Horton first to interview for Cards’ vacancy

AP Sports Writer

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

“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.