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Which Candidate is the Cardinals’ Keeper?

NFL: FEB 08 Super Bowl LVI - Super Bowl Experience Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In light of a number of announcements that were made about the Arizona Cardinals’ head coaching search, it now appears that there are three big catches left in the net: (in alphabetical order)

  • Lou Anarumo (Bengals’ DC)
Cincinnati Bengals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images
  • Brian Flores (Steelers’ Assistant HC/LB coach)
New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images
  • Mike Kafka (Giants’ OC)
NFL: International Series-New York Giants Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This time around, unlike with Steve Wilks and Kliff Kingsbury, will this be an unconditional hire for the Cardinals?

Every head coach in the NFL will affirm that giving them the optimum chance to succeed requires the autonomy to:

  1. Hire their own assistants.
  2. Conduct open competitions at all positions in order to start the players whom they feel give the team the best chance to win.
  3. Have the chance to “shop for the groceries” (aka draft picks and free agents) —- as famously expressed by Bill Parcells.
  4. Make the 54 man roster decisions.

Newly appointed GM Monti Ossenfort has pledged to get the entire Cardinals’ organization aligned through direct communication and a common understanding of the team’s core values.

For any head coach, the most important thing is to work every day with a loyal staff who are fully committed to the team’s goals. A unified staff is much better prepared to inspire the players to share the team’s vision.

Interviews the Week:

  • Kafka —- Tuesday
  • Flores —- Wednesday
  • Anarumo —- Friday

Why are they Zoom meetings?

With the Super Bowl being in Glendale, logistically it makes sense to conduct the interviews via Zoom and then, when the decision is made, to fly in the new head coach for his introductory press conference.

Will the Cardinals still want to interview some of the Super Bowl coaches?

It would be difficult to make the case that any of the Super Bowl assistant coaches are more qualified and more experienced than Brian Flores or Lou Anarumo.

Qualifications of the three candidates:

Brian Flores

  • 19 years of NFL coaching experience.
  • 3 years of head coaching experience.
  • 15 years of experience as a scout, assistant coach for the Patriots,
  • 1 year experience as assistant head coach and linebackers coach for the Steelers.
  • 4 Super Bowl rings.

Lou Anarumo

  • 11 years NFL coaching experience.
  • 4 years experience as a defensive coordinator with the Bengals.
  • Coached in back-to-back AFC Championship games.
  • Won the AFC Championship (the Lamar Hunt Trophy) in 2021 with 27-24 OT win @ Chiefs.
  • Lost in the 2021 Super Bowl 20-17 @ Rams.

Mike Kafka

  • 5 years NFL coaching experience.
  • 4 years experience as QB coach and passing game coordinator with Chiefs.
  • 1 year of experience as the offensive coordinator of the Giants.
  • 1 Super Bowl ring.

Recent NFL Rankings

  • Bengals’ 2022 defense (DC Lou Anarumo): YPG: 16th; PPG: 6th; QBR: 1st
  • Dolphins 2021 defense (HC Brian Flores): YPG: 15th; PPG: 15th; QBR: 7th
  • Giants’ 2022 offense (OC Mike Kafka): YPG: 18th; PPG: 15th; QBR: 14th

Most Compelling Achievements:

  • Flores —- on top of being a part (as assistant coach) on 4 Super Bowl winning teams with the Patriots —- going 19-15 in his 2nd and 3rd years as head coach with the Dolphins, while finishing 12-3 combined in November - January —- amidst organizational dysfunction.
  • Anarumo —- helping Bengals win the Lamar Hunt AFC Championship trophy in 2021 and helping this season to lead the Bengals on a 10 game winning streak to get to the AFC Championship, posting the best defensive QBR in the NFL.
  • Kafka —- on top of being Patrick Mahomes’ QB coach for 4 years with Chiefs, winning 2 AFC Championships and a Super Bowl in 2019, then in his 1st year as an OC, elevating the play of Daniel Jones and helping the Giants earn their first playoff berth since 2016.

Could Sean Payton have a say in what Brian Flores decides?

Brian Flores is scheduled to meet with Sean Payton on Tuesday to interview for the Broncos’ vacant DC job, now that Ejiro Evero has become the Panthers’ DC. Why didn’t Payton make a stronger push to keep Evero in ;place? The decision here goes back to the importance of head coaches hiring their own assistant coaches, rather than to agree to inherit ones from the previous staff.

By all accounts, Ejiro Evero was immensely popular with the players. Ultimately, he was passed over for the Broncos’ head coaching job. Sean Payton understands how the popular Evero might create a bit of a rift among the players, as several of them openly expressed their desire to see him become the head coach. Evero is on the fast track to becoming an NFL head coach. He recognized that it was good for his resume to move on and continue to prove his coaching acumen with the Panthers.

Would you put it past Sean Payton to speak poorly of the Cardinals when advising Brian Flores to take the Broncos’ DC job? Will Payton try to sell Flores that taking the Broncos’ DC job would be a springboard to a better head coaching opportunity down the line?

Brian Flores’ lawsuit with the NFL is the elephant in the room. Would you put it past Sean Payton to point out how hypocritical it might look if Flores took the Cardinals’ job in light of Steve Wilks’ legal complaint against the Cardinals? Not that Flores isn’t already keenly aware of the situation, but, Sean Payton, in his desire to convince Flores to take the Broncos’ DC job, might take this kind of a tactical pitch.

It’s possible that Brian Flores might elect to turn down the Cardinals’ head coaching job. But, one of the main things he has going for him in Arizona is having Monti Ossenfort as the team’s GM, knowing how easily the two of them could become aligned —- a comfort zone he did not have with the Dolphins.

