TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals are now in their third week without a coach and, as owner Michael Bidwill said multiple times during his two press conferences this offseason, have cast their net “far and wide.”
They reportedly interviewed several coaches for the opening and were given permission to interview former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
Arizona is trying to replace Kliff Kingsbury, who was fired Jan. 9 after four seasons.
Five of the six reported interviews were defensive coaches, with the exception of the former Indianapolis Colts coach France. Payton would be the second offense coach to meet with the Cardinals.
Since Bruce Arians retired in 2018 (before returning to coaching with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year later), Arizona has maintained a pattern in which he alternates between offensive and defensive coaching. Arians successor Steve Wilks was a defensive manager, followed by the attacking Kingsbury.
With the potential for more interviews coming next week during Super Bowl Dead Week, here’s a breakdown of the candidates the Cardinals have met or are interested in interviewing:
Sean Payton: He’s the name that’s got the Cardinals fanbase in a frenzy. Payton, who has a 146-85 record in 14 seasons in New Orleans, has sat out last season, living in Los Angeles and doing some television work. But he was on the interview circuit this month. He would bring instant credibility to the Cardinals and revitalize a fan base exhausted by recent seasons of late-year slides and the disappointment of last season’s 4-13.
Adding Payton’s offensive expertise to a unit that has the skills to be competitive — including a 25-year-old former No. 1 overall pick at quarterback Kyler Murray — but hasn’t been able to pull it together in recent years be the ingredient the cardinals need. The high price Payton might ask might put the Cardinals off, but Bidwill said earlier this month that he’s “financially ready to get the best coach. … I don’t know that the biggest name correlates with the best coach.”
Payton is close to 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 knows what he’s getting into when he comes visits Tempe for his interview.
Vance Joseph: The Cardinals’ defensive coordinator is still under contract and was Arizona’s second interview. His experience coaching the Denver Broncos in 2017-18 makes him one of the most interesting candidates. He only had two seasons and compiled an 11-21 record before being fired. So seeing what he’s learned from that time could be an interesting prospect for Arizona. Joseph would also be the easiest transition. He’s well-loved in the Cardinals’ locker room, and returns on both sides of the ball know his style as a leader and coach.
Brian Flores: Flores lost the Cardinals’ job to Wilks in 2018, so owner Michael Bidwill already has a solid knowledge base about Flores. His coaching experience will factor into the Cardinals’ decision — Flores has a record 24:25 in three seasons as head coach of the Miami Dolphins — as five of the seven candidates reported were head coaches. Flores also has a relationship with Ossenfort. Between Bidwill and Ossenfort, the cardinals perhaps know more about Flores than any other candidate, including Joseph.
Dan Quinn: The Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator is reportedly the only coach to have conducted a second interview, which could mean quite a few things depending on your perspective. Either the Cardinals are very interested in Quinn or they want more information so they can make an informed decision. He is one of two candidates for a Super Bowl coach and has experience coaching a team with a talented quarterback like he did with Matt Ryan at Atlanta from 2015-2020.
France: The former Colts coach would return to the Cardinals if hired. Reich was Arizona’s wide receivers coach in 2012 under former coach Ken Whisenhunt. Reich is a former 14-year-old NFL quarterback and could be a boon for Murray. He was the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles when they won Super Bowl LII.
Aaron Glenn: Detroit’s turnaround, particularly in the second half of the season, has put the Lions’ defensive coordinator in the spotlight and in 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 on the stretch by allowing 20.2 points per game in her last 10 games (11th-best in the league) — finished the season in last place in yards per game (392.4 ).
Ejiro Evero: The Broncos’ defensive coordinator is probably the candidate most familiar with the Cardinals, having spent 10 of the last 12 seasons with two division opponents — the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams. He was part of the 49ers’ Super Bowl run in 2012 and the Rams’ two Super Bowl runs in 2017 and 2021, the latter of which they won. He turned down an opportunity to become the Broncos’ interim head coach after Nathaniel Hackett was fired midseason and continued to coordinate their defense.