The Arizona Republic

Kingsbury sees Brady-like qualities in Watt

- Bob McManaman

J.J. Watt has never won a Super Bowl. Through 10 NFL seasons, the star defensive end has never even played in a Super Bowl. That didn’t stop Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury from comparing the team’s new marquee free-agent addition to a guy who’s won the Super Bowl seven times.

Yeah, that guy. Tom Brady.

The comment came about Thursday during Kingsbury’s Zoom news conference with Arizona reporters when he was asked how Watt’s reputation for holding teammates accountabl­e can help the Cardinals cut down on penalties, close out games and lead them back into the playoffs.

If one player can do that, Kingsbury said, it’s Watt, the former three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

“I would say J.J. Watt has the type of presence that you don’t want to let him down,” Kingsbury said.

“You saw, and you’ve heard some of those quotes come out of Tampa with Tom and guys just don’t want to let that type of player with that type of work ethic and that type of legend, they don’t want to let him down.

“They don’t want to be that guy that doesn’t hold up their end of their bargain and J.J. brings a similar presence with all he’s accomplish­ed and his work ethic and the type of person he is. So, I do think that can be a big proponent to where we’re trying to head this next season.”

The Cardinals still need to do a ton of roster rebuilding this offseason to have any chance at improving on last year’s 8-8 finish in which they were eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season.

As General Manager Steve Keim noted on Wednesday, the Cardinals have 28 players set to hit free agency, many of whom they’d like to have back. But in a year where the league’s salary cap will be some $30 million less than what teams were counting on just a year ago, money will be tight, and many players aren’t going to get the big dollars they were eyeing.

Kingsbury acknowledg­ed as much, but he also said that adding a player like Watt can help the Cardinals take the next step and end their five-year postseason drought.

“It starts with his play on the field, there’s no question,” he said. “He’s a phenomenal talent on the field, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, and has been one of the top players in this league since he’s been in this league. But then all the things he brings off it when you’re talking about his leadership, his preparatio­n, his daily practice habits, the intensity he brings to our locker room, it’s just going to be huge for this organizati­on and I just can’t wait to be around it.

“The stories about him are pretty legendary.”

During his introducto­ry news conference on Tuesday, Watt was asked how far he thinks the Cardinals are away from making a playoff run.

“How far away? I mean, a few months,” he said. “You’ve got to get to the season before you can get to the playoffs, right? So, I’m just looking forward to getting out there on the field and getting to work. We have one goal in mind and you don’t set your goal for the championsh­ip four, five, six years down the road. You set it for this year, so that’s the goal.”

Kingsbury, meanwhile, touched on a variety of other subjects Thursday during his first news conference since the end of the 2020 season. They included:

● Larry Fitzgerald’s possible return for an 18th season and what he’s most enjoyed about working with him the past two years: “I don’t know anything (about Fitzgerald’s plans), but obviously, it’s been an honor to come in as a young coach from college and just the way he embraced the coaching and the offense and his work ethic. I mean, he’s an alltime great, there’s no doubt. One of the best players to ever play the game. And one of the best people I’ve ever been around. He’s phenomenal and I hope he plays five more years.”

● Whether Chase Edmonds can handle the role of No.1 running back if that’s how it shakes out: “You’ve seen when he’s had his opportunit­ies, he’s played at a starting running back level. We all understand that. He’s unfortunat­ely been nicked up a couple times and we want to keep him on the field, but we have all the confidence in the world in Chase and him being able to be the bell cow if that’s how this plays out.”

● The possibilit­y of adding a consistent No. 2 wide receiver to pair with DeAndre Hopkins: “We’re going to try to improve in the best way we can. Free agency is going to be a unique situation this year with a bunch of variables, so any way we can improve the offense that way, we will, and in the draft as well. It is a deep wide receiver draft as you can tell, but we’re just going to take it one day at a time throughout this process and anyway we can improve, we’ll try to improve.”

● Last season’s tailspin in which the Cardinals lost five of their final seven games: “As a team, we have to be more consistent. When you look at the season, there were times where we played at a high level and there were times where we let some games slip away that we can’t let slip away. But there was definitely progress made from Year 1 to Year 2 and we’re hoping to make that same progress heading into this season.”

● What grade he would give himself for last season and what things he can do to improve as a coach moving forward: “Yeah, not big into grades. We’ll leave those for the tests and not football. But I’m always trying to evolve. Each year trying to learn, trying to study, trying to pick guys’ brains at how you can get better.”

 ?? WESLEY HITT/GETTY IMAGES ?? J.J. Watt, left, then with the Houston Texans, talks with quarterbac­k Tom Brady of the Patriots after a game on Dec. 1, 2019, in Houston.
WESLEY HITT/GETTY IMAGES J.J. Watt, left, then with the Houston Texans, talks with quarterbac­k Tom Brady of the Patriots after a game on Dec. 1, 2019, in Houston.
 ?? THE REPUBLIC ?? “J.J. Watt has the type of presence that you don’t want to let him down,” Kliff Kingsbury said.
THE REPUBLIC “J.J. Watt has the type of presence that you don’t want to let him down,” Kliff Kingsbury said.

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