When Brian Flores interviewed for the Dolphins’ head coaching job, he said to owner Steven Ross and GM Chris Grier, “don’t hire me if we are not going to be on the same page.” Ross and Grier vowed they would be —- but then quickly started trading away the Dolphins’ best players in the hope of ”Tanking for Tua,” despite Flores wanting his team to win and wanting them to draft Justin Herbert.

By bringing Brian Flores back as a finalist, the Cardinals have put themselves in a potentially precarious position. Just as Michael Bidwill did not seem to have the prescience to understand what the fallout among the fans would be if he didn’t get a deal done with Sean Payton, one has to wonder whether Bidwill is prescient enough to perceive what the fallout could be if he does not offer the job to Flores.

First of all, Flores would be absolutely correct in contending that he is the most qualified candidate —- which is is the center of Flores’ issues with the NFL in terms of its hiring practices of minorities.

Imagine then what it would look like of Bidwill hired Lou Anarumo or Mike Kafka over Flores, having already shunned Adrian Wilson and Quentin Harris in favor of hiring Monti Ossenfort as GM and Dave Spears as assistant GM.

In a perfect world, it shouldn’t matter whom the Cardinals hire as head coach.

But, given the sensitivity that surrounds Brian Flores, it would seem that Michael Bidwill wouldn’t choose to make him a finalist if they weren’t going to offer him the job. Should Bidwill shun Flores, how can Bidwill or the Cardinals afford yet another PR nightmare?

It already seemed dubious that immediately after Brian Flores was interviewed two weeks ago (finally!) for the first time, ,immediately afterward, a statement was trending on social media and the news outlets out that the Cardinals were “flying in Dan Quinn for a second interview.”

By now we know what happened with Dan Quinn and Sean Payton, both of whom were trying to light a fire under the Broncos’ brass —- it worked for Payton and caused Quinn to retreat back to the Cowboys.

The only way the Cardinals are going to avoid the outcry that inevitably would come should Brian Flores be snubbed, is to hire him as head coach —- or —- if Flores himself decides to turn the job down, like Ian Cunningham curiously did when he was the first to be offered the Cardinals’ GM job.

If the Cardinals shun Brian Flores in favor hiring Lou Anarumo or Mike Kafka, then, in light of the GM and assistant GM hires, the Cardinals hiring choices will inevitably be describedas a whitewashing...with the ultimate irony being that Michael Bidwill is one fo the five NFL owners who serve on the board of the NFL’s Workplace Diversity program.

Furthermore, Michael Bidwill’s handling of Vance Joseph may warrant scrutiny. For over four weeks now, Joseph has been clinging to the hope and his staunch belief that he was going to be hired as head coach. During that time he could have been applying for the open DC jobs around the league.

Joseph was just informed that he is not one of the finalists and now he should be allowed to pursue other jobs —- that is, unless he’s clinging to the hope that he will be retained as DC by the new head coach —- something that really shouldn’t happen if the new head coach is given a fresh start, like Sean Payton has been given with the Broncos.

If Vance Joseph is not able to land an NFL coaching job this year, at least, as is the case with Kliff Kingsbury, vance Joseph’s salary with the Cardinals is guaranteed for the duration off his contract.


This week on Twitter I was rejoicing in the fact that this year's Super Bowl features two Black starting QBs for the first time in NFL history. You might or might not believe the pushback I received from some people. By some, I was told it was racist of me to bring it up. One guy called me a racist scumbag and the reason why there is racism in the first place.

Well if and when there will be a Super Bowl where both head coaches are Black, if, God-willing, I am still alive, I will be rejoicing in the significance of that as well,

It pains me to have to talk about these scenarios regarding workplace diversity and fair hiring practices in the NFL. In the year 2023, no less.

Is this scenario fair to Lou Anarumo or Mike Kafka? No, it is not. Anarumo and Kafka are high quality candidates in their own right and they deserve their chance to try to win the job.

But, one can imagine that Anarumo and Kafka understand the quality of Brian Flores’ candidacy and comprehend the sensitivity of his situation.

The bottom line is, I believe very strongly that Brian Flores is the most qualified and deserving candidate to win the job. For me, this has nothing to do with race and everything to do with experience and merit. Which is the way it should be right? What I appreciate and admire most about Brian Flores is his integrity. Flores speaks the truth. He deals in reality.

At the same time, I am a huge fan of Lou Anarumo and am fascinated by what he could bring to the Cardinals.

Any defensive coach who can lead the NFL in QBR as Lou Anarumo’s defense accomplished this year, has pulled off a masterful coup. That’s a whole lot of weekly preparation, effective pass rushes and sticky, sticky pass coverage. This achievement is Belichick-esque. It’s comforting to know that both Brian Flores and Lou Anarumo have a penchant for confusing and frustrating the top QB in the NFL.

Mike Kafka is on a fast track to a head coaching job. However, I am having trouble envisioning it happening this soon.

I feel similarly about the Eagles’ OC Steve Steichen and DC Jonathan Gannon. Both are on a fast track to becoming an NFL HC, but the sample size on them is small and it might be difficult for them, particularly at this stage, to hire a superb staff.

Cast Your Vote:


Your vote for Cardinals’ Head Coach?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Lou Anarumo
    (167 votes)
  • 39%
    Brian Flores
    (143 votes)
  • 10%
    Mike Kafka
    (36 votes)
  • 3%
    (13 votes)
359 votes total Vote Now

What are your thoughts?