Why Cliff Kingsbury Might Be the First NFL Coach to Launch in 2022

Just two days ago, Justin Melo explained why he thinks Carolina Panthers coach Matt Ruhl will be the first coach to be fired in the 2022 season. Justin is a great co-worker and a great writer, but he’s wrong here. Instead, Arizona Cardinals coach Cliff Kingsbury will find himself out of the job first.

It is very easy to point to Rhule as the most likely candidate for class first. He’s a favorite at betting odds (+300) because he oversaw an era of Carolina football that didn’t quite work out. Since taking over as Ron Rivera, Rhule has led the Panthers to the 10-23 record with little hope on the horizon given that quarterback remains Sam Darnold and their new offensive coordinator is Ben McAdoo.

Obviously all bad and not a picture of success at all, but the weirdest part about it all is How much support Rhule continues to acquire David Tepper from the owner of the Panthers. Rhule signed a seven-year contract when he was hired in 2020, and from then until now, Tepper has gone on to say that it could take up to five years to build a winning product in the field. As recently as two months ago, Tepper doubled down and added that it could take up to six years.

As strange and inconsequential as it may be, there’s no doubt that Tepper and Rhule have a strong relationship, giving the head coach a much longer leash than he might deserve. It’s hard to believe that a stubborn man like Tepper would back down from his commitment to Rhule after he consistently offered him his support. The two clearly have a bond, and it would honestly be surprising if Rhule got fired mid-season.

On the other hand, Kingsbury is truly in the most important seat of any coach entering this year even after signing a six-year contract this off season. In three years at the helm in Arizona, Kingsbury led the Cardinals to a record .500 from 24-24-1.

Playoff success didn’t even come with a regular season record, as Arizona only made once in the playoffs under Kingsbury and served as the Wild Tag Team. Of course, this was only last season and the Cardinals were quickly eliminated from the playoffs when they faced their division rivals, the Rams, on the Wild Card Tour.

The Rams went on to win the Super Bowl while the Cardinals’ performance in that match was downright pathetic. It was particularly disappointing for a playoff team that won 11 regular season games with an opponent in the division.

On top of the unsuccessful playoff, Kingsbury’s history of second-half meltdowns even dates back to his time at Texas Tech. In his three seasons with the Cardinals, Arizona set a collegiate record 10-17 after its seventh game of the season but scored 15-5-1 in its first seven games. In 2020, the Cardinals’ collapse late in the season cost them a watershed place. In 2021, he assigned them a division title.

Kingsbury’s lack of in-season adjustments puts him at risk of an incredibly disappointing season if the Cardinals have a rough start in 2022. Given starting their tough schedule – playing bosses, Raiders, Rams and Eagles for their first five weeks – and widely suspended DeAndre Hopkins for six games To start the year off, that tough start can definitely make a difference.

Anything less than another playoff appearance would be a failure for the Cardinals, so the Kingsbury leash is much shorter than the Rhule leash. His history of poor performance in the second half could hurt him as well, so his 1-4 stumble out of the gate could mean the end of his tenure in the desert.

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