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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Cards ask for permission UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on February 8, 2011 – 12:00 pm

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting (in Ed Bouchette’s chat) that the Cards have asked the Steelers for permission to interview Keith Butler for the vacant defensive coordinator position. The report also says the Steelers have yet to give an answer. Given that Whisenhunt and Butler have known each other for so long, I’d think the interview would be more about specifics — like Butler’s contract desires, for instance — than defensive substance.

Kent Somers is reporting the Cards have asked permission for a second candidate, but doesn’t name a name. I wouldn’t be surprised if the other comes from Green Bay (I’d think the Pittsburgh report would cover any possible Steelers, right?). Packers assistant head coach Winston Moss and safeties coach Darren Perry are the Green Bay coaches that have been mentioned.

UPDATE: XTRA’s Mike Jurecki is reporting that the Steelers denied permission to interview Butler, but that Steelers defensive backs coach Ray Horton — whom Whisenhunt also coached with in Pittsburgh — is apparently coming to the Valley for an interview. Horton’s contract is reportedly ending.

UPDATE II: Somers is reporting that permission was requested for Butler, Horton and Moss, and the Cards haven’t received an answer for any of them yet.

UPDATE III: Butler’s son tweeted that his dad was indeed denied permission to interview. (Sounds like Butler deleted his tweet, but permission was indeed denied).

UPDATE IV: Jason LaCanfora is reporting Horton is taking a job with the Cowboys. (And now a follow-up says Horton only has “an offer” from the Cowboys, as well as the Cardinals.)

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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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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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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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