Hiring Lou Anarumo Could Be Reminiscent of Bruce Arians Appointment

Should Lou Anarumo go to the Arizona Cardinals, the appointment would be strangely reminiscent of when the Cardinals hired Bruce Arians back in 2013. Anarumo is currently scheduled to have a second interview with the Cardinals on Friday. As of now, the meeting is set to take place over Zoom.

Anarumo, the current Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator, is among the finalists for the Cardinals top job. The only other known finalists were Mike Kafka, the New York Giants offensive coordinator, and Brian Flores, the Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach. Flores has, however, been hired by the Minnesota Vikings as their defensive coordinator.

The Cardinals are just one of two teams who have yet to hire a head coach, alongside the Indianapolis Colts. There were five openings this offseason, with three now filled. It is believed that Dan Quinn staying with the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncosappointment of Sean Payton forced the Cardinals to reset their head coaching search. They had an initial list of candidates but both Kafka and Anarumo are part of a ‘second batch’ of first interviews.

Lou Anarumo’s Potential Appointment and Bruce Arians’ Timeline Parallels

Arians’ Surprise 2013 Appointment

In 2013, the Cardinals were four years removed from a heartbreaking loss to the Steelers in the Super Bowl. After three consecutive years of missing the playoffs, the team relieved coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves of their duties. Looking for a fresh start, the team whittled down their candidates to a top three: Mike McCoy, Andy Reid and Ray Horton.

Reid, the splashy name at the time, turned down his interview with Arizona after finalizing a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. Less than two weeks later, the second-choice candidate Mike McCoy was also poached by the San Diego Chargers (now Los Angeles Chargers). With their initial plans foiled, new GM Steve Keim and owner Michael Bidwill hit the reset button on their search. After 17 long days, Arizona announced the former Colts offensive coordinator as their new head coach.

How Cardinals’ Interest in Anarumo is Reminiscent of 2013

So far, the Cardinals’ 2022 head coaching search has taken far longer than 17 days. However, many parallels can be drawn to Arians’ appointment in 2013. The first is, of course, the team’s search being led by a new GM. Monti Ossenfort was appointed by the Cardinals just a couple of weeks ago and has been busy at work since.

The second parallel is the pivot. Arizona’s missing out on its top targets this year is similar to what happened in 2013. Both times, the Cardinals had to reassess their options. This year, Payton’s appointment by Denver quickly followed Arizona’s request to interview three new head coach candidates. Both times, the Cardinals have looked to playoff teams. Anarumo was an important part of the 12-4 Bengals season while Arians were integral to the Colts’ 11-5 2012 season.

Anarumo is also an older candidate with a lot of mileage in the league. At 56 years old, Anarumo is Arizona’s oldest remaining candidate. He joined the NFL in 2012 but has never had a head coaching role. In 2013, Arians was 60. He too never had a head coaching role despite being a successful coordinator for the Colts. However, one fear is that Anarumo could turn out more like Vic Fangio’s unsuccessful Broncos tenure than Arians.

The final parallel is that, in 2013, the Cardinals and Bidwill were keen to keep defensive coordinator Horton. They tried to persuade Arians, but he pushed for Todd Bowles. This year, it is believed that the team want to keep Vance Joseph, the current defensive coordinator.

Would Anarumo be a Good Hire?

In four seasons with Arizona, Arians made Arizona one of the NFL’s top teams for a short while. He made the playoffs twice, leading the team to the Conference Championship in 2015. Arians also won Coach of the Year in 2014.

That level of success would be hard to expect from anyone, but some believe that Anarumo would be a smash hit. Anarumo has been the defensive coordinator for the Bengals since 2019. In that time, he led a successful unit with limited star power. He is currently considered one of the league’s best coordinators and is regarded by Bengals fans as one of their best-kept secrets. While the Bengals lost, Anarumo’s defense was impressive in the Conference Championship against the Chiefs.

One major concern with Anarumo is that he has never had head coaching experience before. The closest was his role as the assistant head coach for Harvard. However, he is seemingly ready for the step up. Many of his current crop of defensive players have sung his praises, citing his effective management style of being able to talk about football as well as more personal matters. Given that Ossenfort and Bidwill are placing a big emphasis on a culture of accountability and leadership, Anarumo must have demonstrated good coaching potential from a cultural perspective for him to have made it this far into the process.

Another thing Anarumo has going for him is NFL experience. He has been in the NFL for a little over 10 years now, meaning his connections run deep. Having spent time on the Miami Dolphins, Giants and Bengals, Anarumo will be able to fill out a strong coaching staff from people he has encountered on his NFL journey so far.

The Candidates Still Remaining

The Confirmed Finalists

So, it begs the question: is it likely that Anarumo is hired? The parallel to Arians’ appointment makes good poetry and, if one believes that history is cyclical, Anarumo would be both a strong and likely candidate. Should Arizona desire to keep Joseph, he and Anarumo have a pre-existing relationship from Miami. In 2016, Joseph was the defensive coordinator when Anarumo was the defensive backs coach and Matt Burke, Cardinals defensive line coach, was Miami’s linebackers coach.

A hot coordinator coming off an impressive year with Daniel Jones, Kafka is widely considered one of football’s best young offensive minds out there. This appointment makes most sense if emphasis is placed on Kyler Murray and the offense. However, some have questioned whether Kafka is too young to be a head coach, drawing similarities to Kliff Kingsbury’s appointment. It is also the case that teams like to pendulum from offensive coaches to defensive ones and vice versa. With that said, Kafka would make sense if the Cardinals management insists on keeping together the old staff. Being a younger guy, having a CEO figure like Joseph around would help greatly. It is also rumoured that Kafka was very impressive in his first interview with the team.

Still in the Running

It is believed that one candidate still in the running is Jonathan Gannon. Arizona remain interested in Gannon but have not interviewed him yet. Many believe that the main reason why the Cardinals are taking so long with their hire is because they are waiting until after the Super Bowl to speak with the Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator. The Cardinals have yet to request an interview, but their interest in Gannon arose more than two weeks ago. Gannon was considered one of this cycle’s top candidates and garnered significant interest from the Houston Texans, but they opted for DeMeco Ryans. He also has a relationship with Arizona’s new GM through Texans GM Nick Caserio.

However, Straight after the NFC Championship game, Gannon declared that he would be with Philadelphia in 2023. Many people believe he was only speaking in the heat of the moment though, and his future remains unclear.

The Cardinals could double down on Eagles coordinators. Albert Breer’s latest comments suggest that the Cardinals could re-visit their interest in Steichen, a candidate that Bidwill and his team did extensive research on early in the process. Steichen is currently among the Colts’ finalists for their job, and he also received an interview from the Carolina Panthers (who ultimately opted for Frank Reich). The reason why the Colts were able to interview Steichen in the Super Bowl bye week was that they already had a first interview beforehand.

So why did the Cardinals not interview Steichen or Gannon earlier? Some insiders believe that Ossenfort’s appointment set the team back. While early preparations were made, appointing Ossenfort meant that the team had to recalibrate their approach to hiring a head coach. This, coupled with their methodical strategy, has resulted in the process taking longer than ever.

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