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Questions Abound in Cardinals’ GM and HC Searches

Syndication: Arizona Republic Alex Gould/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

While I was taping this week’s Red Rain Podcast on Wednesday morning, news broke from Jay Glazer that the Titans’ Director of Player personnel, Monti Ossenfort, was not the Michael Bidwill’s first choice for GM. Apparently, Bidwill had first offered the job to the Bears’ assistant GM Ian Cunningham.

It should be noted that Ian Cunningham made quite a favorable impression on NFL owners at the league’s conference for young, aspiring GM candidates. Michael Bidwill had mentioned how he was very impressed with a number of the young candidates he had hobnobbed with at that conference. Therefore, it is not surprising that Bidwill wanted to hop on the young candidate that seemed to steal the show there.

Ian Cunningham was a finalist for both the Cardinals’ and Titans’ GM jobs. While it is not clear whether the Titans offered Cunningham the job, Bidwill, having been spurned by Cunningham, quickly pivoted over to Mont Ossenfort, asserting,

“All of these candidates had excellent backgrounds, impressive resumes and had a vision for the organization, but as we went through the process, it became clear that Monti Ossenfort had the combination of a well-defined vision, work ethic, character, the background and experience,”

First of all, when Bidwill says “we”, whom is he referring to? isn’t Bidwill rding solo these days?

Secondly, now that it’s clear that Bidwill wanted to hire a GM candidate from the outside, how is that decision going to affect the morale and/or the status of Adrian Wilson and Quentin Harris?

Thirdly, when Monti Ossenfort told the Arizona media that the Cardinals would now be engaged in an exhaustive and extensive player evaluation process, what did this suggest about the way in which the Cardinals had previously been doing their pro and college player evaluations, largely conducted by Steve Keim, Adrian Wilson and Quentin Harris?

Doesn’t it suggest that Michael Bidwill’s confidence in the way in which the Cardinals have evaluated personnel has diminished?

Well then, this bit of breaking news then confirms it:

When Monti Ossenfort spoke very passionate and emphatically about the way in which the Cardinals are going to make an organizational alignment, from the owner, to the GM, to the HC, to the coaching staff, to the players, to the maintenance and cafeteria crews, how many of you thought that the head coaching candidate whom Ossenfort fits best with is Brian Flores, his long-time colleague with the Patriots —- where they were enlightened by Bill Belichick’s “master classes” in team building?

Brian Flores is the only HC candidate the Cardinals have shown interest in who is automatically “aligned” with Ossenfort’s vision.

Why then, haven’t the Cardinals as yet interviewed Flores?

Instead, the Cardinals are now meeting in person with Lions DC Aaron Glenn. Glenn is a charismatic coach, but one could argue that his Lions’ defense this year was as erratic as Vance Josephs’s.

Going back to Ian Cunningham, the coaches he would have been closely linked to would have been Eagles’ OC Shane Steichen and DC Jonathan Gannon.. Gannon was added to the Cardinals “asked permission to interview” list yesterday, but of the two, isn’t Shane Steichen the hotter candidate?

The biggest question with Cunningham is, why did he turn down Bidwill and the Cardinals?

Erik Lambert of Sorts Mockery speculated:

It is rare for somebody to decline the chance to run an NFL team. That takes a lot of guts because such opportunities don’t come around often. Cunningham must’ve had a good reason for saying no. Arizona is somewhat notorious for being a challenging environment to function in. Their owner Michael Bidwill is part of a family that doesn’t have the greatest reputation in league circles regarding properly running a franchise. Hiring and extending Kliff Kingsbury is his latest gaffe.

There is also the fact Ian Cunningham would be shackled to quarterback Kyler Murray who just signed a lucrative contract extension. New GMs often prefer to have flexibility at the league’s most important position unless the guy is a future Hall of Famer. Murray is not. The team also has the second-oldest roster in the NFL and limited salary cap flexibility. Outside of holding the #3 overall pick, there isn’t much to work with. Cunningham clearly felt it was a better career decision in the long run for him to stay in Chicago.


Now, it could be that the Bears made it financially rewarding to Cunningham for him to stay one more year because next year if Cunningham takes a GM job, the Bears would receive 2 third round compensatory picks as a reward for grooming a minority front office candidate. The Bears wouldn’t have received such compensation this year, because Cunningham has not been oil the job for the minimum requirement of two years.

But, it frequently seems to me that an integral part of Bidwill’s hiring modus operandi is to offer jobs where the candidate needs to agree with Bidwill’s conditions and points of emphasis. Bidwill has been famous for wanting new head coaches, for example, to retain some of Bidwill favor assistant coaches.

