Coach search moves forward

Posted by Darren Urban on January 4, 2013 – 11:55 am

With the Andy Reid discussion officially over (and it was over last night), the Cardinals’ search for a coach remains with multiple candidates. The Mike McCoy interview will happen this weekend. We’re still waiting for word of a talk with Todd Haley (although Haley reportedly isn’t sure he’d want to leave Pittsburgh.) The Ray Horton talks are done, and I think there is still a chance for another candidate or two to emerge.

(After everything that happened with Reid, I’m not sure the Cards are going to be quite as transparent with announcing potential names at this point. Leaks are going to happen, though.)

I know I mentioned this before but the key phrase in Michael Bidwill’s Monday presser: “It’s not going to move at lightning speed. You don’t want it to, because you learn a lot during your due diligence period.” Bidwill wants to make sure he talks to all the candidates he wants to before making any decisions. That makes sense. This is a huge decision that will impact the next three or four seasons at least.

UPDATE: The interview with GM candidate Morocco Brown of the Redskins took place in Washington D.C. Friday. The McCoy interview comes Saturday in Denver.

— Interesting that Mike Sullivan, the Buccaneers offensive coordinator, reportedly had a good interview with the Bears for their head coaching job and that Bucs QB coach Ron Turner is leaving to coach in college, former Cardinals QB coach John McNulty may not only have a landing spot with friend and Bucs head coach Greg Schiano but could even end up right where he tried to go last year. McNulty, who coached with Schiano at Rutgers, was Schiano’s original choice as OC but the Cardinals wouldn’t release him from his contract to leave, seeking continuity on their staff. The Bucs turned to Sullivan. Now, you’d think McNulty will likely end up on the Tampa staff one way or the other.

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Cards in focus on TV special

Posted by Darren Urban on May 25, 2012 – 1:20 pm

Here’s one way to get a Cardinals’ fix on a Sunday not during football season: a Cards’  TV special.

“Arizona Cardinals: Season In Focus” will be an hour-long special aired on ABC 15 Sunday (that’s May 27) immediately after the telecast of the Indianapolis 500. That’s approximately 12:30 p.m. Arizona time, but I won’t pretend to be a race fan and guess the likelihood of it ending then. The special (Alert: necessary sponsor  acknowledgement in 3, 2, …), presented by you Arizona Ford Dealers, will feature in no particular order:

— The voice of the Cards, Dave Pasch, sitting down with head coach Ken Whisenhunt to break down video of the members of the draft class (I have to say, this is the one I am looking forward to seeing);

— A feature about new quarterbacks coach John McNulty and how he wants to get the players at his position back to basics, working on technique and footwork;

— A feature on the journey back to the field for injured running back Ryan Williams;

— A feature on the work on and off the field of linebacker O’Brien Schofield;

— Some burning questions facing the Cardinals, as broken down by Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley;

— Oh, and a one-on-one interview between some guy who writes a blog for this site and newly signed defensive end Calais Campbell.

Again, that’s Sunday after the Indy 500. The boys in broadcasting — Tim DeLaney, Johnny Hayward, Richard Mendez — have worked hard on putting this together. It’s worth the time to watch. Yes, I understand some of you can’t see it, if you are out of state or busy. We do plan on putting up the segments on the site eventually, but it won’t be all at once.

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Getting some work in

Posted by Darren Urban on May 3, 2012 – 12:56 pm

The Cardinals are in phase two of their offseason work, which includes time spent with coaches on the field with their positional units (save for a little bit of time when the QBs can throw passes to the receivers, tight ends and running backs). No helmets, against air, but after an offseason without any of it, it’s welcome. (I will have a story on the quarterbacks getting work with new QB coach John McNulty later today.)

Right now is about fundamentals, whether it is dropping into coverage for the defensive backs, coming off the snap the right way for the offensive and defensive lines, or running the right routes to catch a pass. It’s about repetition (and, in Patrick Peterson’s case below, jumping for a ball tossed during a warm-up drill.)

The work in this phase goes for another couple of weeks, twice a week, until organized team activities start up. It’s basic, and short, and yet it’s always nice to have something that looks like football come up. It seems like the season ended years ago. Then again, it seems like training camp is right around the corner.

— Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald — who was out there for the workouts today — was ranked the ninth-best player in the NFL in 2011 by Their analysis? Fitz would be even better with better quarterback play. I think that goes without saying.

