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As Kliff Kingsbury's future remains unclear, Cardinals have done homework on coaching candidates

The Arizona Cardinals have been preparing in recent weeks for a potential coaching search as they weigh Kliff Kingsbury's future, sources say, but it remains unclear if those preparations will lead to change.

Owner Michael Bidwill has not informed Kingsbury of any decision entering Sunday’s season finale against the 49ers, a source said. When asked about his job status this week, Kingsbury said he's been speaking with Bidwill every day but "(w)e'll focus on that after Sunday."

Behind the scenes, Bidwill has been gathering information on candidates and figuring out how he would run the process if he makes a change, just one year after Arizona made the playoffs in Kingsbury's third season.

Making plans in case is not a rarity. But the Cardinals' situation is complicated, with longtime general manager Steve Keim taking an indefinite health-related absence last month and unlikely to return to that role, per sources. Keim's absence left Bidwill without a sounding board and someone he's relied on for years. So if Bidwill is going to do a search, he'll need help.

Among the potential candidates if there's a change: former Saints head coach Sean Payton, who a source says has done homework on the Arizona job in case it comes open but wouldn't come cheap; and Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, the former Broncos head coach who is highly respected in the building.

The Cardinals were sufficiently encouraged by the team's progress last season that they signed Kingsbury and Keim to extensions through the 2027 season and inked quarterback Kyler Murray to a lucrative deal through the 2028 season. But nothing much has gone right since.

One year after going 11-6 -- their best mark and first playoff appearance since the 2015 season -- the Cardinals are 4-12 entering Sunday's game at San Francisco. Murray might not be ready for the start of the 2023 season after tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee on Dec. 12. Two days later, the Cardinals announced Keim was leaving the team on his leave of absence.

Bidwill likes executives Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson, who have been running player personnel on an interim basis, and both would be a candidate for the job. But neither has prior GM experience.

Would a coaching change be too much change for an organization? And is it worth paying out the balance of Kingsbury's contract unless Bidwill is certain he's getting an upgrade? It's a lot to sort through as Arizona heads into the offseason this week.

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