It's only been a matter of days since "Black Monday" and the firing of Ken Whisenhunt, and almost the entirety of his offensive staff. In the days which have followed rumors have abounded, and speculation about who will take responsibility for rebuilding the Arizona Cardinals. And while it remains early days, two candidates have quickly taken the frontrunner positions, Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid and current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Reid was widely reported to be the leading candidate in Arizona, with early reports suggesting that his hiring was a done deal, and that everything else was mere formalities. In the hours which followed much has been said and done which poured cold water on the early excitement, and most have stepped back from the sure-thing position they preciously held.
However, at the same time, Reid was always one of three coaches the Cardinals had initially named in their search, along with Horton and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and according to all official sources, nothing has changed. The Cardinals still intend to interview Reid, and he remains a real contender.
But with two front runners, the obvious question becomes, which one is the better choice? Join me as we break down the pros and cons of the first candidate, Andy Reid
Reid is a highly experienced NFL head coach with recent playoff experience, including an agonizingly close Super Bowl loss in 2005. Reid has 130 regular season wins in Philadelphia and holds a .585 win percentage. He has a 10-9 record in post season, and has only failed to qualify for the playoffs in five out of his 14 seasons. Reid lead the Eagles to four back-to-back first-place finishes in the NFC East between 2001 and 2004, so he certainly has the sort of pedigree the Cardinals are looking for.
Reid also drafted current Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb and spent several years grooming him to be the future franchise quarterback of the Eagles. Reid's system was tailored around Kolb's skill set, and could easily be installed in Arizona with a near 1:1 correspondence of player types across the two teams. Reid's West Coast offense seems, in many ways, tailor made for the players that the Cardinals have on their roster.
Reid has family ties to Arizona—his wife Tammy is a Phoenix area native, and Reid coached at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff briefly earlier in his career. Reid is coming of a very tough year, both on field after a 4-12 season, and off it, including the death of his son, Garrett. Undoubtedly, these stresses and struggles affected Reid's coaching abilities, and a familiar place with a built in support system can only help Reid return to full form.
Reid is undoubtedly the most high profile former NFL coach available and bringing him to Arizona would certainly help bring a level of prestige to an organization which has sorely lacked it at times recently. The sort of coaching staff that Reid can, and reportedly, already has, put together is far more impressive than most other candidates could dream of. Reid has reportedly brough together an offensive staff which includes Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator, Juan Castillo as offensive line coach and Brad Childress as quarterback coach or passing game coordinator, an impressive group, which includes two former head coaches.
Furthermore, Reid's double-duty as head coach and de-facto GM in all but name would mean that the Cardinals search for this key position would become infinitely easier. With Reid, the Cardinals would need only to find a figurehead and advisor for their head coach and primary decision maker, rather than a true general manager. Not only does this simplify the search, but also mean that the Cardinals can enter this rebuilding phase with an almost entirely new staff and singular vision—that of Andy Reid alone.
If Reid's singular vision is a pro, then his autocratic attitude is certainly a con.
The Cardinals are clearly hopeful of retaining their current Vice President of Player Personnel, Steve Keim as their new general manager. Keim has been a major cornerstone to the Cardinals front office staff for many years, and is known for being a creative and collaborative, but forthright, opinionated and hands-on when it comes to player personnel. In reality, Keim has been assimilating more of the roll of general manager into his job description for several years now. He has almost single handedly turned the Cardinals scouting department from laughing stock to well respected unit. The Cardinals have not been without their foibles, of course, but the core of the Cardinals team, especially their young defense, exists in no small part because of Keim.
Keim is unlikely to take an effective demotion and play lackey to Reid to remain with the Cardinals, and will have no shortage of offers elsewhere, leaving the Cardinals at the sole mercy of Reid's at times questionable talent evaluation come draft day.
Reid's Eagles have largely been built through trading and free agency, not necessarily the draft, but the notoriously tight fisted Cardinals are not known for this sort of growth. Their recent success has almost solely been through home-grown younger talent, while it's failures, like Kolb and their offensive line, through trading and free agency. Transitioning to Reid's way of doing things will be a dramatic paradigm shift for the team, likely to ruffle some feathers, and is not necessarily a change which will result in a quick turn around for the team, something which many fans view as a must.
Similarly, while Reid's overall coaching record is impressive, his recent results are anything but. Over the last two years, Reid has an uninspiring 12-20 record. For comparison, Whisenhunt was fired following a 13-19 showing over the same period.
Reid was largely considered to have one of the best overall teams in the NFL coming into the season, called by many the "Dream Team" and yet failed to match even the Cardinals measly 5-11 record. Throughout, the failures were placed firmly at the feet of Reid. Poor decision making on Reid's part, both on and off the field marred the season, leading many to question if he is still the coach he once was.
Worse still for a Cardinals team with hopes of returning to playoff glory is the fact that whatever success Reid has had in the regular season, his post-season record is marked by failure to perform. Aside from his 2005 Super Bowl run, Reid's Eagles team have largely been known as choke artists, and many wonder if Reid's high-octane, high impact offense is conducive to long term success. As the NFL edges ever closer to the inevitable 18 game regular season, Reid's value could become still more diminished down the stretch.
Though Reid is clearly a strong offensive coach in many areas, he is also known to have significant weaknesses, especially when it comes to offensive line evaluation and protection of key assets in his play calling, especially quarterbacks. Unfortunately, the offensive line and quarterback protection are two of the Cardinals biggest holes.
Finally, there are Reid's questionable personal decisions. While the death of Garrett Reid was clearly a tragedy, and no one wishes to trivialize or editorialize it, certain facts surrounding the situation must remain a concern for the Cardinals, or any team wishing to hire the coach. The younger Reid had a history of legal problems, most of which related to drug abuse. Garrett Reid was known to be a user of heroin and anabolic steroids, and had numerous run-ins with the law, including smuggling drugs into prison during his 2007 incarceration.
Yet in spite of this, the elder Reid gave his son—a known former drug dealer and addict with no relevant qualifications—a position on the Eagles strength and conditioning staff. At the time of his death, Garrett was in the employ of the team in a venue rented by the Eagles, in possession of numerous different anabolic steroids, as well as heroin, the drug on which he overdosed. Though there is no evidence that Reid was dealing drugs to any players at the time, this nonetheless left many questioning why someone the elder Reid would even consider putting the Eagles in that sort of position.
Overall, Reid is an interesting prospect, with a lot of upside, but more than enough question marks to force the Cardinals to think long and hard about his appointment.