Clancy Pendergast, one of two coaches initially retained from Dennis Green's staff by Ken Whisenhunt, will not be part of the Arizona Cardinals' plans moving forward into the 2009 NFL season. With Pendergast's removal, the Cardinals are now without their lead coordinators with Todd Haley becoming the Kansas City Chiefs' 11th head coach the same day.
Pendergast, who had led the Cardinals to a 19th-defensive ranking in his fifth season, had devised creative defensive plans throughout the 2008 playoffs and seemed to have had the defense playing their best defense in a decade. Yet after a last minute game winning drive by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the lasting memory is a defense that lost the Cardinals a world championship title in Super Bowl XLIII.
With the college combine fast approaching, the Cardinals will need to have their coordinator positions filled quickly. This fuels speculation that Ken Whisenhunt was prepared to lose Haley and Pendergast's departure was premeditated. The question is who will be their replacements?
Bill Davis is the Cardinals' current Linebacker Coach and came to the Cardinals with Whisenhunt. The previous two seasons Davis was the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator so he does have experience running the defense. His familiarity with the players and plays makes him the most likely in-house candidate.
The name that seems to carry the most weight for assuming Pendergast's position is Keith Butler, the Steelers' current Linebacker Coach. When Whisenhunt was assembling his staff in 2007, he was denied permission by the Steelers to interview Butler for a Cardinals position. Butler certainly is familiar with the 3-4 defensive scheme that Whisenhunt favors, having opportunities to master it under Dick LeBeau for the past six years.
Regardless of who becomes the Cardinals defensive coordinator, it is whether the 3-4 scheme becomes the standard of the Cardinals' defense that will affect the team's offseason personnel moves. This is a topic for another day and after we have more information to mull over here at Revenge of the Birds.