Arizona Cardinals' Kliff Kingsbury among NFL coaches with most to prove in NFL playoffs

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One site published an "NFL Wild-Card-Round Entrance Survey" Wednesday and one of the questions really caught our attention.

"Which coach has the most to prove?"

Not surprisingly, Arizona Cardinals' coach Kliff Kingsbury was the answer to the question, according to a couple of the respondents to the survey, compiled by The Ringer.

Danny Kelly wrote: "It’s going to be a rough offseason narrative-wise for Kliff Kingsbury if the Cardinals lose to the Rams. After starting off 7-0, his team has faded badly over the second half of the season―something that’s become a yearly occurrence. He needs to prove he can jump-start Arizona’s flailing offense or questions might be asked about his future in the desert."

Rodger Sherman wrote: "Kliff Kingsbury. His Cardinals teams have developed a reputation for starting out hot (like their handsome coach), before petering out over the course of the year, with some speculating that Kingsbury’s playcalling becomes predictable and he isn’t willing to make in-season adaptations. This year’s squad started out 7-0 and went 4-6 from that point on, with no answers once DeAndre Hopkins got hurt. If the Cardinals quickly exit the postseason with a meek loss to the Rams, it’ll confirm many people’s priors on Kliff."

NFL playoff odds:

Kingsbury led the Cardinals to a 5-11 record in his first season. His team went 8-8 last season, narrowly missing out on a playoff spot.

The Cardinals finished 11-6 in the regular season this year, earning the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs, but the team struggled down the stretch, going 2-5 in its final seven games and earning the coach a lot of criticism in the process.

Interestingly, one coach is under more pressure than Kingsbury in the postseason, according to The Ringer's survey.

Four of the eight respondents said that Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy was under the most pressure.

Kingsbury got two votes, with Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor and Las Vegas Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia each getting one.

NFL playoff picks:

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, left, walks off the field after an NFL football game loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. The Seahawks won 38-30. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, left, walks off the field after an NFL football game loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. The Seahawks won 38-30. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

Is Kingsbury really under that much pressure to produce this postseason?

The Cardinals are in the playoffs for the first time since 2015 and have improved in each of his three seasons in Arizona.

Arizona was 3-13 the season before Kingsbury was hired.

Still, many in the national media and the NFL community have made slamming Kingsbury and his coaching performance in Arizona a favorite pastime.

“Kingsbury is overhyped and not a good coach,” an AFC scouting director recently told FanSided's Matt Lombardo. “[He’s] all hype and no substance.”

A league source told the site: “Honestly, I think it’s that Kliff has such an easy-going atmosphere in that building. Hell, leading into Week 1, the first team never practiced or played together at full-speed. Veterans hardly ever practice. There isn’t any structure or discipline there.”

Added an NFC personnel executive: “When you play the big boys, come playoff time . They’re going to look at you and basically say ‘this is how we’re going to beat you,’ and they do it. Arizona’s like an arena football team. If they lose their perimeter guys, they lose their identity, they lose what they have.

“Here’s the problem with Arizona; they’re a finesse team. They race out to 7-0, and they’re playing in good climates. Three of those games are at home, three are in the heat. You get December and January, it’s not good climates. You’re screwed bigger than life. You’re going to places like Green Bay, and it’s like ‘wow we’re not used to this.'”

NFL playoff TV information:

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mac Engel recently wrote a scathing column on Kingsbury, questioning why he is coaching in the NFL and the job he has recently done in Arizona.

"The next time you prepare for a job interview, follow the Kliff Kingsbury Method," he wrote. "Take your outfit to the dry cleaners. Get a haircut that week. Don’t risk it and not shave that morning; you are not Kliff Kingsbury and can get away with the “Don Johnson Stubble Razor” look. Just look as good as you possibly can. If you don’t think looking good matters during a job interview, you have not followed Kliff Kingsbury’s coaching career. Coach Bro’s Arizona Cardinals came to AT&T Stadium on Sunday with a team that recently had been playing as if it were in a drunken stupor. It’s the type of season Texas Tech fans became all too familiar with when he was the Red Raiders’ head coach from 2013 to 2018."

He added: "This is the ninth season Kingsbury will finish as the head coach of the “Arizona Red Raiders,” and this will be only his third year with a winning record. That type of record gets people fired, but ... my God that’s a handsome man."

A win or two in the playoffs for the Cardinals could go a long way in quieting Kingsbury's critics, as would a Super Bowl victory.

How much can Kingsbury prove this NFL postseason?

More: Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury still drawing criticism, even with 11-5 NFL record

Reach Jeremy Cluff at jeremy.cluff@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jeremy_Cluff.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Cardinals' Kliff Kingsbury has a lot to prove in NFL playoffs

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