There is a certain kinship among head coaches in the NFL, especially those that are among the younger ones.
It’s certainly the case with the guys that will be on opposite sidelines Sunday at State Farm Stadium: Kliff Kingsbury and Sean McVay.
McVay is currently one of four NFL head coaches in their 30s and he is now 36 after being hired as he was turning 31 in 2017. All of those coaches, including Zac Taylor, Cincinnati; Mike McDaniel, Miami; and Kevin O’Connell, Minnesota were hired after McVay.
Kingsbury was 39 when he was hired in 2019, although he turned 40 later that year. When San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan was hired in 2017, he had recently turned 37 and he will be 43 in December. Atlanta’s Arthur Smith was 39 when he was hired last season as was Brandon Staley of the Chargers. Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski was 38 when he was hired by the Browns two years ago.
Currently, there are nine head coaches that are from 40-44 and another five that are 45-49. That’s 18 of the league’s 32 head coaches that are younger than 50.
All the 30-somethings except Staley have offensive coaching backgrounds, and he, Taylor and O’Connell were assistants under McVay while McDaniel was with Shanahan. All except Stefanski played offense in college, including Staley, who like Kingsbury, Taylor and O’Connell were quarterbacks.
Notice a trend?
Kingsbury attended McVay’s wedding in the offseason and communicate often. He was asked this week if they talk football all the time.
“He does,” Kingsbury said. “I’m more like pop culture. But he likes to talk football.”
What the discussions are mostly about is “leadership stuff and not as much Xs and Os because obviously we play each other,” Kingsbury added. “But just some of the issues he deals with, some things I deal with. How to handle players, how to handle different situations he’s dealt with, so it’s more on the leadership and what you deal with sitting in that chair than any sort of schematics.”
Kingsbury acknowledged learning a lot from McVay and credits him with helping land the Cardinals job.
Asked what he’s learned, Kingsbury said, “I would say quite a bit. He’s been very good to me. Like I said all along, I wouldn’t have this job if it weren’t for him and the success he’s had and what he said to (general manager) Steve Keim. Anytime I have something come up, we can talk through it and he usually has a situation he’s been through that’s similar. It’s good to have that type of (relationship). He’s not afraid, just because we’re in the division, to give me some good advice.”
Of course, Kingsbury said there would be “zero” talk this week because “I think both of us are trying to figure out how we get our teams playing better. And that’s probably going to lead to not a lot of communication until before the game.”
Finally, Kingsbury said when he brings up pop culture, McVay quickly changes the subject.
“I don’t think he’s in tune with it as I am,” Kingsbury said. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but he can talk football and tell stories with the best of them. And I think that’s why Amazon wanted to pay him all that money.”
If the Rams’ run of success against the Cardinals since McVay was hired continues, Kingsbury might be wishing McVay accepted that TV job.
*Kingsbury said Friday whether running back James Conner (ankle) plays Sunday will be a game-day decision. Conner, who was limited Friday is listed as questionable, is “feeling better. We’ll get him out there Sunday, run around, see where it’s at.”
*Wide receiver Rondale Moore (hamstring) and linebacker/special-teams standout Ezekiel Turner (ankle) are out. Kingsbury said of Moore’s status, “I’m hoping within the next two weeks, he’ll play. If not next week, I would guarantee the week after.”
Asked if there was a thought of placing Moore on short-term reserve/injured when he suffered the injury in practice three days before the Kansas City game, Kingsbury said, “We thought we’d see how it went and if he had a chance to get back. He’s a guy who’s going to have a very significant role in this offense and if we could beat that by a game, we wanted to take that chance.”
*Defensive end J.J. Watt was upgraded from limited to full Friday and has no injury status listed.
*Tight end Trey McBride will be active Sunday, and according to Kingsbury “is doing better and better. Love everything about him. I expect as the season goes on his role to increase. Couldn’t be more excited about the path he’s on and expect him to play more this week and continue to expand his role.”
*It also appears cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr. (toe) will play for the first time since being acquired in a trade from the Raiders during the week of the cutdown to 53 players.
“I expect him to,” Kingsbury said. “I think we have to see just how much of the defense he understands and where he is at mentally. But physically, I feel like he should be ready to go. I don’t know how many snaps he’s gonna play, but I feel like he’ll be physically ready to go.”
*Kingsbury said it was a big plus to have left guard Justin Pugh back last week after he missed the opener against Kansas City because of a neck injury.
“He played great,” Kingsbury said. “It was huge. He brings such a calm to that group. When (left tackle) D.J. (Humphries) and him are there side by side, they both play better together. They’re best of friends on and off the field, and you can tell things definitely settled down when he was back in the lineup.”
*After this week, there is one more game before players on short-term reserve/injured can return. Currently on that list are cornerback Antonio Hamilton (non-football injury), wide receiver Antoine Wesley, guard Cody Ford, quarterback Colt McCoy and safety Charles Washington.
Kingsbury believes they’ll be able to play quickly. Once a player on the list is designated for return, they can begin practice and the team then has 21 days to decide whether to activate them or keep them on reserve for the remainder of the season.
“I think the majority will be back (right away),” Kingsbury said. “We’ll have some tough decisions to make when those guys are back. Some roster gymnastics, but a lot of those guys are big-time contributors. It looks like most of them should be back for that Week-5 game.”
It is a home game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 9.
*The Rams have four players declared out: center Brian Allen (knee), wide receiver Van Jefferson (knee), the son of Cardinals receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, and cornerbacks David Long Jr. (groin) and Cobie Durant (hamstring). Cornerback Troy Hill (groin) was placed on reserve/injured earlier this week. Safety Jordan Fuller (hamstring), who was downgraded from limited to not practicing Friday, is questionable.
The only cornerbacks currently on the 53-man roster are Jalen Ramsey, Robert Rochell and Derion Kendrick. T.J. Carter and Grant Haley are on the practice squad.
Kingsbury on quarterback Kyler Murray: “I look at him as like a gift from God. I mean, I’ve never seen any quarterback move like that, with that type of quick twitch and makes people miss and explosiveness. It’s just part of the whole package. And when he’s making great decisions on when to run, when to get down, when to throw it away, when to step up in the pocket, that’s when we’re at our best.”