In the first part of this series, we explored the Cardinals’ roster, which is the most important part of this Air Raid-to-NFL experiment. There are pieces in place to make the transition to running the Air Raid scheme go relatively smooth in the desert. One main factor will be the initial success of Kyler Murray and keeping continuity along the O-line (something the Cardinals lacked in ’18). The roster is a blend of players that have come from Air Raid schemes or fit the mold of a player needed for the offense to find success.
Many will turn to the lack of success by Chip Kelly and his “spread-to-run” tempo attack. Arizona Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is a little different. Kingsbury will tempo the ball as much as he can, but it isn’t the focal point of his offense. His pass-first mentality is something of the norm in a QB led league that focuses on breaking down coverages and blitz schemes. The run game will obviously need to become more robust than it was in the Big 12, but the key parts are there. In short, the roster, at least on the offensive side, is built for early success if everyone stays healthy and the young players progress. Again, and this cannot be stressed enough, Kyler Murray has to stay healthy and find success.
Behind Kingsbury is a wealth of success from his Air Raid “family.” You could say, Kingsbury, is the first to get his NFL “shot.” Former Mike Leach QB, Graham Harrell, played four years in the NFL, three under Aaron Rodgers and current Arizona Cardinal Passing Game Coordinator/QB Coach Tom Clements, and replaced Kingsbury’s short tenure as USC’s Offensive Coordinator. The hiring of Clements, who worked 11 seasons in Green Bay, gives a legitimate voice in the meeting room and a proven QB coach.
Washington St. Head Coach Mike Leach has always clamored about the NFL being too stuck-up to run the scheme. In a recent interview for KJR-AM in Seattle, Leach was very clear about his system having success in the league, “Any notion that ‘anything you can run in college, you can’t run in the NFL,’ that’s just NFL arrogance and lunacy.” Though Kingsbury is his own man when it comes to ownership of his scheme, there are a lot of eyes around the country betting on Kingsbury to succeed.
Maybe the most important relationship of all will be between QB1 Kyler Murray and Kingsbury himself. The exchanging of ideas will be crucial because Murray also has ties to another elite Air Raid guru from the same tree, Oklahoma Sooner Head Coach Lincoln Riley. In Part 1 I alluded to the meshing of concepts from Riley’s high-powered Sooner attack and Kingsbury’s bombs-away offense. Especially the use (and addition) of TEs into Kingsbury’s scheme. In his last season at Tech, Kingsbury began using more TEs and H-backs for run support in his offense. At the NFL level, he will need to rely on this heavily. It is rare to see a true 10 pers. formation outside of long-yardage or obvious pass situations.
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that would argue Lincoln Riley’s offensive schematics not working in the NFL. Many will argue if Kingsbury has instant success, many in the NFL will be knocking down Riley’s door in 2020. Where Kingsbury is an Air Raid purest, choosing to base out of four WR sets, Riley has transitioned into a 12 pers. based Air Raid onslaught with a power running game to boot. Not ironically though, Kingsbury’s first snap as an NFL Head Coach in practice came from a four-wide 10 pers. set (see below).
First-team offense for first 11-on-11 snap of #CardsCamp:
— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) July 25, 2019