Kliff Kingsbury Reveals Pitch to Aaron Donald: ‘Obviously That Didn’t Work’

Aaron Donald Kyler Murray

Getty Kliff Kingsbury did his best to rid the Cardinals of Aaron Donald.

Aaron Donald has long been a thorn in the side of the Arizona Cardinals. The seven-time All-Pro defensive tackle helped power the Cards’ NFC West rivals the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl title at the end of the 2021 NFL season, and Donald isn’t done yet.

Donald, who recorded two sacks when the Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, opted against retiring. Instead, the 31-year-old re-worked his contract on Monday, June 6, to earn record-breaking terms, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:

Donald’s decision not to go out on a high went against advice, of sorts, from Cardinals’ head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The latter lightheartedly claimed he did his best to talk Donald into retiring when Kingsbury was a guest at the wedding of his Rams counterpart, Sean McVay, two days earlier.

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Kingsbury Jokes About Attempt to Remove Familiar Foe

Kingsbury spoke to reporters and revealed his apparent attempts to advise Donald to call it a career, per Fox 10 Phoenix sports anchor Robby Baker: “I did my best to try and convince Aaron Donald to retire. Obviously that didn’t work.”

It’s unlikely Kingsbury was being completely serious, but the idea of not having to deal with Donald twice a season would surely appeal to anybody connected with the Cardinals.

Donald has notched 15.0 of his 85.5 career sacks in just 16 games against Arizona, according to StatMuse. He owns an 11-5 record against the Cardinals, per the same source.

One of his signature games against the Cardinals came when the Rams won at State Farm Stadium in Week 14 last season. Numbers from Pro Football Focus showed Donald was dominant during a 30-23 victory:

This game was also the first of two damaging defeats in a row for the Cardinals against a division rival who still looks stronger headed into the new season.

Cardinals Trailing Rams in the West

Unseating the Rams in the division is the key to Kingsbury’s chances of bringing a title to Arizona. It won’t be easy, though, because his friend McVay still has the more talented roster.

Kingsbury and McVay have been friends for years, but the latter has consistently gotten the better of their matchups at the pro level. McVay has won five of six meetings in the regular season, according to Dana Scott of the Arizona Republic. He also won the lone playoff game between the two, a 34-11 Rams rout in last season’s Wildcard round.

The Rams still look stronger, having retained their key players from last season, including Donald. He’s joined by wide receiver Cooper Kupp, the MVP of the Super Bowl, who extended his contract by three years on Thursday, June 9.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford also re-upped, while wideout Allen Robinson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner were added during free agency. Those moves mean the Rams are still loaded offensively and remain star-studded on defense.

By contrast, the Cards have glaring holes to fill, particularly at cornerback and in the pass-rush department. General manager Steve Keim still hasn’t replaced franchise sack leader Chandler Jones, who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Meanwhile, quarterback Kyler Murray is waiting on a lucrative contract extension, while his top receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, is suspended the first six games for PED violations. There’s still plenty of talent, including J.J. Watt, Markus Golden, Budda Baker, Murray, A.J. Green and Zach Ertz, but these Cardinals are still some way off credibly matching up with Donald and the Rams.

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