College Game Gets Air Raided by NFL!

The NFL once loathed "gimmicky" College Offenses--this week it hired Kliff Kingsbury

The elitist, gentlemen's club, closed-minded National Football League I covered in the 1980s would have slammed the telephone down on Kliff Kingsbury’s agent.

“That’ll be the day,” the NFL would have chirped like Buddy Holly to the former coach from Lubbock.

The only thing the NFL I covered hated more than free agency and African American quarterbacks was any idea, system or suggestion brought forth by college football.

The NFL considered the amateur game a sub-society of wishbone thinkers and screw-loose tinkerers.

College football had one purpose to the NFL: providing the raw materials needed for production and assembly.

The pros generally treated college coaches like trash—Mouse Davis and his “Run N Shoot” was straight out of “Mean Girls.”

Flash forward to this week, when the Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff “frigging” Kingsbury, the USC temp-hire and recently fired coach of Texas Tech, which ran an offense with no fullback or any inclination of running the ball to advance field position.

Mouse Davis, right now, must be laughing his tight end off.

The NFL of my mid-1980s green-lighted mostly brutish and boorish concepts led by the “Hogs” of Washington and Chicago’s brutally-macho “46.” defense.

Even Bill Walsh, who won big with precision passing concepts, disparaged the Run N Shoot as un-NFL worthy. And the San Francisco 49ers I covered always had a fullback.

Buddy Ryan, defensive coordinator for the meanest, bad-ass defense of all time, the 1985 Chicago Bears, scoffed at anything other than train-wreck football.

He called the Run N Shoot the “Chuck and Duck” and said it wouldn’t work in the NFL because no offense without a fullback or tight end could score inside the five or run out a fourth-quarter clock.

Mouse Davis developed his spread-the-field concepts idea as a college coach at Portland State, where quarterback Neil Lomax put up prolific numbers.

Davis was never, ever, EVER allowed to become an NFL coach, even though his ideas influenced the college game at places like Hawaii, where June Jones played QB with these NFL-blasphemous concepts.

Mouse also sold his soap in the USFL, where Jim Kelly and the Houston Gamblers became “The Mouseketeers.”

Marv Levy, coach of Buffalo’s Bills, was the first NFL coach to embrace Mouse-like ideas and that team, led by Kelly, went to four straight Super Bowls.

Despite the Bills success, NFL hard-cores still considered no-huddle a gimmick.

Well, look at the NFL now?

The pros have become smitten by collegiate offensive concepts that, 30 years ago, were considered circus acts.

Fullbacks, in the new NFL, are an endangered species while even power-formation tailbacks are falling farther down the draft board.

The NFL, which took years to adopt the college’s concept of a “two-point” conversion, is now ripping ideology away from places like Pullman, Norman and Lubbock.

A 5-foot-9 quarterback from Oklahoma, Kyler Murray, is now considered a hot commodity on Mel Kiper's draft board?

What world is this?

Kingsbury is a disciple of the Air Raid offense most recently mastered by Mike Leach, whose Washington State team won 11 games this year by passing the ball on first, second, third and (sometimes) fourth downs.

Funny how the NFL has suddenly become more exciting.

Quarterbacks now routinely throw for 300 yards per game, while receivers, slotbacks and receiving backs have taken over the league.

Buddy Ryan is gone, RIP, but his idea of defense winning championships is also gone.

The NFL is suddenly stealing college concepts like answers off a midterm exam.

College football ideas are now “bubbling up” to the NFL at an astonishing rate. Too bad Steve Spurrier couldn’t get a do-over at Washington.

The NFL, in ways I would have never imagined, flipped its gourd this week when it named Kingsbury, coming off a losing season in the Big 12, as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

And you know what? Kliff might just tear it up.

Don’t lose sleep waiting for the NFL to send out thank-you notes to college football, or an apology note to Mouse Davis.

If you live long enough, as they say, you’ll see everything.

And now I have.

Comments (2)
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Chris Dufresne
Chris Dufresne


We'll see. I looked forward to seeing what Air Raid would look like with USC players so maybe some sort of version of that. So goes USC, yes, so goes the Pac


So, where does SC go from here? KKs having success might have afforded Helton time to tweak his other coaching hires from the mixed group he originally inherited, and SC still has as much talent on campus as any Pac12 team. SC's football health a central issue to Pac12 staggering their way to retaining any kind of relevance until their TV contract renews in 2024.

Chris Dufresne
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Chris Dufresne
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