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At the NFL owners meetings on Friday, the league announced the 32 compensatory picks it awarded NFL teams. Typically, this is to offset losses via free agency. The Cardinals lost two free agents last offseason as Karlos Dansby signed with the Miami Dolphins and Neil Rackers to the Houston Texans. They signed two free agents, linebacker Paris Lenon and offensive lineman Rex Hadnot.
In the NFL Draft next month, the Cardinals will have an additional pick, in the seventh round. Previously, they had no pick in the seventh round, as that choice went to the Jets as part of the deal to acquire Kerry Rhodes. Arizona now has eight picks in the draft. They have one selection in rounds one through five, two in the sixth round (one obtained from the Eagle for Reggie Wells) and now one in the seventh and final round.
Technically, the pick was not compensatory, but the league always grants 32 picks, so the team benefited from that.
Carolina received three and seven teams were granted two picks. In the NFC West, the 49ers received two picks, making their total number of picks now 12 for the draft next month. This puts them in a position to move around and obtain specific players they are targeting.
For those who wonder about the other player signings (Derek Anderson, Joey Porter, Jay Feely, Alan Faneca) and losses (Antrel Rolle) the Cardinals had, they do not count towards compensation, as all these players were released and did not have their contracts expire.
What does this mean? It could mean that with an extra pick in the sixth round (the compensatory pick cannot be traded) that Arizona might use it to move up in the draft to select a targeted player as they have done in the past to draft John Skelton and Alan Branch.
The Cardinals have gotten some value out of their seventh round picks. Starting RT Brandon Keith was a seventh rounder, TE Jim Dray was as well and started for the team this past season and rotation and special teams player LaRod Stephens-Howling also was selected in the final round.
Tuesday, at the NFL owners meetings, owners approved some changes to league rules. The biggest one was the change that moves the ball on kickoffs to the 35-yard line, which turns the clock back to 1994, when the ball was moved from the 35 to the 30-yard line to add excitement to the game. This time it was moved forward in the name of safety.
First off, I can understand why they changed the rule in theory. Players are charging down the field at full speed. It is different than plays from the line of scrimmage. On kickoffs the coverage team is sprinting 50-60 yards down the field trying to make a play. The collisions can be brutal.
However, just basing things on my memory, I would bet that only a small handful of times have I seen a player get injured on kickoff plays.
But that is not the point I want to make.
There will obviously be an impact on the game of football. Going back in time to when it was 35-yard line before, in 1993, 68 percent of kicks were returned. The next season, moving it to the 30, the percentage went up to 88. We can expect an increase in touchbacks.
How much of an increase? in 2010, there were 409 touchbacks off of kickoffs. That made up less than 17 percent of all kicks. With the rules change, the NFL expects an increase of five to 15 percent, or 20-60 more for the season. In a season where there are 256 regular season games played, that is not a significant statistic.
People speculate whether or not kickoff specialists will be devalued and that the games will be impacted dramatically. Yes, kickoffs are a very exciting part of the game, but please remember that back when it was from the 35-yard line before, there were still great returners.
Can you recall the game changing abilities of Johnny Bailey for the Bears and the Cardinals, or Eric Metcalf for the Browns or David Megget for the Giants? They still electrified fans.
Yes, touchdown returns may be affected. In 2010, there were 23 kickoffs returned for touchdowns. In 1993, there were four. The change in 1994 led to 16 touchdown returns. This may cause a dropoff in actual touchdowns. However, returns will still happen and returners will still be able to break off long returns. They will still be exciting. They might happen a little less.
One statistic I was unable to find was the effect on turnovers in the kicking game. This is the one area that I have seen nothing on. If there are less returns run back, then there will be less opportunities to cause a turnover. It goes both ways.
As for the Cardinals, they voted for the change, despite fact that LaRod Stephens-Howling was seen as their best scoring threat returning kicks. Ken Whisenhunt believes that LSH will still have his opportunities to have big returns. It will just be a couple of yards further back.
So for those of you fearing that players like Josh Cribbs or Leon Washington are going to have less of an impact, think again. Now, a good return man will be worth even more because field position is a little bit harder to get. Elite returners will remain that way.
