Potential names in Arizona Cardinals’ search for defensive coordinator

Jan 10, 2019, 7:37 AM | Updated: 1:23 pm
(AP photos)...
(AP photos)
(AP photos)

The Arizona Cardinals have their head coach in Kliff Kingsbury.

The next step is filling out his staff, most notably a defensive coordinator to work alongside an offensive-minded head coach.

At Kingsbury’s introduction on Wednesday, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim emphasized the team wanting a veteran defensive coordinator that will run a 3-4.

Here are some of the potential names to keep an eye on.

Linked to Cardinals search

Dom Capers, former Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator

As first reported by the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the Cardinals have “kicked around” Capers as an option.

98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro reports that Capers is under consideration for the job.

The 68-year-old Capers was a college defensive backs coach until landing in the USFL with the Philadelphia Stars in 1984. He worked up the ranks to defensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992-94 before he was head coach of the Carolina Panthers from 1995-98.

Capers followed that tenure with a stint as Jacksonville Jaguars DC (1999-2000) and became head coach of the Houston Texans (2002-05). He was an assistant with the Miami Dolphins (2006-07) and New England Patriots (2008) before a nine-year run with Green Bay.

Capers was fired by former Packers coach Mike McCarthy on Jan. 1, 2018, and did not coach in the NFL this past season.

Mike Nolan, New Orleans Saints linebackers coach

Nolan is also a name the Cardinals are considering, per Gambadoro.

The 59-year-old has been coaching in the NFL since 1987. He first became a defensive coordinator with the New York Giants in 1993 and has had the job at seven different stops.

Nolan ran the Baltimore Ravens defense from 2002-04. He was also the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2005-08, posting a record of 18-37.

His last defensive coordinator job was with the Atlanta Falcons from 2012-14. In points per game allowed those three seasons, Nolan’s defenses finished fifth, 27th and 27th.

Nolan has been the Saints linebackers coach for two seasons.

Chuck Pagano, former Indianapolis Colts head coach

Gambadoro reports the Cardinals are also looking into Pagano, who spent six seasons coaching the Colts, posting a record of 4-12 in 2017 before being fired. During the 2012 season, Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians took over for the next 12 games before Pagano’s return in late December.

That, of course, led to Arians’ rising stock as a head-coaching candidate, leading him to Arizona for a successful five-year run.

The 58-year-old Pagano led the Colts to a .500 record or better in five of his six seasons, including three straight playoff appearances from 2012-14.

In the NFL, Pagano has been a defensive coordinator for one season, commanding the Ravens’ group in 2011.

Vance Joseph, former Denver Broncos head coach

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that Joseph was in Arizona that day for an interview for the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator position. Rapoport called him a “strong candidate,” adding that he’s also in the mix to become the next head coach of the Bengals. Rapoport later reported that following the conclusion of his interview with the Cardinals, Joseph was heading to Cleveland to interview with the Browns.

Joseph coached for two years a Broncos defense that ranked 22nd in total defense this year and third last year, while featuring the likes of Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Aqib Talib and more during his time in the Mile High City. Joseph’s defense is a 3-4 and was led by Miller, who was fourth in the NFL with 14.5 sacks last season.

Prior to his time in Denver, Joseph was a defensive backs coach for most of his career before becoming the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator for one season in 2016.

Potentially available names

Gregg Williams, former Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator

One of the most experienced defensive coordinators out there, Williams recently ran the Cleveland Browns’ defense for two seasons, including a stint as interim head coach after Hue Jackson was fired.

After the Browns hired their offensive coordinator, Freddie Kitchens, as the team’s new head coach on Wednesday, Williams was let go by the Browns.

Williams has been a defensive coordinator for 16 seasons in the NFL across seven different stretches, and since 1990, the 60-year-old has been on an NFL staff.

He was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2001-03, finishing with a record of 17-31 before not having his contract renewed.

Williams, however, is traditionally known as a coach who runs a 4-3 defense.

Greg Schiano, former Ohio State defensive coordinator

Schiano has limited NFL coaching experience compared to a majority of the list.

While he was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons, Schiano’s only other time on an NFL coaching staff was over three seasons with the Chicago Bears in the late 1990s.

After being fired by Tampa Bay in 2013 and spending two years coaching at a prep school, Schiano was hired by Urban Meyer in 2016 to become Ohio State’s defensive coordinator and associate head coach.

Schiano infamously was in line to become the head coach of Tennessee in November of 2017 until outrage from the fan base forced the school to back out.

On Monday, it was announced that Schiano would not return for another season with the Buckeyes.

Marvin Lewis, former Cincinnati Bengals head coach

Would an NFL head coach who just got the axe want to step into a defensive coordinator position under a coach without a lick of NFL experience?

The reasons the 60-year-old Lewis just might has everything to do with working under a coach with a lick of NFL experience. Lewis would have more autonomy working with the Cardinals than anywhere other landing spot, and his 263 games and .504 record give him the ability to provide support for Kingsbury.

The red flag here would be Lewis’ 4-3 defense he’s traditionally run with the Bengals, but it should be noted he was open to switching to a 3-4 defense heading into his final season with Cincinnati … before he hired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to run a 4-3.

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