Cardinals head-coaching tracker: Arizona focused on 2 candidates
Changes have begun within the Arizona Cardinals organization following the firing of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and the stepping down of general manager Steve Keim.
The reset in the desert is officially in motion.
Now, it’s on to searching for that right fit. Two names have emerged as finalists who will interview for a second time: Lou Anarumo and Mike Kafka.
A look at some of the coaches being linked to the Cardinals as they continue their stone unturning:
Jonathan Gannon, Eagles DC
The Arizona Cardinals have reportedly focused in on Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and Cincinnati Bengals DC Lou Anarumo for their head-coaching search, per ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss.
Cam Cox from 12News also reported that the search is down to Gannon or Anarumo.
Outside of the Chiefs’ massive 24-point second half in their 38-35 Super Bowl LVII victory, the Eagles defense flourished under Gannon in Year 2, finishing second behind the San Francisco 49ers (300.6) in total yards allowed per game with 301.5 while posting a league-best 70 sacks.
Gannon got his NFL coaching start as an Atlanta Falcons defensive quality control coach in 2007. He spent one season with the Falcons before joining the St. Louis Rams as a college scout in 2009. He was elevated a year later to pro scout, a position he held from 2010-11. From there, he headed to the Tennessee Titans as their defensive quality control coach from 2012-13.
He also served as an assistant defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings from 2014-17 and worked as a DBs coach for the Indianapolis Colts from 2018-2020.
Gannon got his first crack at coaching with Louisville as a student assistant from 2003-05 before serving as a graduate assistant in 2006.
Lou Anarumo, Bengals DC
Anarumo and Gannon are being focused in on by the Cardinals for their head-coaching job, per Weinfuss.
Per Cox, if Anarumo gets the job, Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph would likely remain with the team.
Anarumo just wrapped up Year 4 in his coordinator role with a loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship on Sunday, a position he’s held since 2019. Cincinnati is coming off back-to-back AFC Championship games and a Super Bowl berth last year.
Defensively, the Bengals were tied for fifth in the league in points allowed (20.1 per game) in 2022 and seventh in rushing yards given up (106.6 per game).
Anarumo got his NFL coaching start as a defensive backs coach with the Miami Dolphins from 2012-17. He was also named interim DC in 2015.
After his stint in Miami, Anarumo was named the New York Giants DBs coach in 2018. He stayed in New York for just one season before joining Cincinnati.
Mike Kafka, Giants OC
Kafka will get a second interview with the Cardinals next week, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
ESPN’s Field Yates and NFL Network’s Tom Peliserro previously reported Arizona intended to interview Kafka this past Tuesday.
Kafka has already interviewed for the openings with the Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts.
The 35-year-old Kafka played quarterback in the NFL from 2010-15, appearing in four games with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011.
He jumped into coaching as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Northwestern, in 2016 for a season. Kafka joined the Kansas City Chiefs as an offensive quality control coach in 2017, was elevated to quarterbacks coach in 2018 and added the responsibility of passing game coordinator to that title in 2020.
Kafka joined the Giants this past year under head coach Brian Daboll, the former Buffalo Bills OC. Before the 2022 season, Daboll announced that Kafka would call plays for New York, which went on to make the playoffs with a 9-7-1 record. New York ranked 18th in yards per game.
The Giants, with quarterback Daniel Jones learning Daboll’s offense, had the seventh-lowest passing yards per game average (185.7) in the NFL during the regular season but was fourth in rushing yards per game (148.2) while leaning on running back Saquon Barkley.
Brian Flores, Steelers senior assistant
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive assistant Brian Flores was originally the third finalist up for the job and had a second interview scheduled but then took the defensive coordinator job in Minnesota two days before the interview was set to occur, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Broncos requested permission to interview Flores for Denver’s open defensive coordinator role as well, per Rapoport.
Flores interviewed with the Cardinals on Jan. 23 for Arizona’s head-coaching opening, according to Albert Breer from Sports Illustrated.
Flores also previously met with the Cleveland Browns and Vikings over their defensive coordinator vacancy.
Flores was fired by the Dolphins in January 2022 after posting a 24-25 record over three years from 2019-21. Miami went 9-8 in its second straight winning season for 2021, though, failed to make the playoffs during Flores’ tenure.
Before his time in Miami, Flores was a long-time staffer under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots. He coached special teams, safeties and linebackers from 2008-18.
Flores’ tenure in New England also included working as a scouting assistant in 2004-05 and a pro scout in 2006-07.
Following his firing from the Dolphins, Flores filed a lawsuit alleging racial hiring practices for coaches and GMs in February 2022, seeking class-action status and damages from the NFL, the Dolphins, the Houston Texans, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants, along with unnamed individuals.
