For the second time this season, the Patriots will face a team coached by one of their former quarterback draft picks as New England travels to Arizona on Monday night to take on Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals. The matchup comes just two weeks after the Pats fell to their 2008 third-round pick Kevin O'Connell's Minnesota Vikings.
Selected by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, Kingsbury never played a down for the Patriots after sustaining an arm injury and spending his rookie year on Injured Reserve. He still earned a Super Bowl 38 ring as part of the team but was released following training camp in 2004. Despite kicking around the NFL for two more seasons and getting into just one game with the Jets in 2005, it was just the start of Kingsbury's NFL journey and his time in New England under Bill Belichick made a lasting impact even if it only lasted one season.
"I think it was such an eye-opener what all he has put into this game and to do it at that level for that long," said Kingsbury this week of what he learned under coach Belichick in New England. "I'd been around some great coaches. My dad was a high school coach, but just to watch the processes they had in New England from kind of behind the veil was incredible. It was a crash course in football, and I learned more in the time there than the rest of my life put together probably. It's a football 101 for anybody who's been through that program— coaches, players, anybody. To see him still doing it and the level he's doing it at is just incredible."
After stops in NFL Europe and the CFL, Kingsbury entered the college coaching ranks with the University of Houston in 2008 working his way up to offensive coordinator and eventually helping them to lead college football in all major offensive categories in 2011. That was enough to earn him a head coaching shot at his alma mater, Texas Tech, where he'd go on to a 35-40 record in six seasons, including three seasons with Patrick Mahomes and a 1-2 record in bowl games.
Kingsbury was named head coach of the Cardinals in 2019, with his offensive expertise playing a major role in the hiring as Sean McVay's success with the Rams influenced the direction of the game. This will be the second time Belichick's Patriots have met Kingsbury's Cardinals, with the Pats pulling out a 20-17 victory in 2020.
On Friday, Bill Belichick used the word "aggressive" to describe the kind of Cardinals team his former draft pick had constructed.
"He has a good offensive system, we saw that in college," said Belichick on Friday as his team prepared for their second day of on-field preparation for Kingsbury's Cardinals. "Had a lot of explosive plays and players at Tech. They're explosive at Arizona and have been since he got there. Aggressive on fourth down, aggressive in the kicking game, aggressive on defense. Their whole style is pretty aggressive. But offensively they run it, they throw it, get the ball outside, get the ball down the field, quarterback's athletic. They've got a good attack."
Belichick added he had kept in touch with Kingsbury over the years, starting when the Patriots were interested in some of his Texas Tech products and that he has been great to work with. On the flip side, Kingsbury was looking forward to facing his old mentor once again but when asked what it might be like to defeat his old coach, he said it was more about just getting the chance to match up against the legendary coach that played a key role in his development.
"[It's] just an honor to go against him," said Kingsbury. "It's really humbling. It's one of those deals where it's like you'd almost be embarrassed because he's such a great coach. He knows so much about football. He's coached every position—he's the best to ever do it. It's more of just an honor to go against him and try to match wits with him, if you will, at times."