Michael Bidwill was on to something when he talked about the strategy of securing an offensive specialist as head coach - not only to get the best possible offensive talent, but to also guard against offensively challenged teams inevitably poaching that talent every year. At least that was the reasoning they gave for taking a flyer on Kliff Kingsbury as head coach four years ago.
The logic made sense to me then, and it still does now. The problem was the execution. Kliff was clearly not the right guy for the job. In hindsight, plucking a guy directly from the college ranks was too much of a culture/schematic shock for Kliff to overcome. In his case, QB Coach or OC would have made much more sense.
But just because it didn’t work with Kliff, doesn't mean the theory isn’t sound. Whomever the Cardinals choose as their next head coach is going to have to get it right with Kyler Murray. If they miss on that front, nothing else will matter.
Let’s face it, Kyler is a bit of an enigma. With the Cardinals HC search trending heavy on defensive specialists, they would have to find an OC who is either a lower-level offensive assistant from another team, or a retread free agent looking for another opportunity. Neither of those scenarios likely maximize their chances of success with Kyler, or the offense’s prospects in general.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the new OC is successful and Kyler gets back on track, or even reaches new heights. How long do you think it will be before that OC is on his way out the door as the next must have offensive savant HC prospect? Do we then go back to square one with Kyler and yet another offensive scheme?
Like it or not, offense is the dominant trend in the NFL these days. It’s not that defense doesn’t matter, but scoring points is paramount. If you don’t have someone who can get the most out of their QB and make solid adjustments on the fly, you’re probably going to struggle.
These days the QB position is so integral to a team’s success, everything else takes a back seat on the priority list. The trends don’t lie, unless you can recreate the ’85 Bears or 2000 Ravens, without a highly functioning offense, you’re probably not going very far. Conversely, teams with average defenses compete for championships every year.
With all that in mind, it’s alarming to see the scarcity of offensive talent being considered for the Cardinals Head Coach search. I like Brian Flores and DeMeco Ryans (amongst others), but how would they impact Kyler? Maybe if Kyler hadn’t already been given a fat extension, it would have been interesting to see what they could do with him. But now I just see it as inevitable conflict and a power struggle.
As a point of further indulgence from this fan’s perspective, I seriously hope the chatter around Vance Joseph as a HC prospect is just a smoke screen. For a multitude of reasons, including many adeptly explained by Walter Mitchell on this site, VJ would be a complete disaster in my opinion.
Regarding Flores, I’m particularly concerned about his relationship with QBs. There’s no argument he’s an elite defensive mind and a leader of men. But there are revelations out of Miami about Flores’ mishandling of Tua Tagovailoa. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mike McDaniel have both referred to Flores’ overt hostility sabotaging Tua’s success, both schematically and with his passive aggressive approach. That’s a recipe for disaster with Kyler. Outside of the concussions, Tua has made significant strides this season. That doesn’t speak well of Flores' judgment or tactics with QBs.
While I agree Kyler does need to be reined in and buy into the program, I’m certain browbeating or "old school" dogma are not the answer. If they do go defense, it must be someone who can work with Kyler, not berate or beat him down.
Obviously, the average fan is not privy to the latest machinations going on behind the scenes. So, we can’t be certain who the Cardinals are, or are not talking to.
To get it out of the way, yes, Sean Payton would be my ideal fit – IF they can get him at a reasonable price.
I’m far more concerned about what the Saints want in compensation than what Payton would demand in salary (being that I’m not paying for it). I personally don’t think even one 1st round pick is worth it, much less the two 1st rounders the Saints are reportedly asking for. I’m even weary of giving our 2nd rounder this year given how high it is. I would offer the 3rd rounder (and maybe next year’s 3rd) and take the chance they don’t bite. Beyond that, it’s just not worth it to me.
Outside of Payton, one name I haven’t heard associated with the Cardinals yet, but I hope that changes soon, is Shane Steichen. It’s entirely possible they’ve already reached out and he turned them away. If not, it would be malpractice to conclude a head coach search without exhausting that possibility.
Just two years ago the average NFL fan looked at Jalen Hurts as a borderline starter in the league. Some called him and a poor man’s version of Kyler Murray, especially after being Kyler’s former backup. Under Steichen’s tutelage, he has catapulted beyond Kyler and is now considered a legitimate MVP candidate on the verge of a Super Bowl.
It would be an even bigger coup if he’s able to convince the Eagles current QB Coach, Brian Johnson, to follow him to AZ as the new OC. He already has experience as an OC, and it’s believed much of Jalen’s progress can be attributed to his contributions. Their continuity would help with the transition to get ramped up without either coach having to learn a new scheme or terminology.
In my "perfect world" scenario, they would then bring in Flores as Defensive Coordinator to focus his attention on making it an elite unit. If not Flores, Ejiro Evero would be an ideal plan B.
Assuming the new GM knows how to draft and can make a few shrewd moved in the offseason, I believe it wouldn’t be out of the question to be back competing for Division titles next season.