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Kliff Kingsbury Gets Started As Cardinals' Head Coach

As team seeks assistants, commitment made to 3-4 defensive alignment

Kliff Kingsbury has a laugh as he answers questions after being introduced as the new Cardinals head coach Wednesday.
Kliff Kingsbury has a laugh as he answers questions after being introduced as the new Cardinals head coach Wednesday.

Kliff Kingsbury has much work to do. He knows there are many who doubt his ability to be a head coach in the NFL.

"There's nothing that I can say today that is going to change that," Kingsbury said Wednesday, as he was officially introduced as the new Cardinals head coach at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center. "I know that it's about the work that started (Tuesday) and what we do from this point forward. That's how I'm attacking that."

It is the coaching staff the Cardinals need first. Asked for his ideal timeline of filling out his assistants list, Kingsbury smiled and said, "today, if we could."

The Cards cannot. But the process is ongoing – starting with the offensive and defensive coordinators – and Kingsbury made clear he will lean upon General Manager Steve Keim as the staff is built.

"We will try to get the right guys," Kingsbury said. "That has been Steve's mantra when we have sat down. We don't care if we know them, we don't know them, let's make sure we get the right coaches for us right now."

A veteran defensive coordinator would be ideal, Keim said. Keim – and team president Michael Bidwill, for that matter – made it clear multiple times Wednesday that because of the Cardinals' defensive personnel, the team will be moving back to a 3-4 scheme after trying to shift to a 4-3 under former head coach Steve Wilks.

"Just based on our personnel, I think a 3-4 defense fit is what we are looking for," Keim said. "Certainly with the edge rush that we have, to be able to play man-free on the back end. Again, it is catering to your strengths. There is no doubt in my mind that we have to find a defensive coordinator that can do that."

That comment drew a happy emoji from current defensive end Chandler Jones on Twitter, even without knowing who the coordinator might be.

But the idea of an NFL veteran wasn't limited to defensive coordinator. Kingsbury will call plays – expected, but he still acknowledged it Wednesday – but said he'd like an offensive coordinator that "will be somebody that will come in and help me mesh some of my ideas with some traditional things that they have done in the NFL."

"(He will) be a great leader of men and be able to handle a room," Kingsbury added. "Help me install different things."

There were no names offered yet.

The name Bidwill and Keim keyed on, however, was Kingsbury, who said he first was a fan of the Cardinals back in 1997 because they drafted Jake Plummer.

To find their coach, Bidwill said he talked often to long-time NFL GM Ernie Accorsi to aid in his overall coaching search. Bidwill and Keim also employed Ring of Honor member Adrian Wilson, now a scout for the Cardinals, in the interview process.

"His insight and participation in the interview process, as a former player, as to fit and scheme was really helpful," Bidwill said.

But Bidwill noted something that was little secret once the hire was made – that the Cardinals wanted a creative offensive mind who, albeit in college, had been a head coach and could hopefully push a moribund 2018 Cardinals offense into something much more.

Bidwill waved away the idea he looked for a Sean McVay clone, instead that he just focused on the offensive trend of the NFL.

"When you look at the league today, the teams that win the Super Bowl, the teams that win divisions, those are teams with great offenses," Bidwill said. "We have a lot of work to do with our offense. It's an offensively-driven league and we needed to go out and get an offensive coach."

The idea Kingsbury can help develop Josh Rosen wasn't unimportant either, given that Kingsbury has helped tutor guys like Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes, Johnny Manziel and Case Keenum.

"He not only developed them but identified them through the recruiting process," Keim said. "To me (that) was certainly a plus."

Kingsbury acknowledged he didn't expect to be here. He was "thrilled" to get the USC offensive coordinator job (Bidwill said Kingsbury indeed had to resign from that role in order to interview with the Jets and Cardinals) and was ready to work in Los Angeles until the NFL came calling.

His NFL reputation can't be made until the games start. There is a learning curve he knows he must travel.

"I don't know if I can pinpoint one adjustment, but until the players get back around, and you start getting them on the grass and going through those things, I think that's when we will kind of figure some of those things out," Kingsbury said. "Right now, it's all about doing what we can do today, and that's putting together the best staff we can."

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