Kliff Kingsbury possesses an acute offensive mind. That’s a fairly universal feeling in football circles. The 39-year-old is an offensive guru of sorts, which has made him a hot NFL coaching candidate this week. My question is simple: Why?
Kingsbury is reportedly going to get interviews with the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals. That fact alone should boggle the mind. He clearly has talent as an offensive coordinator, but there’s zero reason to believe he’s earned an NFL head coaching job.
Kingsbury rose from his status as a record-breaking college quarterback, to a collegiate head coach. In between there he won Super Bowl XXXVIII as a member of the New England Patriots, carrying Tom Brady to a ring, and was an outstanding offensive coordinator at Houston and Texas A&M.
Then his alma mater came calling, and he spent six unsuccessful seasons as the head coach at Texas Tech. He was fired this year after compiling a woeful record of 35-40. He’s since been hired as the offensive coordinator at USC.
So, again, I ask, why is Kingsbury reportedly getting NFL head coaching interviews?
The NFL is a copycat league, and teams see what Sean McVay and Matt Nagy are doing and assume they can find the next version. Kingsbury fits the bill. He’s under 40 and has put together high-powered offenses.
What NFL teams are missing is the key ingredient that made McVay and Nagy successful. Both of those guys learned under other coaches at the NFL level. Kingsbury has never coached professional football, and has never coached under anyone who has.
McVay worked under Jay Gruden in Washington and Nagy was on Andy Reid’s coaching staffs in Kansas City and Philadelphia. Kingsbury worked under Kevin Sumlin at both Houston and Texas A&M, so you’ll forgive me for questioning if he’s learned how to run a team from top to bottom.
Could Kingsbury eventually be a great NFL head coach? Sure. But what currently leads the Jets and Cardinals to believe he’s the next big thing? He’s been wildly unsuccessful in college and has shown absolutely no signs that he’s a good head coach.
If the Jets and Cardinals are both aiming for, “Why not try it?” then there’s a serious problem with both franchises. I get not wanting a tired retread, like Chuck Pagano or Jim Caldwell, but there are other options out there. If you want to go the college route, why not aim for someone who has had head coaching success at that level? There are plenty of guys out there who fit that bill.
Kingsbury could eventually be a great head coach, but there’s absolutely zero reason to believe he is right now.