The Kingsbury Effect
The Kingsbury Effect
Kliff Kingsbury has enjoyed a rapid ascent to his first NFL head coaching position. Kingsbury has just over 10 years of experience in the coaching field. All his experience came in college before being hired by the Arizona Cardinals on January 8th, 2019 He started as a QB Coach in college with the Houston Cougars from 2008-2009. From there he was the Offensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
He saw success there and became OC at Texas A & M where he coached Johnny Manziel to a Heisman Trophy as a Freshman. Kingsbury was also a Heisman Trophy candidate himself in 2002 while QB of the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Kingsbury turned his success at College Station to become the head coach at Texas Tech in 2013. His offense was wildly successful while he held the head gig for six years there. As one of the top passing game minds in college football, he was able to produce a top-10 finish in passing yards each of those six years (five of the six ranked top five). Kingsbury also coached the Red Raiders to a top-25 scoring offense in five of his six years on campus. Here is a look at how his offenses finished in scoring offense and passing yards per game during his tenure:
Kingsbury is a student of the air raid offense. The air raid offense is known for its heavy emphasis on passing. Typically, four wide receivers are used. Two line up in the slot and two line up wide. Passing plays usually number around 65-75% out of all the plays run per game. The air raid also usually involves the no huddle or hurry up, working to tire out the defense.
Some students of the air raid are Kingsbury, Mike Leach, Art Briles, and Kevin Sumlin. All have had offensive success in college with this offense in the college ranks. There have been some adaptations to it in the NFL. How it plays out if it is fully unleashed has yet to be seen.
What offense Kliff Kingsbury will run in the NFL is totally unknown. He has no NFL coaching experience and really not many ties in “the league”. He has ties to Sean McVay, but that is where it ends. They run completely different styles of offense. One thing about the air raid offense, it is constantly evolving. Kliff is certainly an innovator. At one point last year, he lined up in a diamond formation and pulled the left guard to pass protect.
Many experts ridiculed the Arizona Cardinals, stating that they were chasing the next McVay. Part of Kingsbury’s success has been able to modify and adapt the air raid as situations dictate. He did have a losing record at Texas Tech. He didn’t exactly have a lot of five-star recruits on his squads. Competing for players with the likes of the Longhorns, Aggies and other schools that hit Texas hard, he was left with sub-par talent.
It will be difficult to predict what Kingsbury will do at the NFL level. It’ll also be a struggle to know if he can mold the “talent”, or lack thereof, to fit whatever system he does implement. We don’t have any NFL data on “KK”, but we try to break down how we think each fantasy-relevant position is impacted.
Josh Rosen (QB1)
Poor Josh Rosen. The guy has had five different offensive coordinators in just four years. It’s hard to feel bad for someone that had a hot tub in their dorm room, but here we are. In his freshman year, he had Noel Mazzone. Mazzone has a background in the air raid offense and worked as the OC for Kevin Sumlin while with the Aggies in 2016. This will benefit Rosen some in the language of the offense.
Rosen’s next coordinators were Kennedy Polamalu (sophomore year) and Jedd Fisch (junior year). A career RB coach, Polamalu wasn’t much help to Rosen. Fisch also had a run-heavy approach as a coordinator. He has worked under the likes Dom Capers and Jim Harbaugh. Not great backgrounds for a guy about the chuck it a ton. Hopefully, his football IQ can help him adjust yet again.
Potential Schematic Fit
The air raid offense will help his lack of arm strength with quick outs and a lot of slot looks. A lot of criticism was put on Rosen for his lack of coachability in college. Maybe some of that stems from learning a new system every year. Even in the NFL, he hasn’t worked with a mind quite like Kingsbury’s. He started the season with Mick McCoy at OC (enough said) and finished with interim OC Byron Leftwich.
Leftwich is an up and coming coach in the NFL and has since departed to work with Bruce Arians in Tampa. The Cardinals are not expected to hire an OC but have hired longtime coach Tom Clements to be the QB Coach and Passing Game Coordinator. Kingsbury is still expected to call the plays. Rosen’s numbers from last year don’t tell us much because of the conservative nature of McCoy’s offense. This interactive chart from the data-analysis tab on FFS shows that he only dropped back 361 times in 14 games. This is well below the league average for pass attempts.
