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Cardinals Hiring Kliff Kingsbury Should Benefit the NFL Regardless of His Success

Arizona hiring the former Texas Tech head coach will be subject to a number of criticisms, but the team is taking a chance on bringing new ideas and concepts into the league.

Kliff Kingsbury is now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, and while you search for the proper assembly of buzzwords to blame the Madden generation, millennials, Rams coach Sean McVay or trend-hungry owners just gobbling up the shiniest object available, consider this: It’s maybe the second or third interesting, outside-the-box hire an NFL team has made in the last decade. Regardless of how it turns out, it’s good for football.

While there are myriad problems with the NFL’s minority pipeline, and the internal machinations by which a coach gets promoted through the system that need to be addressed from an institutional level, the Kingsbury hire at least dislodges another stubborn rock in the process—an owner’s fear of being embarrassed. This is not insignificant.

We know that there are incredible coaches at all levels of the game, some who will never be recognized or shoulder any significant responsibility at the professional level because they don’t know the right people or because they don’t have the right agent. The Kingsbury hire, finalized less than two months after he was fired at Texas Tech for going 35–40 during his six seasons in Lubbock, is first and foremost an instance of incredible timing. Teams are searching for offensive soothsayers under every seat cushion, and Kingsbury’s Red Raiders lit up the scoreboard. But it’s also an example of a team vacating their comfort zone to get something they want.

The NFL can be a food processor for people coming in with different ideas. It’s laughable to think about the sarcasm and haughtiness that met Chip Kelly when he was hired by the Eagles a few years ago, and while he’s back in college, more than half of the league has probably adopted a piece from his offensive system, or sweeping sports science overhaul. That creates an echo chamber where the same acceptable—though not overwhelmingly exciting—names bounce around from job opening to job opening. We spend the offseason ranking chunks of tofu in different packaging.

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Kingsbury will be met with folded arms, too, even as the Air Raid principles he was schooled under have propelled the Patriots and Chiefs to incredible success over the past few seasons.

We tend to only remember the ones that didn’t work out. Kelly. Steve Spurrier. Marc Trestman. Each failure kicks the can down the road as conventional thought gets embraced like a warm blanket.

While McVay was promoted through the traditional ranks, it’s fair to say hiring the youngest head coach in NFL history, and subsequently loading up the roster full of mercurial, high-priced veterans of the same age (or older), was also unconventional. The Rams succeeded, gliding into the NFC’s No. 2 seed this year, and now here we are.

Searching for McVay’s carbon copy is the antithesis of original thought, but the means by which Arizona did it, and the massive blowback they’ll withstand over the coming weeks, should count for something. Starting the moment after Kingsbury’s contract is signed, new ideas and energy will waft into the NFL. That’s a good thing.

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