It looks like the Arizona Cardinals will have a new defensive coordinator who spent the 2010 season as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching staff. It just won't be either of the names that were heavily touted for the job over the last month.
According to multiple reports, Steelers' defensive backs coach Ray Horton, not Keith Butler or Dick LeBeau, is expected to be named as the Cardinals' replacement for Bill Davis, who was relieved of his coordinator duties in early January. He has spent the last three seasons working with Pittsburgh's secondary, a position he was promoted to in 2007 after Mike Tomlin was hired as head coach.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the Cardinals weren't the only NFL franchise to have interest in hiring Horton as their defensive coordinator. It was reported that the Dallas Cowboys also reached out to the Steelers about interviewing him before eventually deciding to hire Rob Ryan at the position.
Prior to joining the Steelers organization, Horton was a defensive backs coach for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1997-01. His first coaching job came as an assistant defensive backs coach for the Washington Redskins from 1994 to 1996.
Horton also had a ten-year NFL career where he played cornerback for the Bengals and Dallas Cowboys appearing in Super Bowl XXLL and XXVII. He attended the University of Washington where he earned All Pac-10 honors.
NFL defensive player of the year, six-time Pro Bowler and Pittsburgh Steelers' safety Troy Polamalu seems to think Horton would make a great defensive coordinator.
"First of all, he's got the toughest job on this team, coaching the secondary," Polamalu told the Philadelphia Daily News last week. "The reason I say that is, we're always a run-stop defense first. There's always a lot of pressure for the secondary to tackle, but our responsibility is not to get beat deep. That's a lot of pressure for the players and the secondary coach. He's been here a long time and he's handled that. He has an in-depth understanding of the defense coach (Dick) LeBeau teaches, and he has an in-depth understanding of what the offense is doing, personnel groups, percentages."
The potential hire comes as a bit of a surprise as many believed Butler and Miami Dolphins secondary coach Todd Bowles were the likely candidates to land the job.