Why Kliff Kingsbury likely won’t reunite with the Patriots

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JANUARY 01: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals on the sidelines during the third quarter in the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JANUARY 01: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals on the sidelines during the third quarter in the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Now that the Patriots’ offseason has begun, the speculation has heightened around Matt Patricia’s inevitable replacement. For the better part of the season, stemming from early last year, Bill O’Brien dominated the rumor mill to make his way back to New England as the offensive coordinator. Since that remains in limbo, the now-fired head coach and former Patriot Kliff Kingsbury has joined the list of potential and desired candidates.

Changes are clearly on their way, as Bill Belichick reiterated during his press conference on Monday morning. Although he wouldn’t confirm if Patricia and Joe Judge will be let go or transitioned to other roles, he emphasized the need to do what is best for the team. Considering how the offense performed nearly all season long, finding an experienced offensive coordinator should be treated with the utmost importance over the next several weeks.

It seems apparent that O’Brien and Kingsbury are the top names to be considered, particularly due to their ties to New England and Belichick. O’Brien seems the obvious choice, given his previous successful time as the OC in Foxboro and his contract expiring with Alabama. It would be the most Belichick-ian move to bring in a former staff member who would help maintain a similar offensive style. If that’s what Robert Kraft and Belichick are looking for, then O’Brien is probably on his way back to the Patriots already.

But if the team is looking for a new face to help Mac Jones succeed in the NFL, Kingsbury might be the right guy for the job.

Comprising an impressive resume through his work coaching offenses for college football programs, Kingsbury became a hot commodity destined for an NFL head coaching job. He was praised for his work, particularly at Texas Tech working with Patrick Mahomes. He made a name for himself and was quickly considered one of football’s most gifted offensive minds, which led to his eventual position with the Arizona Cardinals in 2019.

But as seen many times throughout the history of the NFL, Kingsbury’s talents didn’t translate well once taking the head coaching job in Glendale.

Despite forming a talented team led by Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, and J.J. Watt, the Cardinals constantly underachieved since Kingsbury was hired. During that time, they tallied a record of 28-37-1 with one playoff appearance last season. Even with that on the table, however, the organization extended him through the 2027 season, which now looks like one of the biggest mistakes in football of the last several years.

On Monday morning, Kingsbury was let go from his duties as head coach of the Cardinals, leading many to assume he could be on his way back to New England. Even before his firing, The MMQB’s Albert Breer mentioned the possibility of a Kingsbury/Patriots reunion, citing his extensive offensive knowledge as a reason the move could happen.

"“If you want to go completely off the board, here’s one for you. The Patriots have done their research on Kliff Kingsbury. I don’t know if Kliff Kingsbury is even going to be available, I don’t know if Kliff Kingsbury’s even going to want to coach if he’s fired in Arizona, but I do think he’s somebody the Patriots would look at as far as if you’re looking at somebody who might be able to move things forward a little bit and has different ideas to inject into what you’re doing.I know things haven’t been perfect in Arizona, but one thing defensive coaches have told me consistently over the last couple of years is because it’s so outside of the norm, Kingsbury’s offense might be the most difficult to prepare for in the entire NFL. So that would be one name to put on your radar if the O’Brien thing doesn’t happen.”"

Because the Patriots need an experienced and talented play-caller, he certainly shouldn’t be ruled out of the realm of possibilities. But the latest reports regarding the former coach’s future imply he may not be eager to return to football soon.

NFL insider Ian Rapoport suggested Kingsbury will likely take some time off before deciding his next move, especially since the Cardinals are on the books to pay him through 2027.

"“I’m not sure Kliff Kingsbury wants to jump right back into this. He has made a lot of money. He has made a lot of money. In college, in professional football, in other places, he is rich. And considering the year he’s had, I am not so sure that Kliff Kingsbury is going to be dying to get to a sideline near us.”"

If he decides to stay in football, the question becomes; would Kingsbury want to return to just play-calling? Because the Cardinals will be paying his salary for the next four years, the ‘demotion’ wouldn’t impact him all that much. However, suppose the Patriots brought him in as the next offensive coordinator. In that case, they’d need to follow the same route they have with Patricia and Judge to maintain Arizona footing the bill.

But would it be worth it? For both the Patriots and Kingsbury?

There is a lot for New England to determine over the next several weeks if they are, indeed, in the market for a new offensive coordinator. Although it seems unlikely, considering all the circumstances, Kingsbury shouldn’t be ruled out of contention to land with the Patriots.