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Commanders overtake Raiders to capture Kliff Kingsbury

Former Cardinals coach heads to D.C on a three-year deal to be the Commanders’ offensive coordinator

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2019 when Kliff Kingsbury emerged as an NFL head coaching candidate, his first interview was in New York with the Jets. Media reports at the time were that the Jets were keenly interested in hiring him, perhpas even on the spot. The Jets had drafted QB Sam Darnold in 2018 and the their priority was to make good on their investment of the highly touted former QB at USC who as a rookie passed for 2,865 yards at 57.7% with 17 TDs and 15 interceptions for a QBR of 45.9.

On the afternoon of the Jets’ interview I can vividly remember how I was anxiously checking Twitter to see whether the Jets were going to act quickly on hiring Kliff. If you recall, Kliff had agreed to schedule an interview with the Cardinals, should he still be on the market after his Jets’ interview.

Much to my delight, word came in that afternoon that Kliff’s interview with the Jets had concluded, that there was mutual interest on both sides for getting a deal done, but Kliff was now heading straight to Arizona to meet with the Cardinals.

The swift manner in which Kliff departed New York got me thinking — could the Cardinals have gotten word to Kliff’s agent that Kliff was their #1 choice and that “all options are open” — including what the team would be willing to do with the #1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft?

Therefore, what transpired this weekend with Kliff Kingsbury and his negotiations with the Raiders and Commanders felt like, to a certain degree, as Yogi Berra would say, “deja vu all over again.”

Mitchell Renz, who does a superb job covering the Raiders on his “Raiders Report”, explains the reasons why Kliff Kingsbury broke off contract negotiations with the Raiders. If you listen to the first 2-3 minutes, you’ll get the rub:

When teams offer coordinators a 2-year contract instead of a 3-year or 4-year contract, that typically indicates it’s more of a “prove it deal” than a vote of confidence. You might recall that the Cardinals signed Mike McCoy to a 2-year deal back in 2018.

A low-ball salary offer in Kliff’s case was not necessarily a deal breaker because he and teams know that no matter what he’s paid, he’s getting $5.5M from the Cardinals for the next four years, minus whatever salary he makes elsewhere. If he signs for a mere $1 a year, that means that he is still going to be paid the $5,499,999 balance by Michael Bidwill.

The Raiders must have figured that Kliff would have been desperate enough to take the OC job regardless of the offer.

Well, when I heard the news that Kliff had withdrawn his name from consideration for the OC job in Vegas, I had a very strong feeling that it was because the Commanders had assured Kliff that they would hire him —- and —- that the Commanders could have a plan to try to move up to #1 to draft Caleb Williams.

The length of the deal: 3 years.

As for Caleb Williams’ reaction to Kliff’s deal:

Where was Caleb Williams a legendary high school QB?

Per Caleb Williams’ Wikipedia page:

Williams attended Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.

As a sophomore in 2018, he led Gonzaga to a WCAC Championship as the best team in the District, and was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan 1st team and Washington, D.C. Gatorade Football Player of the Year after he passed for 2,624 passing yards with 26 touchdowns and rushed for 394 yards and 10 touchdowns.

As a junior in 2019, he was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan 1st team for the second consecutive year after he passed for 1,770 yards with 19 touchdowns and rushed for 838 yards with 18 touchdowns.

He was named the Elite 11 finals MVP the following summer. In 2020 his senior season was cancelled due to COVID-19. The highest-rated quarterback prospect of his class, Williams committed to play college football at the University of Oklahoma.

Possibilities for Caleb Williams:

  1. CHI stays at #1 and selects him
  2. WASH trades up one spot to select him
  3. Another team trades up to #1 to select him
  4. CHI shocks pretty much everyone and either drafts Marvin Harrison Jr. or Jayden Daniels (whom some believe is moving ahead of Drake Maye on many teams’ draft boards) at #1.

