Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is the latest to interview for the vacant head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals.
Gruden, younger brother of former Oakland and Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, said his interview Thursday at Cardinals headquarters was his first for a head coaching job with any NFL team. He said he may interview with the Philadelphia Eagles next week.
The Cardinals also have interviewed their defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Although the Cardinals have not confirmed it, Steelers President Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley interviewed for the Arizona job Wednesday. Haley was offensive coordinator of the Cardinals’ 2008 Super Bowl team before becoming head coach at Kansas City.
Arizona is seeking a replacement for Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired after six seasons.
Gruden met with Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, newly named general manager Steve Keim and player personnel director Jason Licht.
”You can tell how passionate they are about the game, how much they want to win and bring this team back to where they were with Kurt Warner,” Gruden said. ”The passion and drive is there. Now it’s just a matter of maybe bringing in something new, some new ideas to try to get that thing done.”
The Cardinals filled their general manager’s job by promoting Keim, vice president of player personnel, to the position earlier this week. Keim replaced Rod Graves, who along with Whisenhunt was fired after Arizona lost 10 of its last 11 to finish 5-11 for the second time in three years.
Gruden, 45, has extensive experience in the Arena Football League, including two stints as head coach of the Orlando Predators from 1998 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2008. In 2002 and 2003, he returned to the team as quarterback.
As a player, he was quarterback for the University of Louisville for four seasons, then played four seasons with the Tampa Bay Storm of the AFL.
He worked on the staff of his brother at Tampa Bay for seven seasons, while during some of that time continuing his Orlando Predators duties.
”I’ve been a head coach before for a while,” Gruden said. ”I know it’s a different league and it’s not the NFL, but I’ve handled people and handled organization, handled salary caps, done all the things necessary to be a head coach. I understand the game and I think it would be a good fit.”
Gruden became offensive coordinator of the Bengals in 2011, helping to develop Andy Dalton into a successful NFL quarterback as the Bengals made the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
The Cardinals have had big problems on offense, particularly at quarterback, since Warner retired after leading the team to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season and a second straight NFC West crown in 2009. While the defense was among the NFL leaders in several categories, Arizona’s offense was the league’s worst. It’s not just about the quarterback, Gruden said.
”There’s a lot of things that need to be addressed when your offense sputters,” he said, ”and they need to be addressed quickly.”
He said he turned down chances to interview for head coaching jobs a year ago.
” It was my first year last year as a coordinator,” Gruden said. ”The Brown family gave me an opportunity to be an offensive coordinator. I didn’t want to jump ship after the first phone call. I wanted to go in there and see Andy Dalton progress another year, see A.J. Green progress another year, see what we could do. We did some good things, made it to the playoffs again and I got some calls this year and decided to take them, or else people might stop calling.”
He said his brother had offered some worthy advice to him going into his first head coaching interview.
”Jon’s always got his two cents to add. He can talk with the best of them,” Gruden said. ”And he’s been around the block a few times. He’s been to interviews and knows how the process works and been a big help. So I picked his brain a little bit and he’s been excellent in the process, as usual.”