In other news, no team can have a field that is any other color than green. And here I was hoping for a Cardinal red field.
Also, all scoring plays will be automatically reviewable and will not be able to be challenged. There is nothing negative about this at all.
The lockout might be on, but that apparently isn't stopping the Arizona Cardinals from trying to fill its greatest roster hole, quarterback. Reports out of Philly suggest that the Cardinals are the most aggressive suitor in pursuit of Eagles' superfluous QB, Kevin Kolb. Hopefully, the report is accurate because Kolb would be a far better option for the Cardinals than a rookie.
We've seen how important it is to have quality talent taking snaps, and while he might deny it, Larry Fitzgerald most certainly wants to know the guy throwing him the ball has the ability to throw him the ball at the NFL level. So, while all of our attention has been focused on the NFL draft and guys like Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, the Cardinals front office has been knocking on the Eagles' door and begging to take Kolb off their hands.
Here's the report from the City of Brotherly Love:
Report: Arizona Cardinals Showing The Most Interest In Kevin Kolb - SB Nation Philly
One of those teams appears to be the Arizona Cardinals according to Comcast Sportsnet's Derrick Gunn, who cites a source who says that the Arizona Cardinals have shown the most interest in Kolb. The source however, did not confirm or deny whether the Cards had offered a first round pick. Arizona currently holds the #5 overall pick in this years' draft, which would seem a like a bit much for a straight up swap for Kolb.
Is the fifth overall pick too much to give up for Kolb? Not if you think he can lead the team now.
The Cardinals, despite their five-win 2010 season, aren't a team in rebuilding mode. They need to win now and they need to get a QB on the field who can play. While some of the rookies might have higher upside, they are projects and as we well know, they are all a gamble.
In what could be considered a cruel joke to Arizona Cardinals fans, who have mostly been ruing the day of Derek Anderson's departure from the team. Despite an earlier report that the Cardinals were set to release both Anderson and linebacker Joey Porter this week, it is now being said that, at least for now, the Cardinals will not be making any cuts from their roster.
According to Kent Somers, there is no reason to make the cuts now as opposed to later. The Cardinals have plenty of space with the salary cap, should they decide to pursue another player that was cut by other teams or renegotiate a contract of one of their own players. Also, while Anderson is set to make $4.25 million and Porter $5.75 million in 2011, their salaries do not begin until the 2011 season begins and they had no roster bonus due.
As the days creep closer to the expiration of the NFL collective bargaining agreement, many teams have begun trimming salaries from their rosters. On Monday, the Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins and New York Jets made some notable moves, releasing Tommie Harris, Clinton Portis, Damien Woody and Vernon Gholston.
It was announced on Tuesday that there are other teams are expected to make similar moves, including the Arizona Cardinals. In what is no surprise and has been expected since the end of the season, Arizona is expected to cut ties with quarterback Derek Anderson and linebacker Joey Porter.
Anderson did not play again after his postgame tirade after a loss on Monday Night Football to the San Francisco 49ers. Porter was due to earn $5.75 million in 2011.
For reaction to these expected moves and the possibility of looking at some of these other released players, please visit revengeofthebirds.com.
The Arizona Cardinals made a move in what seems to round out their coaching staff moves. Ken Whisenhunt promoted Mike Miller, who had previously been the passing game coordinator, to be the offensive coordinator.
To the relief of many fans, this likely means the end of Ken Whisenhunt calling plays, although Whiz had delegated play-calling duties to Miller at some point during the season. His belief is to allow his coaches to grow in responsibility just as Bill Cowher allowed him to do over time.
So, for those who believe that the head coach should not worry about calling plays during the game, you should be happy. The bigger issue to worry about is the actual play-calling. Many of us questioned the playcalling for much of the year and Whisenhunt was not the guy always doing it. So the same criticism that Whiz took may and can be shifted to Miller.
The Cardinals will be holding a press conference this afternoon (Wednesday) at 1:30 AZT to announce the changes that have been made in the coaching staff. You will be able to watch the press conference streaming live.
