Less than a week after Super Bowl XLIII, Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt faces the task of replacing his offensive and defensive coordinators.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is the new head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, who announced the move in a news conference on Friday.
Later in the day, word leaked out that Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast also will be leaving.
NFL sources confirmed Pendergast’s departure, although it was unclear if he had been fired or was leaving for another position.
The change at defensive coordinator is not a surprise. There were rumblings late in the season that Pendergast was on shaky ground, although his defense played well in the playoffs.
Pendergast was a holdover from former coach Dennis Green’s staff. Whisenhunt was encouraged by management at the time to keep Pendergast.
When he was hired in 2007, Whisenhunt was interested in hiring Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler, but Butler was under contract and the Steelers declined to let him interview. It’s unknown whether Butler is under contract for 2009.
Haley had been rumored to be the Chiefs’ leading candidate for several weeks, so Whisenhunt is prepared to move quickly to replace him. Whisenhunt would prefer to promote a current assistant, and he already has spoken to assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm.
If Grimm became offensive coordinator, the Cardinals likely would hire a new line coach, Whisenhunt said.
“There’s no question in my mind Russ can do either (job),” Whisenhunt said, “but I think you also have to be careful about putting too much on his plate and diminishing the effectiveness of both jobs.”
Whisenhunt plans to speak with running backs coach Maurice Carthon, receivers coach Mike Miller and tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens about the position.
Whisenhunt has some outside candidates in mind but “I don’t necessarily want to go that direction because of all the progress we’ve made as an offense,” he said.
Haley was a central figure in Whisenhunt’s efforts to change the Cardinals’ fortunes, but the new Chiefs coach knows he’ll have a hard time equaling Whisenhunt’s success in his two seasons as a head coach. The Cardinals lost to the Steelers, 27-23, last Sunday in Super Bowl XLIII. It was the first Super Bowl appearance in Cardinals history.
“The last thing I said to coach Whisenhunt was ‘We set the bar too high,’ ” Haley said in a news conference Friday in Kansas City.
Whisenhunt and Haley have been close friends since sharing an office together in 2000 as Jets assistants. Haley turned down a chance to interview for the Dolphins head coaching job a year ago, receiving a new three-year contract from the Cardinals.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Todd and one that I know he is ready for,” Whisenhunt said. “He was a big part of the offensive success that our team has had over the last two years.”
“I had a great job in Arizona,” Haley said, “loved everything about it. It had to be the perfect situation (to leave).”
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