Skip to main content

Report: Kliff Kingsbury considering leaving USC to explore NFL options

Kliff Kingsbury was fired by Texas Tech on Nov. 26 and announced as USC's offensive coordinator on Dec. 5, a week and two days later. At the time, that seemed... quick. The Air Raid offense is lighting up the NFL at the moment, evidenced by former Kingsbury quarterback Patrick Mahomes leading his Kansas City Chiefs to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and himself to a likely NFL MVP trophy in his first year as a starter.

Kingsbury's 9-day stint as a coaching free agent didn't leave NFL teams enough time to gauge his interest, since teams still had nearly a month to play when he took himself off the market to take the USC job. But, hey, maybe Kliff just wanted to coach college ball, live in LA and not have to worry about all that head coaching stuff.

Now, a month to the day after USC announced his hiring, the NFL is very much interested in getting in the Kliff Kingsbury business. The Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets are reportedly interested in interviewing him for their head coaching vacancies, but ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted early Saturday that USC was blocking their new property from those opportunities.

Kingsbury could always go around his AD Lynn Swann's wishes and take the interviews, but the NFL requires its teams to receive permission to contact from college ADs, lest they lose draft picks. (How many draft picks? Great question.)

After that news broke, Scott joked (in a joke that was only kind of a joke) that Kliff should just walk away.

Hours later, Pro Football Talkreported Kingsbury read Scott's tweet is considering resigning from USC in order to take those interviews. From that report:

Per multiple sources, Kingsbury’s contract has a very low buyout. But the buyout never came up because the NFL teams, honoring the strong mandate issued at last month’s ownership meeting, contacted Swann and requested permission to interview Kingsbury. Swann said no, and that was the end of it.

But that may not be the end of it. Kingsbury, the former Texas Tech head coach, may simply pay the buyout, walk away, and see what happens with any NFL head-coaching or offensive coordinator opportunities.

I have many questions:

1) Did the Kingsbury camp really not see the NFL interest coming? That's the only explanation that makes sense for not at least waiting out the month of December rather than take the first offer that came their way -- attractive as the offer was. Could they really not have negotiated an "If the NFL comes calling..." clause into his contract at USC?

The only other explanation that made sense at the time was that Kliff simply wanted to remain in the college game, but seeing as how he's reportedly considering quitting just to interview for a pair of jobs, it seems that was not the case -- making it all the more baffling he took the USC coordinator gig as quickly as he did.

2) What's USC's end game for blocking Kingsbury? The negative recruiting angle against USC and Kingsbury was already going to be, He's just there for a year before he bounces to the League. Now, should Kliff even remain in LA, it would be, He doesn't even want to be there. He'd rather be in the League.

3) Furthermore, where does the leverage lie in the Kingsbury-USC relationship? Yes, USC has him under contract and it has the power to grant or deny access to him as bestowed upon the school by the NFL, but USC needs Kingsbury more than he needs USC, as evidenced by the fact he's getting interest as an NFL head coach. If the Jets and Cardinals jobs fall through, offensive coordinator offers would surely follow.

In the end, the question boils down to two things: A) his buyout at USC, and B) his desire to coach in the NFL.

Assuming A is manageable -- since USC is a private school, we have no idea there -- then B essentially winds the clock back to Nov. 26. Does Kliff want to remain in college or try his hand at the NFL?

A month to the day after taking a job, Kliff Kingsbury could become hottest coaching free agent on the market again.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.