The Arizona Cardinals began making changes after a week of meetings. The first change to the team was in the coaching staff. Ken Whisenhunt decided to let go defensive coordinator and personal friend Bill Davis. Davis is the second defensive coordinator that Whisenhunt has fired since being named head coach in 2007. Clancy Pendergast was let go after the Cardinals' Super Bowl loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Davis' defense was disappointing in his second season on the job. Arizona's defense ranked 29th (there are 32 NFL teams) in total yards, was 30th in rushing defense and dead last in scoring defense.
Fans have been clamoring for Davis to be fired most of the season after the defense underachieved, considering that coming into the season the defense was expected to be a strength on the team.
Before fans worry about the team deciding to just promote from within, that is not going to happen. Whisenhunt said that candidates will come from outside the organization. Among possible front-runners are Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler and former Cardinals secondary coach Teryl Austin.
Whisenhunt tried to bring Butler over in 2007 but Pittsburgh denied permission. Butler had recently been through hip surgery after the 2008 season when Pendergast was fired, so that made interviewing him complicated. Butler has worked for years under defensive coaching legend Dick LeBeau.
Austin left the Cardinals to coach under Urban Meyer at the University of Florida after last season, but was not retained after Meyer resigned.
Whisenhunt said that he is considering other changes on the staff, but that did not necessarily mean that any would happen.
So, the first domino has fallen. Time will tell what other changes are forthcoming, but the speculation by fans and the media can now officially begin.
It did not take long for Ray Horton to get his message across in the press conference to introduce him as defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals. When introduced and even before he was asked any questions, the former Pittsburgh Steelers coach and follower of legendary Dick LeBeau announced that his team would have an "aggressive, downhill, attacking defense." In fact, he promised that the first play he calls for the defense would be a blitz.
Horton is now the third DC for Ken Whisenhunt, but he didn't seem to think that this was an issue. "Most people don’t marry the first girl they date," he said. "Hopefully they marry the best one." Not a bad response, in my opinion. Clancy Pendergast was more or less required of him by the front office, Billy Davis did not work out. Hopefully Horton is the guy, although many will speculate since he was not even considered to be Whisenhunt's first choice overall. He wasn't even considered the first or even second choice within the Steelers organization, as Keith Butler was believed to be the number one and Dick LeBeau was a dream, but would have been higher than Horton.
Whisenhunt's take? "He was one of the guys I wanted to interview." Fair enough.
Horton has plans on maintaining a 3-4 defensive scheme. When asked about if he would run the same type of defense as LeBeau, he responded saying that he "would implement some of those (LeBeau's schemes) with some ideas of my own."
Pressure on the quarterback appears to be his number one focus. "We're gonna get after the quarterback," he stated, and Arizona Republic writer Kent Somers tweeted jokingly that Horton made reference to pressure over 40 times in his time speaking to the media.
While the actual number may have been an exaggeration, it is clear that this is the goal he has with the Cardinals defense. It will certainly interesting to see what he does with the group of players because getting to the quarterback was a glaring weakness on the team.
When questioned about the toughest task he has, he didnt' bring up anything about personnel or coaches. His biggest concern was the possible lockout. His goal is to take his ideas and get them into Cardinals terms the payers are familiar with so that by the end of the month the players have a knowledge of the base of everything that will be done defensively. After that, of course, there will be " a learning curve" but he wants to get the players up to speed as quickly as possible.
What stood out in his time on at the podium was how he came across. He has never been a coordinator before, but he spoke like a man who knows exactly what he wants to achieve and that he has been waiting for a chance to be that defensive guy. He has coached for 17 years and has been calling defensive plays "forever," as he says, but just "hasn't been the guy calling them to the huddle."
While there has been chatter and jokes about how the Cards are the Steelers West or that there is some "Pittsburgh pipeline" or even that Arizona is where all the Stelers come to retire and relax, this move has a different feel. Whisenhunt seems and may well be very stubborn about bringing in "his" guys (and by his guys, we mean guys from Pittsburgh). The players and coaches that have been connected to the Steelers have been hit and miss.
