Commanders hire Kliff Kingsbury as OC; could Caleb Williams follow?

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The Washington Commanders are hiring Kliff Kingsbury to be their offensive coordinator, leading to speculation as to what might happen next.

Kingsbury, who is one of the first hires for new head coach Dan Quinn, heads to Washington after spending last season as USC’s quarterbacks coach, where he coached likely No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams. While the Commanders hold the No. 2 overall pick, speculation on whether Williams would follow Kingsbury to the nation’s capital ensued.

Williams certainly helped play into the speculation, congratulating Kingsbury on social media after the news was reported on Sunday night.

“My dawg congrats,” Williams wrote in a social media post.

Adding to the speculation, Kingsbury abruptly pulled out of consideration for the Raiders’ offensive coordinator job on Saturday. It was previously reported that the two sides were nearing a deal for the 44-year-old coach to lead the Raiders’ offensive unit. 

USC head coach Lincoln Riley added even more speculation to Williams joining Kingsbury, though he also recognized that there might be some hoops for the Commanders to jump through in order to make it happen. 

“They have a great relationship,” Riley told NFL Network on Monday. “It was awesome for Caleb to have Kliff. … In a perfect world, would I love a reunion for them? That would be great. But we all know a lot would transpire between now and the draft.”

As Riley mentioned, there’s a hurdle that the Commanders would have to leap over in order to draft Williams. The Bears hold the No. 1 overall pick, which means Chicago would either have to pass on drafting the highly-touted quarterback or trade the pick to Washington if the Commanders wanted to draft Williams. The Bears are facing a decision about whether to keep Justin Fields as their quarterback after he showed signs of improvement late in 2023 or draft a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick.

Williams isn’t the only highly-touted quarterback prospect with experience operating the “Air Raid” offense in college. UNC’s Drake Maye also ran the “Air Raid” offense in college. Several options could be available by trade or free agency in the coming months as Washington tries to find the answer at the position it has lacked for decades.

Whether it’s through the draft, by trade or in free agency, the Commanders are expected to add a quarterback or two in the coming months after 2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell started all 18 games this past season. Howell led the NFL with 612 passes and 21 interceptions and was sacked a league-high 65 times.

Kingsbury coached the Arizona Cardinals from 2019-2022 after five seasons in college at Texas Tech. In his new role, Kingsbury succeeds Eric Bieniemy, who lasted just one season in Washington after leaving the Chiefs to work for Ron Rivera.

The Commanders also announced the hiring of Joe Whitt Jr. as their defensive coordinator on Monday. Whitt, 45, follows Quinn to Washington from Dallas, where he was the Cowboys’ secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator. Whitt, who earlier in his career was an assistant with the Packers and Browns, also worked for Quinn with the Falcons in 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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