The Arizona Cardinals fired head coach Steve Wilks after a 3-13 season. Wilks came to the Cardinals known as the Denzel Washington of the coaching ranks and it feels like a really accurate nickname considering he seemed better at acting like a head coach than actually being one.
So now for the 2nd time in two years, the Cardinals are looking for a head coach. The team and its situation is actually in a worse spot than they were a year ago. Any new head coach is going to have to grapple with the following questions:
1) Is Josh Rosen a franchise QB?
2) Is David Johnson a franchise RB?
3) Does Patrick Peterson want to be in Arizona?
4) Is Steve Keim able to rebuild the OL/DL/WR/LB and potentially the secondary?
5) How far behind are the Cardinals in the NFC West, let alone the NFC and NFL?
Here’s my Cardinals Head Coach Hot List as the search begins:
1) Adam Gase - Gase should become the Cardinals top choice. 23-25 with one playoff appearance in Miami but much of his undoing came with the power he had personnel wise with the Dolphins. Still a very well respected offensive minded head coach who would give Josh Rosen a great chance at developing some long term stability. After a less than stellar stint in Miami, would Gase view Arizona as an attractive job? Hard to say but Gase would represent the Cardinals best hire in terms of offensive innovation and respected leader.
2) Mike McCarthy - In 13 years with the Packers, he had 6 division championships, 9 playoff appearances and Aaron Rodgers. I don’t think McCarthy is the next Andy Reid but with a proven track record and a chance to start fresh, he’d be a solid hire. The problem is, I don't think McCarthy has much real interest in Arizona despite the published reports. He seems far more likely to use the Cardinals as leverage than to hitch his wagon to Steve Keim. He’s likely to be the most in demand head coach and could command somewhere around a $30 million deal, something the Cardinals would likely balk at paying.
3. Matt Campbell - 19-19 in 3 seasons at Iowa State but Campbell could be the coaching home run the Cardinals desperately need. There’s an “it” quality to Campbell that can’t be ignored. It's like watching Jon Hamm in the first few seasons of Mad Men, before it was a big hit, and knowing he was going to have a major career. He’s making $3.5 million in Ames so he won’t be cheap and there’d be some bumps along the way but I’d be all on board with a bold decision to hire him.
4. Matt LaFleur - Former QB coach under Kyle Shanahan, OC under Sean McVay and current OC of the Titans, LaFleur arguably represents the Cardinals best bet of catching up to the NFC West in terms of offensive coaching IQ. The big question is can he lead a team? Can he put in place a defensive coordinator that can succeed? Given how far behind the Cardinals have fallen offensively, it would be a worthwhile gamble.
5. Eric Bieniemy - The Andy Reid coaching tree produces as much talent as a citrus tree in Phoenix in December. While Bieniemy doesn’t call plays, he is well versed in the culture building ways of Reid. He’s also been front and center at the implementation/development of the best offense under Patrick Mahomes. If Bieniemy could bring QB coach Mike Kafka with him as an OC and offer an exciting DC possibility like Todd Bowles, he could be the next great Reid protege.
6. Josh McDaniels - McDaniels has done an excellent job of creating the perception of being a HR coaching hire. After turning the Colts down last year, he was reportedly the coach-in-waiting in New England and has given impression that he’s doing teams a favor if he’s even willing to consider their opening. Is anyone sure he’s a good head coach after a disastrous tenure in Denver? And while he was young and certainly has learned a ton since, I would’ve been more impressed had McDaniels cut his teeth with another org after failing in Denver rather than returning to the bosom of the Belicheck/Brady offense for comfort. Michael Bidwill would love nothing more than to believe he’s running New England West. He’s lowest on my list but I’d wager he’d be at the top of the Cardinals list.