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Arizona Cardinals head coaching search update: What do we do post-Payton?

Welp... we missed out on Sean Payton. (Predictably.) What do the Cardinals do next in their head coaching search?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp
Bengals OC Brian Callahan has recently emerged as a candidate for the open Cardinals head coaching position.
The Enquirer-USA TODAY Sports

Kliff Kingsbury was fired on January 8. Now here we are in February still without a head coach, the only team yet to hire a coach except for the Indianapolis Colts. The team was clearly heavily invested in the Sean Payton sweepstakes, which we unfortunately lost to the Denver Broncos earlier in the week. So… what do we do now? Let’s see where the coaching search stands as of Wednesday, February 1.

Cardinals Coach Tracker

Candidate Permission? Interview Scheduled? Interview Complete? Notes
Candidate Permission? Interview Scheduled? Interview Complete? Notes
Eliminated Candidates
Jonathan Gannon X X Staying with Eagles
Sean Payton Hired by Broncos
Dan Quinn ✓✓ ✓✓ Staying with Cowboys
Frank Reich N/A Hired by Panthers
DeMeco Ryans X Hired by Texans
Active Candidates
Ejiro Evero ✓? ✓X
Aaron Glenn ✓✓ ✓?
Brian Flores ✓? ✓X
Vance Joseph N/A ✓? ✓X
New Candidates
Lou Anarumo
Brian Callahan ✓* * Interview is today
Mike Kafka

Who has been crossed off the list?

There are five candidates we were previously linked to who are no longer in consideration for various reasons:

  • Obviously, Sean Payton—who was reportedly in our building for 7-10 hours last week—was ultimately hired by the Denver Broncos. Were they more willing than we were to meet the New Orleans Saints’ draft pick asking price? Or was that just the job Payton had his sights set on all along and we were just used for leverage? We may never know, but he’s off the list regardless.
  • Two other candidates were also hired by other teams: Frank Reich by the Panthers and DeMeco Ryans by the Texans. Reich was one of my favorite candidates, so I was bummed to see him scooped up by Carolina. That’s what happens when you wait around for a candidate like Payton (only to be spurned anyway). Ryans clearly never had any interest in this job, scheduling an interview only to “postpone” it before taking the Texans job. I know Ryans has ties to Houston, but it’s not a great sign when a hot candidate like him clearly views the Texans as a better job than the Cardinals.
  • Finally, two NFC East defensive coordinators, Dan Quinn of the Cowboys and Jonathan Gannon of the Eagles, recently announced they’ll be staying with their current teams for the 2023 season. We never actually interviewed Gannon, but we did interview Quinn twice. It seems that neither of them were much interested in taking this job, which obviously isn’t a great sign either—guys don’t even want to get promoted to come here.

What updates are there on previously known candidates?

  • There isn’t much newsworthy about the other four known candidates: Vance Joseph, Brian Flores, Aaron Glenn, and Ejiro Evero. It sounds like we’ll be bringing Glenn in for a second interview (don’t see any info about when, though), and you’d think second interviews are likely for Flores and Evero as well (although nothing is official yet). I don’t know if Joseph would even need to interview again as a known quantity, but he also shouldn’t be considered in the first place, so… Again, not much to report here.

What new candidates are on the list?

There are three new candidates to add to the list to help replace the ones crossed off:

  • The Cardinals reportedly interviewed Giants OC Mike Kafka earlier in the week. I can’t say I’m exactly wowed by Kafka as a candidate. The Giants offense was middle of the pack (although much improved from last season), but Daniel Jones’s development did take a big step forward. But how much of that is Kafka and how much is it Brian Daboll?
  • With the Bengals recently eliminated from the playoffs, we asked for and were granted permission to interview both of their coordinators. Let’s start with their OC, Brian Callahan, son of Bill. At 38, he’s pretty green, having started his NFL coaching career in 2010. He had a few stops at the assistant level before spending a few seasons QB coach. He’s been the Bengals OC since 2019 and has helped turn Joe Burrow into one of the best QBs in the league. I’m a bit higher on him than Kafka, but not by much.
  • The Bengals DC, Lou Anarumo, is much more experienced, having been coaching since the late ‘80s—although he’s only been in the NFL since 2012. He was hired alongside Callahan in 2019 when Zac Taylor took over. Cincy has had a solid defense these past few seasons, but I don’t know if I’d say Anarumo is a particularly strong candidate. But at this point, beggars can’t be choosers, you know?

Will there be any names added to the list?

At this point, the only possible candidate to be added to the list are those still coaching in the playoffs:

  • There has to be smoke to be a fire, and there hasn’t been any smoke when it comes to Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, unfortunately. He’s reportedly declined to interview with the Cardinals in the past, and there have been no reports of interest from either party this offseason. It’s a shame, because I think he’d be a dynamite hire. Maybe there’s a handshake deal where he’ll take over for Andy Reid if he retires after the Super Bowl? Who knows, but Bieniemy isn’t coming to the desert.
  • The other Super Bowl OC, Shane Steichen of the Eagles, IS someone we’re reportedly interested in as a candidate. If he were to become an actual candidate, he’d jump to the top of my wishlist. He wasn’t particularly high on my first wishlist, but a lot has changed since then. It’s mostly that my other preferred candidates haven’t worked out, but Steichen’s stock has risen with the Eagles making it to the Super Bowl. But at this point, the Cardinals would have to wait almost two weeks to even get a first interview with him… do Bidwill and Ossenfort really want to stretch out the hiring process that much? I hope we give Steichen a shot, but it really seems like the list of candidates is what it is at this point.

Final Thoughts

I hate to say it, but… man, this group of candidates really isn’t all that impressive. Every single top candidate either picked another team over us or elected to remain with their current team as a coordinator. That just shows you how this job is viewed around the league. It’s depressing.

Here’s the full list of remaining candidates:

  • Lou Anarumo
  • Brian Callahan
  • Ejiro Evero
  • Brian Flores
  • Aaron Glenn
  • Vance Joseph

Of these guys, my top choice would be Flores—he has experience, is respected around the league, and is still pretty young at 41. Pair him with a strong OC and see what happens. I guess Evero and Callahan in some order would be my secondary choices, but I don’t feel great about them. Then Kafka, maybe? Vance is last, obviously.

Who do you like from this list, RotBers? Vote in the poll below and explain in the comments.


Which current candidate should be the next head coach of the Cardinals?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Lou Anarumo
    (145 votes)
  • 10%
    Brian Callahan
    (63 votes)
  • 3%
    Ejiro Evero
    (20 votes)
  • 52%
    Brian Flores
    (307 votes)
  • 3%
    Aaron Glenn
    (18 votes)
  • 3%
    Vance Joseph
    (22 votes)
  • 2%
    Mike Kafka
    (14 votes)
589 votes total Vote Now