Thearon W. Henderson
Ray Horton is the best candidate for the vacant head coaching position of the Arizona Cardinals.
Ever been to an auction? They are really quite a bit of fun. You get to watch a bunch of random people bid on a bunch of random items that they don't even really need. Most of the items are retreads; washed up little gizmos that have no business being sold to anyone in the public.
But every once in a while, something really unique and cool comes along. While you sit there wondering to yourself if you really want it, others have already begun bidding. Before you know it, the price for that item is sky high and it is already being sold to somebody else that believed in its potential before you did.
That is exactly the case the Cardinals have on their hands with their current defensive coordinator, Ray Horton. Horton has now interviewed twice with the Cardinals, once with the Cleveland Browns and once with the Buffalo Bills. He is also thought to be garnering interest from the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Make no mistake, he is not simply a Rooney Rule candidate. Horton is legit. He turned a defense ranked 29th in 2010 that allowed 373 total yards of offense per game into one that was ranked 12th in the league in 2012. With a more competent offense, the Cardinals could very well have found themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2009.
Horton is not simply a defensive coach, either. He calls himself a, "coach of men." He is a player-friendly person, one that is going to get the most out of the pieces he is given to work with. And it was this, among many other things he said on Wednesday, that now have me saying that Ray Horton should be the next head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic was at the Cardinals facilities to talk to Horton after his second meeting wrapped up. He commented that the interview went well, as the group including Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim and Jason Licht discussed how they can bring this team back to a championship level.
That starts with repairing a broken offense. The Cardinals started the season 4-0 under the direction of Kevin Kolb at quarterback, but the team quickly spiraled out of control once he went down for the season during game six against the Buffalo Bills. From there, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley each started multiple games for the Cardinals. Each one was as ugly as the last.
Despite all of Kolb's injury problems, Horton still believes he is the guy for this team and would keep him on board if hired. "When you're 4-0 with Kevin - Kevin went through a lot of issues with being the starter, not being the starter, being the guy, not being the guy. We were 4-0 with Kevin and we can win with Kevin and we did win with Kevin. He's got the tools. We talked about a model of just giving him the backing going forward."
Horton has a solid plan in place, including a full offensive staff that would come with him if he is hired. He would hire a separate defensive coordinator to do the defensive play-calling, as he is a big believer in 'delegating.' Horton would still assist wherever he is needed as far as assuring the defense is correct, he said.
When asked about the fan base and being able to coach in Arizona, Horton seemed ecstatic. "I like the organizational structure and then I love the fan base. For me, it's been an amazing fan acceptance of me, whether at the game or on the street. That plays a lot, where the community appreciates what you do."
Horton is the type of guy that is going to get looks from other teams simply due to his track record. But it is his personality that blows them away. He oozes confidence out of every pore in his body, knowing that whoever decides to hire him in the end is going to get a, "quality head coach." He is not worried about a lack of experience at that position; he knows he has what it takes to get the job done. And so do I.
The Cardinals better move fast. They are not the only team interested in what Horton brings to the table. And if the Cardinals don't buy him, the auctioneer is going to yell "sold!" to somebody else.