A little more than a week ago, Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim didn’t want to talk much about what kind of head coach they were looking to hire.
It’s crystal clear now.
The Cardinals picked former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who doesn’t turn 40 until August, on Tuesday. He flew in for an interview in the morning and by the afternoon, had signed a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth, bringing his creative offensive ideas and background coaching quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield.
A press conference will be held Wednesday.
"I've been around football my entire life," Kingsbury told azcardinals.com. "I've played in this league, coached on the college level, and have always been fascinated by the NFL. With the offensive trends these days, it felt like a perfect time to be here."
Bidwill, the team president, and Keim, the general manager, wanted to keep their search “close to the vest,” Bidwill had said. But the work with those quarterbacks and the offensive production he managed – albeit at the college level in the Big 12 – was a key factor for a team wanting to develop second-year quarterback Josh Rosen.
“I’m fired up for coach Kingsbury and his family," said Mahomes, now the quarterback of the Chiefs. "The Cardinals are getting an outstanding, football coach and an even better person. He’s smart, creative, passionate, and really understands how to develop and relate to players. I feel like he played a huge role in preparing me for the next step, and I’m grateful for that. This is a tremendous opportunity for him and I know he’s going to make the most of it.”
The Cardinals were last in the NFL in almost every offensive category in 2018. Texas Tech was 12th in the nation in total offense this past season, averaging 485.2 yards and 37.3 points per game.
"I think you see where it's been, where it's going, you have a young quarterback, lots of salary cap space and a team that will continue to fight through the season," Kingsbury said. "I'm really honored to be here and excited to be here."
Kingsbury only had a 35-40 record as head coach at Texas Tech before being fired in November. But he was quickly scooped up in early December by USC to be their offensive coordinator, and the record didn’t deter NFL interest. Before Kingsbury interviewed with the Cardinals, he also interviewed with the New York Jets for their vacant head coaching job, and the Patriots were reportedly interested in him taking over as offensive coordinator had current OC Josh McDaniels gotten a head coaching gig.
Kingsbury has only coached on the college level, but he did play in the NFL as a quarterback, beginning as a sixth-round pick of the Patriots in 2003. He spent his rookie year on injured reserve with the Patriots, and then was with the Saints in 2004 on their practice squad. He also spent time with the Broncos, Jets and Bills, making his only regular-season NFL appearance with the Jets in 2005.
“Kliff has done a great job at Texas Tech, and I know he’s at USC, but it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of (NFL) teams are interested,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Monday on WEEI. “He’s just a great football mind, and he’ll be successful wherever he’s at.”
His coaching career began at the University of Houston as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator from 2008-11, at one point working with Case Keenum. He was the offensive coordinator and QB coach for Texas A&M in 2012 working with Johnny Manziel before being hired by Texas Tech.
Rams coach Sean McVay – the 32-year-old offensive genius who has become the blueprint of many of the new coaching hires around the NFL – reached out to Kingsbury after Texas Tech let him go to see if Kingsbury wanted to join the Rams’ staff for the stretch run and postseason as an offensive consultant. Kingsbury considered it but ultimately joined USC.
“I think he’s been a very good head coach,” McVay said last week when asked about Kingsbury’s NFL prospects. “I think he’s demonstrated the ability to do a lot of different things at a high level, and he’s got a great offensive mind."