QB coach Miller finalist for college job

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2011 – 9:23 am

Quarterbacks coach Chris Miller is a finalist to be the head coach for Southern Oregon University. Miller, who replaced Jeff Rutledge after the Super Bowl season of 2008, said he welcomed the challenge to run a program.

“I enjoy what I’m doing with the Cardinals and I’m very lucky and blessed to be working for a good man in (Cardinals head coach) Ken Whisenhunt, but the Southern Oregon job excited me just in the fact that I love a challenge,” Miller told the Ashland Daily Tidings. “Southern Oregon has struggled the last several years and I’d love the challenge and the opportunity to turn the program around, and I believe one of my callings in life is working with young men, helping to mold them into high character individuals.”

The job won’t be offered to anyone until after Feb. 8, when Southern Oregon will hear whether it is being accepted into a new conference. SOU is a Division II NAIA school.

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As the NFC West turns

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2011 – 12:31 pm

It was an interesting day in the NFC West yesterday. The Rams got Josh McDaniels as an offensive coordinator, and the Seahawks gave Tom Cable their offensive line coaching job, among other moves. Jim Harbaugh continues to put together his staff in San Francisco (former Cardinals QB coach Geep Chryst landed with the Niners today).

The Cards, however, remain in a holding pattern (in terms of hiring; all the coaches are here working). At this point, I still have not heard anything further on the Cards’ DC opening. As I mentioned the other day, the Steelers’ playoff run likely impacts this situation. And unlike head coaching situations, you can afford to wait for your man — assuming you can get your man, and there has been quite a bit of debate about that when it comes to Steelers’ assistants. (Again, I don’t know that is exactly what is happening here; right now, I’m speculating like the rest of you).

I wish I had something profound to say. I don’t.

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Waiting on a DC

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2011 – 10:22 am

As I complete what was a four-day weekend for me (i.e., don’t expect anything else today), just wanted to touch base after an interesting playoff weekend for the NFL:

— I don’t think the second interview for a defensive coordinator position came off last week, but I could be wrong. Maybe something was done over the phone, or pushed back. I don’t know. Obviously, if there is interest in a playoff coach — like Pittsburgh’s Keith Butler — that has been put on hold with the Steelers winning again. I don’t know if it means the Cards will move on or if they will continue to wait, or even if coach Ken Whisenhunt knows unofficially if he can or cannot get a chance at Butler. I think back to the Cards’ Super Bowl run, when Todd Haley becoming the Chiefs’ head coach was the worst kept secret around even though technically Haley was still coaching and hadn’t even had an interview yet. (And no, I’m not saying that is happening with Butler or anyone else, before someone runs with “Darren Urban is reporting Whisenhunt is having secret talks with a DC candidate.”)

— Senior Bowl week starts in a week, when every coach in the world descends on Mobile, Alabama. That too can be a place where candidates are found/interviewed.

— As I mentioned on Twitter, the Seahawks’ playoff run ended up mirroring the Cards’ 2009 playoffs (shootout home win then decisive road loss) than the 2008 team (home win and then shocking the world on the road to earn a home game in the NFC Championship).

— Man, did Santonio Holmes’ TD catch Sunday bring back some haunting memories.

— I am shocked Anquan dropped that pass. Although how does a defense like the Ravens’ give up third-and-19?

— Watching Aaron Rodgers dice up the competition every week, I keep thinking he would have done the same thing last year in the playoffs had Kurt Warner not come up with one of the greatest playoff performances ever. There was irony in that thought when people were trying to put into perspective how great Rodgers was against Atlanta — and he was, but still not quite up with Warner’s game versus the Packers.

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Cards bring back Ali

Posted by Darren Urban on January 13, 2011 – 3:22 pm

The Cardinals have re-signed fullback Charles Ali for 2011. Ali was with the team over the offseason, but got hurt early in training camp while trying to battle for the lone fullback slot and was waived. So he will give it another shot. He’s the lone fullback under contract for 2011 at this point. Nehemiah Broughton, who continues to show up daily to rehab the knee he blew out in the preseason, and 2010 starter Reagan Maui’a both are free agents heading into the offseason.

Apropos of nothing, there is nothing new today on the search for a defensive coordinator. Not sure if anything will be going on tomorrow either, but if there is something to report, I will (and if you are looking for immediacy and don’t already go here, try or look at the Twitter feed on the right side of the blog page).

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To QB and not QB

Posted by Darren Urban on January 12, 2011 – 9:42 am

I made it all the way to January 12.

Obviously, quarterback is going to be a hot topic, probably all offseason. This isn’t the last time I am going to address it on the blog. But it will be the entry I link back to – over and over – whenever someone asks me about one of the popular names floating out there, whether it is a current NFL player or a potential draftee.

So expect to see the URL often in the blog comment section.

I don’t know who is going to play quarterback for the Cardinals in 2011. I don’t know who is going to be on the roster. I don’t think they know right now, and they can’t. The draft isn’t until late-April, and the nitty-gritty talks about who will be available and where they rank on the draft board have yet to occur. Free agency is a little less than two months off, and that’s only if there is no work stoppage. If there is a work stoppage, no free agents can sign anywhere until it is resolved. The same will go for trades involving players.