Former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks was named as an example in the lawsuit and joined it last April along with fellow NFL assistant Ray Horton, whose complaint was regarding the Tennessee Titans.
Ejiro Evero, Broncos DC
Former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero is headed to the Carolina Panthers as DC under Frank Reich, taking him out of any head coaching sweepstakes, the team announced.
The Cardinals reportedly interviewed Evero for Arizona’s head-coaching vacancy, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Evero, 42, has never been a head coach at any level, but has been coaching since 2005 and has 15 years of experience in the NFL.
This past season was his first as a defensive coordinator, leading the Broncos to the eighth-ranked defense in total yards allowed at 5,440 — or 320 a game.
Prior to joining Denver, Evero spent four years as the Los Angeles Rams’ safeties coach (2017-20) before winning Super Bowl LVI as the team’s secondary coach and passing game coordinator in 2021.
Other stops in his NFL coaching tenure include the Green Bay Packers as a defensive quality control coach in 2016 after serving as a 49ers defensive assistant in 2014-15, offensive assistant in 2012-13 and quality control coach in 2011.
Evero also had a stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a defensive quality control coach from 2007-09. He got his coaching start as an assistant coach at UC Davis from 2005-06.
Aaron Glenn, Lions DC
Glenn was reportedly expected to get a second interview for the Cardinals’ head-coaching vacancy, per CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson, but on Sunday, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported he was told he is not among the finalists.
The Lions DC initially interviewed with the Cardinals on Jan. 21.
Glenn was hired by the Lions in 2021 as the team’s defensive coordinator after spending five seasons as the New Orleans Saints defensive backs coach from 2016-20. He also served as an assistant DBs coach with the Cleveland Browns from 2014-15.
Before his coaching days, Glenn was a personnel scout for the New York Jets from 2012-13 and was the general manager of the Texas Lone Star Football League’s Houston Stallions in 2012.
As a player, the former cornerback had stops at the New York Jets (1994-2001), Houston Texans (2002-04), Dallas Cowboys (2005-06), Jacksonville Jaguars (2007) and New Orleans Saints (2008). He earned three Pro Bowl nods over his career.
Vance Joseph, Cardinals DC
Joseph was told he is out of the running for the job, Breer reported on Sunday, meaning the Cardinals indeed will have a completely clean break into new leadership after GM Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury were fired.
When he was still in consideration for the Cardinals’ head-coaching job, Joseph was already receiving interest elsewhere as a defensive coordinator, per San Francisco Chronicle’s Mike Silver.
Silver adds he believes the 49ers could be among the teams that could be interested in Joseph if he is let out of his contract with Arizona.
Serving under Kingsbury the past four seasons, Joseph has garnered a lot of respect within the franchise. The familiarity is certainly there.
Arizona’s defense had improved each year under Joseph through his first three seasons at the helm, allowing 27.6 points per game in 2019, 22.9 in 2020 and 21.5 in 2021.
This year, however, was a different story, with the Cardinals allowing 26.4 points per game. Only the Chicago Bears, who finished with the worst record in the league, gave up more points (27.2).
Despite that final tally, Joseph found some consistency in what was supposed to be the team’s weakest link even with a plethora of key injuries and an offense that did the unit zero favors.
Joseph knows a little about being an NFL head coach, too.
Before taking his coordinator role with the Cardinals in 2019, Joseph was the Denver Broncos’ lead man for two seasons (2017-18) before his firing.
Denver went 11-21 under Joseph and struggled mightily to find a starting quarterback.
Joseph also split head-coaching duties with special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers when Kingsbury missed the team’s 2020 matchup against the Browns due to COVID-19. The Cardinals didn’t miss a beat in the matchup, winning 34-14.
DeMeco Ryans, 49ers DC
The Houston Texans are hiring San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as their next head coach, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Schefter adds the deal is for six years.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Denver Broncos spent Tuesday trying to hire Ryans before pivoting to Sean Payton.
The Cardinals had requested an interview with Ryans, but he ended up canceling his interview with Arizona ahead of his team’s first-round playoff matchup, according to FOX NFL Sunday’s Jay Glazer.
Ryans also canceled with the Indianapolis Colts, but interviewed with both the Broncos and Texans.
The 38-year-old was a fast riser in the coaching ranks, starting out in 2017 with San Francisco as a defensive quality control coach on the first iteration of Kyle Shanahan’s staff. Ryans advanced to inside linebackers coach from 2018-20 and then took over defensive coordinator duties when predecessor Robert Salah took the New York Jets’ head-coaching job in 2021.
In 2022 behind NFL Defensive Player of the Year favorite Nick Bosa, San Francisco finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in defensive DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average), ranking fifth against the pass and second against the rush.
