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Who should Arizona Cardinals hire as next head coach?

We go over the head-coaching options for Arizona and assess which candidate makes the most sense.

Syndication: Arizona Republic Michael Chow / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Kliff Kingsbury experience came to an end this offseason after four years, the culmination of falling short of expectations and a disconnect between head coach and quarterback.

From the jump, Kingsbury tied his job security to Kyler Murray, the gifted but unconventional quarterback the Arizona Cardinals took with the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Murray would become the Offensive Rookie of the Year and eventually a Pro Bowl talent, but he never emerged as a true field-tilting superstar under Kingbury’s tutelage. By the middle of the 2022 season, the marriage between the two seemed over despite both signing long-term extensions earlier in the year.

With Kingsbury gone, the next head coach of the Cardinals will have to build a more sustainable relationship with Murray or else risk meeting the same fate as his predecessor.

Known candidates

Ejiro Evero

Despite all of the Denver Broncos’ issues in 2022, their defense performed impressively throughout. That play came in large part thanks to defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. When Denver removed Hackett with multiple weeks left in the season, the team initially turned to Evero to replace him on an interim basis. Evero reportedly declined in order to focus on the defense and limit disruption. Regardless, he has garnered interest from multiple franchises in this cycle, not just the Cardinals.

Brian Flores

A one-time de facto defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick, Brian Flores went on to deliver winning seasons in two out of his three seasons as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. That run provides the crux of his case for another shot at the top job. At the same time, Flores’ offenses never got off the ground in large part due to his inability to hire the right coordinator. The Dolphins officially had four different OCs during Flores’ three seasons, and another change might have occurred had Flores lasted for another year. He’ll need a much stronger plan for that side of the ball this time around, especially with Murray’s atypical playing style.

Aaron Glenn

The Detroit Lions have not fielded a strong defense over the past two years, but DC Aaron Glenn has still garnered interest as a head coach. That speaks to his strong leadership traits — he built a strong reputation as a leader as a coach with the New Orleans Saints — and the overall lack of defensive talent the Lions have provided him during his two years in the Motor City. Still, Glenn will probably have to knock it out of the park during the interview process given the lack of on-field results.

Vance Joseph

The Cardinals’ current DC, Vance Joseph has done a commendable job finding roles for “positionless” players like Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins. He also has offers previous head-coaching experience from his time with the Broncos. That said, Arizona’s defense took a step back in 2022 (No. 24 in DVOA) after two top-10 finishes in the same metric during Joseph’s first two seasons in the desert.

Sean Payton

The belle of the ball, former New Orleans Saints headman Sean Payton has received interview requests from nearly every team with an opening. Payton has a well deserved reputation as one of the game’s premier offensive minds and a Super Bowl ring on his résumé. Because he remains under contract with the Saints, any club interested in hiring him will have to provide compensation (presumably draft picks) in addition to the hefty salary Payton will command.

Dan Quinn

After fizzling out as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Dan Quinn has resurrected his reputation over the past two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. No longer running a copy of a copy of the Legion of Boom-era Seattle Seahawks defense, Quinn has resurfaced as a viable head-coaching candidate. He interviewed for jobs last offseason before ultimately pulling out of consideration. This feels like the time for the veteran coach to land back in the big chair somewhere.

Frank Reich

Frank Reich’s unceremonious midseason firing as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts set the scene for the unintentional comedy of the Jeff Saturday era. But that debacle shouldn’t overshadow Reich’s accomplishments which include a 37-28 record over his first four seasons with four different starting quarterbacks. With Murray enduring an up-and-down career under Kingsbury’s watch, Reich seems like a steady hand that could help the young signal-caller deliver more consistent performances.

DeMeco Ryans

In a short amount of time, DeMeco Ryans has established himself as one of the NFL’s premier defensive coordinators with the San Francisco 49ers. The team has reached the NFC Championship Game for the second straight year thanks in large part to Ryans’ unit. And while the 49ers possess immense talent on defense — including Defensive Player of the Year front-runner Nick Bosa — Ryans’ play-calling and in-game tweaks have largely negated weaknesses in the secondary. Ryans drew interest for head-coaching positions last year and has interviewed for multiple teams in this cycle.

Who should the Cardinals hire as their next head coach?

Putting Murray in the best position to succeed ranks as the top priority for the Cardinals. Reich, who has found ways to squeeze MVP-caliber play from Carson Wentz and has guided top offenses with other non-elite signal-callers, has the expertise and demeanor to build the right relationship with Murray. Reich’s failings in Indy stemmed mostly from the lack of a long-term answer at quarterback than his coaching abilities, and he has succeeded with a variety of different types of players under center. In his hands, Murray could reach his potential.