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As Coach, Kliff Kingsbury Understands Playcalling Under Microscope

Coach works to be perfect in a realm in which you can never be perfect

Kliff Kingsbury knows as well as anyone, having grown up the son of a football coach and having coached so many years already himself, that it's a profession primed with second-guessing. Second-guessing from the fans, and even second-guessing with himself.

"If you are a really good playcaller, or aspire to be one, you're going to look back on every game and have five or six you'll wish you could have back," Kingsbury said Monday after the Cards' rough loss to the Dolphins that included a handful of instances that generated conversation the day after. "I'm no different, and that's week in and week out, whether we score 50 or 10 points."

It's tough to have much to say about a playcaller that has registered at least 30 points in four straight games. The Cards were No. 1 in total offense coming into the game Sunday and bettered their season average of 419 yards with 442. But playcalling is also about moments, and there were obviously a couple to look at Sunday, late in the game

-- The decision to kick the 49-yard field goal by Zane Gonzalez instead of going for it on fourth-and-1 was not influenced by Chase Edmonds not getting the first down on the previous fourth-down attempt, Kingsbury said.

"No, I felt good about kicking there," Kingsbury said. "Hindsight is 20/20, no question. If I had known he wouldn't have made it I would've gone for it. That's about how it goes every week. We trust Zane. He's been great for us. it just didn't work out this time."

(Two side notes. One, many analytics models thought Kingsbury should go for it, although Mike Sando raised a good point that after trying three previous fourth-and-shorts in the game, Kingsbury might not have liked what was left for the play selection in those instances as well. Also, asked during his appearance on the "Bickley and Marotta" show if the Cardinals are committed to Gonzalez, Kingsbury said bluntly, "We are.")

-- The Edmonds fourth-and-1 run itself. Kingsbury also said on the radio the big hit quarterback Kyler Murray took on third down did play at least a small factor in the playcall, but also that they liked the call and the look for Edmonds. (On replay, it looks like if Josh Jones, a rookie in to be a sixth lineman, would've held up on the play then Edmonds would've had the room he needed to gain the first down.)

The Cardinals are 8-for-10 on fourth downs this season. The Edmonds play was the first time in seven fourth-down rushes the Cardinals didn't convert.

"Coaches sit down and talk through those plays and kind of get a feel of what we should've done differently, what we wish we would've done differently," Kingsbury said. "Try to learn and go from there. It's an imperfect game, whether you are a player or a coach. You wish you'd call a perfect game but you're not going to. You strive toward that and do the best you can."

Running back Chase Edmonds (29) is stopped on a fourth-down play against the Dolphins Sunday.
Running back Chase Edmonds (29) is stopped on a fourth-down play against the Dolphins Sunday.