After six seasons in the desert, the ax fell on head coach Ken Whisenhunt, the majority of his offensive staff and general manager Rod Graves Monday morning.
The Cardinals became the first team in league history to start a season with a 4-0 record and end with a 5-11 mark.
Whomever the franchise hires as the new GM will have a long and impressive list of candidates to choose from to replace the winningest coach in team history.
Ray Horton, Defensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals – Horton has only two years of experience as a coordinator in the NFL, but has opened the eyes of many around that league in a short time. Most feel the Cardinals, fueled by Horton’s defensive scheme, would have been a playoff-caliber team with even an average NFL offense.
Horton will be a popular target for interviews around the National Football League this offseason, as seven head coaching jobs have opened up.
Former NFL head coaches
Jon Gruden, ESPN analyst and former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Gruden’s name comes up often for coaching vacancies in both the pro and college ranks, but he claims he’s happy as an analyst opposite Mike Tirico on Monday Night Football.
In 11 seasons as an NFL head coach, Gruden racked up a 95-81 record, five playoff trips and a Super Bowl title for the Bucs in 2002.
Bill Cowher, CBS analyst and former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers – Cowher has been out of coaching since 2006, but is a frequent target of coaching rumors. In 15 years at the helm of the Steelers, Cowher finished 149-90-1, guided ten teams to the playoffs, won two conference championships and a Super Bowl in 2005.
Lovie Smith, former head coach of the Chicago Bears – Smith guided the Chicago Bears to a 10-win season in 2012, but they missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six years and team ownership wasn’t pleased.
Smith had an 81-62 in Chicago and guided the Bears to a 13-win season and an NFC championship in 2006. Smith also has familiarity with the Valley, having served as the linebackers coach at Arizona State under Larry Marmie from 1988 to 1991.
Tony Dungy, NBC analyst and former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts – Dungy last coached in the NFL in 2008 with the Colts, and compiled a very impressive 139-69 record on NFL sidelines. In his 13 seasons as a head coach, he missed the playoffs only twice and suffered only losing season — 1996, his first season in Tampa Bay.
While his name appears in rumors frequently, Dungy appears to be very content as a studio analyst for NBC, as he very succinctly stated on his Twitter feed last week.
We lived in Kansas City 3 years and loved it. I love the Hunt family. But I will not be back in coaching, there or anywhere else.
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) December 27, 2012
Norv Turner, former head coach of the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins – The 60-year-old Turner has been regarded as one of the top offensive minds in football for two decades. However, as a head coach, he’s left a little to be desired, compiling a 113-122-1 record in 15 seasons. After coaching the Chargers to three straight playoff appearances from 2007 to 2009, Turner posted a very pedestrian 24-24 record over the last three seasons which led to his dismissal in San Diego.
Todd Haley, offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers – Haley was part of Whisenhunt’s staff during the Cardinals’ improbable run to the Super Bowl in 2008, and nearly rejoined the team last offseason before landing in Pittsburgh. Haley spent two-plus seasons as the head coach in Kansas City, coaching the Chiefs to an AFC West title in 2010.
He’s not the easiest guy in the world to get along with, but is reported to be held in high regard by the Bidwill family.
Mike McCoy, offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos – The 40-year old McCoy is one of, if not the, hottest commodity among coordinators in the NFL. He hasn’t been a head coach at any level, but has served as the O.C. in Denver since 2009.
And besides Horton, McCoy’s name was the first to pop up in Cardinals-specific rumors Monday.
Arizona and Chicago have asked for and received permission to interview Broncos OC Mike McCoy for their HC job. Will interview this weekend.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 31, 2012
McCoy has proven he can thrive with established star quarterbacks like Peyton Manning this season, or young, inexperienced signal callers like Tim Tebow, who under McCoy’s watch, led the Broncos to a division championship and a playoff win in 2011.
Gus Bradley, defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks – Bradley spent 16 seasons as a defensive assistant at small colleges before joining Monte Kiffin’s defensive staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006. In 2009, he became the defensive coordinator with the Seahawks, where his unit ranked fourth in the league in total defense this season.
Chip Kelly, head coach at the University of Oregon – Kelly has been one of the most successful coaches in the country over the last four seasons, compiling a 45-7 record and guiding the Ducks to four straight BCS bowl games. He’s arguably the most coveted candidate for all NFL coaching candidates, but there is some question about whether Kelly’s offense will translate well to the pro game.
Nick Saban, head coach at the University of Alabama – Saban has been long considered a coaching nomad; in fact his current six-year stay in Tuscaloosa is the longest of his coaching career. That fact has led to rampant speculation that he’ll try his hand at the NFL after a failed two-year experiment with the Miami Dolphins. His services will command a high salary — one probably not in line with the Cardinals’ budget.