Surely, it can’t succeed at the NFL level. “It’s a college offense,” was the consensus of many of the so-called experts. Now, it appears that Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his quarterback, former Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, are on track to success with the offense known simply as the Air Raid.
It was a shock to many that the Cardinals went all-in on Kingsbury, who had been fired after going 35-40 at Texas Tech. He produced just two winning seasons and took the Red Raiders to three bowl games in six seasons. Kingsbury wasn’t even 40 years old and had exactly zero NFL experience. Arizona hired him anyway.
The thought process was pretty simple. The best player available in the draft – the Cardinals held the No. 1 pick – was Murray, who put up video game-type numbers running the Air Raid at Oklahoma. Draft an Air Raid quarterback and pair him with a coach well-versed in the offense.
It doesn’t get much more well-versed than Kingsbury who played for Air Raid guru Mike Leach while a player at Texas Tech. Leach, of course, helped develop the offense with the godfather of the Air Raid, Hal Mumme. Now, Kingsbury is schooling Murray and the Cardinals are on the brink.
Arizona has won their past two games scoring 60 points and totaling nearly 1,000 yards in the process. Murray had consecutive big games. He passed for 253 yards and ran 10 times for 93 more and a touchdown in a 26-23 win over Cincinnati. The Cardinals totaled 514 yards, 266 of which came on the ground.
Last week, Murray shined going 27-of-37 for 340 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-33 victory over Atlanta. The Cardinals rolled up 442 total yards and now sit ninth in the NFL in total yards per game (376.8). While Kingsbury and Arizona are nowhere near where they need to be, they are surely trending in the right direction. They are now averaging 22.3 points per game, which is 8.2 more than they averaged for all of the 2018 season.
The Cardinals have another winnable game against the New York Giants in Week 7 and then face a tough stretch of New Orleans and San Francisco twice in 17 days. As Arizona continues to improve, a couple of things are certain.
The Air Raid can work in the NFL contrary to what those like Oakland safety Lamarcus Joyner believe. If it was just a college offense, then teams like the Rams wouldn’t be using its concepts. Another certainty is that Kingsbury, who was doubted by many, can coach in the NFL and Murray, also doubted, can thrive in the league.