The Arizona Cardinals named Kliff Kingsbury their new head coach, only six weeks after he was fired from Texas Tech, and less than a month after he accepted the offensive coordinator job at USC.
Last week, the Cardinals fired defensive-minded head coach Steve Wilks after one season. In 2018, the Cardinals were the worst team in the NFL with a 3-13 record. The Cards scored only 225 points this season and averaged 14.1 points per game, which was the worst in the league that had seen a massive upswing in scoring.
The Cardinals were a winning team under Bruce Arians before he retired at the end of the 2017 season. Between 2013 and 2017, the Cardinals went 49-24-1 and averaged nearly 10 wins per season.
Kingsbury signed a four-year contract with the Cardinals. There’s an option for a fifth year.
Despite lack of experience in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals took a flier on the 39-year old Kingsbury. The are hoping the offensive genius can help bring Texas Tech’s Air Raid to Arizona.
“I’ve been around football my entire life,” Kingsbury told the local press. “I’ve played in this league, coached on the college level, and have always been fascinated by the NFL. With the offensive trends these days, it felt like perfect time to be here.”
Kingsbury is stepping into a situation where he has a talented young quarterback in Josh Rosen and one of the greatest WR in the game with Larry Fitzgerald. Now it comes down to building the offense around them.
USC surprised everyone when they retained head coach Clay Helton after a dismal 5-7 season. They hired Kingsbury to boost the offense, but many USC fans saw the move as a hedge against Helton and that Kingsbury would most likely take over the next season.
Over the weekend, word got out that USC blocked NFL teams from interviewing Kingsbury. AD Lynn Swan had reasons to deny requests from the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals. He knew Kingsbury is a hot commodity. The NFL is gobbling up as many offensive-minded coaches to keep up with the hot trend of pass-first and ask questions later. USC eventually relented with another rumor that Kingsbury would buy out his contract from USC.
Good Times, Bad Times in Lubbock
As a quarterback, Kingsbury shattered passing records at Texas Tech and the Big 12. He was the original face of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. Even though Kingsbury’s professional career fizzled out (the Patriots picked him the sixth round in 2003), he quickly turned to the coaching ranks.
In one of his first major jobs as a QB coach and OC, Kingsbury helped Case Keenum break passing records at Houston. Texas A&M plucked Kingsbury from Houston. In 2012, he put together a playbook that inevitably helped Johnny “Football” Manziel win the Heisman Trophy that season.
In 2013, Kingsbury returned to his alma mater to coach Texas Tech. It was a rough six seasons. He struggled to win games and went 35-40, but Tech’s offense pumped up a significant amount of points. During their best year under Kingsbury, Tech averaged nearly 41 points per game. This past season, the Red Raiders averaged 37.3 points per game.
Texas Tech fired Kingsbury after they failed to make a bowl game for a third season in a row.
Bright Future in AZ
During his tenure, Kingsbury coached Baker Mayfield (for one season before he transferred to Oklahoma) and he coached Patrick Mahomes, who is currently shredding NFL secondaries.
Mahomes had nothing but positive things to say about his former coach.
“I’m fired up for coach Kingsbury and his family,” said Mahomes. “The Cardinals are getting an outstanding, football coach and an even better person. He’s smart, creative, passionate, and really understands how to develop and relate to players. I feel like he played a huge role in preparing me for the next step, and I’m grateful for that. This is a tremendous opportunity for him and I know he’s going to make the most of it.”
The Arizona Cardinals hired Kingsbury with the sole reason to take Josh Rosen under his wing and teach the young quarterback and the rest of the Cardinals the major principles that will transform the worst offense in the NFL into an offensive juggernaut.
“I think you see where it’s been, where it’s going,” said Kingsbury. “You have a young quarterback, lots of salary cap space and a team that will continue to fight through the season. I’m really honored to be here and excited to be here.”