There’s also a chance that Bidwill would have wanted Cunningham to accept and approve of Vance Joseph as head coach. Or, Bidwill could have insisted that the team is 100% committed to Kyler Murray, so forget about using the #3 draft pick on one of the top three QB in this draft (Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis) , who, imo, look like more attractive QB options for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are supposedly going to meet with the 49ers’ dynamic DC DeMeco Ryans either over the weekend or early next week. Just today, here is what JJ Watt had to say about his former teammate:

Yet, if DeMeco Ryans was a top target, why then didn’t Bidwill offer the GM job to Ran Carthon? Without Carthon in tow, do the Cardinals have any legitimate chance of outbidding the field for Ryans?

For the past few months I have been campaigning for the Cardinals to hire a GM with charisma. the kind of GM who would attract coaches and players.

Watching Monti Ossenfort’s and Ran Carthon’s introductory press conferences, there was no question about which of these new GMs has more charisma.

The main aspect of why hiring Monti Ossenfort made sense, was for Brian Flores to be the head coach. The “alignment” of Ossenfort and Flores would be automatic. They both for well over decade sat close to each other during Bill Belichick’s master classes. They’ve been inundated and engrained in the system.

If Bidwill and Ossenfort hire a new head coach whom Ossenfort has never worked with before, then Ossenfort is not only going to have to learn what the new head coach wants in terms of positional prototypes, the new HC is going to have to learn and comply with Ossenfort’s alignment principles. Those types of learning curves are often trail and error —- and can take years to develop. We have seen this time and time again with our rookie head coaches and the GM.

Can the Cardinals really afford to hire yet another new head coach who has no NFL head coaching experience in the NFL?

Now the Cardinals have a GM who is a rookie. Pairing him with a young head coach whom he is going to have to integrate into the Belichickean systematic alignment, while helping the new HC learn the head coaching ropes on the fly makes the likelihood of this GM/HC match a guessing game.

The only three head coaching candidates the Cardinals have expressed interest in are Vance Jospeh, Frank Reich and Brian Flores. (save the Sean Payton pipe dream)

Head Coaching Records:

  • Vance Joseph: 11-21 —- DEN
  • Frank Reich: 40-33-1 —- IND
  • Brian Flores: 24-25 —- MIA (which in my mind was 19-14 because, as Kyle Ledbetter, my producer, pointed out so keenly on Red Rain):

As of today, the Cardinals have interviewed Vance Joseph and Frank Reich. Why they haven’t as yet interviewed Brian Flores is flabbergasting. Meanwhile, Flores recently interviewed for the Falcons’ DC job .

What in the world is going on?

I believe that Flores has more charisma and is more of an alpha leader than Joseph and Reich.

I am very high on DeMeco Ryans, but fear the Cardinals have already blown their best chance of signing him.

I am also very high on Ejiro Evero whom I believe is a budding superstar.

I would prefer Frank Reich as an OC, if that’s possible. Although my favorite OC candidates out there are Mike LaFleur and Bill O’Brien. I

I think Bill O’Brien could do wonders for Kyler Murray. Look at how O’Brien developed Deshaun Watson. I think O’Brien was excellent with Bryce Young. Young didn’t have quite the WR talent this past year —- and who know what would have happened in 2021 had Jameson Williams not have been injured vs. Georgia.

Mike Rodak, of, who has been hearing Bama fans wishing for O’Brien to be replaced as OC, put things in keen perspective:

“It’s not like they were bad. They went from being a top-two, top-three offense under Steve Sarkisian to being top-10 under Bill O’Brien. That’s just not good enough for Alabama fans because they want to be the absolute best, they want to win every single game. That’s just how it is down here. So because they slipped a little bit, it was just an explosion in Bill O’Brien’s face.”

Rodak pointed out that while O’Brien’s offenses didn’t score quite as much as Sarkisian’s, O’Brien also didn’t have the same caliber of weapons.

“That’s part of it, too,” Rodak said. “Steve Sarkisian had DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle and Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. Bill O’Brien had Jameson Williams for a year, and then he got hurt in the national championship game. If he didn’t get hurt, they probably would’ve beat Georgia two years ago and I think people would look at O’Brien differently. So, personnel matters.

“This past season, for instance, they brought him a transfer from Georgia Tech, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who’s quite possibly a first-round pick this year. Great catching the ball out of the backfield. And I thought Bill O’Brien used him really well in sort of an Alvin Kamara-type role. … I think O’Brien still used what he had pretty well. It just, personnel-wise, wasn’t quite what they had before.”

As for Mike LaFleur, when RBs Breece Hall and Michael Carter ware healthy, LaFleur’s crafty blocking schemes and passing game roles for them were outstanding. Hall was on his way to getting NFL OROY, right up there with fellow teammate WR Garrett Wilson. The QB carousel that Robert Saleh endorsed was one of the reasons why LaFleur wanted out.

So, to assess what Cardinals’ fans are thinking, I just posted this poll on Twitter:

Please let us know what your vote is and how you are feeling about the process thus far.

The Monti Ossenfort hire makes complete sense to me if Brain Flores is the head coach. Do you agree?