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A quarterback in the mix

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2012 – 2:11 pm

The Cardinals indeed decided to go with a developmental quarterback in the draft, taking San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley — a big (6-foot-3, 232-pound) and big-armed passer who struggled with accuracy. One analysis compared him to Derek Anderson. Lindley was a four-year starter and threw for 90 touchdowns. His TD-to-INT ratio as a senior was 23-8. But he never completed more than 57 percent of his passes and that dipped to 53 percent this past year.

“A lot of that has been my footwork, which I have been working on that a ton,” Lindley said. “I am at the point where I have enough individual training where I feel I have my feet underneath me and have a good platform to throw from. In the past … I have not had great feet, and I just needed to change that up.”

Lindley did lose his best two wideouts, current Card DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown, to the NFL before 2011. And he said the receiving group was beat up from injury and academic issues, but he took responsibility for his problems. “The stuff I could have controlled is really what I didn’t do well enough,” Lindley said. “The stuff with my feet I’m talking to you guys about.”

Lindley did work with quarterback coach Steve Calhoun and former USC and San Diego State coach Ted Tollner to fix his problems. I am sure Cards QB coach John McNulty will have something to say about it.

The Cards now have the four quarterbacks they will need for training camp. Usually, coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t want to have four total when the regular season arrives — there’s just not enough reps to go around — so the likelihood is that either Lindley or Rich Bartel will be fighting for a spot, assuming John Skelton and Kevin Kolb will be around. And I figure both will be around.

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McNulty move meant to be proactive

Posted by Darren Urban on February 8, 2012 – 3:38 pm

John McNulty was talking with Larry Fitzgerald after interviewing for the Cards’ open spot of quarterbacks coach. Fitz liked working with his receivers coach enough that he flew McNulty to the Pro Bowl this season as a guest, and he wondered (worried?) aloud to McNulty about who would end up coaching Fitzgerald if McNulty moved to work with QBs.

But McNulty had a simple thought: He thought he could help the quarterback spot, and that, in turn, could help the whole offense.

“I said, ‘Larry, we can sit here and complain about it and be frustrated, or I can try to do something about it,’ ” McNulty said. “I coached the position before, I think I can help those guys and I feel I can get them in a position where they can be more productive for our team. As opposed to, ‘I hope the next guy does this’ or ‘I wish we would do that.’ I figured I’d just throw the hat in the ring.”

One thing you definitely get the feeling of, and it’s McNulty’s passion and confidence in his new job. That’s what came across when he interviewed for the spot (and why both Ken Whisenhunt and president Michael Bidwill were so impressed).

“We’re beyond the replacing-of-Kurt-Warner at this stage,” McNulty said. “That’s not what we are talking about. When we are talking about production, you don’t have to win the game on your own, put the team on your shoulders.

“I’ve always taken a ground zero-type approach to teaching even the most base plays and teaching the fundamentals, where the mental and physical kind of mesh to the point to where, when it is all flying at you full speed, your body, your footwork, your training takes over, and you are able to operate with an efficiency to where the play is designed to operate. Anything after that, there’s enough going on in the game that anything can happen, good and bad. But you have to be on point with what you are supposed to do. That comes with repetitions.”

McNulty would love to get Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Rich Bartel working on those reps now, although the new collective bargaining agreement prohibits work with coaches for a while. Whenever it is, however, McNulty wants his players going over footwork, mentally picturing plays and blitzes and the like, and having the quarterbacks do it over and over. And over, and over again.

“The nature of the business, if you are not productive, you won’t play,” McNulty said. “We have talented guys that have shown they can play and win games. It’s a matter of doing it more consistently.”

There is a familiarity with the quarterbacks that will help with the process. McNulty has seen Kolb and Skelton each from the first days they arrived in Arizona and has been able to observe what their strengths are and what needs improvement. Those are specifics with which to start, although, McNulty said, “there is no preconceived notion of who is going to be ‘The Guy.’ Just more of a knowledge base.”

As for Fitzgerald’s new boss, Fitz kept it simple in a text message when asked about what he thought of Reich coming aboard: “Congrats, and welcome to the family.”

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Some dates as the offseason commences

Posted by Darren Urban on February 6, 2012 – 11:10 am

Obviously the Cardinals have already been working on offseason business for more than a month. Such is what happens when your team doesn’t make the postseason.

