The Arizona Cardinals have a new defensive coordinator who spent the 2010 season as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching staff. It just isn't either of the names that were heavily touted for the job over the last month.
Steelers' defensive backs coach Ray Horton, not Keith Butler or Dick LeBeau, was named as the Cardinals' replacement for Bill Davis Wednesday, agreeing to a three-year deal with the team. Prior to joining Ken Whisenhunt's staff he 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.
Horton may lack experience as a defensive coordinator but he certainly doesn't lack in confidence. During his introductory press conference Wednesday he made it very clear that he is ready for the challenge of turning around the Cardinals defense.
"This team was in the Super Bowl two years ago. We were in the playoffs a year ago. We just fell a little short last year. We aim to be right back there in the playoffs pushing for a Super Bowl bid. There's no question about it. We're going to improve on defense.
"What we're aiming to be is one of the top defenses in the league, bar none," the new coordinator said.
He also wasn't afraid to share with the media what his defensive style will be.
"We'll be an aggressive, disciplined, downhill attacking defense.
"Our motto is going to be: 'Go get 'em'. We're going to make the quarterback very uncomfortable," Horton said.
Horton added on 620 KTAR's Gambo and Ash show that he plans to build on the Cardinals number one ranked red zone defense and will bring the personality of Pittsburgh's defensive style with him.
"It's a 3-4 attacking style defense, schematically very sound," Horton said.
"It does take a while to learn, there is a learning curve to it but hopefully once we do get a chance to meet with our players, we can cut that curve down a little bit by tweaking some things, by using different terminologies they are familiar with and eliminate some of the steps along the process."
Horton said he will also concentrate on stopping the run and pass equally while working to improve the tackling abilities of the defensive backs.
"That's all we are trying to do is get these players to play to the maximum ability that they have, put them in the right position to make plays and ride them."
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 coached the secondary for the Detroit Lions for two seasons (2002-03) and 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 will 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 hiring 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.