It would be an understatement to say Mexico City wasn’t kind to the Cardinals Leos.
The relationship between coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray was recently chronicled here because both are Leos and Kingsbury has admitted they “butt heads.” On episode 1 of Hard Knocks, Kingsbury explained that a large picture of a lion on a wall in his house is because he’s a Leo.
Well, after yet another difficult to grasp incident involving what is fast becoming a dysfunctional organization, it could be argued that rock-bottom has been reached.
Tuesday, after Kingsbury denied in a press conference that he had to make any coaching staff changes, he then confirmed to Arizona Republic reporter Bob McManaman that offensive line coach/run game coordinator Sean Kugler had been fired and sent home by the team Monday morning prior to the game after an undisclosed incident in Mexico City Sunday night.
Josh Weinfuss of espn.com reported Wednesday that Kugler was accused of groping a woman. She contacted the police, who informed the Cardinals.
Kingsbury told McManaman the decision is permanent and added, “It’s challenging anytime you make a staff change in that type of manner and I’m just going to leave it at that.”
What does this have to do with the Leos? Glad you asked. It turns out the 56-year-old Kugler is also a Leo and actually shares the same birthday as Kingsbury on Aug. 9.
Moving forward, Kugler’s responsibilities will be shared by assistant line coach Brian Natkin and tight ends coach Steve Heiden. For now, offensive assistant Mike Bercovici will coach the tight ends.
This isn’t the first coaching change this season that was necessitated by off-field issues. Running backs coach James Saxon was placed on administrative leave in early August (the Leo month) when it was discovered he had been charged with assaulting a woman in May. It’s never been revealed if the Cardinals didn’t know about the allegation or whether they did and did nothing hoping no one would find out.
At the time, offensive assistants Kenny Bell and Don Shumpert were tabbed to replace Saxon, who resigned on Oct. 6 after pleading guilty to one count of domestic battery. Shumpert is apparently not with the team because he’s not included on the list of coaches on the team website.
Through no fault of the line coaches, the unit has been decimated by injuries this season.
Of a possible 55 combined starts from the projected group, four have missed a total of 18 starts (32.7 percent): Center Rodney Hudson seven, left guard Justin Pugh six, left tackle D.J. Humphries three and right guard Will Hernandez two. Pugh will miss another six, while Hudson and Hernandez will miss at least another two each.
The team’s record since last season is 11-5 with Hudson and 4-8 without him. It was 9-3 with, 2-3 without in 2021 and is 2-2 with and 2-5 without this season.
For the season, where there has been 797 offensive snaps, after right tackle Kelvin Beachum (98.9 percent), Hernandez (72.5) and D.J. Humphries (72.1), the lineman with the next highest percentage is center Billy Price (43.4).
Hudson has played 38.0 percent, Pugh 33.0, left guard Cody Ford 30.5, left tackle Josh Jones 29.1, center/guard Sean Harlow 28.4, right guard Lecitus Smith 25.2, guard Max Garcia 18.1, left guard Rashaad Coward 11.3 and Wyatt Davis one snap.
Monday night against the 49ers, Jones, Price, Smith and Beachum played all 71 snaps, while Coward played 59.2 percent and Ford 40.8.
It was odd that Michael Dogbe was released from the practice squad Tuesday after playing 26 snaps (45 percent) Monday night, which was the third-most of the team’s defensive linemen. The Cardinals have only five on the 53-man roster: Zach Allen, Leki Fotu, Trysten Hill, Jeremiah Ledbetter and J.J. Watt and have three on the practice squad: Eric Banks, Andrew Brown and Manny Jones. Notably, nose tackle Rashard Lawrence, who was placed on reserve/injured Oct. 26, is eligible to be designated for return this week.
Charting the snaps (snaps/percentage; starters in bold)
*Indicates player that did not play from scrimmage, but participated on special teams
OFFENSE (71 snaps, 18 players)
Quarterbacks: Colt McCoy (56/79), Trace McSorley (15/21)
Inactive: Kyler Murray (injured)
Running backs: James Conner (55/77), Keaontay Ingram (18/25)
Did not play: *Corey Clement. Reserve/injured: Jonathan Ward (eligible to return), Darrel Williams (eligible to return)
Wide receivers: Greg Dortch (66/93), A.J. Green (55/77), DeAndre Hopkins (49/69), Robbie Anderson (33/46), Rondale Moore (2/3)
Reserve/injured: Marquise Brown (designated for return), Antoine Wesley
Tight ends: Trey McBride (54/76), Maxx Williams (13/18), Stephen Anderson (10/14)
Inactive: Zach Ertz (injured)
Offensive linemen: LT Josh Jones (71/100), C Billy Price (71/100), RG Lecitus Smith (71/100), RT Kelvin Beachum (71/100), LG Rashaad Coward (42/59), LG Cody Ford (29/41)
Did not play: G Wyatt Davis, G *Sean Harlow. Inactive: LT D.J. Humphries (injured), G Max Garcia (injured). Reserve/injured: C Rodney Hudson (eligible to return), RG Will Hernandez (eligible to return), LG Justin Pugh (eligible to return), T Josh Miles, G Marquis Hayes
DEFENSE (58 snaps, 21 players)
Defensive linemen: DE Zach Allen (45/78), DE J.J. Watt (39/67), NT Leki Fotu (30/52), DE Michael Dogbe (26/45), DE Jonathan Ledbetter (23/40), NT Trysten Hill (12/21)
Reserve/injured: NT Rashard Lawrence (eligible to return)
Linebackers: ILB Zaven Collins (57/98), ILB Isaiah Simmons (40/69), OLB Markus Golden (36/62), ILB Tanner Vallejo (36/62), OLB Dennis Gardeck (20/34), ILB Ben Niemann (15/26), OLB Myjai Sanders (9/16), OLB Cameron Thomas (9/16), ILB Ezekiel Turner (8/14)
Did not play: ILB *Kamu Grugier-Hill. Inactive: OLB Victor Dimukeje, OLB Jesse Luketa. Reserve/injured ILB Nick Vigil (eligible to return)
Defensive backs: CB Antonio Hamilton (58/100), S Jalen Thompson (58/100), S Budda Baker (58/100), CB Marco Wilson (41/71), S Chris Banjo (17/29), CB Trayvon Mullen Jr. (8/14)
Did not play: S *Charles Washington, CB *Christian Matthew. Inactive: CB Byron Murphy Jr. (injured)
SPECIAL TEAMS (26 snaps, 33 players)
LB Ezekiel Turner (24/92), LB Dennis Gardeck (24/92), LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (24/92), S Chris Banjo (23/88), LB Tanner Vallejo (18/69), LB Ben Niemann (18/69), CB Christian Matthew (18/69), RB Corey Clement (14/54), TE Stephen Anderson (14/54), WR/RS Greg Dortch (11/42), TE Maxx Williams (9/35), DT Leki Fotu (8/31), S Charles Washington (8/31), CB Antonio Hamilton (8/31), P Andy Lee (6/23), LS Aaron Brewer (6/23), TE Trey McBride (6/23), DE Zach Allen (6/23), K Matt Prater (5/19), DE Jonathan Ledbetter (5/19), LB Zaven Collins (5/19), CB Marco Wilson (5/19), CB Trayvon Mullen Jr. (4/15), T Josh Jones (2/8)), G Sean Harlow (2/8), G Lecitus Smith (2/8), G Rashaad Coward (2/8), G Cody Ford (2/8), RB Keaontay Ingram (2/8), DE Michael Dogbe (1/4), LB Cameron Thomas (2/8), LB Myjai Sanders (1/4), S Budda Baker (1/4)
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