5 Arizona Cardinals head coach candidates to replace Kliff Kingsbury if he’s fired


Wrapping up their season with a 23-point loss to their NFC West Division rivals, the Arizona Cardinals could look to move on from head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Winding back to when the Oklahoma Sooners had a coaching vacancy, Kingsbury’s name was oddly mentioned as a possible suitor for the program. Just a few months later, maybe he should have taken the gig after all. The university has since hired Brent Venables, but could the Cardinals be preparing to move on from Kingsbury as well?

Anything is possible as the organization looks to turn the page on an embarrassing finish to their season. The biggest question for the Cardinals is how do they become a team that can not only compete, but overcome a team as talented as the Rams next season? As the No. 1 overall pick from 2019, Kyler Murray is likely entrenched as the team’s face of the franchise.

With some rumored tension arising within the front office of the Cardinals, it’s possible they could move on from Kingsbury in one way or another after a 24-24-1 record across three seasons.

If the Cards decide to part ways with Kingsbury, who are some potential candidates to take over? Here are five Arizona Cardinals head coach candidates for the 2022 season.
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Promoting Vance Joseph from within
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Sometimes the hire that makes the most sense, is the one you’re already familiar with. Vance Joseph has been the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals since 2019 when Kingsbury was hired.

In Joseph’s first season as their DC, the defense actually did worse than the year before, going from 26th and 20th in points and yards allowed to 28th and 32nd. However, in each of the past two seasons, the defense has bounced back. In 2021, the Cards ranked 11th in both points and yards allowed.

Then, there’s the question of if some of the reasons the Cardinals have been collapsing late in the year could fall on Joseph’s shoulders too.

Prior to joining the Cards, Joseph had a two-year stint as the head coach of the Denver Broncos, where he went 11-21, ending his tenure there in 2018. Now, Joseph may become a popular candidate once again. The Dolphins have already interviewed him and others could soon follow with the Cardinals watching the rest of the playoffs from their couches. Also Read:
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Cards anger 49ers with Jim Harbaugh hire
Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Fired from the San Francisco 49ers in 2014, Jim Harbaugh may love the idea of landing right back in the NFC West, facing his old team twice per year. Not only would he have the opportunity to enact vengeance on his old team, Harbaugh also would get to start with Kyler Murray, a dangerous dual-threat option few other teams can boast.

Harbaugh has remained a popular head coaching candidate. Not only has he had success at Michigan, he also was a winner as the head coach of the 49ers from 2011-14. In those four years, Harbaugh amassed a 44-19-1 record and even helped lead his team to the Super Bowl, where he lost by just three points to the John Harbaugh-coached Baltimore Ravens.

Knowing his track record both in college and the NFL, why wouldn’t any team want to hire Harbaugh? From his perspective, why wouldn’t he be intrigued by the Cardinals? They have shown a willingness to go all-in during last year’s offseason and still have several exciting pieces to work with. If I’m Harbaugh, the Cardinals would certainly pique my interest. Also Read:
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Eric Bieniemy brings Super Bowl experience to the desert
Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

One head coach candidate who has built up an impressive résumé is Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Not only does he have a Super Bowl ring from 2019, he also has experience working with a fellow young gunslinging quarterback who is overtly athletic.

Both Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid have thrown their support behind Bieniemy, publicly questioning why he has yet to land a head coaching gig. That could change this offseason.

Despite Bieniemy being a former running back, the Chiefs love to throw the ball, but to be fair, he also doesn’t call the plays. Still, Bieniemy is very involved in the offensive game-planning from week to week and the Chiefs are always pulling out plays seemingly from the playground that their players are still able to execute.

The Chiefs appear to have a fun atmosphere where the players truly enjoy coming to work each day. If Bieniemy can help bring that to Arizona, that alone could help lighten the mood and help motivate players to give each other their very best on game day. Also Read:
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Taking a chance on Brian Daboll
Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Daboll might be one of the most experienced offensive coordinators yet to receive a head coaching opportunity. He comes highly regarded by both Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. That alone should get him in the running, but it’s actually the work he’s done most recently with the Bills that’s earned him strong consideration around the NFL.

Under Daboll’s watch, we’ve seen Josh Allen blossom into one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. With Daboll calling the plays, the Bills have had a top-five offense in each of the past two seasons. It’s no surprise teams are lining up to interview him as their next head coach, the Arizona Cardinals could very well add to that list.

Related: Top NFL free agents of 2022 – Davante Adams, Chris Godwin top loaded WR class

Arizona Cardinals reunite with Byron Leftwich
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Byron Leftwich brings a unique perspective to coaching. Like Kingsbury, he recently played the game himself, although at a much higher level. Not only does he have recent experience as a QB in the NFL, Leftwich has also coached the GOAT for the past two seasons working with Tom Brady in Tampa.

Steve Keim, the general manager of the Cardinals is also already familiar with Leftwich. In 2018, the first-round draft pick was the interim offensive coordinator before being let go along with the rest of the staff at the end of the season.

Since then, Leftwich has reconnected with Bruce Arians on the Buccaneers where he’s worked as their offensive coordinator, helping them win last year’s Super Bowl. In each of his three years as coordinator, Leftwich’s Bucs have finished in the top-seven in both points and yards per game. Keep in mind, Jameis Winston was his QB for the first year.

Leftwich has worked his tail off to become one of the most popular head coach candidates in the 2022 hiring cycle and he’s already interviewed with both the Jaguars and the Bears. If the Arizona Cardinals are looking to make a change, my guess is Byron Leftwich would be their first call.

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