Texas Tech is really airing it out with this one, but Kliff Kingsbury knows a thing or two about that.
The Red Raiders on Wednesday hired the Texas A&M offensive coordinator to replace Tommy Tuberville as head football coach in Lubbock, Texas. The move made sense. Ten years ago, Kingsbury was the first real Air Raid quarterback at Texas Tech under Mike Leach. Under Kevin Sumlin at the University of Houston, Kingsbury quickly rose from the bottom of the staff (quality control) to offensive coordinator, helping the Cougars lead the Bowl Subdivision in offense in 2010 and 2011, and helping quarterback Case Keenum break all the big NCAA passing records.
That was supposed to end this year, when Kingsbury followed Sumlin to Texas A&M and the SEC, where offense isn’t supposed to work, and certainly not the kind of offense Kingsbury runs. Well, guess who led the SEC in offense. The Aggies averaged 546 yards per game and 39.1 points in SEC play. They put up 418 yards on an Alabama defense thought to be impenetrable. And oh yeah . . . Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy.
Kingsbury is everything Texas Tech football has been for the last 10 years. The Red Raiders could not have found a more comfortable fit.
“Wreck ’em, Tech,” Kingsbury said Wednesday.
But there is a risk of a wreck here. It’s the kind of risk Texas Tech needs to take, but it’s a risk.
Kingsbury is 33 years young. He’s so young he doesn’t even have the middle-aged belly yet. He’s young enough they might have played Blink 182 songs at his prom. He’s young enough that when he wears those Oakley sunglasses on the sidelines, he’s wearing them in a post-ironic way. He’s wearing them because they were once cool, became uncool and have become cool again; he’s young enough to understand that. He’s young enough to be cool.
Of all the coaches in college football, Kingsbury would make the best MTV VJ.
This does not mean he is unfit to lead a major program. Lane Kiffin . . . OK, bad example . . . Jon Gruden, for example, became an NFL head coach at age 35. And he won a Super Bowl at age 39. The NFL is different, of course. NFL coaches are pure tacticians. College coaching requires so much more. You’ve got to have a little charisma. You’ve got to be able to inspire fear and trust. You’ve got to be able to make mamas feel like their babies are in good hands. You have to glad-hand the boosters.
There is no real reason to believe Kingsbury can’t do that. Sumlin has been saying for at least a year that Kingsbury would make a great head coach at some point. He probably didn’t count on that point being this point, but the point stands.
It’s just that, for all he’s done, Kingsbury hasn’t actually proved much. He has never been a head coach at any level. He has three successful years as a coordinator, but two of those years came in Conference USA and one of those years came with a Heisman Trophy winner. He’s the guy coaching those quarterbacks and calling the plays, but the risk-averse would like to see Kingsbury operate with, say, this year’s Houston team, or even this year’s Texas team, before pronouncing him ready to lead Texas Tech back into the Big 12 championship hunt.
But risk-aversion is a blueblood’s luxury. Alabama gets to wait it out. Florida gets to tell you you’re too young for all this. Ohio State gets to hire Urban Meyer after he’s already Urban Meyer.
That’s not Texas Tech. Texas Tech has to try to hire the next Urban Meyer, before he’s Urban Meyer. Texas Tech doesn’t have the luxury of lining up and beating the bluebloods at their own game.
Texas Tech has to throw it deep.
And that’s what this is. It’s calculated, planned, carefully considered. This is not a shot in the dark. But it is a deep ball.
Yet if that’s what you need, who better to do it with than Kliff Kingsbury?