NFL teams finally able to interview Kliff Kingsbury, an interesting candidate in a dull field

Yahoo Sports

The most interesting name among NFL head-coaching candidates might be Kliff Kingsbury.

Kingsbury might not be a slam-dunk success in the NFL, but he’s certainly unique.

The odd tale of how Kingsbury became a hot name during the NFL’s coaching carousel included USC’s reluctance to let him interview. Kingsbury was fired by Texas Tech (more on this in a moment) and was quickly hired by USC as its new offensive coordinator. USC wouldn’t let him interview, but on Monday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said the Arizona Cardinals would be allowed to talk to Kingsbury. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic said the New York Jets were interviewing Kingsbury on Monday. Kingsbury is still employed by USC, Rapoport said, which indicates the school changed its mind on letting him talk to NFL teams.

With that hurdle crossed, a confounding question remains: Is Kingsbury worth the NFL’s while?

Teams looking for the next Sean McVay

Sean McVay will have plenty of long-lasting effects on the NFL, and this is undeniably one: Teams will make a lot of mistakes chasing the next McVay. Once McVay turned around the Los Angeles Rams, every team looked to find its own young, offensive mastermind. There will be some regrettable hires with teams looking for a copy of the original.

Maybe Kingsbury, 39, is the next star offensive NFL head coach, or at least a fun offensive coordinator if he doesn’t get a top job and still wants to leave USC for the NFL. Or maybe some NFL team will look absolutely foolish hiring a head coach who was 35-40 at Texas Tech and posted losing seasons in four of his last five years with the Red Raiders, where he was a hero back to his record-setting playing days.

Texas Tech decided Kingsbury, a legend at the school, couldn’t win in the Big 12. But NFL teams apparently think he can win in the pros. Try wrapping your head around that.

The NFL is a different game. Kingsbury won’t have to recruit high-school players to play defense, so maybe he’ll be OK. Texas Tech gave up more than 40 points in half of its games this season, a common theme during Kingsbury’s time there. NFL teams will just have to understand that if they hire Kingsbury, they better hire a good defensive coordinator too. However, Kingsbury is widely respected for his offensive acumen; that part seems safe, even with the jump up in competition.

But it’s rare for an unsuccessful college coach to get a chance in the NFL, and then do better in the pros. Dennis Green notably did, but the NFL usually doesn’t hire coaches with Kingsbury’s résumé.

This is an odd offseason though, with way more openings than quality candidates.

Can Kliff Kingsbury succeed in the NFL?

When you ask how someone with one winning season at Texas Tech since 2013 could become a viable NFL head-coaching candidate, the best clue is probably in the current crop of candidates getting interviews.

Of all the coaches getting interviews, which one excites you? Bruce Arians, who is 66 years old? Josh McDaniels, who failed miserably as a head coach once and pulled a pretty bad stunt pulling the rug out from under the Colts last year? Old names like Jim Caldwell? Adam Gase, whose Miami Dolphins teams were entirely uninteresting and mediocre? Even if you like two or three of the names, there are eight openings that need to be filled.

Many teams who fire their coaches seem to be looking for the next McVay, someone who can bring in a creative offense and turn everything around in year one, as Matt Nagy did with the Chicago Bears. But there aren’t many of those guys to go around. Maybe Kingsbury is that kind of a coaching superstar, who was just not a great fit in college football, competing with fewer resources than his competitors.

Some team might decide to find out. In a rather boring coaching cycle this month, Kingsbury is an entertaining option, to say the least.

Former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury is getting interviews with NFL teams with vacant head-coaching jobs. (AP)
Former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury is getting interviews with NFL teams with vacant head-coaching jobs. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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