San Francisco gave up the fewest yards per game (300.6) and points per game allowed (16.3) while ranking second in rush yards allowed per game (76.9).
Ryans played for the Texans from 2006-11 and the Philadelphia Eagles from 2012-15.
The former linebacker piled up 735 tackles with 13.5 sacks and seven interceptions in his career.
Sean Payton, former Saints head coach
After months of speculation, the Denver Broncos are acquiring the former New Orleans Saint as the team’s next head coach, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Schefter adds the Broncos are sending the Saints their 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 second-rounder in exchange for Payton and New Orleans’ 2024 third-round selection.
Payton had also met with the Cardinals, Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers amid their coaching searches.
Payton coached the Saints from 2006-21 before stepping down from his role on the football field and moving to an analyst on FOX. During his Saints’ tenure, the head coach posted a 152-89 record and a Super Bowl XLIV win.
Interestingly enough, Payton worked for the Bidwill family in the past, serving as a St. Louis Cardinals ball boy.
“I think I know that family well enough,” he told Colin Cowherd in November.
Brian Callahan, Bengals OC
Arizona has requested an interview with Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Callahan just wrapped up Year 4 in his coordinator role with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship on Sunday, a position he’s held since 2019. The OC is coming off back-to-back AFC Championship games and a Super Bowl berth last year.
Offensively, the Bengals were eighth in the NFL in total offense (360.5 per game) in 2022 and sixth in points scored (26.1 per game).
Callahan, son of former Oakland Raiders head coach Bill Callahan, began his NFL coaching career as a Denver Broncos coaching assistant in 2010 before moving on to offensive quality control coach (2011-12) and offensive assistant (2013-15).
He also spent time with the Detroit Lions (2016-17) and Raiders (2018) as their QBs coach.
Dan Quinn, Cowboys DC
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has told interested teams he is staying on as DC under head coach Mike McCarthy, who on Thursday also relieved several assistants from his staff, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
The Cardinals reportedly held two interviews with Quinn for Arizona’s head-coaching vacancy, according to Pelissero.
Pelissero adds that the team was flying Quinn on Tuesday night.
Quinn conducted his first interview with Arizona virtually on Saturday, according to Pelissero.
Quinn got his NFL coaching start as a quality control coach with the 49ers from 2001-02 before taking over as the team’s defensive line coach from 2003-04. He held the same position with the Miami Dolphins (2005-06) and New York Jets (2007-08).
From there, Quinn took a job with the Seattle Seahawks where he served as the team’s DL coach and was assistant head coach to Jim Mora from 2009-10.
Quinn spent two seasons in Seattle before heading to the college ranks as Florida’s defensive coordinator and defensive line coach from 2011-12.
He would eventually make his way back to the NFL, signing on with the Seahawks as the team’s defensive coordinator under Pete Carroll.
Quinn helped produce one of the toughest defenses in the NFL during that span and was a part of Seattle’s Super Bowl XLVIII run.
After yet another two-season stint with the Seahawks, Quinn was handed the keys to the Atlanta Falcons following his hiring as head coach in 2015.
Quinn was with Atlanta from 2015-20, posting a 43-42 record that included a Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots before he was fired amid an 0-5 start to 2020.
During his time with the Falcons, Quinn posted two seasons with double digit wins and took home the NFC South title once.
He then joined the Cowboys in 2021 as their defensive coordinator.
Frank Reich, former Colts head coach
Despite interviewing with the Arizona Cardinals on Jan. 17, Frank Reich is being hired by the Carolina Panthers, the team announced Thursday.
Reich marked Arizona’s first reported head-coaching interview in their search.
Reich was most recently the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2018-22 before getting fired on Nov. 7.
In his first head-coaching stop, he went 40-33-1 for a .555 winning percentage to go along with a 1-2 playoff record.
The one playoff win was in his lone season with quarterback Andrew Luck, who unexpectedly retired during the preseason in 2019.
Before that, Reich won Super Bowl LII with the Philadelphia Eagles as an offensive coordinator, where he served in that position from 2016-17.
Other stops in Reich’s coaching career featured the San Diego Chargers from 2013-15, where served as the offensive coordinator (2014-15) and quarterbacks coach (2013).
He was also the Cardinals wide receivers coach in 2012 under then-head coach Ken Wisenhunt after being the Colts wide receivers coach in 2011, quarterbacks coach from 2009-10, offensive coaching staff assistant in 2008 and coaching intern from 2006-07.
In the entirety of Reich’s coaching tenure, he has been the position coach, coordinator or head coach of Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (2006-11), WR Larry Fitzgerald (2012), QB Phillip Rivers (2013-15) and Luck (2018).