Kliff Kingsbury quickly ascended up the coaching ranks, and he has the New England Patriots in part to thank.
After stops at Houston, Texas A&M and Texas Tech, Kingsbury landed his first NFL coaching gig when the Arizona Cardinals hired him to be their next head man back in January. But before making his way into the league as a coach, Kingsbury had a cup of coffee as a player.
Well, kind of.
The 40-year-old was a sixth-round pick by the Patriots back in 2003, his lone campaign with the organization. Kingsbury, a former quarterback, spent the entire season on injured reserve, but thanks to a slick personnel move by Bill Belichick, he managed to make an impact on what would be a Super Bowl-winning team.
As Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer revealed in his latest Monday Morning Quarterback column, Belichick turned Kingsbury into the Patriots offense’s de facto quality control coach, a position originally held by Sean Gustus, who was moved to a scouting role.
“I was in there grinding with the coaches,” Kingsbury told Breer. “And that was basically the role that I served in, helping with breakdowns, printing things out, helping offensively any way they could use me under Charlie Weis and some really good coaches.”
Given he’d just broken into the league as a player, Kingsbury at the time didn’t foresee a future in coaching. He might not have shifted gears had it not been for his experience in Foxboro.
“I think at that point, I was like, ‘Hell no, I’m never doing this,’ ” Kingsbury said. “But looking back, that was huge as far as what I learned, a crash course from the best organization to ever do it, really. Coach Belichick and Charlie Weis, day-in, day-out, it was like getting a Ph.D. in football.”
Kingsbury continued: “It was my first time really behind the curtain of game-planning, to the extent and level of preparation that the Patriots did it. To be able to see that as a young player and at a young age was incredible. I didn’t realize what all went into it, and especially at that place. There was no stone unturned. And I got to see that first-hand.”
Expectations this season will be high for Kingsbury, whose Cardinals will be led by No. 1 overall pick and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray. But thanks to his time with the Patriots, Kingsbury might be better-equipped than your typical first-year NFL head coach.
Thumbnail photo via Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports Images