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Op-Ed: Better Odds for Kliff Kingsbury as OC in Las Vegas

Exiled coach who took the fall for his players in Arizona in 2022 now has his chance to rise like the Phoenix

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Well, well, well...

A week ago, A.Q. Shipley, who was Kliff Kingsbury’s starting center in 2019, offered this recommendation for his former coach. Shipley started his career in Pittsburgh and was hoping the Steelers would make the call on Kliff.

While the Steelers were zooming in on Arthur Smith, the Raiders took the call instead.

The Raiders’ new head coach told the Las Vegas media last week that he wanted to hire an OC who could average 24 points per game.

Over Kliff Kingsbury’s first three seasons in Arizona his offense averaged 23.6 points per game.

Per reports, Antonio Pierce interviewed UCLA’s Chip Kelly twice, but wound up favoring Kliff Kingsbury instead,

The ESPN article that Adam Schefter posted here is a compelling read.

Here is an excerpt:

“Kingsbury replaces interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree, who took over play-calling duties for Josh McDaniels, who was fired as Raiders coach on Halloween.

And despite offensive star power with All-Pros Davante Adams at receiver and Josh Jacobs at running back — in addition to Hunter Renfrow, Michael Mayer and Jakobi Meyers — the Raiders’ offense never found its groove. Las Vegas finished with the No. 27-ranked total offense; its 322 points scored (19.5 ppg) ranked 23rd.

To average 24 points, the Raiders will have to score 408 points — something they have only done three times since their 2002 Super Bowl season.

Kingsbury did it twice with the Cardinals, in 2020 and 2021. In going a combined 28-37-1 in the regular season, 0-1 in the playoffs, his offenses ranked 21st, 6th, 8th and 22nd, respectively.”

Fresh Start:

The question is —- who will be Kliff’s starting QB this year in Vegas?

The speculation is that the Raiders are planning to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo.

While they were very pleased in what they saw from 2023 4th round pick Aiden O’Connell (6-3, 210, Purdue) as a rookie, there’s a chance that the Raiders could try to trade for Justin Fields —- or they could set their sights on one of the QBs in the 2024 NFL Draft, by either trying to trade up or by hoping one of their favorites is on the board at pick #13.

Aiden O’Connell 2023 —- in 11 games —- 213/343 (62.1 %) for 2,218 yards, 12 TDs, 7 ints, 24 sacks, 40.7 QBR.

For a rookie, those stats are pretty good.

So was O’Connell’s W/L record of 5-5.

Kliff Notes:

  • What a boon it will be for Kliff Kingsbury to have all his QBs on the field for OTAs in 2024. The last time Kyler Murray was practicing on the field for the Cardinals in OTAs it was his rookie year in 2019, due to COVID and his 2022 holdout.
  • The Raiders have a long, storied tradition of the “vertical passing game” —- which is why if the Raiders are not able to draft Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels, then they could very well set their sights on Washington’s vertical passer deluxe, Michael Penix or Oregon’s prolific all-purpose passer Bo Nix.
  • The Raiders have 3 free agent starters on their OL at C, RG and RT. Here is first 3 pick mock that could make sense:
  • If not Michael Penix or Bo Nix, a Day 2 QB who would fit Kliff’s wheelhouse is South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler.
  • A bridge UFA QB whom Kliff might favor: Gardner Minshew (IND)
  • Another QB1 trade possibility? Jake Browning (CIN)

Add those three pieces and Kliff’s offense could look like this:

  • QB Justin Fields?/ Jake Browning?/ Aiden O’Connell? / Michael Penix? ?/Spencer Rattler?
  • RB Josh Jacobs (if re-signed as UFA, which I believe he will be)
  • TE Michael Mayer
  • WR Davonte Adams
  • WR Jacobi Myers
  • SWR Hunter Renfrow/Tre Tucker
  • LT Kolton Miller
  • LG Dylan Parham
  • C Andre James (re-signed as UFA)
  • RG Zak Zinter
  • RT Taliese Fuaga

2024 Matchups of Note:

  • Imagine this —- Kliff gets to square off twice a year versus Patrick Mahomes.
  • Must see TV (for Kliff fans) —- watching Kliff take on Vance Joseph’s defense twice next season. It’s always a serendipitous opportunity to match your wits against a guy who was gunning for your job.
  • Other old friends: Sean McVay (at LA), Christian Kirk (at JAC), Patrick Peterson and Markus Golden??? (H vs PIT), Baker Mayfield (at TB)

Free Agents/Trades/Assistant Coaches:

  • Wonder if Kliff would encourage Antonio Pierce to make a bid for Budda Baker. Two intriguing players for Cardinals, one of which might make sense in a return package: S Trevor Moehrig (a favorite) and S Marcus Epps (who was JG’s FS in Philly whom he praised a lot).
  • Will Kliff make a push to sign UFA T Josh Jones?, Jones, in 9 starts, had the highest PFF grade of any player for the Cardinals in 2022.
  • Could there be a Vegas sighting of Antoine Wesley?
  • Will Kliff bringing in Zach Ertz as TE2?
  • Wonder if Kliff is able to bring in former Texas Tech and Cardinals’ WR coach David Raih to join him in Vegas. Raih, who was Kliff’s only assistant in Arizona who had direct ties to him —- who left (or was urged to leave by Steve Keim with Jerry Sullivan on staff?) to become Vanderbilt’s OC in 2021, is currently a senior offensive advisor on the Bucs’ staff under Todd Bowles. And get this —- not only does Raih have ties to Kliff, he was Davante Adams’ WR coach in Green Bay in 2018. At the time Adams was not happy to see Raih leave Green Bay. Here’s David Raih talking about Kliff’s iconic work ethic:

David Raih talks about coach Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals’ receivers (


Kliff was always meant to be an NFL OC. He was strictly a titular HC in Arizona —- as in, in title only. To be on an exciting staff in Las Vegas with a dynamic young defensive-minded HC in Antonio Pierce —- (who by the way, just hired Marvin Lewis to be the assistant head coach) —- with an entourage of superb skills players on the roster —- with a chip the size of Vegas’ golden replica of the Eiffel Tower on his shoulder —- and, best of all, with a clear slate, a positive support system, a strong defense for the first time in his coaching career and the autonomy to run his own offense without having to cater to a micro-managing GM —- the odds of Kliff succeeding are better than 50/50.

ROTB Poll:


Do you agree or disagree that the odds of Kliff Kingsbury succeeding with the Raiders are better than 50/50?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    (139 votes)
  • 22%
    (41 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now

Accomplishments of Exiled Cardinals Coaches’ from the Bidwill/Keim Regime:

  • Bruce Arians —- Super Bowl ring as Bucs’ HC
  • Todd Bowles —- Super Bowl ring as Bucs’ DC
  • Steve Wilks —- coaching in Super Bowl as 49ers’ DC
  • Kliff Kingsbury —- ???