TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals are now in their third week without a coach and have, as owner Michael Bidwill said multiple times during his two news conferences this offseason, cast their net “far and wide.”
They have reportedly interviewed several coaches for the opening and have gotten permission to interview former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
Arizona is searching to replace Kliff Kingsbury, who was fired on Jan. 9 after four seasons.
Five of the six reported interviews have been defensive coaches with the lone exception being former Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich. Payton would be the second offensive coach to meet with the Cardinals.
Arizona has stuck with a pattern of alternating between offensive and defensive coaches since Bruce Arians retired in 2018 (before returning to coaching a year later with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Steve Wilks, Arians' successor, was a defensive coach, followed by the offensive-minded Kingsbury.
With the potential for more interviews coming next week during the Super Bowl dead week, here’s a breakdown of the candidates the Cardinals have met with or are interested in interviewing:
Sean Payton: He’s the name that’s stirred the Cardinals’ fan base into a bit of a frenzy. Payton, who compiled a 146-85 record in 14 seasons in New Orleans, sat out last season, living in Los Angeles and doing some TV work. But he has been on the interviewing circuit this month. He’d bring instant credibility to the Cardinals and revitalize a fan base that’s become jaded by the past few seasons full of late-year slides and this past season’s 4-13 disappointment.
Adding Payton’s offensive expertise to a unit that has the skill players to be competitive -- including a 25-year-old former No. 1 overall pick in quarterback Kyler Murray, who is coming back from an ACL tear in his right knee -- but hasn’t been able to put it together the past few years could be the ingredient the Cardinals need. The hefty price tag Payton could command might turn off the Cardinals, but Bidwill said earlier this month that what he was "willing to do financially is get the best coach. ... I don't know the biggest name correlates to the best coach."
Payton is close with both New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick -- who worked with new Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort for 15 years -- and former Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, according to multiple sources, so he’ll know what he’s walking into when he visits Tempe for his interview.
Vance Joseph: The Cardinals’ defensive coordinator is still under contract and was Arizona’s second interview. He’s one of the more intriguing candidates because of his experience as the Denver Broncos' coach in 2017-18. He was given just two seasons, compiling an 11-21 record before getting fired. So seeing what he learned from that time could be an interesting prospect for Arizona. Joseph would also be the easiest transition. He’s well-liked in the Cardinals’ locker room, and the returning players on both sides of the ball know his style as a leader and a coach.
Brian Flores: Flores lost out on the Cardinals’ job in 2018 to Wilks, so owner Michael Bidwill already has a deep knowledge base on Flores. His coaching experience will factor into the Cardinals’ decision -- Flores has a 24-25 record in three seasons as head coach of the Miami Dolphins -- since five of the seven reported candidates have been head coaches. Flores also has a relationship with Ossenfort. Between Bidwill and Ossenfort, the Cardinals may know more about Flores than any other candidate, including Joseph.
Dan Quinn: The Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator is the only coach to reportedly have a second interview, which depending on your perspective could mean a few things. It’s either that the Cardinals are extremely interested in Quinn or they wanted more information to make an informed decision. He’s one of two candidates to coach in a Super Bowl, and he has experience coaching a team with a talented quarterback, as he did with Matt Ryan in Atlanta from 2015 to 2020. (Update: Quinn said Thursday he's going to return to the Cowboys to remain defensive coordinator.)
Frank Reich: The former Colts coach would be returning to the Cardinals if he were to be hired. Reich was Arizona’s wide receivers coach in 2012 under former coach Ken Whisenhunt. Reich is a former 14-year NFL quarterback and could be a boon for Murray. He was the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator when they won Super Bowl LII. (Update: Reich was hired Thursday to be the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.)
Aaron Glenn: Detroit’s turnaround, especially during the second half of the season, has thrust the Lions' defensive coordinator into the spotlight and the interview chair. He has a relationship with Dave Sears, who was hired as the Cardinals’ assistant general manager, from their time together in Detroit. However, Glenn’s defense -- while impressive down the stretch by allowing 20.2 points per game in the final 10 games (11th-best in the league) -- finished the season ranked last in yards per game (392.4).
Ejiro Evero: The Broncos' defensive coordinator is probably the candidate who is most familiar with the Cardinals after spending 10 of the past 12 seasons with two divisional foes -- the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams. He was part the 49ers’ Super Bowl run in 2012 and the Rams’ two Super Bowl runs in 2017 and 2021, the latter of which when they won. He turned down the opportunity to be the Broncos’ interim head coach after Nathaniel Hackett was fired during the season and continued to coordinate their defense.