Kliff Kingsbury was brought to USC as a splashy hire as the team's new offensive coordinator after being fired by Texas Tech as its head coach. The goal was for Kingsbury to provide a spark to an offense that was disappointing in 2018, as well as to save coach Clay Helton's job. Now, Helton is left holding the bag.
After initially being blocked by USC to speak with NFL teams, Kingsbury was named the new coach of the Arizona Cardinals after the organization fired Steve Wilks after just one season. It's a move that sends shockwaves through USC's Heritage Hall and places enormous pressure on Helton, who certainly didn't anticipate the marriage playing out this way in mid-December.
Clay Helton said he wasn’t worried about the persistent NFL rumors involving offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. "He said, 'Coach, if I decide I'm coming to USC, I'm coming to USC.’"— Joey Kaufman (@joeyrkaufman) December 20, 2018
Kingsbury went 35-40 in six years as the Red Raiders coach, and was fired on Nov. 26. He then blazed an unprecedented path that took him to USC as an offensive coordinator to NFL head coach in a span of 43 days.
"I am happy for Kliff," Helton said. "Any time you get an opportunity to be an NFL head coach, it is special. He is a talented coach, that's why we brought him here. I wish him nothing but the best. USC has always attracted the best coaches in the country from all levels. We will spend the upcoming weeks finding the best possible fit for USC and our program."
Helton is entering his fourth season as the coach of the Trojans, and he was nearly fired after going 5-7 in 2018 -- this despite leading the program to consecutive New Year's Six bowl games in the previous two seasons and the Pac-12 title in 2017. At the time of Kingsbury's hire, Helton knew that this season -- and this hire -- would define his immediate future with the program.
"He is a brilliant offensive mind and is on the cutting edge of the game today," said Helton when Kingsbury was hired. "His offenses have consistently been at the top of the college football statistical rankings. With the talent on our team, along with his leadership and coaching, I truly believe that we can take our offense to new heights."
It's back to the drawing board for Helton, who now faces an even more important hire than the one that brought Kingsbury to Los Angeles last month. Whoever Helton gets, things have to change immediately. The Trojans finished 10th in the Pac-12 in total offense (381 yards per game), seventh in yards per play (5.78) and ninth in scoring offense (26.1 points per game).
If you thought things were dramatic at USC in 2018 ... get ready. Things are about to be Oscar-worthy in 2019.