No doubt —- these possibilities regarding Caleb Williams —- will be the talk of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Potential QB options for the Commanders:

  1. Trade up for Caleb Williams
  2. Stay at #2 and take the Best QB Available (Williams, Daniels or Maye)
  3. Sign UFA QB Kirk Cousins (to complete a NFL football odyssey —- Cousins was the Redskins’ 2012 4th round pick at #102) and trade down from #2 —- or draft MHJ.
  4. Trade for Jake Browning (CIN) and trade down from #2 —- or draft MHJ.

Why was Kliff Kingsbury the Commanders OC of Choice?

  • Dan Quinn had to have been impressed with Kliff’s wins over his Cowboys:

38-10 W at DAL on 10/19/20

25-22 W at DAL on 1/2/23

Note: putting up 63 points combined on his defense with Kyler being in his 2nd and 3rd years was indeed impressive.

  • Adam Peters, the Commanders’ new GM (coming in from the 49ers where he was the assistant GM to John Lynch), worked with Kliff back in 2003 when they were working on scouting assignments for the Patriots.
  • Kliff had been drafted by New England in Round 6 that year. Yet, Bill Belichick was so impressed with the depth of Kliff’s football knowledge that he asked Kliff also to help the team in the scouting department.
  • Do you know who else was with Adam Peters and Kliff Kingsbury in the Patriots’ scouting department in 2003? it was not only Adam Peters’ first year —- it was also Monti Ossenfort’s.

Washington’s Offense:

  • QB —- Sam Howell (60.3), Jacoby Brissett* (UFA), Jake Fromm
  • RB —- Brian Robinson, Jr. (75.3), Antonio Gibson* (UFA), Chris Roderiguez Jr.
  • WR —- Terry McLaurin (75.1), Dyami Brown
  • WR —- Jahan Dotson (57.7) , Byron Pringle* (UFA)
  • SWR —- Curtis Samuel* (69.7 - UFA); Jamison Crowder* (UFA)
  • TE —- Logan Thomas (57.1) , John Bates
  • LT —- Charles Leno, Jr. (72.5) , Braden Daniels
  • LG —- Saahdig Charles* (55.5 - UFA), Chris Paul
  • C —- Nick Gates (66.1)
  • RG —- Sam Cosmi (80.6), Ricky Stromberg
  • RT —- Andrew Wylie (69.2), Cornelius Lucas* (UFA)

Sam Howell played very well in North Carolina’s version of the Air Raid, as did Dyami Brown. Kliff prides himself in getting all his QB primed and ready to play. Howell is a tough cookie. He has some Baker Mayfield-type of attributes.

Good, solid offensive line —- like the Cardinals, they need a good starting LG.

Talented WR group headed by McLaurin.

Also, like the Cardinals, the Commanders need to add talent to their defense on all three levels. Imo, Dan Quinn made a superb hire appointing Joe Whitt Jr. (former Cowboys’ defensive backs coach) as his DC.

The 49ers, Cowboys and Cardinals have a significant number of 2024 free agents, many with ties to Peters, Quinn and Kingsbury. The Commanders currently have amassed a league leading $76.65M of 2024 cap space.

You can check the 2024 free agent lists here, if you wish:

2024 NFL Free Agents Tracker | Spotrac

Potential Intrigue for Cardinals Fans:

That would be wild, wouldn’t it? Great call, Suz!

Prudent Message:

Commentary:

When Kliff Kingsbury came to the NFL in 2019, pundits like Rex Ryan scoffed at Kliff’s chances to be a legitimate NFL coach —- calling Kliff’s style of offense as “pretty boy.” Remember in the pre-season that year how the Raiders’ players doubled down on the “pretty boy” theme?

Think of how the perception of Kliff Kingsbury’s offense has changed over the past 5 years —- because of his penchant for making his offenses as balanced as possible between the running and passing games —- and arriving at these types of result after inheriting the worst offense in the NFL in 2018.

  • 2 Top 10 Offenses in 2020 and 2021
  • 3 Top 10 Rushing Yards Per GAME IN 2019, 2020 and 2021.

I am excited to see precisely what the unabridged version of Kliff’s offense looks like (except, of course, versus the Cardinals). Are you?