Metric loss

Kliff Kingsbury of Cardinals ‘ahead of the curve’ in new metric

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Kliff Kingsbury smiles after beating the Houston Texans in 2021.

Arizona Cardinals have a mainstay in the third-year head coach themselves Kliff kingsbury.

The Kingsbury name is a hot name right now. Oklahoma’s top college football program looks at Kingsbury’s services according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. And why wouldn’t they do it? He leads the NFL’s top 9-2 team.

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A big reason Oklahoma is intrigued by Kingsbury has to be the total transformation of the anchor from a once inept offense. The 2018 Cardinals were 32nd in total offense. Arizona hired an offensive-minded young Kingsbury in 2019 and three years later were ranked top attacking after Week 11 in 2021 according to Cardinals PR.

While Kingsbury deserves major credit, GM Steve Keim pairing Kingsbury with double-threat Kyler Murray at the same pace was a perfect match. Kingsbury has helped Murray lead the league in pitching rates according to Pro Football Focus (9.0%) and has the best game-worthy turnover rate (1.0%) in the league.

When Murray missed three games with an ankle injury, substitute Colt McCoy stepped in and had two great games. Kingsbury’s play scripts in the two wins with McCoy were methodical, opening the targets wide for him and even letting him run with his legs.

If you needed more reasons, Kingsbury stands out from the rest with a relatively new metric.

Kingsbury beats the competition

On December 1, ESPN released an article titled “How good is your NFL coach at fourth drop calls?” “.

The teams are set to dial the most number of fourth down attempts in 2021. They are also “improving to make calls that give them the best chance of winning.” The rate has increased over the past four years and will surely continue due to the increased level of analysis.

ESPN’s analytics team ranked the 32 head coaches fourth based on three metrics:

  • Total probability of winning sacrificed by fourth down errors
  • Difference between expected conversion rates and actual rates
  • Fourth drop error rate not obvious

Kingsbury was ranked first. Here is what he measured in the three measurements:

  • 18.7% (Rank: 7)
  • 6.5% (Rank: 1)
  • 20.2% (Rank: 2)

Cardinals fans know full well that Kingsbury is aggressive. And when the Fourth Downs don’t work out, like Kingsbury going after their own turf early on with McCoy in their loss to the Carolina Panthers, fans will remember it.

However, ESPN reporter Josh Weinfuss noted the Cardinals’ best fourth call-up of the 2021 season.

Down 33-31 in this season’s second week game against the Minnesota Vikings with 6:12 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals faced a fourth and 5 of the Vikings’ 44, ”said Weinfuss. “Quarterback Kyler Murray hit wide receiver Christian Kirk for a 35-yard pass that put Arizona in 6th place in the Vikings and four games later kicker Matt Prater hit a 27-yard field goal that went put the Cardinals ahead 34-33 and ended up being the deciding score. It helped the Cardinals move up to 2-0, which ultimately turned to 7-0, and the game turned into a crucial NFC win due to how the standings might change in January.

The NFL continues to evolve

Four of the top five coaches ranked fourth by ESPN are in first place for the playoffs (Kingsbury, LaFleur, Harbaugh, Reid).

The NFL is evolving and teams will only continue to keep up with the effort it takes to outdo an opponent.

League sources estimate that 28 of the 32 head coaches have game management specialists, of which around 10 are members of the team’s analysis department. The trend for teams to be more aggressive in fourth place is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The practice is more and more accepted and should soon become mainstream.

Kingsbury is largely successful in his fourth down trade. And when you stand out, other teams take notice.

Oklahoma would attest to that.

You better believe the Cardinals know that too.

With Kingsbury still having a year off his current contract and a fifth-year option, the Cardinals will surely be considering extending the 42-year-old.