Arizona Cardinals assistant Sean Kugler relieved of duties after incident in Mexico City

Story by Bob McManaman and Kent Somers, Arizona Republic

Sean Kugler, the running game coordinator and chief offensive line coach for the Arizona Cardinals, has been relieved of his duties by the team after an incident in Mexico City on Sunday night, a day after the team arrived there for its game against the 49ers on “Monday Night Football.”

Details on what exactly happened remain sketchy, but Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed to The Arizona Republic on Tuesday that Kugler, 56, was not present during Arizona’s 38-10 loss to the 49ers at Estadio Azteca and was sent back to Arizona beforehand.

“We relieved him of his duties, and he was sent home Monday morning prior to the game,” Kingsbury said.

Kingsbury said the move is permanent, meaning Kugler is no longer an employee of the team. He was part of Kingsbury’s original staff with the Cardinals in 2019 and had earned steady praise by players, coaches and members of the front office.

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) scores a touchdown after his reception past Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) and cornerback Marco Wilson (20). Photo: Rob Schumacher, USA TODAY Sports

“It’s challenging anytime you make a staff change in that type of manner and I’m just going to leave it at that,” Kingsbury told The Republic.

Kingsbury said Kugler’s duties will now be shared by assistant offensive line coach Brian Natkin and tight ends coach Steve Heiden, who both handled the job during Monday’s game. Offensive assistant Mike Bercovici will temporarily replace Heiden as tight ends coach.

Kingsbury said a search for a new running game coordinator and offensive line coach would begin after this season.

Kugler is the second member of the Cardinals’ coaching staff to be disciplined this year. In August, running backs coach James Saxon was placed on administrative leave once news broke he had been charged with assaulting a woman in her Indianapolis home in May.

Saxon, who was also hired by the team before the start of the 2019 season, pled guilty to one count of domestic battery on Oct. 6. He resigned from the Cardinals shortly thereafter.

A third coach, offensive assistant Don Shumpert, is no longer listed among the staff on the Cardinals’ website. He stepped in to help coach the running backs after Saxon was placed on administrative leave.