Those are some of the many reasons I have tried to hold out on talking about potential QBs. I didn’t last very long. So here goes, with the understanding of my limited knowledge of the college guys relegated to watching them on TV here and there:

Kevin Kolb: Might as well start here. If Kolb doesn’t get to start in Philly, he wants to start somewhere else. Ears all over Arizona perked up. But then Andy Reid talked about keeping both Kolb and Michael Vick, and reality sets in. Let’s say the Cards want Kolb (and I don’t know if they do). Forget about working out a trade for a moment. Why would the Eagles deal Kolb? He is under contract for relative peanuts in 2011 ($1.4M) and for now, Michael Vick isn’t under contract at all. Vick might be franchised, or there might not be any tag. Plus Vick got beat up by the end of the season. The Eagles need a backup. Lot of hoops to be jumped before you could ever see Kolb out West (or anywhere besides Philly).

Donovan McNabb: Ahh, my favorite subject. First, he has to be released. If it happens before the lockout, I believe he can be signed. But will that happen? Regardless, I don’t see it here. McNabb will have been let loose by two different teams. His play was less than consistent this year (and yes, I know some people don’t think he had enough weapons). There are questions about his fitness (the Washington stuff earlier this season wasn’t out of the blue), his accuracy and his age. Plus, he’s spent almost his entire career in a West Coast offense that doesn’t exactly mirror the Cards’ offense. I just don’t see it.

Marc Bulger (pictured below): He was a candidate this last offseason and is expected to be one again. He followed Kurt Warner once before. He’ll be available and he’s experienced. These are the plusses. He also hasn’t had a good season since 2006, struggling with less talent in St. Louis and declining skills.

Matt Hasselbeck: Why would the Seahawks let him go now? Or might he have made himself that valuable where they can’t keep him?

Kyle Orton: Has probably proven himself better than many expected. But the reports are the Broncos want a second-round pick for him. I don’t see the Cards doing that, unless they see Orton as a long-term solution (with, for example, Skelton as a backup for now). Would the Cards negotiate a lower pick? I could see that. Again, however, it’s a trade, so until there is a new CBA, Orton is a Bronco and in limbo.

Vince Young: Has skills and has been a winner. Also has reputation for not working hard enough at his craft and has proven he doesn’t handle adversity well. Not a good combination. I don’t see him as a realistic option.

Cam Newton: Was great this past college season – with the operative word being “college.” He was just OK in the national championship game. He’s not Vick, so you can wipe out most of the running part of his game as it translates to the next level. He’s got a ways to go if he is ever going to be a top-flight NFL QB, and I don’t see – right now – how you spend the No. 5 overall pick on him.

Ryan Mallett/Blaine Gabbert: Again, I need to see how these guys sort themselves out during workouts/combine, etc. But right now, hard to tell. Gabbert seems more highly regarded than Mallett, but things can always change as the draft approaches. There are also teams ahead of the Cards who will be looking at QB. I’ll say this: No one left in the draft is Andrew Luck. And the Cards can’t afford to whiff on the No. 5 overall pick.

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Manusky gets an interview

Posted by Darren Urban on January 11, 2011 – 3:31 pm

The Cardinals and coach Ken Whisenhunt spent Tuesday doing their first interview for the defensive coordinator spot, talking to Greg Manusky — who was the DC for the 49ers the past four seasons. The 49ers were ranked 13th overall as a defense and 16th in scoring defense this past season.

Manusky went to college at Colgate and then spent more than a decade (1988-99) as a linebacker in the NFL. He was teammates with Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt with the Redskins in 1989 and 1990. As a linebackers coach in San Diego and then his stint in San Francisco, he oversaw Pro Bowlers like Donnie Edwards, Shawne Merriman, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. He is also reportedly going to interview for defensive coordinator positions with both the Chargers and the Cowboys.

The Cardinals are expected to have another candidate interview this week.

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This sounds familiar

Posted by Darren Urban on January 11, 2011 – 10:16 am

So there were — understandably — big questions about the Seahawks taking their 7-9 record despite an NFC West title and winning anything. Every single one of their nine losses were by at least 15 points, for heavens sake!

Then they knocked off the Saints.

And suddenly, you look at the NFC playoff landscape and think, “Have I seen this before?”

Back in 2008, after the Cards won their first playoff game (at home) they went to play at 12-4 Carolina (the No. 2 seed) as the No. 4 seed. It was the perfect matchup, because they had already gone to Carolina earlier in the season and even though they lost, 27-23, to a man the Cardinals felt they had blown that game against the Panthers and were a better team. At the same time, the No. 6 Eagles were going to the No. 1 Giants, and while New York was having a fine season as defending NFL champs, Philly had just beat them in New York.

We know how that turned out. The Cards ended up with one of the most improbable NFC Championship home games ever.