Billy Davis was a miss. Joey Porter so far is a miss. Bryant McFadden was a miss. Special teams coach Kevin Spencer should be considered a hit. Clark Haggans has been solid. Alan Faneca was not dominant, but was not bad. Punter Ben Graham was solid in 2009 but took a step back this season.
In my opinion, Whiz does not have much room for error with this hire. It is the third coordinator he has had. He has confidence in Horton, as is evidenced by the three-year contract his new coordinator signed.
Obviously, there have been guys to come in a talk a good game (Dennis Green), but Horton came in and talked about attitude and philosophy, but not about winning percentages and graphs on posters. He certainly made a good impression.
If anything else, it has the appearance that Horton will come in with the idea of kicking the players in the pants and instilling some urgency. The defense played well enough a few games to show the fans that they were underachieveing more than they were undermanned.
In other news, it is reported that defensive backs coaches Donnie Henderson (who had a team option in his contract for 2011) and Rick Courtright were let go. This will facilitate the addition of defensive staff members that Horton wants, although Whisenhunt did say that all guys added would go through an interview process. One such name is former player (and not officially retired) DeShea Townsend, would would take a low-level position, working with the nickelbacks.
Horton leaves his job as the defensive backs coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers to reunite with his old buddy, Ken Whisenhunt. The two coached together on the Steelers staff for three years.
Here's a radio interview Horton did with XTRA 910 radio in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.
As Tuesday afternoon went by, a flurry of tweets had everyone following the Arizona Cardinals coaching situation confused and intrigued. This was a stark change from the previous month, which was more or less nothing but speculation. The Steelers and the Packers are mentioned. But it appears that now things have calmed that there is a clear favorite -- Ray Horton.
The day went like this:
First, the Cardinals asked the Packers and the Steelers permission to speak with Winston Moss and Keith Butler.
Next, Ray Horton was said to be coming to the Valley.
Then, despite nothing officially from the teams, we heard that Horton was going to be the guy and that the Steelers denied permission to interview Butler, despite previous reports saying they would likely not block Arizona.
Soon after that was reported that Horton was headed to Dallas to take the same job he has as defensive backs coach for the Cowboys.
Not long afterwards it is confirmed that Butler was blocked and the report that Horton was taking the job in Dallas was clarified to say that he had an offer in Dallas and an offer here to be DC of the Cardinals.
What we are pretty sure of now is that Horton is going to be in the Valley tomorrow and that he will likely be the new defensive coordinator.
As for why he has a job offer even before a real interview? Ken Whisenhunt coached three years with him in Pittsburgh. He runs the Dick LeBeau defensive schemes and although he has not been a DC before, he has coached in the NFL for ten years.
If this indeed is what occurs, it is yet another cog in the Cardinals machine that comes from the Pittsburgh pipeline. While many may be growing tired of this (myself included, to some extent), this hire is definitely one that makes sense. Horton is a coordinator from a system that was the number two defense in the NFL and has been to the Super Bowl twice in the past three seasons. It is hard to say that Horton is a bad choice.
We will know soon enough and then we will have to find something else to discuss, like quarterbacks and draftees and the CBA.
As the Arizona Cardinals continue their search for a defensive coordinator, they now have access to coaches from all teams. It has been long been known that the Cardinals have been waiting for the Pittsburgh Steelers to complete their season so that Keith Butler would be available. However, there are reports of events that are a bit surprising considering previous happenings.
In the not-so-surprising news, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic tweeted that the Cardinals had formally asked the Steelers permission to interview Butler and also the Green Bay Packers to interview Winston Moss.
In what is possibly a surprise, according to Mike Jurecki, is that the Steelers denied that permission and that Ray Horton, the Steelers defensive backs coach, will in fact be the next defensive coordinator for the Cardinals.
Another tweet, coming from Butler's son Brandon states this as well. It also appeared that, at least from the son's perspective, the thought of leaving Pittsburgh was not pleasant. (Apparently, he's never actually been to Phoenix in the winter.)
Somers reported that neither the Steelers nor the Packers had responded.
