Following the Cardinals’ embarrassing preseason showing on national television a week ago, NFL media and personalities alike have officially reopened the floodgates as to whether or not Kliff Kingsbury can be a head coach at the NFL level.
”They’re going to get whipped Week 1.” said former Jets head coach and current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan. “Look, this guy (Kingsbury)…everyone talks about this great offense and all that. Yeah, if it’s fantasy football and you want points yardage, that’s great. How about wins?”
It didn’t stop there.
“Kingsbury, let’s face it, had the best player in our league and he was 13-16 with Pat Mahomes at quarterback. How about you worry about wins?”
Rex Ryan speaks for a large majority of former and current NFL head coaches who feel as if Kingsbury was undeserving of one of the 32 best coaching jobs in all of football. Ryan himself was phased out of the NFL head coaching circuit following numerous examples of the defensive coach’s inability to adapt.
Kingsbury, on the other hand, is often ridiculed due to his devotion to the “air raid” offense (made famous by his alma matter, Texas Tech), good looks, as well as his unfortunate exit as USC’s OC.
You can see why Kingsbury remains an easy target for the veteran coaching fraternity, most of whom (like Ryan), remain on the outside looking in.
It also doesn’t help Kingbury’s case, through no fault of his own, that he’s following a one and done African American head coach in Steve Wilks. Many within the league felt as if Wilks was the fall man for an accumulation of poor personnel decisions by Cardinal GM Steve Keim.
The latter is still employed by the team, extreme DUI and all.
Wilks was famously let go following a disastrous 3-13 season in which the Cardinals finished with one of the worst offenses in league history. This led Keim and Team President Michael Bidwill to feverishly comb through the professional and college ranks in an effort to find an innovative offensive mind that could not only restore some franchise credibility but also save their young quarterback.
That quarterback, of course, being Josh Rosen.
During the hiring process, the front office opted not to interview a single defensive candidate. Veteran NFL offensive coaches like Jim Caldwell and Adam Gase were discussed, but inevitably it was Kingsbury who caught the eye of both Keim and Bidwill. His relaxed demeanor and young offensive mind was exactly the type of 180 the franchise was looking for following the fallout with Wilks (an older defensive coach).
Fast forward to April’s draft and Rosen was promptly shipped out for Heisman winner Kyler Murray. Kingsbury’s infatuation with Murray has been well documented but it’s fair to say that if the Cardinals had gone with someone like Gase or Caldwell, Josh Rosen would still be “quarterbacking” the Arizona Cardinals.
The decision to tie yourself to an undersized rookie quarterback to tailor your “college offense” around is a bold strategy that has never really been seen at the professional level.
Combine that with Kingsbury’s route to the pros and you’ve got a recipe for ridicule.
Following the last week’s struggles against Oakland, Fox Sports analyst Bucky Brooks made it clear who he believes should be shouldering the majority of the blame in Arizona.
“I believe this is an indictment of Kliff Kingsbury. Kyler Murray needs to go to the sideline and get answers and it appears as if Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t have answers.”
Brooks followed up with an assumption regarding Kingsbury and his inability to adapt from his college scheme after only seeing roughly eight quarters of preseason play.
“At some point, Kliff Kingsbury needs to change the protections. And if he doesn’t have those protection adjustments in his pocket, Kyler Murray is going to get hammered”.
As you can see, no one is going to give Kliff Kingsbury the benefit of the doubt. Not the media, not the coaches and not the opposing players.
Oakland Raiders safety Lamarcus Joyner went as far to call the Kingbury’s offense “pretty-boy football.”
“When you go against an offense like that, you have to introduce that physicality to them because they don’t want to do that.”
I would imagine this won’t be the last time players refer to the Cardinal offense as soft, especially when you consider the lack of talent upfront on the offensive line. However, I commend Kingsbury’s innovative nature while also agreeing with the notion that he must adjust to the NFL game unlike his now famously used comparison: Chip Kelly.
The difference between the two, however, is that Kelly was a demanding dictator that meddled in personnel and refused to alter his system. Kelly believed players were expendable no matter the position and that his offense would produce regardless.
However, in the case of Kliff Kingsbury, we’ve already seen an example as to why we shouldn’t be so quick to compare him to the former Eagle and Niner head coach.
Kingsbury famously called Murray a “freak” and stated he’d take the former Sooner first overall if given the opportunity. He has since followed through with that statement and has crafted a “pro-style” offense mimicking much of what made Murray successful at the college level.
Does that sound like Chip Kelly to you?
These are the types of criticisms you’ll hear regarding Kliff Kingsbury until he is able to prove that his style of play is sustainable at the NFL level.
With a roster riddled with holes and a general manager essentially on a year-to-year basis, Kliff Kingsbury is on his own... at least on the pro level.
Kingsbury’s former college head coach, Mike Leach (the godfather of the “air raid” offense), does appear to have his back.
“All this adapting, adapting, adapting, like the NFL is somehow some very special experience and you somehow need extremely special plays to play and all this other stuff. Well, that’s a bunch of baloney and always has been.”
Let’s hope Mike is right.
For the sake of the Arizona Cardinals, he better be.