Kliff Kingsbury: Can He Be the Bold Move the Jets Need?

Stephen Russo with a closer look at Kliff Kingsbury’s resume

As we close the book on a 4-12 Jets season, one that led with hope but quickly turned sour, we turn our attention toward the most exciting time of the year: The Offseason. While Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson moved quickly to fire Head Coach Todd Bowles on the last Sunday of the season, following a 38-3 trouncing in New England, Johnson chose to retain General Manager Mike Maccagnan. This leaves Maccagnan in charge of spearheading yet another Jets offseason with over $100 million in salary cap space, the third overall draft pick, and teaming up with Johnson to select the Jets new Head Coach. Yikes.

Let’s dive in a little deeper on the most polarizing of candidates on the Jets’ current list: Kliff Kingsbury.

The former Texas Tech Head Coach, and current Offensive Coordinator at USC, is touted by many as an “Offensive Guru” and “Quarterback Whisperer.” He comes in high regard among the NFL ranks as Rams HC Sean McVay offered him a job on his staff following his firing from Texas Tech. Kingsbury is certainly a bright offensive mind, and at just 39 years old, would be considered a progressive and “out of the box” hire for any NFL team… but especially for the Jets. Below is a brief overview of his coaching resume:

Kingsbury began his coaching career as a Quality Control Coach at the University of Houston in 2008. He worked his way to up Co-Offensive Coordinator in 2011, where he called plays under HC Kevin Sumlin. With Case Keenum at the helm, Houston led the nation in total offense, passing offense, and scoring. The offense averaged nearly 600 yards per game (450 passing), and 49 points per game. In Kingsbury’s only season as OC, Case Keenum threw for over 5,600 yards and 48 TD’s while completing 70% of his passes. He won the Sammy Baugh Award as the Nation’s top passer and became the most prolific passer in FBS history.

Following Kevin Sumlin, in 2012 Kingsbury left Houston to become the Offensive Coordinator at Texas A&M. In his only season as OC, the Aggies led the SEC in total offense, scoring, rushing offense and passing offense. Under Kingsbury’s leadership, Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy, threw for over 3,700 yards, 26 TD’s, completed 68% of his passes and rushed for over 1,400 yards.

In 2013, Kingsbury made the leap to Texas Tech to become the Head Coach at his alma mater. From 2013 – 2018, he posted a 35-40 overall record. However, in each of those six seasons, his offenses ranked: 23rd, 55th, 2nd, 5th, 23rd and 16th in the nation, respectively. In his tenure, he coached Baker Mayfield, Davis Webb, and Patrick Mahomes. All of which had instant success under Kingsbury, with Mahomes also winning the Sammy Baugh Award in 2016.

Kingsbury is one of the most innovative offensive minds in the game today, evidenced by his resume on that side of the ball. His work with current NFL QB’s is remarkable as well. What is even more impressive is how early in their college careers each of those QB’s had success in Kingsbury’s more progressive and complex “air-raid” system. That success speaks volumes to how quickly Kingsbury can work with his QB’s and have them learn his system and producie immediate success.

While Kingsbury’s offensive success, coaching style and background speak for themselves, his glaring shortcoming is defense. As HC at Texas Tech, his defense never finished higher than 87th in the nation. That, to say the least, is a bit concerning.

Kingsbury is undoubtedly the young, energizing, bright offensive mind that would invigorate this team and fanbase. Pairing him with Sam Darnold is such a bold move that many of us are hoping that this dark horse wins the HC race.

However, the biggest concern or question mark when it comes to hiring Kingsbury becomes two-fold:

First, if the Jets were to hire him as Head Coach, could they assemble a quality staff, particularly on the defensive side of the ball?

And second, do Mike Maccagnan and Christopher Johnson have the stones to make a swing-for-the-fence type of hire like this one?