While Jurecki's tweet indicates that Horton is scheduled to be here in Phoenix tomorrow, I would be surprised if a decision has been made, especially since the team asked permission to speak to two other candidates.
Even more recently, Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network tweeted that Horton will be headed to Dallas to take a job with the Cowboys.
If in fact the Steelers have or are going to deny the Cardinals permission to speak to Butler, this is a change of heart, as it was just last week that it appeared that Butler would be the guy.
The Steelers in no way are obligated to allow Butler to interview because he is still under contract, but it is surprising still.
If Butler is out, then it would seem that the job would be wide open to a guy like Todd Bowles, who has already interviewed and was impressive.
It is my opinion that all this whirlwind of change could be good. Ken Whisenhunt has relied a lot on his Pittsburgh guys and understandably so. However, if we look at the Steelers connections, they have not all gone well. Joey Porter this past year and Bryant McFadden the year previous disappointed. Billy Davis had to be fired. Alan Faneca did okay, but was not dominant the way we all hoped he would be. Even Russ Grimm can be seen with an eye of doubt, considering the talent and performance on the offensive line. Bringing a guy like Bowles who does not already have a connection to Whiz and has the pedigree for success just might be the best way to go.
Adam Schefter has written that the Cardinals have had conversations with Larry Fitzgerald about the team's quarterback situation. We know that one of the issues that must be resolved for the Cardinals to be able to sign Fitzgerald to a contract extension is that of who will be throwing him the ball. Fitz has made it very clear that what he wants to do more than anything is win. He wants to come back to the Cardinals, but he also wants it to be a situation in which he believes they will be a playoff team and have the talent to make it back to the Super Bowl. He also wants to be paid, as he well deserves.
Without knowing exactly the context of these conversations with Fitzgerald, it is interesting that his thoughts were right in line with what pretty much the team would prefer and what fans are hoping. His first recommendation was Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb and he also brought up soon-to-be free agent Marc Bulger.
It has long been known that Bulger is a guy that Ken Whisenhunt wants. If it had been up to him, Bulger would have been here in 2010, but because of the money already committed to Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson, the front office vetoed him.
Kolb will be tricky because of the lack of a collective bargaining agreement in place between the league and the players. No players can be moved before a new CBA is in place. If this does not happen before the draft, it would be doubtful that Philly would trade Kolb. His contract is reasonable and they would not get anyone to help the team this year unless Arizona drafted a player that the Eagles coveted.
It is very important to note that Fitzgerald has his priorities straight. He wants to win. That is what he wants to do most. Having found success and gone to the Super Bowl, he wants nothing more than to go back.
He is of course desiring to be paid like the best wide receiver in the league, which can definitely be argued that he is. The guy had a Pro Bowl year with four different bad quarterbacks throwing him the ball -- Derek Anderson (couldn't beat out Brady Quinn, who can't beat out Tim Tebow, who many still believe will not even be a good NFL quarterback), Max Hall (high in moxie, but we learned this year that moxie doesn't throw touchdowns), John Skelton (rookie project who thought Andre Roberts was the guy to throw the most to, rather than Fitzgerald) and Richard Bartel (couldn't even start in the UFL).
He is a team-changing guy. He leads by word and by example. He produces on the field.
Is any of this news ground-breaking? No. It does tell us a couple of things. First, the team cares about what he thinks (a positive). Secondly, he did not mention guys like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady (or maybe he did). It also tells us that the fans have the right idea. Kolb or Bulger is who fans are hoping for (here at SB Nation Arizona, we want Bulger), they have been known to be targets of the team and Fitzgerald appears to be in line with that thinking.
We should not expect the Fitzgerald contract situation to go away soon. He is going to wait and see what moves the team makes in the offseason. But we should rest assured that he is interested in staying and is being completely reasonable with who he would like to be throwing him the ball in 2011, if in fact there is an NFL season in 2011.
As the Super Bowl approaches and the Green bay Packers and Pittsburgh prepare for the game that will either elevate Ben Roethlisberger to potential Hall of Fame status or place Aaron Rodgers firmly into the hearts of Packer fans as their quarterback and cast off any last memory of Brett Favre. However, one of the side stories has been that of the Steelers defensive staff.
