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Arizona Cardinals head coaching search update: Anarumo or Kafka?

We’re one month into the Arizona Cardinals coaching search. It’s down to two candidates. Who will it be?

NFL: AUG 28 Preseason - Giants at Jets
Is Giants OC Mike Kafka the next Cardinals head coach?
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welp, the Cardinals have officially been without a head coach for over a month, as Kliff Kingsbury was fired on January 8th and here we are on February 9th. Hey, at least we’re not the Colts, who haven’t had an actual head coach since November. (I really hope they hire Jeff “1-7” Saturday, which would just be hilarious.) But this has got to be the last one of these updates I write, right? Here’s where the Cardinals coaching search stands as of Wednesday, February 8th.

Cardinals Coach Tracker

Candidate Permission? Interview Scheduled? Interview Complete? Notes
Candidate Permission? Interview Scheduled? Interview Complete? Notes
Eliminated Candidates
Brian Callahan Eliminated from consideration
Ejiro Evero Hired as Panthers DC
Brian Flores Hired as Vikings DC
Jonathan Gannon X X Staying with Eagles
Aaron Glenn Eliminated from consideration
Vance Joseph N/A Eliminated from consideration
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
Lou Anarumo ✓✓ ✓X* * Scheduled for tomorrow
Mike Kafka ✓✓ ✓✓

Who has been eliminated?

Last week, we had five candidates eliminated: Jonathan Gannon, Sean Payton, Dan Quinn, Frank Reich, and DeMeco Ryans. This week, we can add five more names to the list.

Brian Flores shocked many Cardinals observers by accepting the Vikings DC job before he was officially eliminated from consideration for the Cardinals HC job. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall or heard some back-channel rumblings. Either way, it’s a bad look for the Cardinals that yet another candidate took a coordinator job over the head job here. I liked but didn’t love Flores as a candidate.

After Flores beat the Cardinals to the punch, the team let several other candidates know they were not finalists for the job:

  • Brian Callahan, who will remain the Bengals OC and likely enter the coaching carousel again next offseason. Callahan was an intriguing candidate, but he doesn’t exactly feel like the one who got away.
  • Ejiro Evero, who quickly pivoted to accepting the open Panthers DC job under Frank Reich. Man, that’s a nice pairing. Too bad the Cardinals couldn’t make it happen, huh? Beaten by the Panthers yet again.
  • Aaron Glenn, who will presumably remain the Lions DC. (Although he is still a finalist for the open Colts job.) I wasn’t big on Glenn as a candidate, so no major loss.
  • Vance Joseph is also out of the running. Thank god. (My feelings on him as a HC candidate have been made clear.) He’ll probably land as a DC or associate HC/position coach somewhere. I wish him well but I’m not exactly sorry to see him go, either.

Which candidates are still being considered?

It’s down to two candidates: Bengals DC Lou Anarumo and Giants DC Mike Kafka. These two candidates couldn’t be more different:

  • Anarumo, 56, is a longtime defensive coach with a strong background as a secondary coach. He has two decades of experience at the college level (mostly as a DB coach) before entering the NFL ranks about 10 years ago. He served as the Dolphins DB coach for five seasons, including a stint as interim DC in 2015. He was the Giants DB coach for a season before joining Zac Taylor’s staff in Cincinnati as DC. He’s very well respected around the league, but hasn’t really been a hot head coaching candidate. His only interviews were with the Giants last offseason and the Cardinals this offseason. As far as I can tell, that’s it. So he’s not exactly a hot ticket. But is he a veteran diamond in the rough, à la Bruce Arians?
  • Kafka, just 35, has been a bit more in-demand than Anarumo, having interviewed with the Colts, Panthers, and Texans in addition to the Cardinals. Unlike Anarumo, he’s VERY green, with a scant 8 years of coaching experience under his belt after a 5-year career as a journeyman backup QB. He has pedigree as a product of the Andy Reid coaching tree, having spent three seasons as the Chiefs QB coach, including a season as the passing game coordinator, before Brian Daboll snatched him up last offseason to be his OC with the Giants. He’s the type of young offensive mind that has been en vogue since the success of the Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay hires. But, then again, that’s exactly what Kliff Kingsbury was. Is Kafka Kliff 2.0 or the real deal?

Will there be any names added to the list?

Almost certainly not at this point. The consensus seems to be that the team is just waiting until after the Super Bowl to announce their HC hire. I really would like to have seen the team interview both OCs—Shane Steichen of the Eagles and Eric Bieniemy of the Chiefs, both of whom are stronger candidates than either of the two finalists, to me. But it’s always difficult to interview candidates from Super Bowl teams. I wish the league would put some rules in place to mitigate this situation in the future. Maybe a moratorium on hiring until a week after the Super Bowl? Sure, you’d have handshake agreements like there are with free agents now, but I hate seeing worthy candidates miss out because their teams were so successful.

Final Thoughts

And then there were two. If I’m being honest, I’m not fired up about either candidate. A hard leadership reset was needed, but I’m disappointed the search by Michael Bidwill and Monti Ossenfort couldn’t produce stronger, more inspiring finalists. Neither of these guys were at the top of anyone else’s list, and neither is likely to fire up the fanbase.

That doesn’t mean they are bad candidates or bad coaches, though. They’re just not… buzzworthy. But I’ll keep an open mind to whomever we hire. If I had to pick between the two, I think I’d (slightly) lean Anarumo, as he seems like a stronger leader. Kafka has a lot of promise, but he gives me Kliff flashbacks. But I think he’s ultimately who the team will hire.

Your turn, RotBers. Vote in the poll below and do your thing in the comments.


How do you feel about the two finalists for Cardinals coach, Lou Anarumo and Mike Kafka?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Excited; these are great candidates
    (34 votes)
  • 34%
    Optimistic; I’m keeping an open mind
    (178 votes)
  • 19%
    Meh; anyone is an improvement over Kliff and Vance, though
    (101 votes)
  • 38%
    Disappointed; I was hoping for stronger finalists
    (196 votes)
509 votes total Vote Now