Arizona Cardinals: Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid ties should help both Murray and Kingsbury

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Kyler Murray and head coach Lincoln Riley of the Oklahoma Sooners poses for a photo after winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy on December 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Kyler Murray and head coach Lincoln Riley of the Oklahoma Sooners poses for a photo after winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy on December 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Newly drafted Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray shouldn’t expect too steep of a learning curve transitioning from Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid to Kliff Kingsbury’s.

Though Kyler Murray has never run Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, he should be familiar with the language and schematic concepts due to who he’s quarterbacked for in the past. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley runs a successful Air Raid offense and shares a history with Kliff Kingsbury that should prove fruitful for Kyler Murray’s development on the Arizona Cardinals.

Kingsbury and Riley haven’t coached together, but they share a similar bond; teammates. More specifically, they were two of the first quarterbacks in Mike Leach’s (one of the founding father’s of the Air Raid) offense at Texas Tech. The two took different path’s to football coaching infamy, but they ended up with a very similar result; a high powered, quarterback-friendly offense.

The Air Raid has many variations. From Art Briles’ Baylor “Air Option” to the “Air Coryell” that Don Coryell brought to the St. Louis Cardinals, there have been many different modifications to the offense. But, in the case of Kingsbury and Riley,  the two run a very similar deviation of the Air Raid offense inspired by Mike Leach’s philosophies.

The system that both Kingsbury and Riley have run have been very similar, and have a twist of West Coast, and five-wide incorporated to their Air Raid plays that include the mesh, four verticals, stick, all curls, and slants. Both are also vertically orientated offenses with multiple motions, screens, and gadget plays used to throw defenses off and move them horizontally.

Both offenses also utilize zone running schemes and tend to implement the back’s into the passing-game; though, not as much as Leach’s offense. This should bode well for David Johnson as well. Both also thrive off of quarterbacks that can run the option.

Though both have modified their schemes a bit, and Kingsbury will continue to do so to adapt to the NFL, they tend to thrive off of quarterbacks with similar traits. Both Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes are excellent examples of what they want in a quarterback; the ability to process timing, spacing, and angles more so than arm strength. Their mobility and arm is a plus.

The infamous Baker Mayfield-Patrick Mahomes 66-59 dual in October of 2016 is the epitome of their similarities. Kingsbury was a head coach, Riley was an offensive coordinator. Oklahoma and Texas Tech traded blows back and forth, and most importantly, did so in a very similar fashion. Re-watch the highlights; though the two teams don’t run the same exact plays, it’s hard not to see the sameness in their concepts from the four-verticals with curls to the mesh concepts.

Because of the similarities in their offensive schemes, both, naturally, recruited Murray heavily, in different periods of time. Murray is a cerebral quarterback that can process what is going on in front of him. Combine that with his accurate arm and mobility, and he’s the ideal QB to run their related offenses.

Their similarities in offensive schematics and quarterbacking even led to the two coaching the same shot-caller, in the name of Baker Mayfield.

Now, in 2019, it’s time for them to share the privilege of coaching the same, undersized, Heisman winning quarterback for the second time. But, this time, it’s Kyler Murray; though he’s a risk, it’s hard not to look past at the history that attracted Kingsbury so much towards Murray.

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Expect to see Kingsbury utilize a lot of what Riley did with Murray. Not only was it massively successful, but there may not be a better coach to do just that currently in the NFL.