Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams

Is Kliff Kingsbury about to overtake Sean McVay in the NFC West?

What if Kliff Kingsbury overtakes Sean McVay as the NFC West’s offensive wunderkind?

Two offseasons ago, everybody wanted to hire the next Sean McVay.

Of all the NFL teams looking for a new head coach, the Arizona Cardinals made a few bold moves heading into 2019. They punted on former head coach Steve Wilks and former first-round quarterback Josh Rosen after one season. Arizona was atrocious in 2018, allowing it to hire Kliff Kingsbury as head coach and take Heisman Trophy-winner Kyler Murray with the top pick.

Murray was the first quarterback under 6-feet to be taken in the first round of an NFL Draft since Ted Marchibroda went No. 5 overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers back in 1953. Kingsbury failed leading his alma mater’s Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Big 12. It was all offense and no defense whatsoever, as the Red Raiders were the epitome of an Air Raid Big 12 pillow fight.

Flash forward a year or so and the Cardinals are poised to contend for a playoff spot in the deep NFC West this season. Though they only went 5-10-1 in Kingsbury’s first year on the job, the future looks incredibly bright for the Arizona offense. Could the proud Mike Leach Air Raid disciple overtake McVay as the best new school offensive-minded head coach in the NFL?

Will Kliff Kingsbury create something better than Sean McVay ever did?

In an interview with Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic, Kingsbury said he’s using this period of great isolation to his advantage to really tap into the “mad genius” label he’s been given as an offensive-minded coach.

Believe it or not, he’s made early returns of the collegiate Air Raid work in the NFL with his hand-selected superstar quarterback in Murray.

“Yeah, it’s definitely allowed me to dive into a lot of the college game a little more,” said Kingsbury. “I’ve always tried to study some of those top offenses, guys that I’ve had a ton of respect for and liked the way that they operated, but it’s really allowed me to watch a lot more of that. There’s a lot of great minds at that level, so it’s definitely a deeper dive into offensive football this offseason.”

The NFL game is taking on college concepts more than ever before. Not only is the college game incredibly innovative, but the NFL’s CBA severely limits practice time, and therefore hinders offensive line development. By assuming up-tempo spread concepts, NFL offenses can go no-huddle more readily without the most complex of zone or man blocking schemes.

What McVay brought to the table in Los Angeles was an offshoot of the Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan offensive philosophies. Those offenses are predicated on running the ball and opening up the play-action pass. The Shanahan zone blocking scheme is nothing new, but McVay put fancy window dressing on the offense with a ton of pre-snap motion and adept use of the headset.

Truth be told, it was more smoke and mirrors than we’d ever want to let on. McVay was giving his quarterback Jared Goff all the answers at the line of scrimmage before only 15 seconds were remaining on the play clock. Opposing defenses figured that out quickly and all the Rams were doing was 11 personnel-ing its opponent to death under the disguise of pre-snap motion.

Ultimately, the Rams’ Super Bowl window is closed after getting to the big game only two years ago. Surely, they’ll re-emerge in some time under McVay’s tutelage, but he’s got to show the NFL he’s more than a Chip Kelly one-trick pony on the offensive side of the ball. As for Kingsbury, there’s a chance he could be a deeper offensive-minded coach than we all originally thought.

“Kliff is one of the more mad-genius, offensive-minded guys in this league because of how he can put players in different positions to go out there and be successful and use your raw, natural ability to mirror up with the things the offense works best at,” said Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake.

“I have no idea what he could be coming up with, but I know once this season gets going and we get out there running around a little bit more, everybody’s going to get into a good flow and…we’ll score points and win more games this year.”

With Murray at quarterback, Drake as his bell-cow and a wide receiver trio of DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Andy Isabella, Arizona could have one of the most exciting offenses we’ve ever seen. Of course, protecting Murray is paramount, something the Cardinals have struggled at historically with keeping their quarterbacks upright. However, this season does feel different.

Next: 5 NFL players who will become sophomore sensations

What will be the most interesting development of the Cardinals offense is how the running game factors in all this. We know Murray’s dual-threat playmaking abilities will be glorified in this system, but how Drake and the rest of the running back room manages will go a long way in seeing how good this Cardinals team can be. It might make us forget about McVay all together.

If his offseason film study pans out, we will have our next offensive guru head coach in Kingsbury.

Products You May Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *