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Haley visits Jets

Posted by Darren Urban on January 11, 2012 – 9:16 am

As expected, Todd Haley is exploring other potential assistant coaching options, with the rumored talk with the Jets happening today. About the same time Haley’s name popped up with the Cards was a concept in which he and former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano — with whom Haley coached with the Cowboys, with both developing as coaches under Bill Parcells — would be co-offensive coordinators. Haley would handle the passing game, Sparano the running game. ESPNNewYork.com suggests Haley could also be named assistant head coach (although that combo, with Rex Ryan as head coach, seems like a lot of, ahem, personality at the top of the flow chart).

It’s odd, though, that another ESPN reporter (Chris Mortensen) said yesterday Sparano would be named offensive coordinator. Haley will have some choices, it sounds like. Whether they are the choices he was hoping for, that could be another matter entirely.

In separate yet also-involving-the-Cards news, a Miami report says Jeff Fisher will make a decision today to coach the Rams or Dolphins, and while it may not be finalized, if it is the Rams, everyone wondering what happens with Cards DC Ray Horton will be able to rest easier. Also, new Colts general manager Ryan Grigson was hired today, so the Rams have one less GM choice, keeping Cards’ director of player personnel Steve Keim in play (Plus, Grigson’s younger brother, Dru, is a scout for the Cards. I wonder if at some point, Ryan tries to bring his brother to Indy.)

It could turn out to be an interesting day.

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A lot of talk, but nothing concrete

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2012 – 5:12 pm

One of the things about the offseason, and instant social media, is that news can break quickly — and events can also seem to play out very, very slowly.

Take the Todd Haley-returning-to-the-Cardinals discussion, which reached the public late last week but is now in an apparent holding pattern. (I won’t lie; things around this building always seem like they are going slower when the coaching staff is out, which they will be this week.) Haley, according to multiple reports is exploring options. How quickly he could land anywhere would just be a guess.

Haley did do an interview with Yahoo Sports radio today (h/t to Sando) in which he talked about the Cards but not a job with the Cards.

“The Cardinals, I love,” Haley said. “The Bidwills, Michael Bidwill and Mr. Bidwill, have been nothing but great to me. Kenny Whisenhunt has been nothing but great to me and gave me a great opportunity that I was able to expand on. I love a bunch of the players that are still there and they mean a lot to me.”

Those comments were similar to those Haley said to me at the Combine last year, so they aren’t a surprise. How it would translate into work is something different. Nothing has been said about the Cards’ current staff, but it’s hard to think there won’t be at least some change when all is said and done. But it’s a process.

UPDATE: One change did come Monday evening when the Cardinals fired quarterbacks coach Chris Miller. As I already said, this doesn’t mean Haley’s arrival is imminent.

Same with the situation with the Cards’ director of player personnel Steve Keim and his potential interview with the Rams for their general manager job. The Rams started the process looking for a GM, and, judging by their long list of potential candidates, it’s difficult to tell if Keim will be a top choice. Certainly when it comes to the Rams’ coaching job, it’s easy to tell where Cards DC Ray Horton falls in comparison to Jeff Fisher.

So, in a quiet building, we wait to hear how this will shake out, thinking that — in a perfect world — the Cards are set by the time they go to Mobile, Ala., to scout the Senior Bowl practices in a couple weeks.

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Talk of Haley’s return, and Keim’s future

Posted by Darren Urban on January 5, 2012 – 11:16 pm

Everyone was wondering – including me – if the Cardinals would have interest in bringing back Todd Haley to the coaching staff. Well, apparently there is. Kent Somers reported tonight Ken Whisenhunt will talk to Haley about coming back. There are no openings as of now, but that obviously can change quickly — and there also is nothing that says the Cards can’t just add another coach to the staff. It would make sense that Haley would come back to run the offense, but if that happened, I don’t know how offensive coordinator Mike Miller fits into the equation. Right now, Miller is OC, while assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm has a say in the running game and, of course, Whisenhunt has an offensive background.

The Cardinals struggled with inconsistency on offense all season. The Cards had just three first-quarter touchdowns in 16 games, and scored more than 21 points just five times. But over the second half of the season, they also performed well late in almost every game and frequently came up with big plays.

The Cardinals were tremendous in 2008 with Haley running the offense, but then again, that was also with Kurt Warner at quarterback, Anquan Boldin as the second receiver and the ability for everyone to have been together for all of 2007 before it clicked the Super Bowl year. He took the Chiefs’ head coaching job a couple of weeks after the Cards’ Super Bowl loss.

Haley, fired this past year by the Chiefs, still has a year left on that contract so he may not want/need as much money is 2012. But it is noteworthy that Haley was making $1 million a year as Arizona’s offensive coordinator before he left, and I’d assume he’d carry a similar price tag (and Grimm –pictured  below with Haley before the Cards’ Super Bowl, is also receiving seven figures). Haley kept his house in Arizona even after taking the Kansas City job he liked the area so much.

Certainly he’d bring an intensity like no other. He can get under people’s skin, but he can motivate; Larry Fitzgerald swears by the guy and often credits Haley’s ways as helping him step up to the next level. Of course, talking to Haley and actually getting to the point of hiring him are two totally different things. We will see how this develops.

The news also broke from multiple outlets Thursday that the Rams had asked for permission to interview Cardinals’ director of player personnel Steve Keim for their vacant general manager job. Keim previously had been considered for Seattle’s GM job a couple years ago. Keim runs the Cards’ scouts, losing him (and there has been nothing said whether Keim will actually talk to the Rams) would impact the Cards’ offseason, no question.

UPDATE: The news has also come out that the Rams will interview defensive coordinator Ray Horton for their vacant head coaching spot. Jeff Fisher has been considered the leading candidate for that job.

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Whiz talks Kolb recovery, Haley, and other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on December 12, 2011 – 11:59 am

There were no new injury updates Monday from coach Ken Whisenhunt, and that includes quarterback Kevin Kolb after Kolb suffered from concussion-like symptoms after being hit in the head by Ahmad Brooks’ knee.

“There are a number of different steps you have to go through, and obviously player safety is very important,” Whisenhunt said. “I don’t have a timetable on it.”

Whiz said Kolb “didn’t feel right” after the hit and the doctors took him inside the locker room. Originally, the plan was to hold Kolb out until the half to see if he would improve, but Kolb didn’t. (Kolb was downstairs riding a bike this morning.)

— Whiz talking postseason: “I know we are still alive. But I’m not going to get into scenarios or this or that. None of it matters if we don’t win this week, and that’s the approach we have taken the last six weeks, and it’s worked pretty good in five of them.”

— Center Lyle Sendlein gave Whiz a game ball yesterday (pic below) in recognition of Whiz tying Don Coryell for most wins in franchise history. “It was very nice,” Whisenhunt said. “It was meaningful our team did that, but it’s a team game and we are focusing on Cleveland.”

— Whisenhunt was asked about former offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was fired as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs Monday. Whisenhunt said it was “premature” to talk about Haley possibly returning to Arizona. Calling Haley “a good friend” he said he believes Haley will have multiple options as coach going forward.

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It’s official: Fitz lands at No. 14

Posted by Darren Urban on June 26, 2011 – 6:06 pm

I know many people were wondering, but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald finally landed on the NFL Network’s Top 100 current players at No. 14. I think that speaks to how well Fitz is respected around the league, especially since the Cards had a down year last season. Not shockingly, the presenter for Fitz’s video segment was Chiefs head coach and former Cards offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who developed a special bond with Fitz during Haley’s two seasons in Arizona.

“One of the hurdles we had to get over with Kurt (Warner) was to get him to throw the ball up to Larry even when he’s not open and he’ll make the play,” Haley said. “Those ball skills, along with the great hands, allow him to come down with the ball when others don’t.”

The eerie ending: Haley talks about how sure he would have been that, had Warner been able to get off that last Hail Mary pass in the Super Bowl — Warner was sacked and fumbled — Fitz would have come down with the jump ball and provided a miracle finish for the Cards. I don’t know if that would have been the case, but gosh, it would have been nice to see how it developed.

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Haley wary of Fitz’s tackling skills

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2011 – 8:49 am

Had a chance to talk to Chiefs coach (and former Cardinals offensive coordinator) Todd Haley yesterday when he opened the conversation about the long-past pickup basketball games we both used to take part in. Haley (who was wearing his NFC championship ring) isn’t playing hoops right now after tearing his quad muscle in his right leg — he’s rehabbing now — and that led to discussion about when he hurt it.

He actually hurt it right before the Cardinals played in Kansas City this season. Haley was trying to keep the injury out of the spotlight, but he couldn’t stop thinking about a Larry Fitzgerald tackle.

A little background: Fitz likes to tackle. It comes out of nowhere, completely random. I’ve seen him take down teammates, strength coach John Lott and media members (Yes, I have been a victim). And Haley, who was targeted more than a few times when he coached in Arizona, was thinking about dealing with a good-natured Fitz wrap-up in Kansas City. He went so far to send a message to Fitz through an intermediary imploring Fitzgerald not to take him down.

At one point right before the game, with Haley limping toward the locker room, Fitz was coming the other way for some reason, and began running toward Haley. The worst-case scenario went through Haley’s head and he yelled to Fitz to be careful. But Fitzgerald was ready, assuring Haley — with whom Fitzgerald grew close in their time in Arizona — he knew better, before giving him a much more gentle embrace.

And no, I do not expect Fitzgerald to play defensive back any time soon.

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Talking DC at the Senior Bowl

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2011 – 2:14 pm

As I wrote earlier in a story, Ken Whisenhunt will be interviewing multiple candidates for defensive coordinator at the Senior Bowl next week. And there are candidates from current playoff teams too (No, he didn’t say. Yes, I would be shocked if at least one of them isn’t working for the Steelers).

As an FYI, permission is required right away to talk to any assistant coach. If a guy is under contract, getting that permission is necessary. If a coach’s contract is expiring, obviously, he is a “free agent” like a player would be, but there is a lag time of about a week-and-a-half before he is “free.” Before then — for instance, if you want to talk to a guy right away after his season ends, whenever that might be — permission must still be granted.

It’s no shock the Senior Bowl will be an interview time. So many coaches are there, it’s simply very convenient to talk to candidates down there (and a little more out of the spotlight, if so desired).

For anyone panicked about the speed of things, it’s interesting to note Todd Haley was hired as offensive coordinator (and Clancy Pendergast retained as defensive coordinator) on January 25 in 2007, after Whisenhunt had talked to candidates at the Senior Bowl. If the Cards went to the scouting combine without coordinators, that would be a problem. That won”t happen.

And when Whisenhunt talks about fit, he is also keeping in mind any possible work stoppage that could dramatically shorten the offseason. Defensive terminology that is similar to what the Cards have had is part of this equation, so that players who might not be around can still absorb what is needed to be absorbed for the 2011 season.

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Play-calling now Miller time (sometimes)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 20, 2010 – 8:52 pm

As both Mike Jurecki and Kent Somers reported today (man, where was I?), passing game coordinator Mike Miller has been calling some of the plays, with coach Ken Whisenhunt still calling some. I had heard a few weeks ago Miller had been involved in calling some stuff; I don’t know how it splits up or whether Miller’s involvement has grown.

Whisenhunt didn’t make a big deal about it because, obviously, playcalling has been a source of, let’s call it consternation, for many fans. Miller (pictured below with ESPN’s Suzy Kolber) is being brought into the job like Whiz did with Todd Haley (after Bill Cowher did it with Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh). It was always the plan to let Miller get to this point; Whisenhunt said he eventually wanted to do so when Miller was promoted after Haley left following the Super Bowl appearance.

I remember too that Haley got some chances to call some plays later in 2007, but that it stayed under the radar until Whisenhunt talked about it in the offseason prior to 2008 (It was important for Haley for people to know he was calling plays. Sometimes, that news didn’t travel quite as quickly as he would have liked).

The first thing I think of is this: No matter who is calling plays, you still need a good quarterback, something for which the Cards are searching. The other is the fact that Whisenhunt is going to be the driving offensive mind as coach. No matter who is coordinating the offense and/or calling plays, it’s still going to be Whiz’s philosophy. It’s his team.

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Chiefs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2010 – 10:10 pm

It felt a little like Chinese water torture Sunday. There were no dramatic shifts in the game, no real knockout punch. The Chiefs just kept drip-drip-dripping their way to a win, and it eventually felt there was no way the Cards could wiggle out from beneath the spigot.

Postgame was about as weary as I have seen coach Ken Whisenhunt. He’s still going to say the right things – that’s how he believes it should be done – but the losing obviously is eating at him. What now? Well, barring a shift in the division race, the Cards are in the week-to-week storyline mode. You don’t look big picture. You shrink it, meaning the much-anticipated-once-upon-a-time Monday night home game (with the black uniforms and I believe a better-than-average chance of an open roof) will have to be an event in itself.

You win – and once again, the Cards will be playing a team on the downslide, so at least it feels like even footing – and reevaluate later.

Since I’ll have basically an extra day to sift through this, I’m keeping this short tonight. (And I doubt I will be getting to the comments tonight, so bear with me. I will approve everything in the morning. I’m not censoring. I’m taking a bit of my life back. There’s not a lot new to say anyway).

— Whisenhunt said there wouldn’t be any personnel changes, but rookie tight end Jim Dray was in there extensively Sunday ahead of Ben Patrick. Dray struggled, but as we get deeper in the season, those are the kinds of developmental moves we may see going forward. (No, I don’t think John Skelton is playing next week).

— Derek Anderson has thrown high passes before but he seemed particularly skewing high Sunday. Maybe the wind was playing a major role, but it made for some harrowing catch attempts. And obviously one of them knocked Early Doucet out of the game.

— Wide receiver Steve Breaston was not a happy camper. “You’ve got to find what motivates you inside. You’ve got to push on. Don’t look for others to make plays. Do it yourself.” It’ll be interesting to see if his message gets across.

— Todd Haley wasn’t going to let Larry Fitzgerald beat him. On the Cards’ second field goal, on the third-down pass, the Chiefs not only double-teamed Fitz but did it with bump coverage with both. The pass ended up incomplete to Breaston.

“(The Chiefs) have done that a couple of times, they did it against (Chargers tight end) Antonio Gates, (Broncos receiver) Brandon Lloyd,” Fitzgerald said. “Anytime they are in the red zone they try to take away the guy who is the most targeted usually.”

— At some point, I would think Whisenhunt will consider heavily changing quarterbacks again, to give a rookie some experience. But it’s not going to be now, not when the NFC West is frightening still not out of reach and not against the 49ers on “Monday Night Football.”

— No, I don’t know if the Cardinals have interest in Vince Young if he becomes available.


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Friday before the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2010 – 3:38 pm

Fitz says it’s impossible to understand.

He can’t escape it. Football, that is. A four-game losing streak. “You go home and turn on the TV and ‘Cardinals have lost four in a row,’ ” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “Or I go to dinner and, ‘Hey Fitz, what’s wrong with you guys?’ You guys (in the media) go to dinner and no one ever bothers you. They don’t talk football with you. From that perspective, it’s difficult.”

Wait, I do too have people ask me about the Cards in public … OK, not as much as Fitz, but still …

Anyway, you can see where he is coming from. Fitzgerald is one of the few Cardinals still around from those terrible days pre-Whiz, when losing was practically ordained from training camp. Instead of making this four-game losing streak easier to deal with, it’s made it harder.

“This is way worse than before,” Fitzgerald said. “I had never won on this level before. I have tasted the caviar now, and eating out of the garbage is not where I want to be.”

Not sure you can find caviar in Kansas City. Barbeque, yes. But the Cards want their caviar, and want it fast.

— Fitzgerald, talking about his chemistry with Derek Anderson, said he just hasn’t had the same amount of time with D.A. as hookups like Palmer-Ochocinco or Schaub-Johnson or Manning-Wayne. But he insisted it is getting better (and Fitz’s stats of late bear that out; 20 catches for 270 yards the last three games).

“That’s life in the league,” Fitz said of dealing with a new QB. “I’m going to roll with the punches. Early on in my career I played with a number of different quarterbacks. It’s part of the deal. I am going to play hard and give it everything I have for my teammates and the fans here and that’s my passion.”

So I asked if it was tough to continue to answer such questions. “I don’t understand because I give the same answers every time,” he said. “That’s not going to change.” In other words, if he was ticked (and I don’t think he is, frustrated, but not irrationally so) he isn’t going to pop off anyway.

— More proof that the offense isn’t as ragged as its been? Nine pass plays of 30 or more yards the last three games (five to Steve Breaston) after having only one in the first six games.

— I’m not saying the offense/passing offense is good. Everyone settle down. We all know it is struggling. But there are moments.

— Barring something shocking, Beanie Wells will play this weekend. I don’t think he starts. Until he shows a little something on the field, I’d think Tim Hightower will remain the starter and Beanie getting a chunk of work – you know, like it was the entire back half of 2009. Will Beanie be made the starter again at some point? Perhaps. But I don’t think it’d be a guarantee.

— If LaRod Stephens-Howling can’t go, that’s a major blow to special teams all the way around. There is a reason he’s been considered by many the MVP in the first half of the year, and it’s not just because of his kickoff returns.

— I don’t know if Greg Toler is going to be able to play with his bad foot, but Fitz sure put a shot across his teammate’s bow, good-naturedly, of course. Fitz picked up a Celtics Paul Pierce jersey and hung it on Toler’s locker. Is Toler a Pierce fan? Fitz? No and no. Turns out Fitz was jabbing Toler for his injury this week by comparing it to Pierce’s “miraculous” game in the 2009 NBA Finals (watch the video; it explains it all). I would love for that to mean Toler would be fine for Sunday. We’ll see.

— The Cards could use all hands on deck for this secondary. The Chiefs feature wide receiver Dwayne Bowe a big target (think a more-polished Mike Williams, the Seattle version) who already has nine TD catches.

— The Cards have to find a way to slow the running back tandem of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones first.

— Both Ken Whisenhunt and Todd Haley have tried to downplay it this week. But make no mistake — I think both are burning to be able to beat the other Sunday. It’s not one-on-one basketball. It’s much, much bigger.

— Whisenhunt was asked about the offensive line and its play. The first part of his answer? “It’s hard for me to sit here at 3-6 and say we’re doing anything good.”

That may be a good walk-off quote. If you want to look at the glass half-full (three-quarters full?), you figure that while it was easy to, beforehand, count the Seattle home game as a win, the Kansas City game looked like a loss a couple weeks ago, so if the Cards go in and find that long-lost win, then they are right where they were expected to be and….

Ah, never mind. Talk to you in K.C.

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