The Cardinals have been long rumored to be waiting to interview Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler for their vacant defensive coordinator position. He is a guy who is close with Ken Whisenhunt, he runs the Dick LeBeau defensive schemes and he is primed to move into that position.
While Todd Bowles impressed Whisenhunt in his interview, it is apparent that Whiz has been waiting to see if he will have a shot at Butler.
Jason LaCanfora from NFL Network is reporting that since Dick LeBeau is planning on returning for the 2011 season, the Steelers are likely to allow Butler to interview for the Cardinals job if he should desire to do so.
So if Butler wants to interview, he will be allowed. The question, though, will be what the Cardinals front offer can offer.
Butler was paid very well to stay on in Pittsburgh. How much? Who knows? But will the Cardinals front office make Butler an offer that is worth his while and will they commit to bringing in defensive talent. Butler himself stated he likes Pittsburgh and how they seek out and obtain talent to use.
It looks like as sure a thing as any. If Butler wants to interview, he will be allowed to do so. If the Cardinals make him a good offer on contract and if the team can convince him that it is willing to bring in the players and talent he wants to work with, then it looks like finally Butler could be Whisenhunt's guy.
If this indeed does pan out, the pressure will be firmly on Whisenhunt for defensive production. He has already gone through two coordinators, but Butler is the guy he has wanted from day one. If this does not work out, then fans should be expected to question his philosophy, eye for talent and/or decisions in staffing.
It is Super Bowl week finally and it has been a little while since there was any news in the search for the new Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator. After interviewing Miami Dolphins secondary coach Todd Bowles, Ken Whisenhunt said that he was very impressed but that he would wait to make a decision until after he has had a chance to interview candidates on the staffs of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.
While Keith Butler and Ray Horton are Steelers coaches long connected with the Arizona vacancy, no names have come up from the Green Bay staff. Thanks to some work from the Arizona Republic's Kent Somers we have some new information to chew on.
Regarding Packers coaches, two names come up as possibilities. LB coach Winston Moss has been connected to the Raiders and the Eagles with their vacancies, and according to Somers' tweet, is itching to become a DC. He does not know Whisenhunt well, so he would need to impress like Bowles did if he were to interview.
Another Green Bay name is S coach Darren Perry. He has previously worked under Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers and knows the type of defense that Whisenhunt seems to want to run.
There was a new revelation with Keith Butler. I previously wrote that there was a report saying that Butler has language in his contract making him the DC-in-waiting in Pittsburgh. He refuted that, although he does not know if he would be granted permission to interview. Likewise, he is very happy in Pittsburgh and was, in his words, "paid a lot of money" to stay with the Steelers.
So in the end, there really is nothing of substance. Just a few more rumors and some conjecture. I think the Cardinals like it that way. Whisenhunt likes to play close to the vest. Personally I get the feeling that Bowles will be the guy unless Butler can be interviewed and the Cardinals will pay him more than the Steelers will (I doubt that more and more). Both Perry and Moss are intriguing, but at this point they would have to be underdogs.
At a time in the NFL season in which you would not imagine that the Cardinals would have any news, but the results of the AFC and NFC Championship games directly affect the Cardinals in their offseason. With the Green Bay Packers defeating the Chicago Bears to reach the Super Bowl, their players will not be representing the NFC in the Pro Bowl this next Sunday. Likewise, with the Pittsburgh Steelers reaching the big game because of a 24-19 victory over the New York Jets, there may be more waiting in the Cardinals search for a defensive coordinator.
The Cardinals now have two more representatives in the Pro Bowl. Earlier in the week it was announced that defensive lineman Darnell Dockett would replace Vikings defensive lineman Kevin Williams. Williams withdrew from the game.
With the Packers advancing to the Super Bowl, their Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings will not make the trip to Hawaii. This means that Larry Fitzgerald will be headed to Hawaii for the game.
