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Kliff Kingsbury Heading To Arizona

When Kliff Kingsbury signed on as offensive coordinator at USC, he cannot have been expecting NFL franchises to come calling with similar jobs in the off-season – let alone a head coach role.

But after firing the defensive-minded Steve Wilkes following a dire season which saw the Arizona Cardinals fall to a 3-13 record, they are reportedly set to give 39-year-old Kingsbury the top job.

The former Texas Tech head coach spent eight years at the helm there, leaving with a 19-35 record, having worked with Patrick Mahomes and Johnny Manziel while there.

But, having never held an NFL assistant’s position in his career, is the Cardinals’ bold decision them just desperately reaching for what others have?

Arizona have first-hand experience of what supremely talented young minds can bring to a franchise, coming up against the Rams and 49ers twice a year.

In LA, McVay has inspired a youthful side, filled with talent, turning them into a potential Super Bowl-winning side – but he has had experienced coaches around him to make his transition to head coach easier.

Most notably, Wade Phillips has overseen the defensive side of the ball, while John Fassel, who stepped into the breach himself and took charge of the team when Jeff Fisher was fired, is McVay’s special teams guru.

McVay, 32, also spent a number of years grafting in assistant positions under Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan as well as benefitting from having a grandfather, John, who was also an NFL head coach.

In San Francisco, Kyle Shanahan was able to take undrafted Nick Mullens and stun teams after franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a torn ACL in September.

As with McVay, Shanahan spent many years building up experience in the back rooms of NFL franchises and was able to pick the brain of his dad Mike, whose head coaching experience spanned 20 seasons.

While McVay and Shanahan are both young, the pair have a stack of experience Kingsbury simply cannot bring to Arizona.

The Cardinals desire to follow the trend, which is so prevalent in their division, has seemingly led them to jump in two-footed for a young, offensive prospect without consideration for his lack of experience.

The jump from college football to the NFL for those with no prior coaching experience in the league is a difficult one.

Steve Spurrier was a major failure in Washington, having taken charge of the Redskins in 2002 after spells with Duke and University of Florida, while Chip Kelly started well but ended up being fired by both the Eagles and the 49ers, the latter coming after just one season.

During his time in college football, former Patriots, Saints and Jets quarterback Kingsbury has become well known for his air raid offence.

He even managed to help guide Johnny Football to the Heisman Trophy while he was offensive and quarterbacks coach at Texas A&M.

But, despite producing a series of top national offences, his Texas Tech side were famed for conceding points as quickly as they could score them – something that cost him dearly in the end.

The NFL’s thirst for college style offence has led to Kingsbury, just six months on from being fired, getting thrust into a top job, with the expectance he will inspire young quarterback Josh Rosen.

But without NFL pedigree, he may struggle to recruit experienced assistant coaches to take some of the strain from him in the coming season.

And that may well lead to a very short, albeit high-scoring, spell in the desert.

Dave Bodymore is a national newspaper journalist who has followed the NFL since around 2005. You can find him on Twitter @DaveBodymore.

Image credit: Associated Press

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