Black Monday: Kliff Kingsbury, Lovie Smith out

Lovie Smith has already cemented his legacy, while Kliff Kingsbury has not

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Good job, good effort.
Good job, good effort.
Image: Getty Images

Two franchises in complete disarray, the Arizona Cardinals and the Houston Texans fired their head coaches on Monday. The two coaches, Kliff Kingsbury and Lovie Smith, step down at completely different stages of their careers.

For Kliff Kingsbury, there were many questions as to if he was ready for his first NFL head coaching job when he was hired at 39 years old in 2019. While considered an offensive mastermind, Kingsbury’s Texas Tech teams finished over .500 twice during his six seasons there. Patrick Mahomes was his starting quarterback for three of those seasons, and Texas Tech still only earned one bowl bid — the 2015 Texas Bowl where they lost 56-22 to LSU.

For Lovie Smith, if he decides to pack up his Santa Claus beard and spend the rest of his life at the North Pole — or in Tulum — his coaching career should be held in high esteem. It wasn’t his defense’s fault that the Greatest Show on Turf St. Louis Rams only scored 17 points in Super Bowl XXXVI. As the head coach of the Chicago Bears, he went 83-61 with three playoff berths and a Super Bowl appearance. His stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Illinois, and Houston Texans were much less successful.

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Still, Smith cemented himself as a Chicago legend yesterday afternoon. With the Texans and Bears in a battle for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Smith battled the struggling Indianapolis Colts all day. His team led much of the game, but the Colts eventually took a fourth-quarter lead. Then, with a minute left in the game Davis Mills hit the luckiest touchdown pass of his life. The Texans could have sent the game into overtime but Smith decided that there would be no need for the extra session. They went for two, won the game, the Bears secured the No. 1 overall pick for the first time since 1947, and Smith was fired after one season — as was expected.

Make sure a statue for that man is in the construction plans at the new Arlington Heights facility.

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What’s next for Kliff Kingsbury?

He was the cool, handsome, offensive guru who once brought an ice cream truck with bottle service girls to practice when he was an assistant at the University of Houston.

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Kingsbury is in his 40s now and the “boy wonder” charm has worn off. The Cardinals made the playoffs last season, but he has been in charge of a team swamped with dysfunction. There has been the humorous with Kyler Murray’s reported, “study time,” in his contract, and the disturbing when the Cardinals’ offensive line coach — Sean Kugler — got fired after allegedly groping a woman during the team’s weekend in Mexico when they played there in November. It’s an accusation that Kugler denies — he has filed an arbitration case with the league.

Now, one season after signing a contract extension, whatever money the Cardinals are going to have to eat to get rid of him, they clearly have no problem doing so.

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Kingsbury is still a highly respected offensive mind in the college football world. Remember, he was supposed to be USC’s offensive coordinator before the Cardinals decided to make that hard push to hire him in 2019.

Managing a team, and still calling plays, has proven to be a difficult task for many NFL head coaches — especially their first time on the job. What Kingsbury needs to do next, is find a team with a promising offense, NFL or college, and be the offensive coordinator to take them from good to great. He may find himself leading an NFL team again one day, but he’s got a long way to go.