The Dallas Cowboys may be on a three-game win streak right now and building steam towards claiming a division title, but it seems apparent that this team is still far from being real Super Bowl contenders. The defense has been the strongest point of this team, but the offense has been the root of all problems this year. Adding Amari Cooper has helped significantly, but there are still times where the offense falls flat and is unable to produce. Many of these struggles tend to happen in the red zone, specifically, where Dallas ranks 25th in the league in red zone touchdowns per game.
While some of these struggles have to do with personnel, a lot of the blame has to fall at the feet of the man running the offense: Scott Linehan. There were very loud calls for Linehan to be fired at the end of last season, and the Cowboys reportedly came close to doing so in their bye week this year, but instead decided to fire Paul Alexander. And while the offense is doing better since then, there’s no guarantee that Linehan remains with the team.
And now, there’s a pretty spectacular incentive for Dallas to part ways with Linehan, or at least start paving the way for that.
The university has released an official statement saying Kliff Kingsbury will not return for the 2019 season. https://t.co/JVX7dgfNPF— SportsDayDFW (@SportsDayDFW) November 25, 2018
Texas Tech reportedly made the decision that most of us expected by firing their head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, after six seasons with the program. The Red Raiders ended the season on a five game losing streak after their starting quarterback was injured for the year and squandered a 5-2 start to lose out on a bowl game appearance.
Kingsbury, as some may remember, is a bit of an offensive wunderkind with a record of prolific offenses and getting the most out of his quarterbacks. In his two years as the offensive coordinator for the University of Houston, Kingsbury helped Case Keenum rewrite ten different NCAA passing records that still stand to this day. Kingsbury then spent a year running the offense at Texas A&M and getting the most productive season of his career from then-freshman Johnny Manziel.
Kingsbury parlayed his success into the head coaching job at Texas Tech, where he coached three different quarterbacks who are now in the NFL: Davis Webb, Patrick Mahomes, and Baker Mayfield. Kingsbury’s teams consistently had some stellar offenses, but the biggest on-field problem was that the defenses were always terrible.
Kingsbury also seemed to have trouble juggling the responsibilities of recruiting with running the team. The general consensus seems to be that he’s a schematic mastermind but isn’t quite ready to run a program. Perhaps a few more years working specifically with the offense might help grow his skillset.
This is where America’s Team enters the picture. The fit with Kingsbury almost seems too perfect. He’s a Texas native and has only worked with the Texas schools thus far, and his track record of building offenses around the players’ best skills, as well as developing quarterbacks and getting the best out of them, should make Dallas jump up and down. The only thing in the way of Kingsbury calling plays for the Cowboys right now is that, unlike the college football season, the NFL season isn’t close to being done yet.
Don't be surprised If Kliff Kingsbury ends up as an NFL OC in 2019. Brilliant offensive mind who stays on top of everything with his film study of cutting edge stuff in NFL and college each week. https://t.co/sDJgJMAtPp— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 25, 2018
And as Dallas is entering the final stretch towards a playoff spot, making a change to their coaching staff like that would probably only be a disservice to the team. But what they could do is hire Kingsbury in an advisory or consultant role. In the short term, it would allow Kingsbury to inject his expertise into this offense and effectively serve as a trial run for Jason Garrett, and Stephen Jones for that matter, to gauge how their relationship would work.
Specifically seeing how Kingsbury works with offensive centerpieces like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Cole Beasley would give the Cowboys an idea of what he could do with them. Kingsbury could also use his college background to brainstorm more ways to get players like Rico Gathers and Tavon Austin (when he returns from injury) more involved.
And if things work out well, then Dallas can feel more comfortable moving on from Linehan if they decide that’s the decision they want to make. Often times, NFL teams will hold onto a coach even if they don’t want to because there aren’t any suitable replacements they can realistically get. But if Dallas makes a move soon, they could put themselves into a position where they have a replacement - and arguably an upgrade - for Linehan if a change happens.
That may not be really doable, however, since Linehan would have no doubts that Kingsbury was there specifically to take his place next season. However, he might just take it and focus on finishing out the year as strongly as possible to make his own resume look better. It may depend on how open or close minded the Joneses are about the future of the OC job.
There is always an option of negotiating a deal with Kingsbury and not going public with it. That is a bit risky, since those kinds of secrets seldom stay secret. There may be other possible paths involving different titles and roles. It really just depends on whether the Joneses really want Kingsbury. If they do, they will find a way to make it happen.
But they have to strike now before Kingsbury finds a job at another college football program, or worse - another NFL team scoops him up. At just 39 years old and with such an outstanding offensive resume, Kingsbury won’t be on the market for long.