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- American football and baseball player
- American football coach
It hasn’t even been three full years yet, but it looks like the Cardinals’ version of the Beatles, at least as it relates to the composing and symbiotic relationship between coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray, just might last at least as long as Paul McCartney and John Lennon, if not longer.
It most certainly was a Hard Day’s Night after word leaked though ESPN last week that Kingsbury was actively being targeted by the University of Oklahoma to replace Sooners coach Lincoln Riley following Riley’s decision to bolt to USC.
Kingsbury hasn’t wanted to even talk about it, but Murray, who started getting recruited by Kingsbury when he was just a freshman at Allen (Texas) High School, had no problems in strongly downplaying the rumors and reports.
“I know Kliff. I don’t really buy into it,” Murray said, coyly adding, “If I’m him, I think he’s got a pretty good job right now.”
Murray would be right, of course. Kingsbury, the former fired head coach from his college Alma mater, Texas Tech, just happens to be the man in charge of the NFL’s winningest team in the Cardinals (9-2). Although there doesn’t appear to be any heavy smoke following the firestorm the Oklahoma report created, Murray, Kingsbury and the Cardinals would put themselves in an even more enviable position should they defeat the Bears (4-7) on Sunday in Chicago.
A victory would allow Arizona to maintain the No.1 seed in the NFC and build a one-game lead over the Green Bay Packers (9-3), who are off this week but hold the tiebreaker over the Cardinals. It would also set the Cardinals up for their showdown against the Rams (7-4) a week from Monday night in which they can clinch the NFC West title with a win.
Being 11-2 and knowing a rich contract extension is coming by the Cardinals should be more than enough reasons to make Kingsbury publicly announce he’s staying put and never was going anywhere. Not that anyone around the Cardinals ever really thought he would.
“I went up to him Monday and I looked at him and I’m like, ‘Me and you, we’re in this for the long haul so I hope you’re not going nowhere,” inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons said. “I definitely love coach Kliff Kingsbury and from what he’s told us, he’s not going anywhere. I hope.”
The Sooners’ coaching search appears to have since zeroed in on Clemson defensive coordinator and former longtime Oklahoma assistant coach Brent Venables. But remember, it was just a couple weeks ago when Kingsbury insisted his success is tied directly to Murray and the two are only just getting started.
“We’re in this thing together,” Kingsbury said. “We signed up together and as much as any duo probably in the history of the NFL the way this thing has played out, we know we’re tied to each other forever and we just want to make this thing work.”
Asked how he feels about his career being tied directly to Murray, Kingsbury smiled.
“I’d rather have it tied to him than about 99.9 percent of the quarterbacks in the NFL,” Kingsbury said. “I just have always thought about his upside, his top-top, is as good as anybody that I’ve ever seen. It’s been fun to work with him and try to figure this thing out.”
After missing the past three games because of a high left ankle sprain, Murray is expected to return to the starting lineup against the Bears as the Cardinals prepare for the final six-game stretch of the regular season. And if you were wondering if Murray feels his career, in turn, is tied directly to Kingsbury, he does.
“Yeah, especially if we do what we do,” Murray said. “If we do what we’re capable of doing, I assume we’ll be here for a while. He took a chance on me. Steve (General Manager Steve Keim) took a chance on me. Michael (Owner Michel Bidwill) took a chance on me. So yeah, for sure.”
Because they came in together, Kingsbury as a first-time NFL coach and Murray as the No.1 overall draft pick, strong communication between the two is essential at every level. That’s something Kingsbury worked on immediately and it’s still a work in progress even as much as it has grown.
“Really just an understanding of what each one of us is about,” Kingsbury explained. “I think he knows when I get pissed, it’s not about a mistake he made. It’s about, ‘Hey, I want us to be successful,’ and I know when he’s mad and going through it that, ‘Hey, he wants to be the best.’ We understand where were coming from.
“I’ve always treated him as a director and an actor. I’m not talking down to him, we’re talking at the same level. I want to hear his thoughts.”
Murray and Kingsbury are usually always on the same page when it comes to the weekly game plan, the direction of the offense and changes that get made.
“It’s kind of an understanding type of deal,” Murray said. “I have no issues with it. It’s been great so far.”
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been any occasional disagreements. Even the perfect couple have their quarrels.
“Definitely,” Kingsbury said. “We butt heads – we’re both Leos and super competitive – so we’ll butt heads and go back at each other at times. But we know it’s from a great place. At the end of the day, he knows I’m tied to him, he knows we’re tied together, and we’ve just got to find a way to get it done. We both approach it from that aspect.”
They’re close, but they aren’t there yet. What’s important, according to Murray, is the Cardinals continuing their mantra of only focusing on the present and preaching their 1-0, one week at a time approach.
“I do think we need to continue with that ‘one week at a time’ focus so we don’t enter that complacency or maybe look ahead because, like I said, none of that matters. We’re blessed with the opportunity to play this week against a great team. I was out for three or four weeks, so you never know. It could have been worse. So just keep the main thing the main thing.”
Murray had never missed a start in his NFL career until this season and rarely has he ever dealt with an injury of this significance. That’s been weighing heavily on his mind while he’s watched his team win two out of three with veteran backup Colt McCoy at quarterback.
“You play the play over and over again in your head and the way the game ended,” he said, referring to getting hurt on the second-to-last offensive series in the Week 8 loss to Green Bay. “You wish you didn’t get hurt and say, ‘How could I have not gotten hurt?’ All that stuff plays in your head until you get back on the field. It can eat at you, but I’m over it at this point. I’m in a good headspace.”
The Cardinals signed long snapper Beaux Brinkley and running back Tavien Feaster to the active roster from the practice squad, placed safety James Wiggins (knee) on injured reserve, elevated linebacker Joe Walker and cornerback Jace Whittaker to the active roster from the practice squad as standard elevations and elevated linebacker Tahir Whitehead to the active roster from the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement.
Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live on Fox Sports 910-AM every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Cardinals' Kliff Kingsbury says he's tied to QB Kyler Murray forever