Kliff Kingsbury says the right things about Hard Knocks, even if he quietly thinks it’s the wrong thing

Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys
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Last year, the Colts became the subject of the first-ever in-season Hard Knocks series. The season didn’t end very well for the Colts.

This year, another team with a recent history of fading down the stretch will have NFL Films cameras and microphones swarming in the back half of the season.

The Cardinals are the choice. It’s unclear why or how they got the short straw. Some in the organization surely believe it’s not a short straw. Some teams continue to believe (mistakenly) that being the subject of either version of Hard Knocks helps build a national fan base. It doesn’t. Only consistent winning and/or short-list superstar players does.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury met with reporters on Monday. He recited the various and usual pro-Hard Knocks talking points. But if you watch and listen to it, you get the impression he’s not thrilled about getting the assignment.

Asked if he had input in the decision, Kingsbury said with a smile, “Yeah, somewhat. But for the brand, exposure, all those things. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the Cardinals. We all understand that.”

Another reporter then made the blunt observation that it appears Kingsbury would rather not do it. He slipped immediately into attempted poker-face mode.

“No, I’m good,” Kingsbury said. “I’m good. Like I said, it has an opportunity — we obviously struggled the back half of last season — it has an opportunity to come in and guys will perk up when the camera’s around. You don’t want to look bad on camera. It’s just kind of human nature.”

It’s Kingsbury-coached-team nature to fade down the stretch. Every single team he had coached, dating back a decade to his first year at Texas Tech, started fairly well to great and then fell apart. It has become a full-blown narrative, a trend, a thing that needs to be solved this year, if ever.

And so, as Kingsbury tries to change a dynamic that has been baked into his coaching career, he’ll have the inherent distraction of Hard Knocks to contend with.

Why should he want that? Hell no. He said he spoke to Colts G.M. Chris Ballard about it, and that Ballard said there are positives and negatives. Asked to identify the negatives, Kingsbury was evasive.

“I think that’s something to go through to figure it out,” Kingsbury said. “I think each case will be different. But, you know, in my experience, any time a camera’s around people tend to step up and be on their p’s and q’s a little more. So I think it can be a real positive that stretch of the season for us.”

So either he is concealing the negatives or he has opted to fly blindly into the experience, not knowing what the negatives will be. Either way, our guess is that Kingsbury would just rather not do it.

It’s hard to blame him. What is the benefit? What is it, really? How did it help the Colts? What side deal did the Cardinals do with the league in exchange for agreeing to do it? Is Phoenix getting a future draft? Another Super Bowl?

Whatever they’re getting in exchange for taking one for Big Shield, it’s creating a potentially big problem for Kingsbury and the Cardinals. Could it work? Sure. Could it be a nightmare? Absolutely.

Either way, it’s not worth the risk. Not during a season in which Kingsbury will either change the narrative about his inability to win down the stretch — or have it permanently tattooed on forehead.

5 responses to “Kliff Kingsbury says the right things about Hard Knocks, even if he quietly thinks it’s the wrong thing

  1. Kingsbury’s observation was true for the Colts last year. They were 3-5 before cameras arrived fulltime. 6-3 once the show started filming. Credit to HK cameras helping guys focus? Who knows, but the numbers are what they were last year. Shame they lost in Jacksonville or we’d have had an HK involving playoff prep and a playoff game. Pretty wild that that kind of access could have been possible. I’d love to see an HK blowout of playoff prep and game. Hopefully the Cards make it happen this year.

  2. Just a stupid idea for the NFL to do this during the season. They force this on teams during the camps. Why now? Stupid!

  3. At some point we will see the firing of a head coach during the in season Hard Knocks!

  4. Different coach and team but it certainly didn’t hurt the Cards in 2015 with the Amazon All or Nothing series.

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