But the final play of the Super Bowl officially ends the 2011 season and allows the whole league to turn the page. With that in mind — and knowing a new coach (probably for receivers, with receivers coach John McNulty sliding over to coach the quarterbacks) still will be hired sooner rather than later, here is a look at some of the key dates over the next few months:

Feb. 20 — First day teams can attach the franchise tag (That process goes through March 5. The Cards could end up using theirs on defensive end Calais Campbell.)

Feb. 22-28 — Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

March 13 — Free agency begins (2 p.m. Arizona time)

April 26-28 — NFL Draft

Usually the team’s first on-field work is the minicamp the weekend following the draft. While no dates have been announced, I don’t see why that wouldn’t stay the same this season. While we have a long time to get into free agency — more than two weeks from the end of the combine, which is much different than years past when it used to start right after the Combine ended — one thing to note is on restricted free agents. The Cards have four restricted free agents (guys who could leave but the Cards, if they tender an offer, have right of first refusal): running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, linebacker Reggie Walker, safety Rashad Johnson and cornerback Greg Toler.

There are three tender offers that can be used in the new CBA: $1.26M to receive a player’s original round pick as compensation, $1.927M for a second-round pick, and $2.742M for a first-round pick. Just a guess, but I could see Toler (originally a fourth-rounder) and Stephens-Howling (a seventh-rounder) each getting a second-round tender. Johnson (originally a third-round pick) would probably get an original-round tender. I think the Cards want Walker back but I could see them declining to tender and then signing him later.

If the player is tendered and signs with another team — and the Cards didn’t match — the Cards would receive the compensatory pick when the player left.

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Some Cards thoughts from Michael Bidwill

Posted by Darren Urban on February 3, 2012 – 5:15 pm

Cardinals president Michael Bidwill, in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl, sat down for an interview with Bickley and MJ on XTRA 910 today. A few of the highlights, including thoughts on the coaching staff rumors and moves the past few weeks and a possible practice bubble in Tempe:

— On the decision to not let wide receivers coach John McNulty interview for Tampa’s offensive coordinator job because McNulty is already under contract, and whether there is a fear McNulty would be upset: “What we have to do is make the best decisions for the Cardinals, so we can win and continue to develop our team,” Bidwill said. “Sometimes you have to make tough decisions that aren’t exactly what the employee or the coach or the player or whomever might want. That’s part of this business and that’s part of the high compensation these folks get. They trade certain rights.

“Generally speaking, you don’t want to disappoint someone you like and work with, but at the same time, I’d much rather have John McNulty be part of our team because he is a darn good coach. I think Ken (Whisenhunt) feels that way, I think (general manager) Rod Graves feels that way and we need to make those decisions even those are hard decisions.”

— On the Todd Haley opportunity and the choice not to bring Haley back: “I think (offensive coordinator) Mike Miller has done a good job. I think to come in and uproot all that, that would send a wrong message to your staff. I feel like it’s really Ken’s bailiwick. If Ken was comfortable bringing Todd back, I would support him. If Ken is not comfortable bringing Todd back, I support that too. We are all in this making the best decisions we can to win football games, to win the NFC West. We know that road goes through San Francisco. We will make all the best decisions possible.”

— On McNulty’s ability to be able to improve QB play as quarterbacks coach (Bidwill did not say McNulty was going to be QB coach, but certainly talked like he will be, leaving the open coaching staff spot for a new receivers coach): “I sat in an interview with (McNulty) and he is a technician, strong, he’s a leader, a good communicator. I felt after a half-hour, I could start playing quarterback.

“He’s a great football coach and that’s what we need. If we want great quarterback play, we need guys who will be technical, who will be disciplined, and taking care of fundamentals.”

— An attempt to ask about the Cards and Peyton Manning went, understandably, nowhere. Manning is under contract with the Colts, so anything said about him at all by a team could be considered tampering. “You want to pay the fine?” Bidwill asked.

— On quarterback Kevin Kolb: “I still think Kevin, with an offseason, he is going to be a darn good quarterback,” Bidwill said, adding the team needs to develop their two young QBs, including John Skelton.

— On plans to build a practice bubble at the Tempe facility to be able to get out of the heat in the early season: “I would say it will take a little bit of time to go through the process, but as soon as we get through that process — there is a public process to it — construction time should be about a year,” he said. “I don’t see it happening in the 2012 season.”

