PHOENIX — The Arizona Cardinals have completed an extensive interview that spread over two days with defensive co-ordinator Ray Horton in the search for a replacement for fired coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Next up is Andy Reid, the longtime Philadelphia Eagles coach who was among seven NFL head coaches who got the axe on Monday. Reid’s interview, while not formally scheduled, could come on Thursday.
Cardinals President Michael Bidwill has identified Horton, Reid and Denver Broncos offensive co-ordinator Mike McCoy as candidates to replace Whisenhunt, who was dismissed after six seasons. The Cardinals plan to interview McCoy in Denver this weekend.
Horton also has interviewed with the Cleveland Browns and had a session scheduled later Wednesday with the Buffalo Bills.
Speaking to Azcentralsports and Fox Sports Arizona afterward, Horton said the Cardinals job would easily be his top choice.
"For a number of reasons," Horton said. "I like the organizational structure and then I love the fan base. For me, it’s been an amazing fan acceptance of me, whether at the game or on the street. That plays a lot, where the community appreciates what you do."
He said he "was very impressed with what went on here today, how things were presented going forward with what we want to do here."
Horton just completed his second season as Cardinals defensive co-ordinator. With a charismatic personality and innovative game plans, he won the support of his defensive players, who have praised his potential as a head coach.
Defensive end Calais Campbell said Horton would be "an awesome head coach."
Arizona, despite losing 11 of its last 12 to finish 5-11, was among the NFL leaders in several defensive categories.
The national attention for the Arizona job has focused on Reid, whose long tenure with the Eagles came to an end. Before coming to Arizona, Reid reportedly was interviewing for the Kansas City Chiefs coaching job.
In all, seven head coaches were sacked on Monday, a day after the regular season ended.
Bidwill, at a news conference on Monday, volunteered Reid’s name without any prompting, an indication that the franchise is serious about ending the nosedive that has followed the team’s Super Bowl run in the 2008 season and repeat NFC West crown the following year. Arizona’s offence ranked dead last in the NFL last season. The biggest problem has been finding consistent quarterback play following the retirement of Kurt Warner at the end of the 2009 campaign.
Bidwill and Horton indicated their support for Kevin Kolb, whose two seasons with the Cardinals have been plagued by injuries. He went down with a season-ending rib injury in Week 6 this season. Kolb is due to make $9 million plus a $2 million roster bonus this coming season and the Cardinals may approach him to renegotiate that deal downward.
The Cardinals were 4-2 when Kolb was injured. He threw for eight touchdowns with three interceptions. His three replacements — John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer — combined for three TDs and 17 picks.
Kolb’s status as a potential starter was built when he played for Reid in Philadelphia. The Eagles traded Kolb to the Cardinals before the start of the 2011 season.
Arizona has a narrow window to interview McCoy because the Broncos are in the playoffs but have a bye this weekend.