The exact target breakdown is 72 to the RB, 225 to the WR and 62 to the TE. This will make things difficult to predict for the Cardinals offense. We can only hope Kingsbury and Rosen have a chemistry a coach and a QB need to have. I would think Rosen would be excited by the hire. He finally has a competent offensive mind to guide him and let him showcase his skills. His college career was also marred with injuries, so he may get better with more reps as well. I would put Rosen down as a wait and see prospect at QB next year in redraft leagues.
David Johnson (RB1)
This guy gets it done. He didn’t perform to his draft position, but DJ was still able to pull out a 9th ranked RB finish in PPR. To recap, in the 3 years he has been healthy, he has been RB8, RB1, and RB9. The obvious dip in the chart is from 2017 when he was injured in Week 1.
There have been some concerns that no back has ever caught more than 41 passes in a Kingsbury coached offense. That was in college. Texas Tech did not have David Johnson or anyone close to his talent level. Kliff is already on record as stating that he “can’t wait for our offensive coaches to get their hands on him and use him in as many ways possible”. That is good news for owners of DJ in dynasty. It’s a tidbit that the average fan may have missed during his opening presser. Take advantage of the perceived decline in Johnson’s value and monitor his ADP. He could potentially be a steal in 2019.
Larry Fitzgerald (WR1)
Old faithful is back. Larry Fitzgerald agreed to a one year deal with the Arizona Cardinals as I was doing this write up. I think this is great news for the entire offense as a whole. Even in a bad offense last year, Fitz produced serviceable numbers. The chart below from the season-data tool at FFS shows his WR fantasy finish over his 15 years. You can see he was a top 25 WR in all but four of his 15 seasons. Look for some sporadic numbers in 2019 but I think he can be very useful in leagues that start three WR.
There are too many question marks in the rest of the Arizona receiver corps to break them down individually. Larry Fitzgerald just resigned with the Cardinals on a one year deal. I think this actually helps Christian Kirk.
Kirk is an exciting talent and was on his way to a solid rookie year before breaking his foot. He only started 7 games, but in the 12 games, he played he managed 43 catches on 68 targets. This was good for 590 yards and 3 TDs. With the expected improvement in Rosen under Kingsbury, look for his catch % to increase.
Look for Kirk to pace the team in targets even with Fitz returning. Kirk also spent his entire career under Kevin Sumlin at Texas A & M and should have a lot of familiarity with the offense from the start of OTAs. He is a very exciting dynasty prospect to own and could be a breakout candidate if this offense can put it all together and stay healthy.
Chad Williams only had 17 receptions all season. Five of them came in Week 17. He may not make the roster next year depending on what the Cards do in the draft and in Free Agency. JJ Nelson was active in 14 games but only had seven catches all year. The other WR on the roster are Pharoh Cooper (South Carolina), Malachi Dupre (LSU), Trent Sherfield (Vanderbilt) and Jalen Toliver (Arkansas-Monticello).
Arizona has the 6th most cap space in the league and will address the position in some way in the 2019 offseason.
Ricky Seals-Jones (TE1)
RSJ is an enigma. He was a five-star recruit out of high school but has never lived up to his hype. He played his college ball under Kevin Sumlin at A & M and should be familiar with the offense. At 6’5” and 243 pounds, he ran a 4.69 40 at the combine in 2017. His weaknesses in college were getting off the line and dropping passes. Maybe familiarity with the offense of Kingsbury, he can save his NFL career. Seals-Jones did finish with double-digit points in three games last year. RSJ is one to monitor in two-TE leagues but won’t be anyone I will be targeting at this point. He is also a restricted free agent.
Kliff Kingsbury’s coaching prowess has him being heralded as a “QB Guru”. He has coached the likes of Case Keenum at Houston, Johnny Manziel at A & M and Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech. The man obviously knows the quarterback position inside and out. How he instills his knowledge into Josh Rosen will determine the outcome of how good they can be for your fantasy football team. As of now, the only interest I have in this offense lies with David Johnson. I will be keeping a close eye on Rosen’s development and won’t hesitate to add him from the wire if he heats up even for one week.