It’s not every day that the firing of a college football head coach with a 35-40 record over six seasons becomes big national news. Even The Dally Caller — which is not exactly well-known for its sports reportage — had a headline on Saturday about the firing of Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who got his walking papers on Saturday after the Red Raiders finished their third consecutive losing season.
Neither is it every day that such a coach immediately becomes the subject of speculation over where he will land in NFL coaching ranks.
But then again, not every college football coach once had Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on their roster.
The drumbeat has been building for a while, but especially since the wild game between the Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams last Monday — the third highest-scoring game in NFL history — NFL pundits are convinced the league is at the beginning of a new era, and Mahomes is part of the reason why.
So it stands to reason that Mahomes’ college coach — himself a former Red Raider quarterback — could be seen as a hot commodity as an NFL coaching candidate in the offseason.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell tweeted on Saturday that “some smart NFL team should go after Kingsbury as offensive coordinator.” In an article on Saturday, USA Today’s Cowboys Wire suggested that Kingsbury could be on a fast track to the Dallas Cowboys, a team that is rumored to be on the verge of firing their offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. In that article, Jonah Tuls — a reporter for Fox34 in Lubbock, Texas — nicely summarized why Kingsbury can be seen as a top NFL coaching prospect.
[Kingsbury] has a proven track record of developing quarterbacks. Also, he is a really good playcaller. With the way the NFL is going, I think more and more teams will be receptive to someone like Kingsbury as an offensive coordinator. Not all great playcallers are great head coaches, and that was the case [at Texas Tech]. He will have no problem garnering interest around the NFL, and that’s where I think his next spot is.
You could also argue that the Cleveland Browns or Arizona Cardinals — two NFL teams that have already fired their offensive coordinators, and also have promising young quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen — could be potential fits for Kingsbury. In the case of the Browns, there’s an obvious connection: Mayfield started as a freshman walk-on at Texas Tech before Mahomes was named the starter and Mayfield decamped to Oklahoma.
And then there is the possibility of the Kansas City Chiefs.
No one is going to suggest that Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is in any danger of losing his job. But should the Chiefs make a deep postseason run, history suggests that he will be a top candidate for an NFL head coaching job, since two of Andy Reid’s previous Kansas City OCs — Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy — are now NFL head coaches.
In both cases, Reid promoted from within to replace them. Current Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka would therefore be seen as the front runner for the offensive coordinator position if Bieniemy moves on. Kingsbury would very much fit the mold as Chiefs quarterbacks coach under Andy Reid — especially considering his relationship with Mahomes,
On Saturday, KCTV’s Tom Martin tweeted a variation of this scenario.
Chiefs hire Kingsbury in a vague "offensive consultant" role, wait for Bienemy to get a head coaching job, promote Kingsbury and yup that's exactly what's gonna happen, ideally.— Tom Martin (@TomKCTV5) November 24, 2018
Martin’s theory is also grounded in some Reid history. Before becoming Chiefs offensive coordinator (and then assistant head coach), longtime NFL coach Brad Childress served as Reid’s “spread game analyst” — whatever that was — from 2013 to 2015. It’s not inconceivable that Reid could imagine a role for Kingsbury that would put him on Reid’s staff — not only giving him some NFL experience, but also grooming him for an opening that might arise.
Kingsbury, 39, can afford to take his time. He was reportedly making $3.9 million under his contract with the Red Raiders, which still had two years to run when he was fired. Whether it’s in the NFL or in the college ranks, he can pick and choose a landing spot.
But all things considered, if Kingsbury wants to be an NFL coach, being on Andy Reid’s staff — in any capacity — could turn out to be a very good career move.