Another year, another group of coaching changes in the NFL. We had eight head coaches lose or vacate their positions, so there are eight new faces – some fresh, some not so much.
Everybody loves to talk about the new head coaches, but it often stops there. I believe that by paying closer attention, we can better evaluate how the entire staff is constituted, which can help breed fantasy success.
In this fourth year of writing about coaching changes and their dynasty impact, I’m adding a new wrinkle. We’re going to release them this year in ranked order, starting at the bottom. And before you get too offended, maybe all eight of these hires will have long, illustrious careers. Who knows? Let’s get to it.
Coaching Hire Rank Seven of Eight – Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals
This is the first time in my four years of doing some version of this article series that I’ve had a team repeat. Looking back at the hire of Steve Wilks last year, I didn’t think it was a bad move at all. I had my worries about Arizona due to the transition from a long-time (and well-regarded) head coach in Bruce Arians, but also due to the choice of offensive coordinator. In any case, the Cardinals decided one year was enough and gave Wilks the ax. I get that.
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But I don’t know if I get the move to new head coach Kliff Kingsbury. I fear that Arizona may also be falling under the “we have to get a young, exciting offensive head coach” malaise currently rolling through much of the league. I understand the allure of Kingsbury, I do. How can you not get excited about the man who has coached Johnny Manziel (bear with me, it gets better), Case Keenum (I swear it’s coming), Baker Mayfield and last year’s NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes? That’s a lot of quarterback talent that Kingsbury has worked with and developed.
Kingsbury also runs a wide open, air raid passing offense, but this offense isn’t anything the NFL hasn’t already seen. And the NFL has seen it a lot. But what really sticks out to me about Kingsbury is this: even with Mahomes and his massive 2017 season, the Texas Tech Red Raiders went 5-7. With what might have been a generational talent at quarterback, they could only muster five wins. Let that sink in. Kingsbury followed that up with another 5-7 season in 2018 and was subsequently fired.
In short, I’m a little worried that the Cardinals swooned over the former coach of Patrick Mahomes and may have taken a questionable chance with Kingsbury. And considering they just fired Wilks after a single, dismal season, I might have tried to be a little safer with my next head coach.
The Cardinals didn’t hire a pure offensive coordinator, as Kingsbury will be calling the plays himself. They did bring in the venerable Tom Clements as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Clements has been out of coaching the past couple of seasons, but prior to that spent 11 years with the Green Bay Packers. Perhaps his history with the development of Aaron Rodgers (Clements joined Green Bay in Rodgers’ second season, when Brett Favre was still around) can help the quarterback situation in Arizona. Clements has also worked as a coordinator in the past, so I do like the hire of an experienced coach like him.
At defensive coordinator, the Cardinals hired Vance Joseph, after he lost the head coaching job of the Broncos after the 2018 season. My first reaction to this was good, as I thought of Joseph as an experienced coordinator to help a head coach hired from the college ranks. But upon further inspection, I soured on Joseph a bit. He showed a huge amount of success throughout his career as a defensive backs coach, but when he graduated to DC and then HC, I feel like he faltered. He first took a DC job in 2016 in Miami under Adam Gase, and that defense finished near the bottom of the league. He parlayed that into the head coach position in Denver, and we all know how that turned out. The Bronco defense was good in 2017, but middling in 2018. I don’t know what to think about Joseph as a coordinator.
Quarterback in the desert is officially a huge question mark. This is another thing that seems odd, given that they just drafted Josh Rosen last year, but rumor has them moving on from Rosen already and drafting a quarterback with the first overall pick. In other words, in Arizona it’s almost like 2018 never happened. I don’t think there’s any move to make here until we figure out what’s going to happen longer term. I’d like to perhaps target Rosen to see if his owner is squirrely and you can get him cheap.
David Johnson is still an Arizona Cardinal, at least. While he didn’t have the huge season last year many hoped, he still got geared up just fine as the season wore on. That dismal, awful season. The question with Johnson is not his talent, it’s what he will do exactly in the Kingsbury offense. His offense is not known for heavily featuring running backs, but I can’t imagine Kingsbury would ignore his most powerful offensive weapon. (Of course, I would have said the same about Mike McCoy last season – yet he misused Johnson terribly.) DJ will be DJ, and he will likely be a strong asset again. Outside of DJ, you can get some insurance with Chase Edmonds if you like, just don’t overpay for the backup.
Now that Larry Fitzgerald has retired… wait… he hasn’t retired? Well, if he hasn’t retired, that means he’s worth pursuing if you’re a contender. Don’t expect to get him for a song, exactly, but chances are he’ll be Steady Eddie again, even in the new offense. I’ve heard a few people suggest they’d rather have Christian Kirk than most of the wide receivers in this year’s draft. He’s one wide receiver I’d like to own, that’s for sure. If he isn’t your flavor there are also perennial disappointments Chad Williams and Pharoh Cooper still on the roster. Arizona decided they didn’t have enough young wideouts who didn’t pan out so they brought in Kevin White this off-season. As a Bears fan, I’m sure White will now go off.
The tight end position could be an interesting one to target under Kingsbury. His pass-heavy offense did produce Jace Amaro, who once had dynasty owners buying. So while Ricky Seals-Jones was a big bust to many last season, perhaps he can turn it around in the new offense. The Cardinals also brought in Charles Clay, who has been a steady producer at the position at various points in his career. One of them could turn out ot be an asset.
The Bottom Line
I’m a little worried about the new staff in place for the Cardinals. I understand the allure. He has an exciting offense that has turned out some real talent at the quarterback position, and I’m sure after a snore-inducing season under Steve Wilks, they wanted a party in the desert. Sure, Kingsbury has the sunglasses and swagger, and he fits the “young offensive mind” mold, but what has he accomplished? A 35-40 record as a head coach that ended with his firing? That’s the guy you think can right your ship? I felt like the Cardinals were a dumpster fire last year, and I’m just not entirely sure how they expect Kliff Kingsbury to put it out. We’ll have to wait and see, and I’ll have my popcorn ready.
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