Kliff Kingsbury Gets Traction as Coach of the Year Candidate

Howard Balzer

One reality of the NFL Coach of the Year award is that it often goes to the coach whose team achieved success when it wasn’t expected.

After all, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has won the award twice during his 19 seasons with the franchise. Last year was a slight anomaly when Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh received 27.5 of the 50 votes from the panel to win the award. San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was second with 14.5.

Surely, no one thought the 49ers would accomplish what they did, while enough voters figured the Ravens would be good, but not as good as it turned out, winning 14 of 16 games.

The voting deadline is before the playoffs begin making it irrelevant that the Ravens lost their first postseason game while the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl.

Which brings us to Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury. According to odds released by BetOnline, at 18-1, Kingsbury is tied with three other coaches for the fourth-best odds.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the two coaches with the best odds at 12/1 are on opposite paths. Belichick won’t have Tom Brady at quarterback, while Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians will.

Of the eight coaches from 12/1 to 18/1, Kingsbury and four others lead teams not in the playoffs last season: Arians, Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys (14/1), Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts (16/1) and first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns (18/1).

The moves the Cardinals have made this offseason have created a bandwagon of sorts as the search for “surprise” teams continues.

Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson came away impressed with what he saw from Kingsbury in his first season as a NFL head coach and said he is optimistic about year two.

“Going up against his offense every day in practice is intriguing because seeing him work and seeing some of the things he was able to come up with last year, he's definitely a mad scientist when it comes to making plays work," Peterson said. "He has a lot of (Kansas City Chiefs head coach) Andy Reid in him. You see the misdirection, being able to run the football downhill and also have those stretch plays. He has it all: the intermediate pass game; down-the-field pass game; and that's what makes him dangerous.”

Peterson had an endearing name for second0year quarterback Kyler Murray when he described what the offense is capable of, while stating his belief in that this year’s offseason structure will actually help Kingsbury.

“Especially having Mighty Mouse (Murray) at quarterback there are so many things you have to defend,” Peterson said. “He has the toys and having this spare time now to really sit back, draw plays, watch film; it's gonna be great for coach during this time. (Normally), it’s kind of like haywire. You have people pulling you here and there, but now he's pretty much at home by himself quiet and got all the time in the world to put things together to see if they can come into fruition once it's time to run that call.”

The following are the Coach of the Year odds for all 32 NFL head coaches:

  1. Bruce Arians, Bill Belichick 12/1 
  2. Mike McCarthy 14/1
  3. Frank Reich 16/1
  4. Andy Reid 18/1, Kliff Kingsbury, Sean McDermott, Kevin Stefanski 18/1
  5. Kyle Shanahan 20/1
  6. Mike Vrabel 22/1
  7. Brian Flores, Vic Fangio, John Harbaugh, Doug Pederson 25/1
  8. Pete Carroll, Mike Tomlin, Mike Zimmer 28/1
  9. Matt LaFleur, Anthony Lynn, Sean McVay, Matt Nagy, Sean Payton, Dan Quinn 30/1
  10. Matt Patricia, Matt Rhule, Zak Taylor 33/1
  11. Jon Gruden, Joe Judge, Ron Rivera 40/1
  12. Adam Gase, Doug Marrone, Bill O'Brien 50/1