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Kingsbury had his chances, but he did not get the job done

For the second year in a row, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was squarely in the hot seat heading into his team’s last game of the season.

This time, he actually got fired, following the Red Raiders’ 35-24 loss to the Bears, which dropped Tech to 5-7 on the year. Years of not being able to break into the Big 12’s upper class combined with an ugly finish to 2018 to get him pushed out the door.

Kingsbury hadn’t been one of the year’s most talked-about potential firings, but speculation about his future ratcheted up lately.
That happens when a team goes on a five-game losing streak, as this one did. Tech started the year 5-2, and while injuries to quarterback to Alan Bowman hurt, they didn’t give Kingsbury a job-saving excuse.

Even before the Baylor game, longtime Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls reported the school (or people connected to the school, anyway) was already identifying potential replacements.

Also telegraphing it: Kingsbury’s boss didn’t exactly jump to his defense after a 21-6 loss to a bad Kansas State in Week 12.

Athletic director Kirby Hocutt, the guy who hired Kingsbury at the end of 2012, mentioned “lapses in focus” and the team falling short of expectations:

“We’ve talked on this show about our expectations and where we aspire to be and wanting to be relevant. But you are what your record says you are, and we’re not where we expect to be. You know, football is the ultimate team sport. You have 11 men on the field and you’re only going to be as successful as each individual executes their responsibility. Unfortunately, we just seem to continue to have lapses in focus, lack of discipline at certain times. Those mistakes, those penalties continue to affect us and the success we’re not experiencing right now.”

Compare that to what Hocutt said after a Week 13 win at Texas in 2017, which got the Red Raiders to bowl eligibility.

“Kliff has led this program the right way,” Hocutt said then. “We’re not where we want to be, but we’re not far off.”

Also, Kingsbury’s buyout didn’t force the school to keep him.

It will cost about $4.2 million for Tech to can him. That’s not nothing, but several coaches have gotten fired already this year with bigger buyouts. In the scheme of college coaching buyouts, it’s not much at all. He was under contract for 2019 and 2020, and the school would have to pay him 75 percent of the money that remains in his 2018 contract year, plus 50 percent of what he’s owed the next two.

His teams weren’t able to get everything together at once, and that kept them from moving up in the Big 12 pecking order.
Tech’s had some of the country’s better offenses under Kingsbury, often showing up in the top 20 in yards per play and using pace and general Big 12ness to run up huge point totals. They paired that with routinely horrific defenses, which got better the last couple of seasons but remained far from good.

They had an especially hard time finishing seasons. They repeatedly tanked in November and did again this year.

Whatever you think of it, one thing is clear: Kingsbury just can’t finish seasons. He won the one bowl game in his first season as a Head Coach and hasn’t in any year since.

It’s been rough year after year coming into November with high hopes for this team and those hopes being dashed upon whatever playing field the team happens to take that month. Does that mean we should fire him? Keep him and hope he gets better?

You tell me, but the 2018 team went from a shining ray of hope in October to what looks like a dumpster fire less than one month later.

Kingsbury’s continual inability to break through, despite whatever signs of optimism Tech might give early in the year, cost him his job.

Expect Tech to attempt more offense/defense balance with its next hire, and expect Kingsbury to be a hot target as an offensive coordinator by teams at every level.

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