While the Arizona Cardinals did some notable housecleaning Monday — firing head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves — after their second 5-11 season in three years, one employee’s job security was never in doubt: Ray Horton.
Despite yet another season to forget on the offensive side of the ball, the defensive coordinator’s unit played playoff-caliber football regardless of what the win-loss total might indicate.
From the Patrick Peterson’s development at cornerback to the maturation of Daryl Washington to the emergence of guys like Rashad Johnson and Sam Acho, Horton’s fingerprints are all over the team’s tremendous strides on defense. So much so, that President Michael Bidwill included the 52-year-old among the candidates the organization will interview for its new head coaching vacancy.
While Horton has proven himself at each of his five NFL stops (Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona), one ESPN insider isn’t so sure he’s ready for the promotion.
“It’s debatable,” ESPN Insider John Clayton said about Horton’s head coaching prospects to Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf Monday. “He’s definitely going to get some interests. I mean you can already see that the phone lines are making a lot of calls.”
Although Arizona might be fond of Horton’s head coaching potential, Clayton said don’t be surprised if the Buffalo Bills also join the pursuit. The Bills’ Director of Pro Personnel, Doug Whaley, spent 10 seasons in Pittsburgh and is well-aware of Horton’s ability to lead.
“He’s definitely going to get consideration in Arizona, which he deserves,” said Clayton. “But in the end, two years as a coordinator is pretty early to make a jump to head coach. It’s one thing to jump, it’s another thing to succeed.”
Horton has certainly succeeded during his two years with the Cardinals. In 2012, Arizona’s defense under Horton ranked No. 2 in third down defense (allowed just 32.9 percent of all attempted conversions), No. 4 in takeaways (34) and No. 5 in pass defense (allowed 200.8 yards per game).