Less than 24 hours after the Arizona Cardinals fired their head coach, the team was ready to appoint his successor, former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid. Or at least, that is if the ubiquitous NFL "sources" and "insiders" are to be believed.
The rumors initially began to roll when Tim Ring of KYVK-TV tweeted "I am reporting the Cardinals are very close to a deal with Andy Reid to become the team's next head coach." He later followed up by adding "Reid follow-up: I am told by a league source that the Cardinals deal with Andy Reid is "all but done"." He later replied to a question confirming that his sources said Tom Heckert would form be part of a package deal with Reid.
Shortly thereafter ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that one of his sources stated that "he was "95 percent" certain former Eagles HC Andy Reid will wind up coaching the Cardinals." And that, it seemed, was all it took.
Soon, virtually every news outlet was repeating it as fact, Reid to the Cardinals was a done deal. Some even went as far as naming the men he would fill out his staff with.
And yet, anyone who took the time to dig a little deeper quickly discovered that, perhaps, everything was not quite as clear cut as it would seem. Schefter's article, from which the tweet in question was just a small snippet, for example went on to claim that other sources indicated that the search remained wide open and that their was no leading candidate. It also claimed that sources close to Reid insisted that the two sides had not yet met, and that there was no deal close.
This was backed up by a series of tweets from Arizona Cardinals VP of Media Relations Mark Dalton, which claimed that the team had already interviewed current defensive coordinator Ray Horton for the job on Tuesday, had a meeting with Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy scheduled in Denver over the weekend, but that, although the Cardinals had reached out to Reid, he had not yet scheduled a meeting.
Later reports from Schefter, and Jason La Canfora amongst others, indicated that Reid would be interviewing with the Cardinals on Wednesday, but again, Dalton claimed that, to his knowledge, this was not the case.
This should not really come as much of a surprise to Cardinals fans. They have been down this road before.
In 2007, rumors were rife about who would take over from Dennis Green in Arizona. The media were certain it was going to be Mike Sherman, and in spite of a few less than subtle hints by the team that Whisenhunt was amongst their favorites, the news media nonetheless crowned Sherman, calling it a done-deal back then too. The deal, of course, was never done. Whishenhunt was announced as head coach, and Sherman went on to join the Texas A&M Aggies as head coach instead.
So, what do we know for sure?
Firstly, any claims of a "done deal" should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Thus far, reports are from unnamed sources, and many seem contradictory. Those which come from official sources unanimously say the same thing—the Cardinals wish to meet with Reid, amongst other poossible candidates, but no scheduled meeting has yet to be announced.
Indeed, one of the sources involved in breaking the reports now appears to have at least partially been discredited, with the current consensus that any "package deal" including Reid and Heckert to be a no-go. Heckert is hotly pursued by the Jets and at least one other team, though not the Cardinals, and those initial reports have been thoroughly debunked. The Cardinals seem set on promoting Steve Keim to GM, with the only hold up now being that other teams, including the San Diego Chargers, are also interested.
Therefore, until the Cardinals meet, or at very least confirm a meeting with Reid, don't read too much into the hype.
That said, there are still a lot of reasons Reid may still end up in Arizona.
Reports prior to the firing of Whisenhunt indicated that the Cardinals hoped to be able retain Whisenhunt in a stripped back role, and limited solely to coaching, rather than personnel management and other roles, but were happy to promote defensive coordinator Ray Horton if required. The report stated that Whisenhunt would likely only be fired if the Cardinals were convinced that Horton would be snapped up by another team, but if the owners believed he would be, would instead fire Whisenhunt and promote Horton.
Whisenhunt was ousted, Horton interviewed, but the search remains ongoing. Conceivably, if Horton was the only, or even leading, candidate they could have ended the speculation and just offered him the job already, and moved on to rebuilding the offensive coaching staff, starting with a high profile offensive coordinator.
Perhaps they did offer the job to Horton, but he indicated his preference to test the water elsewhere before saying yes, perhaps the team are no longer so convinced that other teams will be as interested in him as originally thought, and the team believe that they have a chance of keeping Horton as their defensive coordinator and hire an offensively minded head coach to boot, or perhaps inside sources simply arent as reliable as some would have you believe.
But whatever the truth may be, that leaves the door open plenty wide enough for someone else, like Reid, to come in and win the job.
What's more, Reid does have the pedigree and connections necessary to make things happen quickly.
He drafted Kolb as his future franchise QB in Philadelphia, and few would question that Kolb had much more success in Reid's West-Coast offense than he did as a Cardinal. The Bidwell family have seemingly not given up on Kolb yet, and Reid might just be exactly what would be needed to turn his career around. We know that the right coach can make all of the difference to a quarterback—just look at Alex Smith before and after Jim Harbaugh for a case in point.
Similarly, the coaching staff someone like Reid could pull together at short notice—Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator, Juan Castillo as offensive line coach and Brad Childress as quarterback coach or passing game coordinator has been suggested—is certainly a tempting prospect for many.
Similarly, Reid has personal links to Arizona. His wife Tammy is a Phoenix area native, and Reid coached at Norther Arizona University in Flagstaff, traditional home of the Cardinals preseason workouts, early in his career. The Reid family already have a built in support network in the area, something which will be very helpful for a coach looking somewhat burned out and more than a little dejected following a tumultuous 2012 season, which included the death of his son, Garrett.
Finally, there is the media effect. However hot the Cardinals were on Reid coming into this process, all of these "done deal" reports now gives Reid a lot of leverage in negotiations.
In the minds of many fans, Reid, and the other staff reported to be coming with him, are already Cardinals. Reid is by far the highest profile NFL coach available today, and therefore many, though certainly not all, of the Cardinals fan base are very happy about this fact.
Coming down from that point and announcing anyone else as head coach will now be considered a blow to many fans, similar to finding out that Peyton Manning was not going to be a Cardinal. And while fans may forgive a pairing of someone like Horton as head coach with Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, it's hard to imagine the reaction if the team end up with someone unproven like Mike McCoy as head coach and lose Horton in the process.
This certainly puts Reid in the driving seat here—perhaps the "done deal" news was even leaked by those in Reid's camp to help the process along. Many may consider that the job is his to lose, though I would not go that far, Reid is a frontrunner, perhaps, but not by so much as anyone thinks.
Reid may end up coaching the Cardinals, he may even be employed by the weekend, as some have suggested he will be, but if he is, it will be on the strength of his pirch to the team during his interview, if and when one finally takes place.
Reid may be a strong candidate for the for the Cardinals job, but is only one possible candidate, perhaps one of many, and no-one should assume that he is the only person with a chance of securing the job.