The Kliff Kingsbury saga ends with a head coaching job.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and Good Morning Football's Peter Schrager reported Tuesday that Kingsbury will be the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, per sources informed of the situation. The team later announced the hire is official.
The Cardinals signed Kingsbury to a four-year deal with a fifth-year option, Rapoport added. It's a meteoric rise for the Texas Tech coach who was fired by his alma mater after compiling a 35-40 record in six seasons.
The 39-year-old signed on to be the University of Southern California offensive coordinator in December, but then the NFL came calling. Rapoport reported Kingsbury's buyout from USC was only $150,000.
"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."
Kingsbury garnered interest from the New York Jets before interviewing with the Cardinals on Tuesday. Arizona was hot after the young offensive mind and locked down their man.
The former Texas Tech quarterback was selected in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. He bounced around the Saints and Broncos practice squads before playing in one game with the Jets in 2005, attempting his two career passes. He also played in NFL Europe and the CFL before transitioning into coaching at the college level.
Kingsbury's first coaching gig came as an offensive quality control man in 2008 with Houston before being elevated to co-offensive coordinator in 2010. After two seasons, he moved to Texas A&M where he spent one season as the offensive coordinator/QB coach in 2012 and helped Johnny Manziel put up Heisman Trophy-winning numbers. He was then hired by Texas Tech as head coach in 2013 and lasted six seasons before being let go. He compiled two winning seasons from 2013-2018.
How he'll transition to an NFL head-coaching position after holding zero pro assistant jobs provides a huge offseason question mark for Arizona.
"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 takes over the worst team in the NFL, which compiled a 3-13 record en route to earning the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
The young coach intrigued NFL front offices with his creative Air Raid system and work with quarterbacks, notably MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech. He also coached quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb in Lubbock. While it's unknown how Kingsbury's style will translate to coaching professional players, his quarterbacks and former associates provide rave reviews.
"I am happy for Kliff," USC coach Clay Helton said in a statament. "Any time you get an opportunity to be an NFL head coach, it is special. He is a talented coach, that's why we brought him here. I wish him nothing but the best."
The hiring of Kingsbury is a home-run swing by the Cardinals, who just canned defensive-minded coach Steve Wilks after one season. As usual after most breakups in life, the Cards pivoted to the opposite: a young offensive mind. Whether it's an ingenious hire or another mistake won't be known right away.
Arizona surely hopes that Kingsbury's past work with quarterbacks will provide a big boost for 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen, who struggled mightily throughout his rookie campaign. Unleashing talented dual-threat running back David Johnson should also be a priority.
Head coaching is more than offensive Xs and Os, however. Kingsbury must prove he's more than an offensive guru to lead a professional team in the right direction. Inheriting a roster littered with holes will make that job even more difficult out of the gate.