Fitzgerald and Dockett will accompany Adrian Wilson to the Pro Bowl. If you were to have had to guess at the beginning of the season which of the Cardinals would have made the Pro Bowl, these three players would have been those guys. They are the team leaders and faces of the franchise.
Another ramification of the Super Bowl is that it may be a couple more weeks before there is a decision made in the replacement for Bill Davis as defensive coordinator.
Ken Whisenhunt has planned to speak with some candidates from teams that are out of the playoffs at the Senior Bowl this weekend, but the names of those candidates are still unknown. With the Steelers in the Super Bowl, Whisenhunt will not be able to speak with Keith Butler, Dick LeBeau (whose name has emerged as at least a possibility because of his contract status and relationship with Whisenhunt) or any other member of the Pittsburgh coaching staff until after the big game.
Unfortunately, this means that what we have to look forward to is a lot of speculation about names without any actual sources. The Cardinals have kept things very close to the vest. the one thing that will be entertaining is hearing the inevitable questions from the national media to LeBeau about a possible move to the desert.
As quickly as Jim Mora's name came up as a candidate the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, it seems to have disappeared. Lindsay Jones of the Denver Post is reporting that Mora is close to being named the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, joining John Fox's staff there.
I was surprised to hear Mora's name come up in the first place, but he would have not been a bad choice, considering his familiarity with the NFC West and his previous experience with a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense.
Now, as he reportedly is set to go to the Broncos, the Cards are left in a wait-and-see position. All signs seem to be pointing to the Pittsburgh Steelers and their finishing the season. Long rumored is the idea that Ken Whisenhunt is waiting for Keith Butler. There are other members of the Pittsburgh defensive staff that could be interviewed as well.
Although his name has come up, former Cardinals defensive backs coach Teryl Austin is not being considered, at least for now, as Arizona Republic writer Kent Somers has stated.
The silence regarding possible candidates is interesting. Other teams have names flying around almost everyday. The Cardinals have almost nothing going on. Either they know who they want and are going to wait or really have no idea yet. Let us hope it is the former and that a plan is in place.
On NFL Total Access Monday evening, Michael Lombardi reported that the Arizona Cardinals are one of the teams interested in former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks head coach Jim Mora, Jr. to fill their defensive coordinator vacancy. He would replace the recently fired Bill Davis. The Cardinals are not the only team interested, as it was also reported that the Philadelphia Eagles were interested in him as well.
Mora knows the NFC West well, having coached the Seahawks both as a head coach and as an assistant under Mike Holmgren. He also was the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator under Steve Mariucci. He is the son of former New Orleans Saints head coach Jim Mora.
Mora's defenses are known for taking risks and thus netting defensive rewards and at times giving up plays. What is interesting about his name coming up is that fact that his background is in a 4-3 defensive scheme. Ken Whisenhunt seems to prefer the 3-4. However, Mora's Seahawks ran a more hybrid 4-3/3-4 scheme, much as the Cardinals defense did under Clancy Pendergast. One could think that the same setup would work here under Mora, although it could be a way to provide flexibility in schemes, depending on what happens in personnel.
Many times people have said that the players that Arizona has on defense would be better suited in a 4-3 because of the players they have on the defensive line, but that could change quickly this offseason. Alan Branch and Gabe Watson are not under contract for next year, nor is Bryan Robinson, who is contemplating retirement right now.
Again, this is only a rumor that came up on NFL Total Access. Cardinals writer Darren Urban tweeted that he had not heard anything about Mora yet. However, when almost everyone else is speculating that Whisenhunt is waiting until the Pittsburgh Steelers are done with their season to talk to Keith Butler or other members of their defensive staff, this is certainly something intriguing and unexpected.
Multiple reports are saying that the most sought after defensive coordinator has found a new job. Former San Francisco 49er defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is reportedly taking the same job with the San Diego Chargers. He previously interviewed with the Arizona Cardinals and was scheduled to speak with the Dallas Cowboys about their defensive coordinator vacancies.
Manusky was Arizona's first interview, but was not necessarily their first choice. However, while it has been stated that there will be other interviews, no names have arisen other than fan speculation based on the 3-4 defensive scheme that Ken Whisenhunt appears to prefer.
