that “we left a lot of games in there.”

Syncing the perfect timing to the speed of the NFL defenses in the myriad of mixed covers takes hundreds of reps for young QBs and their receivers to thrive. If we are to fairly assess Kliff and Kyler and offense, then we have to understand the process of maturity and how long it takes.

All that said, when you take a look at the league-wide offensive stats, you’ll see that in his and Kyler Murray’s second year in office, Kliff Kingsbury is posting numbers that place him among the top ten. top NFL players. .

One of the stats I always look at first when it comes to playing the game is “average yards per game”. This statistic usually tells you if the game calls are working most often.

2020 —- The Cardinals are averaging 5.76 yards per game, 13th in the NFL, one shade behind the Seahawks (12th) who are also averaging 5.78 yards per game and two points ahead of the 49ers (15th ) who are averaging 5.74 yards per game. The Rams under Sean McVay last year averaged 5.5 yards per game (19th).

2020 —- The Cardinals were 6th in the NFL for total yards per game at 384.6, the highest total in NFC West —- and in the NFL only behind the Chiefs, Packers, Vikings, Bills and the Titans.

2020 —- The Cardinals were 3rd in the NFL games per game at 67.7, the best in the NFC West and only behind the Chargers and Cowboys. This statistic thrills Kliff Kingsbury as it talks about moving the chains at a high rate – and he would tell us the goal is to be the 1st in offensive games per game in 2021.

2020 —- The Cardinals were 4th in the NFL for opening tries per game at 23.8, the best in NFC West and only behind the Chiefs, Bills and Vikings.

But here’s what Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray know to be the main area for improvement:

2002 —- The Cardinals were 14th in points per game at 25.6, who were 2nd in NFC West behind the Seahawks at 28.2 (7th) and ahead of the 49ers at 23.5 (21st) and the Rams at 23, 3 (22nd).

How can the Cardinals be 6th in total yards and yet 14th in points per game? Yes, a combination of workouts ending in penalties, turnovers, occasional passes and missed FGs. It’s like that. Of course, Kliff Kingsbury accepts the blame for it all, but the Cardinals have to rely on the professionalism of the players this season in order to light up the scoreboard more often in 2021. It certainly helps to have an All-Pro C in Rodney. . Hudson to lead the charge.

Note: Even though we know the Cardinals “left a lot of games out there,” being 14th in the NFL is a points-per-game count at 25.6 two years after being 32nd in the NFL at 14.1 est. a feat worthy of praise.

Note: Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray’s 2019 rookie Cardinals were 17th in points per game at 22.6, last in NFC West behind the 49ers (# 3) at 28.0. the Seahawks (# 9) at 24.7 and the Rams (# 10) at 24.6.

Therefore, moving from 4th place in NFC West in points per game to 2nd place in NFC West in points per game in Grades 1 through 2 is once again a laudable accomplishment.

But here is the most promising achievement:

Offensive yards per game 2019:

  • # 6 SEA —- 374.9
  • # 7 LAR —- 374.9
  • # 8 SF —- 374.2
  • # 21 ARZ —- 341.7

2020 offensive yards per game

  • # 6 ARZ —- 384.6
  • # 14 square feet —- 370.1
  • # 14 LAR —- 367.2
  • # 18 SEA —- 364.1

The Cardinals’ offense in yards-per-game improved from worst to first in NFC West from Year 1 to Year 2.

This is a big reason why there have been QB moves made this offseason by the Rams and 49ers and an OC change by the Seahawks.

Some of you, like Darrin Fanning, might argue that it’s Kliff’s questionable play calls at key times that are of major concern. Here is my answer :

I don’t know about you, but I love the fact that Kliff believes in his offense so much that he’s aggressive when he takes on 4th downs. The 4th and short of the Cards 23-yard line that turned on them in the home loss to the 49ers still stings, but we tend to remember those who turned on them and tend to lose sight of those that worked.

The fact is —

2020 4th down conversion percentages in NFC West

  • # 5 ARZ —- 68.0%
  • # 18 SEA —- 56.3% (with Russell Wilson no less)
  • # 28 SF —- 40.0% (with Kyle Shanahan making the calls)
  • # 29 LAR —- 40.0% (with Sean McVay making the calls)

Reasons for optimism:

  • Kliff is aggressive and confident in his attack.
  • Kliff’s offense made impressive improvements from year one to year two.
  • Kyler Murray showed manifestations of brilliance.
  • The Cardinals’ offensive line under Sean Kugler is the most productive and consistent the Cardinals have ever had in Arizona.

Kliff Kingsbury is a “trash can”?

Well, comments like this make for another great day for cynics, armchair QBs and OC Lazy-Boy.

I guess this proves the old adage that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

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