The Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury as their new head coach, becoming the latest team to bet on a high-flying offense to bring them success.
Kingsbury, a former head coach at Texas Tech and a proponent of the air raid offense, has worked with Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, Johnny Manziel, Case Keenum and other quarterbacks during his time as a college coach, which included stops at Texas A&M and Houston. Kingsbury’s arrival comes just days after the Cardinals cut ties with Steve Wilks, a defensive-minded coach who was fired after just one season.
The Cardinals, who handed the starting job to the rookie quarterback Josh Rosen in Week 4, had a league-worst record of 3-13, and scored just 225 points, the least in the league.
Kingsbury, who signed a four-year contract according to multiple news media reports, will be expected to replicate the success that Coach Sean McVay had with the Los Angeles Rams in a similar situation: a young offensive coach being paired with a promising young quarterback (for the Rams, that player was Jared Goff). The Cardinals’ announcement of Kingsbury’s hiring went as far as pointing out that Kingsbury and McVay are friends.
As for Kingsbury, he made it clear that he knows what is expected of him, and that he believes he is a good fit with Rosen and the Cardinals.
“With the offensive trends these days, it felt like perfect time to be here,” Kingsbury said in an interview with the Cardinals’ website.
Kingsbury, who was fired by Texas Tech in November after a disappointing season, initially agreed to join Clay Helton’s staff at Southern California as offensive coordinator, but now he will try to continue the trend of bringing modern college offenses to the pro level. Kingsbury’s Red Raiders went just 35-40 over six seasons, but at its peak in 2015, Kingsbury’s offense averaged 45.1 points a game.
The Cardinals are the first of eight teams with head coaching vacancies to fill the position. The Green Bay Packers may be next, and they, too, appear to be seeking McVay-esque magic as they close in on a deal with Matt LaFleur, the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Like Kingsbury, LaFleur is expected to sign a four-year contract.
LaFleur served as McVay’s offensive coordinator in 2017 before joining the Tennessee Titans in that role this season — a move spurred by his desire to call his own plays. He was quarterbacks coach in Atlanta before joining the Rams.
The 32-year-old McVay seemed excited for LaFleur but also amused, telling reporters on Tuesday, “I’m too young to have a coaching tree.”
For all the emphasis on young, offensive-minded coaches, older coaches with experience are not completely out of style. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to be taking that strategy, with NFL Network reporting that the team is set to offer Bruce Arians, the 66-year-old former coach of the Cardinals, its head coaching job.
In December, the N.F.L. strengthened its rules requiring teams to interview minority candidates for top coaching and front office positions. The league’s commitment to hiring more minority coaches and executives is under renewed scrutiny because five of the eight coaches who were fired this season were black.
All three of the expected new coaches — Kingsbury, LaFleur and Arians — are white.
Five other teams — the Bengals, Broncos, Browns, Dolphins and Jets — remain in the market for a new head coach.