We are left wonder if Whisenhunt is just sitting tight and waiting for the Pittsburgh Steelers to finish their season so he can offer the job to good friend Keith Butler, who now coaches the linebackers in Pittsburgh.
Butler was targeted twice before by Whisenhunt. The first time, the Steelers did not grant permission and the next time he declined because of a surgery.
Still another possibility is that the team is simply balking right now because of the expiring CBA. Many teams are going light on staff as cost-cutting measures during the work stoppage. The Cardinals have long had the reputation of being penny pinchers and sitting back and waiting until there is an agreement in place is a viable possibility.
Another possibility is also related to the CBA and potential lockout. Arizona may just be taking their time because they know they have time. If there is anything we have learned about Whisenhunt is that he is deliberate and organized in his decision making. He could simply be taking his time to see what comes up and not rush into a deal with a guy just because the job is currently unfilled.
For all of us everywhere, let us hope that it is option one or option three because option two would remind us of times past that were unpleasant to Cardinals fans for a long time.
Ken Whisenhunt began interviewing for the open defensive coordinator position for the Arizona Cardinals, which became available when Bill Davis was let go last week. The first interview went to San Francisco 49er defensive cooordinator Greg Manusky, who coached the 16th ranked defense this past year with Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes and Nate Clements. Manusky also has interviews lined up with the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers
Whisenhunt is planning on interviewing at least one more candidate this week, but the this person has yet to be revealed.
The one guy considered the favorite is Pittsburgh's linebacker coach Keith Butler. However, he cannot be interviewed until the Steelers are out of the playoffs and may not be able to because of language in his contract. Whisenhunt is friends with Butler and has tried to interview him twice previously for th position.
Because of the labor situation and the unlikeliness of wanting wholesale changes in philosophy, we should be expecting a guy with a 3-4 defensive scheme.
On the offensive side of things for the coaching staff, it appears that there will be no changes made to personnel, unless someone on the staff takes another job elsewhere. There are no immediate plans to hire an offensive coordinator.
On Sunday, ESPN.com reported and Arizona Republic writer Kent Somers confirmed that the Arizona Cardinals have begun talks with Larry Fitzgerald's agent for a contract extension. Fitzgerald's contract expires after the 2011 season and stipulates that the team cannot use any of the league's special "tags" to prevent him from leaving.
Any deal that happens would likely make him the highest paid receiver in the NFL, much like his last contract extension made him. Money is a factor, as it is with all players and teams, but it will not be just about money this time around, as he will be able to get that money from probably any other team in the league.
This time around, it will also require that the Cardinals show that they are moving in a direction that Fitz agrees with. He cares deeply about winning and now, after having tasted it for a couple of years, wants to do nothing more than get back to the Super Bowl.
Arizona will have to show that they are committed to playing a quarterback that can lead the team to the playoffs and that will put Fitzgerald in a position to contribute and be an important part of the team.
Fitzgerald is close to Ken Whisenhunt and he has already stated that he wishes to stay in Arizona, so the Cardinals already have these things in their favor, but he has watched former teammate Anquan Boldin have great team success again while in Baltimore and you have wonder if he is thinking that his best shot back to the Super Bowl is with another team.
Truthfully, the Cardinals have no other play than to make the call to get him in talks. He is the team's lone superstar. After having seen Kurt Warner, Boldin, Amare Stoudemire, and Mark Reynolds (as a lesser example) all leave the local teams, Phoenix fans are starving for stars and tired of seeing them all walk away or get dealt. At the same time, no one wants to see Fitz languish on a terrible team like we saw him do this year or how we are seeing Grant Hill and Steve Nash do on the Suns.
The downside to this, at least to a small level, is that the team has another receiver in Steve Breaston who will be a free agent now and has yet to hear anything from the front office about a new contract. He is a very good player, hard working, wants to be here and will not likely break the bank.
But in reality, with all of the tough and necessary decisions that the Cardinals need to make this offseason, getting Fitzgerald taken care of is most clearly what should get done first. The Cardinals are doing that and that should be at least encouraging for fans.
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