This season, some of the details are transposed, but there is a chance the result could repeat. The No. 4 Seahawks are at the No. 2 Bears, and Chicago was the site of Seattle’s most notable regular-season victory when they beat up the Bears earlier this year. And while the No. 6 Packers lost at the No. 1 Falcons a few weeks ago, Green Bay easily could have won a tight game. If the Packers and Seahawks both win (and the latter isn’t out of the question), Seattle might find itself hosting the NFC Championship. Improbably. Once again.

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Getting coaches in place

Posted by Darren Urban on January 10, 2011 – 3:31 pm

Ken Whisenhunt is beginning to interview candidates for the vacant defensive coordinator job. How quickly that results in a hire is up in the air. Over the weekend, XTRA’s Mike Jurecki said the job was Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler’s to lose, but there are still hoops to be jumped there, not the least of which will be the length of the Steelers’ jaunt through the playoffs. (UPDATE: And maybe it won’t matter because Butler might not be able to come according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette h/t Kent Somers.)

UPDATE II: SI’s Jim Trotter reported that former 49ers DC Greg Manusky is interviewing with the Cards this week.

Given the potentially shorter offseason — and the desire in the past to have the Cards lean toward a 3-4 scheme — I expect whoever is hired to have the 3-4 pedigree. There are plenty of those guys out there.

It will be interesting to see how quickly everything comes together. It sounds like Ron Rivera will be the new coach in Carolina. There are still other head coaching jobs open (Oakland, Cleveland, Denver) and other staffs just being put together (Dallas, Minnesota, San Francisco). Always a lot of moving parts coaching-wise this time of year.

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Fitz contract talks begin

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2011 – 12:22 pm

UPDATE: General manager Rod Graves confirmed the Cards have begun preliminary conversations on a Fitz deal.


I know there has been a lot of concern about whether the Cardinals will keep wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald long-term. Well, ESPN reported this morning there already have been preliminary contract talks between Fitz and the team for a contract extension.

Recently, Graves said the Cards were still hoping to get a couple deals done before the potential lockout. He didn’t say who with, but given Fitzgerald’s situation, it makes sense he’d be one. Fitz is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2011 season, and since he cannot be franchised or traded without his OK, he has all the leverage and the closer he gets to free agency, the more likely he’d be to test the waters. And if the Cards don’t extend him before the lockout, they have to wait until after the lockout — and no one is sure when that will be.

I am always leery when I hear of “preliminary” discussions, of course. It could be as little as “Hey Fitz, you know we want you back, right?” and Fitz saying, “Sure.” It also usually means nothing is close to being done (and may not be until Fitz has a better understanding what the team’s quarterback situation will be). But the Cards have never been anything but sure they wanted to keep him long-term, and I have always thought his remaining in Arizona was the most likely outcome.

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What’s next for coaching staff

Posted by Darren Urban on January 7, 2011 – 12:03 pm

As coach Ken Whisenhunt was wrapping up his end-of-the-season press conference, he was asked if he was going to have any down time soon.

“I am going to need a break here at some point but I don’t see one on the near horizon right now,” Whisenhunt said.

Definitely no time soon. With the rest of the coaching staff getting a break for the next week or so, Whisenhunt is back in his office working on the future, which presumably includes the replacement for the fired Bill Davis at defensive coordinator. I’ve been asked many times already who it will be or who is in the mix. Right now, I don’t know. I am sure Whisenhunt has an idea what direction he’d like to go in — head coaches always have a fluid “who’s next” list — but as he said Thursday night, whether those guys would be available/interested is a different story.

So that leave speculation. I have heard a lot of suggestions by the rank-and-file fans out there: John Fox, Eric Mangini, Packers LB coach Kevin Greene, Steelers LB coach Keith Butler (with whom Whisenhunt has had interest in the past). But I have not heard any suggestions from Whisenhunt, and in the end, there is always a wait-and-see for assistant coaches anyway, since it’s harder to get them away from other teams if they are already under contract.

I will be curious to see if the coach recruited has been a 3-4 or 4-3 guy. Whisenhunt has talked about the difficulty in installing a new philosophy with a change in DC with the very real possibility of an offseason-ruining lockout. If part of the problem this season was putting the new pieces (player-wise) in place and that was a season-long struggle, what happens when the prep time is drastically cut down?

(A quick aside: one thing I found interesting talking to Ron Wolfley on our season-ending podcast — to be posted Monday– was when he broke down the Cards’ use of the 4-3 late in the season as opposed to the 3-4. It was the exact same defense, Wolfley said, except that instead of an outside linebacker standing up on the right side, the Cards were using a defensive end with a hand down — Campbell, for instance, instead of Porter/Schofield. Everyone else played the same roles as before).

I guess we will see how it goes. I expect some potential candidate names to leak out next week (they always do) and we will see how this plays out. Whisenhunt said yesterday he isn’t ruling out further coaching changes but said that doesn’t mean he expects any. I read that as a nod to whomever the new DC is, and whether he might want to make some moves with the defensive staff. I expect the offensive staff to stay intact, barring someone leaving on his own for a different job.

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