I want to offer a salute and a “well done” to my friend Jon Mark Beilue for a fascinating commentary on a former Texas Tech University head football coach who has redefined how one can land on his feet.
Beilue calls Kliff Kingsbury the “real life version of Forrest Gump.” Beilue knows of which he speaks. He’s a Tech grad, a longtime West Texas journalist (including several years as sports editor of the Amarillo Globe-News). The man knows his business.
Kingsbury has managed to parlay a mediocre college coaching career into a head coaching gig with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
Beilue noted this: Over the next five seasons, Kliff has ONE winning season despite having a QB who will likely be the NFL MVP. He’s 35-40 overall, 19-35 in the Big 12, and by the time he was fired in November 2018, Tech was ahead of only Kansas in the Big 12 pecking order. Oh, and he’s getting TWO MILLION DOLLARS from Tech to leave.
That brings me to the point of this blog item. I do not understand a lot of things, and one of them is how athletic coaches can fail to do their job and still get big-time money after they get fired for non-performance at their jobs.
As Beilue points out, Kingsbury took a header as Tech coach. He didn’t win half of the games he coached. Yet he still gets $2 million for departing a job from which he was fired. He now will get another well-paying gig coaching a team of multimillionaire athletes.
Here’s Beilue’s essay, posted on Facebook:
Kliff Kingsbury is the real-life version of Forrest Gump. Both are likable guys that have seen timing and great fortune shine on them in their storybook life. Don’t believe me?
1. After his record-setting career as a Texas Tech QB, Kliff didn’t really have the skill set for the NFL. He was drafted in 2003 by the New England Patriots in the sixth round. He hurt his arm, and was put on injured reserve. He was ineligible to play, but in his one year, he still got a Super Bowl ring.
2. After bouncing around the NFL briefly and in NFL Europe, he decides to go into coaching. He hooks up with Kevin Sumlin at the University of Houston as quality control assistant. The next year, he’s the QB coach and offensive coordinator just in time when talented QB Case Keenum is a senior.
3. Sumlin goes to A&M and takes Kliff with him in 2012. Who’s there but Johnny Manziel, a generational college QB. Kliff I’m sure refined some of Johnny Football’s play, but Manziel basically ran around like his hair was on fire, and made plays with his legs or threw it up and let WR Mike Evans make a play. Manziel, in Kliff’s only year there, wins the Heisman.
4. Tech is looking to unite a fan base fractured by the firing of Mike Leach and the rocky tenure of Tommy Tuberville, who abruptly left. They go to favorite son Kliff, and give him the keys to the convertible, head coach of your alma mater at age 33 with a whopping THREE YEARS of coaching experience.
5. In his first year in 2013, with the previous staff’s recruits, Kliff goes 7-0, and then loses the next five. In the Holiday Bowl, Tech beats a disinterested Arizona State. Based off that, Tech AD Kirby Hocutt gives Kliff a lucrative contract extension. His $3.7 million salary is 30th highest in the country and has a huge buyout.
6. Over the next five seasons, Kliff has ONE winning season despite having a QB who will likely be the NFL MVP. He’s 35-40 overall, 19-35 in the Big 12, and by the time he was fired in November 2018, Tech was ahead of only Kansas in the Big 12 pecking order. Oh, and he’s getting TWO MILLION DOLLARS from Tech to leave.
7. Six weeks later, he signs a four-year contract to be a head coach in the NFL.
Life is like a box of chocolates.