The Arizona Cardinals recently appointed Monti Ossenfort to be the team’s new GM, marking a new era in Cardinals football. The move comes after Steve Keim stepped down and Kliff Kingsbury was fired.
A GM appointment prior to the head coach appointment was always Michael Bidwill’s plan. The first action will be for Bidwill and Ossenfort to collaborate in finding a head coach. Finding a coach that Ossenfort trusts will be key to enacting his promised philosophy that is imported from his days from the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans.
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Update on Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Search Amidst Monti Ossenfort Appointment
With Ossenfort at the helm, Arizona’s head coach Search is set to expand and deepen. They have interviewed two candidates, with six others set to be scheduled. Of the eight candidates publicly linked to the Cardinals, two are offensive and six are defensive.
Given Ossenfort’s experience with two defensive head coaches (Mike Vrabel and Bill Belichick), Arizona’s interest in grabbing a defensive coach comes as no surprise. The other pattern seems to be discipline. Many of the coaches are considered high-character guys who thrive on a tough, mechanistic regime and system.
Many have suggested that the appointment of Ossenfort now rules the Cardinals out of the Sean Payton race. It is believed that Payton was vying for a big role in player personnel and Ossenfort’s appointment prevents this.
My read on the Cardinals hiring Monti Ossenfort as GM: They're almost certainly out of the Sean Payton sweepstakes. You leave that spot open if you might want (and/or think you have a shot) at Payton, and see where it goes. Panthers, Broncos and Texans still in…
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) January 16, 2023
This seems an unbased and misconstrued narrative, however. The first thing to note is that every team in the Payton sweepstakes has a GM in place. The Cardinals may not have an extra advantage, but they certainly are not at a disadvantage.
There is also something to be said of Payton’s own comments. While Payton has said that he values strong ownership and a good front office, he has also said that he is open to working with any GM that he gets along with and admires. Ossenfort could most certainly come under that category given that he is an adjacent to Bill Parcells’ executive tree. Payton himself is part of the Parcells coaching tree. At the very least, Ossenfort is one of Payton’s admirers from afar.
— Johnny Venerable (@JohnnyVenerable) January 16, 2023
And perhaps the most fundamental thing is interest. Payton has been linked with the Cardinals job as early as October. He has sung the praises of Kyler Murray and has also been openly discussing how he would utilize and coach the 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
As it stands, no sweeping claims can be made about Payton. He has an interview scheduled with Arizona and is expected to meet with the team at some point (if he has not already).
“Sean Payton is a phenomenal coach. He’s had a lot of success in this league, but I have not crossed paths with him.”
New Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort says he doesn’t have a relationship with Sean Payton but has a ton of respect for the coach. pic.twitter.com/Qbz3o5fTUB
— Bo Brack (@BoBrack) January 17, 2023
While Payton is the fan favorite to get the job, Brian Flores is a divisive candidate. There are multiple aspects to the link to Flores. The first thing to note is Flores’ familiarity with the ‘Patriot way’. He is a strict coach that is not afraid to take and ask for accountability. This connection with Ossenfort’s philosophy makes him an obvious candidate.
It does feel like Michael Bidwill and the Arizona Cardinals are going heavy into "the Patriot way".
If that's the case, there is only one coach on the market who aligns with that structure.
— Johnny Venerable (@JohnnyVenerable) January 17, 2023
One concern might be how Flores and Murray would get along. Flores was an abrasive figure with the Miami Dolphins. He publicly called out his quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, and was a big part of stunting Tagovailoa’s development. With Murray in a fragile place currently, would Flores’ presence only make this worse? However, it seems this has since changed as Kenny Pickett has praised Flores’ support this year, particularly citing his help in working with Pickett on the two-minute drill.
Kenny Pickett saying that Brian Flores was “huge” in helping him out in the 2 minute drill 👀👀 pic.twitter.com/EkVFOl1bBq
— Jeff Kirby (@Jeff_Kirby412) January 18, 2023
Regardless of one’s views on this, Flores has earned the right to be a head coach in the NFL. His credentials speak for themselves. Despite the tanking scandal in Miami, he led the team to an impressive 9-8 record despite a weak roster and slow start. The Cardinals interviewed Flores in 2018 for their head coaching job and was impressed. He ended up in Miami but Arizona has clearly been a long admirer of Flores. Should Flores take Arizona’s job, it would be of highest importance that Arizona appoints a capable offensive coordinator.
Flores’ culling in Miami was the result of disagreement with management. He has since been the linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a position he held with New England too. This could be appealing to a team with two young linebackers in Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins.
There is also the business aspect of hiring Flores. Football is, at the end of the day, a business, and so financial and legal matters can change everything. Flores’ lawsuit against racism in the NFL was extended to Arizona via Steve Wilkes. Wilkes claims that his sacking in 2018 was unjustified. By extension, Flores is in effect suing the Cardinals. So why would Arizona hire someone with a lawsuit pending against them?
The answer is obvious: to prove their innocence. Regardless of the validity of Flores’ lawsuit, it is in Bidwill’s interest to clear his franchise’s name. Hiring Flores would do just that. It would also help the reputation of the NFL more broadly too.
Vance Joseph was the initial frontrunner for the head coach vacancy. It was expected that Bidwill would install a co-GM system with Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson, making Joseph’s promotion a no-brainer. He was interviewed for the head coach role on Wednesday.
Had the old regime hung around, Joseph would have been an obvious stop-gap candidate. He is well respected in the organization and has been with the team since 2019. However, it is likeliest that Ossenfort will want to choose his own head coach and instill his own philosophy.
Yeah Ill update the coaching stuff later today, but that is a bad sign for Vance. https://t.co/8XKA5bX4Py
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) January 16, 2023
As it stands, the Cardinals have only interviewed Frank Reich. Rumor has it that Reich is loved in the Arizona building, and he would bring some much-needed experience to the franchise. He worked wonders with the Philadelphia Eagles before a turbulent head coaching stint with the Indianapolis Colts where he had five different starting quarterbacks. He was also the wide receivers coach for the Cardinals in 2012.
A lot of people in that Cardinal building LOVE Frank Reich, fwiw.
— Johnny Venerable (@JohnnyVenerable) January 18, 2023
The only other candidates that the Cardinals have permission to interview are DeMeco Ryans, Ejiro Evero, and Aaron Glenn. The team is also expected to interview Jonathan Gannon. Ryans is the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers while Evero is the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos (though he has had experience on the offensive side of the ball too). Glenn is the defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions while Gannon is the defensive coordinator for the Eagles. All four are young, up-and-coming coaches who are among the hottest names on the coaching cycle this year.
We hear a lot about head coaching candidates at this time of year and their qualifications, based primarily off of statistical performance. I’ll say, firsthand, nobody I had the chance to talk to this year impressed me more, from A to Z, than #Broncos DC Ejiro Evero.
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) January 12, 2023
That said, the search for a head coach is expanding with Ossenfort now on board. Shane Steichen would be an interesting candidate, as would Lincoln Riley, Wink Martindale, and Leslie Frazier, among many others.