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Five things to know about Commanders offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury pauses on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Glendale, Ariz., Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022. The Eagles won 20-17. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury pauses on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Glendale, Ariz., Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022. The Eagles won 20-17. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Washington Commanders have hired Kliff Kingsbury to be their new offensive coordinator. Here are five things to know about the new play-caller.

1. He was a high school star in Texas.

Sports have been in Kingsbury's blood since his childhood. His father, Tim, was his head coach at New Braunfels High School, which is about an hour away from San Antonio, Texas, where Kingsbury was born. He played baseball and basketball, but football was where he had the most success.

Kingsbury's most notable campaign came during his senior season, when he threw for 3,009 yards with 34 touchdowns to lead New Braunfels to a 13-2 record and an appearance in the 5A Division state semifinals. Later, Kingsbury was named the offensive MVP in the Texas High School Coaches All-Star game. His football acumen, plus being third academically in his graduating class, earned him a scholarship to Texas Tech.

And just to further emphasize how impressive his career was, Kingsbury was inducted in the Texas High School Hall of Fame in 2018, putting him alongside Danny Amendola, Sammy Baugh, Earl Campbell and Joe Greene.

2. He received the Sammy Baugh Trophy after a stellar college career.

Although Kingsbury was a talented athlete, he had to wait his turn at Texas Tech. He started in the season finale against Oklahoma and appeared in six games overall, completing 25 of 57 passes for 492 yards with four touchdowns to just one interception. He was the starter from that point on, and the Red Raiders managed to put together some successful seasons with him under center.

Texas Tech finished the 2000 season with a 7-6 record, going 5-3 in conference play. They started out 4-0, and wins over Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma State earned them an appearance in Bowl against East Carolina. Kingsbury completed 62% of his passes for 3,418 yards with 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Kingsbury was better the following season with a 69% completion rate and 25 touchdowns. However, the Red Raiders, now led by Mike Leach, finished with a similar record. The bright spot of the year was a three-game winning streak in late October and early November, which included a win over No. 24 Texas A&M. The team earned a spot in the Alamo Bowl against Iowa but was defeated 19-16.

Kingsbury was at his best in 2002. With Leach coming back as his head coach, He threw for 5,017 yards, completing 67.3% of his passes, and tossing 45 touchdowns. He led the Red Raiders to another bowl appearance -- this time a 55-15 win over Clemson in the Tangerine Bowl -- and wrapped up his college career as the third player in college football history to have more than 10,000 passing yards, gain more than 10,000 total yards of offense and complete more than 1,000 passes.

In addition to getting his third All-Big 12 honor and being named the National Offensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press, Kingsbury also received the Sammy Baugh Trophy, which is awarded to the best passer in college football. He was the first player from Texas Tech to receive the award and fifth overall, the most recent being Patrick Mahomes in 2016.

Check out photos of new Washington Commanders head coach Dan Quinn at his previous stops with the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons. (Photos via The Associated Press)

3. He had a brief stint in the pros.

Kingsbury is known more for his resume as a coach, but there was a brief period where he tried his hand at a career in the pros.

Not long after a successful college career that saw him set 39 school records at Texas Tech, Kingsbury was drafted in the sixth-round by the New England Patriots in 2003. He bounced around the league and spent time with the New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. He played in one game during his time in the NFL -- a Week 11 matchup with the Broncos -- and completed one pass for 17 yards.

Kingsbury also spent time playing in NFL Europe in 2006, when the Jets reassigned him to the Cologne Centurions. He went on to have a successful stint in Germany, passing for 633 yards and two touchdowns. He had a quarterback rating of 73.7 and led the team with a 56.9% completion rate.

Kingsbury wrapped up his playing career by moving to the CFL and played for two teams. He first signed with the Montreal Alouettes before being traded to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he was the third-string quarterback on the roster.

4. He has a history of developing quarterbacks.

For all that Kingsbury is known for, the most impressive mark on his reputation is his ability to develop and build relationships with quarterbacks.

After impressing Kevin Sumlin as a play-caller at the University of Houston, Kingsbury was named the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, where he spent much of his time with Johnny Manziel. Aside from leading the SEC in just about every offensive category, Kingsbury helped turn Manziel into one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. He broke Archie Manning's record for the most offensive yards gained in a single game, recording 557 yards against Arkansas. He later became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, and he wrapped up his college career with 93 total touchdowns and 9,989 total yards of offense.

Kingsbury earned his first job as a head coach for Texas Tech in 2012, and it was there that he started working with eventual first-round pick and NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. Although he was only the Red Raiders' starting quarterback for two seasons, Mahomes is one of the best players in program history, ranking third in passing yards, touchdown passes, attempts and completions. He also had 22 rushing touchdowns, which ranks second in team history, and he was responsible for 115 scores.

When Kingsbury was named the Arizona Cardinals' head coach in 2019, the team used their first-round pick on Kyler Murray. Murray threw for a career-high 3,971 passing yards and 26 touchdowns and earned Pro Bowl honors. In his first year under Kingsbury's guidance in 2019, Murray earned Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

The Commanders hold the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. If the team does decide to take a quarterback -- many believe they will -- then there is confidence that Kingsbury will be an asset in helping their development.

5. He left a lasting impression on Dan Quinn.

Dan Quinn was already working on preparing for potentially getting a second shot at being a head coach back in 2011, when he was the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Florida. Part of that involved keeping a mental list of names for a staff if he got another chance.

Kingsbury was one of the names he kept in the back of his mind.

"Obviously, I know people talk about his acumen with quarterbacks and that's proven, but he's also an excellent coach," Quinn said. 

Quinn saw several similarities between Kingsbury and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who he previously hired as his offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons. He stretched the field, both vertically and horizontally, and knew how to create matchups that presented advantages for his skill players. He also wasn't afraid to take shots down the field and be aggressive when the situation called for it.

That attitude matched the identity Quinn wanted to establish with his new team.

"I would say if I had to say two [words] right now, it'd be 'explosive' and 'physical,'" Quinn said. "The explosive comes offensively and on the return game from big plays, through the run game, through play action, through the passing game, ones that can change fields position. And those are the explosive plays that you have to keep going and being aggressive to go."

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