The Cardinals' reported hire of Kliff Kingsbury is a brutal turn of events for USC

Kliff Kingsbury’s time at USC was short-lived.

According to NFL Network, Kingsbury is in the final stages of becoming the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, where he will replace Steve Wilks after a 3-13 season.

It’s a remarkable turn of events for the 39-year-old Kingsbury, who was fired by Texas Tech, his alma mater, on Nov. 25. Ten days later, Kingsbury signed on to join Clay Helton’s staff at USC as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach despite multiple NFL teams expressing interest in his services — presumably, at that point, in an assistant-coaching role.

Later on, however, it became clear that professional teams were after Kingsbury as a head coach. As Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported, the Cardinals and New York Jets pursued formal interviews with Kingsbury. USC athletic director Lynn Swann, at first, reportedly blocked those interviews from happening. One report even said that Kingsbury would resign from USC in order to pursue NFL openings. However that all transpired, it culminated with Kingsbury interviewing and ultimately landing the top job with the Cardinals.

What does this mean for USC?

It was a surprise to many when Helton kept his job as USC’s head coach after a 5-7 record in 2018, the program’s first losing season since 2000. In an effort to turn things around, Helton was tasked with drastically reworking his staff. The Kingsbury hire was a big one.

Helton was set to turn over the reins of his offense to Kingsbury with play-calling duties and everything. Kingsbury would have had a chance to work with quarterback JT Daniels, a five-star recruit who graduated early to play for the Trojans last fall. He showed flashes of brilliance, but also looked like a freshman.

Kingsbury has deservedly garnered a reputation for developing quarterbacks. He is the guy who brought the likes of Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes — both of whom were unheralded recruits — to Lubbock. At TTU, Kingsbury always got the ball into the hands of playmakers. USC has no shortage of them, with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns at receiver and Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai at running back.

In its press release announcing the hire of Kingsbury, USC touted that Texas Tech finished ranked in the national top 10 in passing yards and in the top 20 in total offense while averaging at least 30 points per game in each of Kingsbury’s seasons as head coach. His hire seemed like a recipe for a big turnaround for the Trojans, who finished 48th in passing yards, 83rd in total offense and averaged 26.1 points per game.

Now Helton, already poised to top most hot seat lists entering the 2019 season, has been left at the altar by Kingsbury and will have to search for a new coordinator very late in the college hiring cycle.

That is a brutal turn of events.

