Current Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray recently defended former Texas Tech football head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure in Lubbock.
Kyler Murray and his head coach with the Arizona Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury, are one of the surprise success stories in the NFL this year. The Cards currently sit at 6-3 overall and are in a 3-way first-place tie in the ultra-competitive NFC West.
As a result, Murray, the former Oklahoma Sooner who was the no. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Kingsbury’s first draft as head coach of the Cardinals, is garnering MVP consideration. And after he and receiver DeAndre Hopkins pulled off an improbable Hail Mary to beat the Buffalo Bills this past weekend, Murray has become the talk of the NFL.
Thus, he has started to show up on various talk shows and one such appearance came on the Tiki and Tierney show on Monday. Interestingly, during that interview, Murray was asked about his head coach and he took it upon himself to defend Kingsbury’s work at Texas Tech, which many Kingsbury’s detractors have been pointing to since the moment he took the head coaching job in Arizona.
“People knock him for his record at Texas Tech,” Murray said, “but he did the most with what he had. Let’s be truly honest, it’s just tough (to win there). I don’t buy that little argument.”
While there is no doubt that it can be more challenging for a head coach to win in Lubbock than it is for one to win in Norman, Oklahoma, or elsewhere, there’s a part of Murray’s “little argument” that Texas Tech fans may not buy completely.
Murray is looking at Kingsbury’s time as head coach of the Red Raiders through the lens of an NFL player. But there’s a huge difference between what Kingsbury is being asked to do with the Cardinals now and what he was asked to do with the Red Raiders from 2013-18…building the roster.
In the NFL, Kingsbury simply has to be a coach and he can spend all of his time dealing with X’s and O’s while his general manager pieces together the talent on his squad. That allows the somewhat reclusive and introverted Kingsbury to stay in his film room all day and scheme up new plays, which is what he truly loves to do.
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But at the college level, compiling the roster is a bigger part of a head coach’s job than the game-planning aspect of the profession. And that’s where Kingsbury hurt himself. In fact, prior to last season, Kingsbury admitted to ESPN.com that he didn’t focus enough on recruiting.
“I enjoyed all aspects of being a head coach in college, but the recruiting, that’s the lifeblood of any program,” he told Josh Weinfuss. “That should be your focus. That may not have been my focus at times as much as it should’ve been because I wanted to coach the quarterbacks and be in the X’s and O’s and study other offenses.
There’s no doubt that Kingsbury’s greatest flaw as a college head coach was as a recruiter. That was evident by the rankings of his recruiting classes. Despite the fact that he had as much style and charisma as any coach in the nation, he never landed a top-30 class in Lubbock and his final class at Tech ranked just 72nd in the nation.
So while, Murray might be defending his head coach by saying that he did the best with what he had while at Tech, that argument doesn’t absolve Kingsbury of the blame for his flameout at his alma mater. That’s because Kingsbury was responsible for his roster’s talent deficits, not some general manager as would be the case in the NFL.
In other words, what Murray is saying is akin to excusing a chef for a bad meal because the ingredients were not up to standards. We wouldn’t give a chef a pass for using expired or rotten meat and we shouldn’t give Kingsbury a pass for failing to bring an adequate Big 12 roster to Texas Tech.
We all know that Kingsbury is better off coaching on Sundays where he doesn’t have to recruit, fundraise, or glad-hand the way a college coach is required to do in order to be successful. In fact, he’s a leading candidate for NFL Coach of the Year. However, the program he left behind is not better off these days and much of that is because of the poor state of affairs Kingsbury left the roster in.
We all love Kingsbury for what he has meant to this program, mostly as a player, and we wish him nothing but the best in the NFL. However, his time as head coach of the Texas Tech football program still warrants strong criticism as he went just 35-40 overall and 19-35 in Big 12 play. So while he may have done the best with the talent he had, the reality is that if he would have embraced all aspects of his job, he would have had a stronger roster to work with and he would probably still be the head coach of the Red Raiders. Of course, Murray is glad that isn’t the case.