Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury might surprise you
At 5:25 every morning, Arizona Cardinals wide receivers coach David Raih watches Kliff Kingsbury walk out of the weight room at the team’s practice facility, finished with his workout, right on schedule. Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury might surprise you…
Not 5:24. Not 5:26.
“I mean, period,” Raih said.
Not a day goes by that Kingsbury isn’t on time.
Eight months into Kingsbury’s first year as an NFL head coach with the Cardinals, his schedule has turned heads. At work by 4:30 a.m. In bed by 9 p.m. In between, football — nothing but.
But Kingsbury’s tight schedule hasn’t kept him from hearing what’s being said and written about him. More than once during his daily training camp news conferences he has referred to an article. Tweet or hot take from the day before. Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury might surprise you…
“When people say stuff, he just kind of laughs and changes the subject and goes on to something else,” said his older brother, Klint.
Kingsbury’s way of dealing with the outside noise has been to just work.
After an offseason in which everyone from fans to pundits have questioned everything from his losing record in college to his pro coaching inexperience to his Ryan Gosling-like looks, Kingsbury is ready to prove his critics wrong.
“There’s a perception because he’s a good-looking guy, he’s young, he’s not married [that] maybe he’s out in the streets or a playboy type, which, after working with him for the amount of time that I have already, it’s really the polar opposite,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said.
“It’s kind of like you’re working with an old man who just wants to coach football.” Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury might surprise you:
Hardly Hollywood away from the limelight
Thomas Wheat has seen a side of Kingsbury few have.
They met when both were playing sports at Texas Tech: Kingsbury was the future quarterback of the Red Raiders, Wheat a tennis player. They hit it off immediately, sharing a love of hunting and fishing. Their bond grew stronger because they had both lost their mothers early.
When Kingsbury took over as the head coach at Texas Tech in 2013, Wheat started making the five-hour trip from Dallas to Lubbock. Every visit was the same. Kingsbury would be out of the house before dawn to work out, long before Wheat woke up. Wheat would eventually get to Kingsbury’s office, where he’d shadow his friends. It in a few meetings, work out with him and get some of his own work done.
They’d head home by 8 p.m. and swing by a restaurant to pick up dinner. Kingsbury would stay in the car, on his phone, texting away. They’d eat “real quick,” Wheat said, in the living room and then Kingsbury, who rarely took his eyes off his phone, would go to sleep around 9 p.m. Wheat would hang out in the living room the rest of the night, by himself, before crashing in the guest room.
Then they’d do it all over again the next day.
“He’s the first guy in and the last guy out,” Wheat said. “It just doesn’t add up for me [why Texas Tech didn’t win more].
“I’m just glad that the next level saw what I saw, because it proves that. I wasn’t just biased because I was a close friend of his. The guy’s such a winner. I can’t believe we didn’t knock it out of the park [while he was here].”
In many ways, Kingsbury’s work ethic runs contrary to his image. Before he coached his first game at Texas Tech, he had to shut down a line of clothing that featured the phrase, “Our coach is hotter than your coach” because he felt it focused too much on him and took away from the players. In October, Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Mac Engel slapped the moniker of “Coach Bro” on Kingsbury after a win over TCU. Just or not, it stuck.
Can he succeed?
The doubts about whether he was qualified to coach in the NFL poured in. And to some degree, rightfully so. He went 35-40 in six seasons as coach at Texas Tech.
“People that don’t know him are going to obviously think that,” Simmonds said. “If I didn’t know the guy, I would think the same thing.
“But people that know him know that he’s going to be successful.”
That’s because they’ve seen Kingsbury dedicate himself to football since he was young. He was drawing up plays before he was 10. He’d spend Saturday nights in high school trying to convince friends to skip parties in favor of running routes for him at 10 p.m.
He was a Heisman Trophy candidate his final year at Texas Tech. Then returned to coach in 2013, when excitement after a 7-5 debut season led to the school selling out its season tickets for the first time.
By 2018, though, much of that luster had worn off. Kingsbury’s teams averaged at least 30 points a game in all six seasons, but the defense failed to hold up its end of the bargain. The defense consistently finished near the bottom in the nation. Kingsbury was accountable for the entire team, but it’s no secret that his focus has always been on the offense. Now with the Cardinals, Kingsbury will lean on defensive coordinator and former Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph to pick up that slack.
“They had to play better defense [at Texas Tech] but they didn’t,” Kingsbury’s father said. “They tried. Had some bad luck with quarterbacks being hurt and that kind of stuff. I think people recognize what he can do and that’s why he ended. Up jumping from getting fired to a head coach in the NFL.”
Kingsbury can’t run from his record at Texas Tech. Ultimately, that’s on him. But he also isn’t just some guy who lucked into a few good seasons because he had Patrick Mahomes and a good offensive scheme. The coach has the acumen.
It’s different now. Just all football, all coaching, all the time.
“It’s the perfect fit for him,” said Raih, who met Kingsbury. He can totally focus on football because he is a football guy.”
“He is as happy as I’ve seen him in years,” Klint Kingsbury said.