— On looking forward: “We have to make the decisions to put us back in the driver’s seat of winning the NFC West,” Bidwill said. “That’s what we did in 2008. Get a home playoff game, and take it from there.”

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As Super Week commences, quiet at home

Posted by Darren Urban on January 30, 2012 – 4:42 pm

With the focus of the NFL world on Indianapolis, there isn’t a whole lot going on here in Tempe. I am guessing the Cards will fill their vacant spot on the coaching staff sooner rather than later, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this week (and for all those who keep asking, I do not expect it to be Todd Haley, even if he isn’t hired elsewhere.) I don’t have names, but I know the Cards have talked to candidates beyond those who have been discussed publicly.

There will be just the one spot to fill.Earlier in the day, the New York Times was saying Cardinals wide receivers coach John McNulty was a possibility to get the Rutgers head coaching spot, but interim boss Kyle Flood was hired. The Cards don’t want to let McNulty get away, after the Bucs were interesting in him.

Speaking of interest, at some point it sounds like Cards director of player personnel Steve Keim will still get his interview for general manager of the Rams, although it hasn’t happened yet. One point of clarification that I was mistaken on earlier — should Keim be the Rams’ choice, he could go immediately (a GM, rules-wise, is like getting asked to be head coach in the front-office world) and not have to wait. But if he wanted to bring anyone from Arizona’s personnel department with him, it would have to come after contracts run out, which is typically after the draft. The Rams have said, however, they aren’t in a big hurry to fill that job because of those restrictions. Since head coach Jeff Fisher would seem to have a heavy say in personnel going forward, the Rams may not need that in place.

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Whether Tampa’s move can affect Cards UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2012 – 9:58 pm

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired — seemingly out of the blue — Rutgers coach Greg Schiano to be their next head coach, the Cardinals suddenly had a chance to be affected.


Cardinals wide receivers coach John McNulty was Schiano’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for three seasons at Rutgers (and on his staff for five seasons) before McNulty was hired by coach Ken Whisenhunt in 2009. In a business where friends and former co-workers are the first people coaches turn to when building staffs, some not-so-difficult-dot-connecting would say the McNulty could be someone Schiano would like as an offensive coordinator. McNulty has extensive background in the NFL — he worked for Bill Parcells in Dallas and for Jacksonville before he was at Rutgers — and is a smart guy.

UPDATE: The Cards denied permission, according to Kent Somers.

The Bucs would have to ask permission to talk to/hire McNulty, however. McNulty is under contract, and because the NFL’s view of coaching positions has just two levels — head coach and assistant coach — such a move would not be considered a promotion in the NFL’s eyes. Teams can’t block assistant coaches under contract from interviewing/taking head coaching jobs, but they can prevent lateral moves.

There is no way to know right now if a) the Bucs and Schiano will even ask for permission to talk to McNulty or b) what the Cards would say. (Contrary to one report out of Tampa tonight, I don’t believe anyone has asked for permission yet and no one has reported such in Arizona). Given that McNulty has coached quarterbacks before, there is still a chance he could take the Cards’ vacant QB coach position and the Cards would instead hire a new receivers coach. In an interesting coincidence, McNulty is actually in Hawaii right now for Pro Bowl weekend, a guest of one of his star pupils — wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

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Waiting for the last coach

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2012 – 1:54 pm

I know everyone is waiting to hear about the Cardinals’ vacant coaching spot, but I don’t think anything is imminent. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has been talking to candidates and with everyone in the coaching world descending on Mobile next week for the Senior Bowl — it being a place where all kinds of coaching interviews often occur — it wouldn’t be a surprise to have an interview or two occur there for the Cards either.

A move to bring in Todd Haley seems unlikely when the logistics of the situation are taken into account — the most important of which is that Whisenhunt likes the progress of Mike Miller as offensive coordinator. Kent Somers does a spot-on job of breaking down the situation between Haley and the Cards. To sum it up in a cliche, the timing just isn’t right. There are still some head coaches to be hired that might want Haley for an offensive coordinator job.

Everyone is going to want to know potential names, but I don’t have any right now. The Cards do have a little wiggle room. For instance, wide receivers coach John McNulty also coached quarterbacks while he was at Rutgers; he could conceivably coach QBs if Whisenhunt picked out a receivers coach instead of a quarterbacks coach. As I have mentioned before, tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens played quarterback at the University of Alabama (although he has only coached tight ends and running backs in his coaching career.)

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