TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals’ search for a head coach is ongoing, and Thursday the team interviewed Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden for the vacant position.
“It was exciting,” Gruden told the media following the interview. “It was great to meet Mr. Bidwill and his brother and of course the whole process has been exciting — it’s my first time going through it obviously and I’m very excited about it.”
Gruden just finished up his second season as the Bengals’ offensive mastermind, and talked about his decision to shun interview opportunities a year ago.
“The Brown family gave me an opportunity to be an offensive coordinator and I didn’t want to jump ship after the first phone call,” Gruden said. “I wanted to go in there and see Andy Dalton progress another year and see A.J. Green progress another year and see what we could do.”
What the Bengals did with Gruden’s help was qualify for the NFL playoffs for the second straight season — something Cincinnati has done only once before in its 45-year existence. But Gruden didn’t take the credit for that accomplishment.
“It’s a great situation in Cincinnati,” he said. “But I still feel like we underachieved a little bit on offense and we have to do a lot better up there. But to even be thought of as a head coach candidate is a great honor and I appreciate the Bidwills taking a chance.”
Gruden doesn’t have any NFL head coaching experience, but he has been the top man in two other leagues. In the Arena Football League, Gruden guided the Orlando Predators for nine seasons, compiling a 93-61 record and winning two league championships. He also served as the head coach of the Florida Tuskers in the United Football League in 2010, but didn’t use those experiences as proof that he’s ready to be a head coach in the NFL.
“Probably not a lot,” Gruden responded when asked how NFL teams should value his AFL coaching experience. “Other than the fact that I had to deal with salary caps, I had to deal with flights, I had to deal with hotels, I had to deal with a guy’s pregnant wife or whatever. There’s a lot of issues you have to deal with when you have 27 guys — now there’s 53 guys and a lot more assistants, but there’s always those issues you have to deal with.
“If you can manage people and coach them up and get them to play hard and work hard for you, then you’ve got a chance, no matter what profession you’re in.”
Of course, the 900-pound gorilla in the room for any head coaching candidate that comes to town to meet with the Cardinals is the quarterback situation. The team went through four starting quarterbacks for the first time in franchise history and that alone had a lot to do with their dismal 5-11 record.
“There are a lot of teams looking for quarterbacks right now like Tom Brady, and there’s not many of them out there,” Gruden said. “It’s important to try to develop somebody you have in-house or continue to look for a quality, top-notch guy and if you don’t have that guy, then you have to develop the skill-set the guys you have have.”
Of course, that’s not something that Gruden has to worry about just yet. He’s only talked with the Cardinals at this point and confirmed that his agent has scheduled an interview with the Philadelphia Eagles next week.