By BOB BAUM
PHOENIX — The Arizona Cardinals officially have begun their coaching search with a formal interview of defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
The interview, conducted Tuesday by team president Michael Bidwill, was the first in the team’s search for a replacement for Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired Monday after six seasons on the job.
The team has reached out to Andy Reid but had not scheduled an interview. Reid was fired Monday after 14 seasons as head coach in Philadelphia.
Bidwill plans to fly to Denver over the weekend to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Horton, Reid and McCoy are the only candidates thus far identified by the Cardinals.
Horton is a rising star in NFL coaching circles, despite Arizona’s lack of success.
The Cardinals’ defense was among the league leaders in several categories, with the 5-11 overall record due mostly to the worst offense in the NFL.
Horton reportedly had other interviews scheduled. Buffalo CEO Russ Brandon confirmed Tuesday that he, general manager Buddy Nix and other front office personnel were flying to Arizona with Horton and Whisenhunt presumed to be among those targeted for the Bills’ coaching vacancy. Horton also is reported to be a candidate for the Cleveland Browns.
Reid is an intriguing prospect for the Cardinals. He could be reunited with quarterback Kevin Kolb, who had some big games with the Eagles before being traded to Arizona just before the start of the 2011 season. Kolb remains under contract with Arizona but the team is expected to want to restructure his contract. He is set to make $9 million plus a $2 million roster bonus for the coming season.
“I’m not ready to give up on Kevin Kolb yet,” Bidwill said Monday.
Bidwill has to interview McCoy this weekend in Denver under NFL rules that provide a narrow window for such meetings with members of coaching staffs whose teams have a bye the first round of the playoffs. McCoy also has an interview scheduled with the Browns.
Larry Fitzgerald, who had one of his worst seasons as the Cardinals struggled at the quarterback position, weighed in on the firing of Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves. In a lengthy tweet, Fitzgerald thanked the pair for giving him the opportunity to “live my dream in the NFL.”
“We all shoulder the blame for a disappointing season which began with such promise,” Fitzgerald wrote.
He said that “even in the midst of a tumultuous season, it was still a pleasure to work for the staff we served under, and for that we remain grateful.”
“Their professionalism will provide for renewed accomplishments in different environs,” Fitzgerald wrote. “We all, to a man, thank them and wish them the best.”
Whisenhunt set the record for victories by a Cardinals coach, going 45-51 in six seasons, 4-2 in the playoffs. The team got off to a 4-0 start but lost 11 of 12 to finish 5-11 for the second time in three seasons.
Whisenhunt and his staff was never able to find success on offense after the retirement of Kurt Warner, who quarterbacked the team to its surprise run to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season and the NFC West title in 2009.
Bidwill said he decided over the last few weeks that Whisenhunt and Graves should be replaced, making the final decision on Sunday night. Graves had been with the organization for 16 years.
Bidwill said he had no preference on the order of hiring a new general manager and coach.