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Cioffi officially hired as DB coach

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2011 – 12:39 pm

In news that had been expected, the Cardinals have hired long-time Bengals assistant Sigismondo “Louie” Cioffi as defensive backs coach to join last week’s hire, Deshea Townsend, as the team’s new secondary bosses. Cioffi and Townsend replace Donnie Henderson (whose contract expired and was not renewed) and Rick Courtright (who had a year left on his contract but was let go).

Cioffi doesn’t turn 38 until September, but he has already coached in the NFL for 16 seasons, including with the Bengals since 1997. He spent time coaching both with new defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Dick LeBeau, so those ties remain strong. He got a chance to meet a lot of his new players Tuesday; defensive backs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes and A.J. Jefferson were all in the building.

I don’t expect the Cards to make any further hires on the coaching staff either.

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“Players make it come to life”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2011 – 1:59 pm

During Super Bowl week, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was talking about why his defensive schemes were so successful. There were a few reasons, but LeBeau came back a couple of times to one in particular: “The players make it come to life.”

So as Ray Horton takes over as defensive coordinator, that’s the question: What players does he have in place to have his defense – which he clearly will pattern after LeBeau’s – work? He wasn’t real specific talking about the players yesterday (and that’s only fair, he had only begun to analyze what he had). He mentioned that technique and fundamentals got sloppy at the end of the season. That can happen, but that obviously has to change.

(For now, we won’t talk about the possible short time window of the offseason due to labor problems; if there is a work stoppage, Horton won’t be able to talk to the players until it’s over. “That’s my biggest challenge, getting information to the players in a short, concise amount of time.” But that’s a topic to be attacked on another day.)

Horton also said the system was going to be “very demanding” and “very precise.”

Here’s the key, and we have talked about this before: The good players have to play good (and yes, I just butchered the English language. Making a point here). If Horton can get Adrian Wilson and Calais Campbell and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Darnell Dockett to play at a consistently high level – which I still believe all are capable of doing – then the defense is already better without any moves. If Daryl Washington, Dan Williams and O’Brien Schofield make a jump because they got playing time, you have the same thing (although you still need more linebackers).

I’ve mentioned Horton may have an advantage as a former player communicating with these guys, and he agreed that helps. “It gives you some credibility that you have sat in the same chairs they’re in,” Horton said. “It helps until they say, ‘Why’d you call that?!?’ ”

In other words, there’s a lot more that goes into the equation than similar backgrounds. We know that. Again, the cliché is that “It’s more about the jimmys and joes than the x’s and o’s.” The players, as LeBeau said, make the defense come to life. So do the Cards have the players?

“That remains to be seen, every situation is different,” LeBeau said. “But whenever you can add a person to your organization that has the depth of experience at both levels – playing and coaching – that (Ray) has, and he has been a major contributor to our success in Pittsburgh … there is no reason why, those ideas he shared with us can’t be equally effective out there.”

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Closing in on a DC

Posted by Darren Urban on February 8, 2011 – 2:43 pm

It’s amazing, the speed of today’s media and info being thrown out there so quickly in a story such as the Cardinals’ pursuit of a defensive coordinator. There have been twists and turns — and maybe not even “real” twists and turns as much as the appearance of them — but ultimately, things seem to be playing out much like everyone thought for a while.

The Cards asked for permission to interview Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler and secondary coach Ray Horton. Butler permission was denied, but Horton was available. And now, Horton is flying out to Arizona Wednesday. Nothing is official — it’s never done until it’s done — but all signs certainly seem to point toward Horton being the next Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. He worked with coach Ken Whisenhunt for three seasons in Pittsburgh, and he knows well the 3-4 Steelers defense that Dick LeBeau has built (and used as Bengals’ head coach while Horton was coaching there too).

Everything I have heard is that Horton is a smart coach and with 16 years of coaching experience. And we will see, if Horton is the guy, how this turns out. It doesn’t hurt that Horton played in the NFL for 10 years — to me, that will impact (the right way) relationships with guys like Darnell Dockett and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

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At the Super Bowl, DC subject comes up

Posted by Darren Urban on February 1, 2011 – 12:44 pm

I am not at the Super Bowl. But thanks to Twitter, it’s easy to monitor some people who are there and are talking to some of the assistant coaches who have been floated as potential defensive coordinator targets for the Cardinals. Since coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t talked to any of these people yet — he can’t even ask for permission to do so until after the season — these potentials are just guesswork. But it’s educated guesswork.

The name of Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton has been mentioned, and ESPN’s Matt Mosley noted that Horton isn’t all that thrilled that assistants from losing teams have a better chance at getting promotions, because assistants can’t interview until their season is over. It’s been a long-time conundrum for the league, but ultimately, I don’t know if there is a better way. You don’t want assistants still working in the playoffs to have such a distraction as to plan for another job interview.

