Kliff Kingsbury Failed His Way Into An NFL Head Coaching Gig

Ryan Phillips

Kliff Kingsbury has been hired as the next head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Six weeks ago that would have been unthinkable, but for some reason the NFL has gone insane during this year’s hiring spree.

Kingsbury basically failed his way into a head coaching gig at the highest level. His only experience as a head coach was a disaster. Kingsbury went 35-40 (.466) in six seasons at Texas Tech. He went 8-5 in his first season (2013), then was only above .500 once (7-6 in 2015). In those six years he also went 19-35 in the Big 12. The guy got fired at his alma mater…do you know how hard that is to do?

These facts are also worth noting:

Before you go claiming it’s impossible to win at a place like Texas Tech, you should probably know that the Red Raiders have only had two head coaches with a lower winning percentage than Kingsbury in their history. The school started playing football in 1925.

Since 1986, the school’s coaches have won consistently. David McWilliams (.636), Spike Dykes (.550), Mike Leach (.661) and Tommy Tuberville (.541) all produced better results than Kingsbury. That should tell you something.

We have absolutely no evidence Kingsbury is a good head coach, so why did the Cardinals hire him? Clearly they believe the problems at Texas Tech had nothing to do with him, and that his prowess as an offensive coordinator in college is worth betting on in the NFL. That’s quite a gamble.

Kingsbury was hired as USC’s offensive coordinator in early December and the move was universally lauded. He repeatedly produced stellar offenses during his time in Lubbock. The Red Raiders finished in the top 15 in total offense in six consecutive years. Kingsbury has also coached Case Keenum, Johnny Manziel, Davis Webb, Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield. That’s a pretty nice list of quarterbacks.

As I posted yesterday, NFL teams are clearly enamored with the Sean McVay/Matt Nagy phenomenon. They are looking for young coaches perceived to be quarterback whisperers. Everyone is currently chasing that formula. Kingsbury is 39, has coached some really good signal-callers and has put up big offensive numbers. He fits that mold regardless of what his resume actually reveals.

The Cardinals clearly believe they needed that kind of offensive mind to guide young quarterback Josh Rosen, who was awful as a rookie in 2018. Rosen completed just 55.2 percent of his passes for 2,278 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. His quarterback rating (66.7) and Total QBR (26.0) both ranked dead last in the NFL and he fumbled seven times. The kid needs help.

The Cardinals are taking a huge risk on a guy who failed spectacularly at his alma mater. They’re betting big on a guy who hasn’t succeeded as a head coach.

It’s a bold move and could be a really dumb one. We’ll see how it works out.