Kingsbury, who was a senior offensive assistant at Southern California last season, appeared in line for the Las Vegas Raiders’ offensive coordinator job but reportedly pulled his name from consideration and quickly emerged as a top candidate for Washington. He takes over amid a top-to-bottom rebuild of the team that started last year with Josh Harris’s $6.05 billion purchase of the franchise and continued with the hiring of General Manager Adam Peters in January.
Washington turned to Quinn largely because of his leadership, experience and success on the defensive side, but Kingsbury could have an even greater impact on the team’s trajectory. Washington is coming off a 4-13 season and has not posted a winning record since 2016. It has churned through 14 starting quarterbacks over the past decade and sorely needs an infusion of creativity and player development on offense. Kingsbury has a record of both.
A former Texas Tech quarterback drafted by the New England Patriots in the sixth round in 2003, Kingsbury spent the better part of four seasons in the NFL, primarily as a practice squad player. He played in the Canadian Football League briefly, then turned to coaching, starting as a quality control coach at the University of Houston in 2008.
Kingsbury, 44, was later elevated to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, then jumped to Texas A&M, where he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and worked with 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. In 2013, Kingsbury was hired as his alma mater’s coach and helped develop first-round quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield with the Red Raiders.
After Kingsbury was fired following the 2018 season, the Cardinals grabbed him to be their coach in 2019, the same year they selected quarterback Kyler Murray with the draft’s first pick. The Cardinals went 28-37-1 in four seasons under Kingsbury before firing him in January 2023. He joined USC three months later and worked with 2022 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams, whom the Commanders will eye closely as the draft nears.
Kingsbury has modified his offense over the years to be a pro-style Air Raid. His scheme gives the appearance of a more modern-day spread offense, but it doesn’t discount the running game. In 2020 and 2021, the Cardinals ranked sixth and seventh in rushing attempts, an aspect that was missing in Washington’s offense last season. But how he tailors his scheme to Washington’s personnel remains to be seen, in part because Washington’s personnel figures to be in flux, too.
The Commanders have five picks in the first three rounds of the draft. They also are projected to have the most salary cap space in the NFL, giving them plenty of room to add talent.
Kingsbury will be Washington’s third play caller and coordinator in as many years, following Scott Turner, who ran an Air Coryell system from 2020 to 2022, and Eric Bieniemy, who ran a West Coast offense in 2023. Bieniemy has another year on his contract and seems likely to be let go after Kingsbury’s arrival.
Whitt, 45, follows Quinn for the second time to take over a Commanders defense that struggled in nearly every facet last season. A former walk-on wide receiver at Auburn, Whitt began coaching in 2000 and joined the pro ranks as assistant defensive backs coach for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. After 11 seasons as a defensive assistant for the Green Bay Packers, with whom he won Super Bowl XLV, and a year with the Cleveland Browns, Whitt returned to Atlanta as the secondary coach and passing game coordinator under Quinn. He kept that title when he joined Quinn with Dallas in 2021.
Whitt and Quinn helped transform a Cowboys defense that ranked 28th in points allowed and 23rd in yards allowed in 2020 into a group that led the league in interceptions and finished seventh in points allowed in 2021. Last season, the Cowboys ranked fifth in total yards, passing yards and points allowed. The Commanders ranked last in all three categories.
Although Quinn pulled the strings for the Cowboys’ defense last year, it’s unclear whether he plans to call the coverages as Washington’s coach; he did so intermittently for Atlanta. More pressing, it seems, was ensuring his coordinator was familiar with his system and that he quickly assembled his staff to begin a full evaluation of the roster and the team’s plans to revamp it.
Peters, who will orchestrate the Commanders’ rebuild, said at his introductory news conference that he views this situation similar to that of the 2017 San Francisco 49ers, who also had the second draft pick (they traded down), a new coach (Kyle Shanahan) and a new GM (John Lynch).
“We’re going to be very process-driven and diligent in who we select in free agency,” Peters said. “But we’re going to build through the draft here. … It’s having an aligned vision, having collaboration, having inclusion with everybody, everybody pulling in the same direction.”
On Sunday at around 8 p.m., Peters waited at Dulles International Airport to greet Quinn as he stepped off a private jet. Less than an hour later, word got out about Kingsbury’s and Whitt’s agreements.