Since Dick LeBeau already had made it pretty clear he didn’t want to go anywhere, Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler — who is close with Whisenhunt — remains a popular subject. He told reporters today — including Kent Somers — he doesn’t have a clause in his contract saying he will succeed LeBeau as Steelers’ DC when LeBeau is done. He also said the Steelers have been generous monetarily while keeping him around and that he doesn’t know if the Steelers would give permission for him to interview for the job. That has long  been the $64,000 question with Butler — can he even get out of his contract?

UPDATE: And here is a good story by Mike Sando on Butler and Whisenhunt.

On the Green Bay side of things, the best guesstimates are assistant head coach/inside LBs coach Winston Moss, who acknowledged to Somers he doesn’t know Whisenhunt well. The same can’t be said for Packers safeties coach Darren Perry, who not only coached with Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh but has played and coached in LeBeau’s system. That, in my mind, makes him that much more attractive (although various reports have the Eagles and Raiders also possibly waiting to interview Perry for the same job).

Nothing will happen until Monday or Tuesday of next week, when Whisenhunt will ask for permission to whomever he is looking at (and I would guess that would include LeBeau, since a) his contract is expiring and b) since he has waited this long, there’s no reason not to inquire). Miami assistant head coach Todd Bowles remains a candidate too. And I’d think the entire process — depending on how many interviews Whiz lines up — would come to a conclusion fairly soon after.

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LeBeau says he wouldn’t go anywhere

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2011 – 3:49 pm

It’s the up and down of the news cycle.

Earlier today, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said in a chat he thought Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau would give the Cards’ DC job “serious consideration.” He even put the LeBeau-to-Arizona possibility at 50-50.

Then later today, LeBeau talked to the NFL Network and basically squashed that. “I promise you, if I’m coaching, it will be the Pittsburgh Steelers,” LeBeau said, leaving the opening for retirement with his “if I’m coaching” comment.

This story isn’t going away until a) the Cards hire someone (coach Ken Whisenhunt interviewed Dolphins assistant Todd Bowles yesterday) and/or the Steelers’ season ends and LeBeau (and Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler) are officially said to be off-limits. If that isn’t resolved, my guess is LeBeau hasn’t answered the question for the last time, with the NFL’s media decending on the Super Bowl next week.

P.S. Here’s the link to the story of Fitz flying two fans to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl — and by coincidence, one happens to be recovering from cancer.

P.P.S. We will do a live chat with QB John Skelton tomorrow at noon Arizona time.

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Bowles latest name in DC search

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2011 – 9:09 am

The National Football Post reported that coach Ken Whisenhunt interviewed Dolphins assistant head coach/secondary coach Todd Bowles for the vacant defensive coordinator job while both are in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl. Bowles has a history with Whisenhunt — they were teammates on the Redskins in 1989 and 1990. Bowles was a defensive back for eight seasons in the league. He was also part of Bill Parcells’ staff in Dallas (and Whisenhunt has Parcells’ ties from his time coaching the Jets; remember coaches from his initial staff — like Todd Haley and Maurice Carthon — are from the Parcells’ tree and coached with Bowles in Dallas. Bowles was also on the Jets’ staff with Whisenhunt).

All that said (and even though the report lists Bowles as “an extremely strong candidate” for Arizona), I don’t believe anything has significantly changed. Whisenhunt had already said he was going to interview candidates this week but given the timing, it’s difficult not to think the possibilities in Pittsburgh (whether it is Keith Butler or Dick LeBeau or someone else) remain at the top of Whisenhunt’s list (or who knows, maybe even a Packers’ assistant). Why else would you have waited for an assistant on a team that didn’t make the playoffs (like the Dolphins)? If a playoff doesn’t work out, I could see Bowles (who obviously has been working with a 3-4 system).

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What Sunday means (like Fitz to Hawaii)

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2011 – 7:47 pm

In light of today’s happenings, some meaning on a Cardinals’ level:

As mentioned yesterday, the Cardinals got a third player in the Pro Bowl today as Larry Fitzgerald goes yet again (for the fifth time and fourth season in a row) as a replacement for the Packers’ Greg Jennings – who obviously has better things to do prepping for the Super Bowl. Fitz joins S Adrian Wilson and DT Darnell Dockett.

– With the Steelers winning it once again impacts the Cardinals’ search for a new defensive coordinator. There seems to be little question there are candidates from Pittsburgh. Linebackers coach Keith Butler and even defensive backs coach Ray Horton have been mentioned repeatedly in reports, and now, after ESPN talked today about famed defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau having his contract expire after this season, the Hall of Famer’s name is now floating around.

Of course, all are off-limits for another two weeks (coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was planning on interviewing a “couple of guys” at the Senior Bowl this week, and I am assuming that means guys other than possible Pittsburgh men). Does that mean those guys are out of contention? Or does Whisenhunt feel confident enough he can get someone that he’s willing to wait?

– Speaking of ESPN reports, there is the story today about Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer expected to demand a trade (and threaten to retire to get it done). If Palmer were to go on the market – and again, the Bengals don’t have to send him anywhere – I am sure the Cardinals would have serious discussions about trying to get him.

Then again, a player can’t be traded until there is a new collective bargaining agreement, and given the current landscape, that could be a while.

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