ARIZONA CARDINALS

Kliff Kingsbury aiming for same Year 3 jump he’s seen from past offenses

Sep 10, 2021, 9:23 AM
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury applauds his players during NFL football training camp...

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury applauds his players during NFL football training camp practice at State Farm Stadium, Thursday, July 29, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s job status has been hot topic this offseason as he enters his third year at the helm.

Kingsbury has seen growth over his first two seasons but has yet to put together a winning team or get the Cardinals into the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

That’s left many to speculate on whether or not this is a make-or-break year for the head coach.

But looking at his previous stops, there’s reason to believe Year 3 could be Kingsbury’s best yet. He pointed that out as Week 1’s matchup with the Tennessee Titans neared.

“It goes fast, there’s no doubt,” Kingsbury said Monday of the past three seasons. “Last year was a unique year with everything we were dealing with, so excited to get back to having fans in the stadium.

“Year 3 of the offense at the places I’ve been has really been a good year, guys are comfortable with it, understand what we’re trying to accomplish, so I’m excited to see if we can take that jump.”

Kingsbury got his coaching start in 2008 under Kevin Sumlin at Houston, working in quality control.

From 2009-2011, Kingsbury shot up the ranks to become the Cougars’ co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

After two years of working with the offense in a much larger capacity, the Cougars erupted offensively in 2011 with Kingsbury calling the shots.

Behind a Case Keenum-led offense, Houston finished the season 13-1 with a perfect 8-0 Conference USA record. It had finished with a 5-7 record (4-4) a year prior.

As a team, the Cougars led the nation in total yards (599.1) and passing yards (450.1) per game. As for Keenum, he paced college football in pass completions (428), passing yards (5,631) and touchdowns (48).

Following his stint in Houston, Kingsbury went on to coach at Texas A&M as the team’s offensive coordinator for a season, helping freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel to a Heisman Trophy, before taking over as head coach at Texas Tech in 2013.

Much like Houston’s offense under Kingsbury, Texas Tech saw a significant boost in the unit’s output in Year 3, especially through the air.

With Kingsbury acting as the program’s offensive architect, the Red Raiders strung together a prolific passing attack. Again, Kingsbury’s success had to do with a quarterback, as Patrick Mahomes took over as a starter his sophomore season.

Over the course of 13 games, Mahomes threw for 4,653 yards and 35 touchdowns on 63.5% passing. For what it’s worth, the signal caller improved those numbers in 2016, setting career marks in passing yards (5,052), touchdowns (41) and accuracy (65.7%).

The Red Raiders put together a 7-6 record (4-5 in conference play), giving them a fifth-place spot in the Big 12, the highest spot a Kingsbury-coached team finished in the conference. It was noticeable improvement from the 4-8 record (2-7) and eight-place finish a year prior.

The running game was also impressive, with Deandre Washington rushing for 1,492 yards and 14 scores.

As a team, Texas Tech was second in the nation in terms of points per game (45.1).

There are obviously variables to consider, including who was quarterbacking his team in those years of greater success.

The NFL is not college. But with the trends of previous stops, plus any growth from another dynamic quarterback like Kyler Murray, it’s not out of the question that we see an offensive breakthrough for the Cardinals in 2021 after an underwhelming 2020.

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