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Kliff Kingsbury's coaching career
DALLAS, TX - AUGUST 30: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders looks on against the SMU Mustangs on August 30, 2013 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 12: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders talks things over with quarterback Davis Webb #7 during game action against the Iowa State Cyclones on October 12, 2013 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech won the game over Iowa State 42-35. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 2: Texas Tech Red Raider head coach Kliff Kingsbury observes pre-game warm-ups before facing the Oklahoma State Cowboys on November 2, 2013 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Oklahoma State won the game 52-34. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 26: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts after a touchdown during their loss to the Oklahoma Sooners on October 26, 2013 at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by Jackson Laizure/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 9: Texas Tech Red Raider head coach Kliff Kingsbury during game action against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 9, 2013 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Kansas State won the game 49-26. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30: Offensive Player of the Game Quarterback Davis Webb #7 and Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders poise for a photo after their teams' 37-23 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils during their National University Holiday Bowl Game on December 30, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30: Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders gets the Gatorade dump after his teams' 37-23 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils during their National University Holiday Bowl Game on December 30, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JULY 21: Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury speaks during the Big 12 Media Day on July 21, 2014 at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
El PASO, TX -SEPTEMBER 6 : Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders has some advice for Davis Webb #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during game action against the UTEP Miners on September 6, 2014 at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. The Texas Tech Red Raiders defeated the UTEP Miners 30-26. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during game action against the Arkansas Razorbacks on September 13, 2014 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Arkansas defeated Texas Tech 49-28. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 15: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners on November 15, 2014 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Oklahoma won the game 42-30. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 15: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners on November 15, 2014 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Oklahoma won the game 42-30. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
November 15 2014: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury calling over to his players during the 2nd quarter of the Oklahoma Sooners 42-30 victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas (Photo by Jacob Coppl/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 22: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders coaches from the sidelines in the second half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Ames, Iowa. Texas Tech defeated Iowa State 34-31. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders on the field for pre game warm ups prior to playing the TCU Horned Frogs on September 26, 2015 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. TCU won the game 55-52. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury on the sidelines against TCU at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. TCU won, 55-52. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 24: Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders watches the game against the Oklahoma Sooners on October 24, 2015 at the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by Jackson Laizure/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 31: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Justin Stockton #4 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders before the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Oklahoma State Cowboys on October 31, 2015 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Oklahoma State defeated Texas Tech 70-53. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
December 29, 2015: Texas Tech Red Raider quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5) talks to Texas Tech Red Raider head coach Kliff Kingsbury before the final drive of the game during the 2015 Advocare Texas Bowl featuring the LSU Tigers vs Texas Tech Red Raiders at NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/ICON Sportswire) (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts on the sidelines during the first half of the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on September 10, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
10 September, 2016: Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury during the NCAA football game between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders watches warmups before the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on September 29, 2016 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech won the game 55-19. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders stands on the sidelines during the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers on October 15, 2016 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders questions an officials call during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners on October 22, 2016 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Oklahoma won the game 66-59. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury works from the sideline as Texas Tech takes on TCU during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Amon G. Carter Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas. (Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders watches play during the game against the Texas Longhorns on November 5, 2016 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas defeated Texas Tech 45-37. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
AMES, IA – NOVEMBER 19: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders walks the field during warm ups at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa State Cyclones won 66-10 over the Texas Tech Red Raiders. (Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images)
AMES, IA – NOVEMBER 19: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders coaches from the sidelines in the first half of play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa State Cyclones won 66-10 over the Texas Tech Red Raiders. (Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images)
Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II (5) and head coach Kliff Kingsbury walk off the field after after a 54-35 win against Baylor at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
FRISCO, TX - JULY 17: Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury takes questions during the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days on July 17, 2017 at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 16: Nic Shimonek #16 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders and head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders on the field before the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Arizona State Sun Devils on September 16, 2017 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech won the game 52-45. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 16: Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury and wide receiver Dylan Cantrell (14) celebrate a touchdown during the Texas Tech Raider's 52-45 victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils on September 16, 2017 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, TX. (Photo by Sam Grenadier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Willie Sykes #19 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrate a interception return for a touchdown by Damarcus Fields #23 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half of the game on September 30, 2017 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LAWRENCE, KS - OCTOBER 7: Kliff Kingsbury head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders cheers for his team against the Kansas Jayhawks at Memorial Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders prepares to lead his team on to the field before the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Oklahoma State Cowboys on September 30, 2017 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Oklahoma State won the game 41-34. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 04: Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury watches on from the sidelines during the Texas Tech Raider's 42-35 loss to the Kansas State Wildcats on November 4, 2017 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, TX. (Photo by Sam Grenadier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 11: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders receives the Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Shoot Out trophy from Texas Farm Bureau Insurance President Russell Boening after the game between the Baylor Bears and the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 11, 2017 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Texas Tech defeated Baylor 38-24. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 11 : Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders walks on the field during warm ups before the game between the Baylor Bears and the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 11, 2017 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Texas Tech defeated Baylor 38-24. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 18: Head coach Gary Patterson of the TCU Horned Frogs and head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders interact before the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the TCU Horned Frogs on November 18, 2017 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. TCU defeated Texas Tech 27-3. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts with members of the coaching staff in the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 24, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, AL - DECEMBER 23: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders looks on against the South Florida Bulls in the first half of the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on December 23, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 01: Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury looks up at the clock during the AdvoCare Kickoff college football game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Ole Miss Rebels on September 1, 2018 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 15: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts to a defensive stop in the second half during the game against the Houston Cougars on September 15, 2018 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech won the game 63-49. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders (center, headphones, sunglasses) watches play from the sidelines during the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers on September 29, 2018 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. West Virginia defeated Texas Tech 42-34. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 03: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders on the field during warm ups before the game against the Oklahoma Sooners on November 3, 2018 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Oklahoma defeated Texas Tech 51-46. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
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Why would NFL teams be interested in Kingsbury?

Kingsbury’s Texas Tech teams were always exciting to watch — on offense. The Red Raiders worked an up-tempo air raid style (that Kingsbury learned under Mike Leach) that scored a ton of points. But defensive shortcomings hampered the program during Kingsbury’s six seasons. Overall, he had a 35-40 (19-35 Big 12) record at TTU, including a 5-7 mark in 2018. It was the third time in his tenure that the Red Raiders failed to reach the postseason.

So why would NFL teams go after a coach who was fired by his own alma mater? Offense, of course. Kingsbury coached quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has taken the NFL by storm in his second season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Robinson noted Kingsbury as the latest example of NFL teams pursuing “young, progressive offensive coaches who fit the mold of the Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay and the Chicago Bears’ Matt Nagy.”

From Robinson:

In three seasons as a coordinator at the University of Houston and Texas A&M and six seasons as a head coach at Texas Tech, Kingsbury guided five offenses that finished in the top five in scoring in the nation. Inside that span, he was credited with identifying both Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield as quarterback prospects, while also helping to develop Case Keenum, Johnny Manziel and Davis Webb into NFL players. Perhaps more important, the offenses Kingsbury developed were often layered and molded to the skills of his players, creating success with players who had varied strengths and weaknesses.

In Arizona, Kingsbury has the chance to develop ex-UCLA star Josh Rosen, who was chosen with the No. 10 selection of the 2018 NFL draft. He had the growing pains you’d expect from a rookie quarterback on a bad team. In 14 games (13 starts), Rosen threw for 2,278 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while completing 55.2 percent of his passes.

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